Local Business SEO Checklist

by | Feb 8, 2024 | SEO

Local SEO is a pivotal strategy for any business looking to boost their online visibility and attract more leads and sales, making a local business SEO checklist not just a helpful, but essential tool!

Whether you run a restaurant, dental practice, construction company, or any other local business, by following the steps in this checklist, your business can move from rankings obscurity to a leading presence in local search results. This can significantly enhance everything from organic traffic and leads to in-person foot traffic, and most importantly the bottom line and growth of your business.

This article is designed to be used side by side with the local business SEO checklist. It breaks down each step, providing detailed guidance on execution, and ensuring you know how to effectively boost your business’s ranking in local searches.

So, grab the checklist by filling out the form above, and let’s dive into optimizing your local SEO to elevate your business’s online presence and success.

1. Laying the Foundation: Building a Website That Google Loves

A local business website built on a solid foundation can be the difference between a website that ranks well on Google versus one that stands no chance. Here’s what you need to do:

Ensure Your Website Loads Fast

Speed matters. A slow-loading website can frustrate users and drive them away before they even see what you offer. Google considers page speed a ranking factor because it’s a key aspect of user experience.

  1. Go to https://pagespeed.web.dev/
  2. Insert your target URL into the tool
  3. Check the results. You want to aim for a score of greater than 80 on both mobile and desktop
  4. Read through the diagnostics and take the recommended steps to improve your page load speed

Here’s some further tips on improving your load speed:

  • Web hosting plays a crucial role in site performance, so invest in quality hosting
  • Large images can significantly slow down your site so make sure you optimize all the images on your site. We’ll pick this point back up later on in the article
  • Caching allows for quicker load times when a visitor returns to your site by storing copies of your site’s files. So set up a good caching plugin like WP Rocket and follow the tools recommendations

Ensure You’ve Got a Valid SSL Certificate and That It’s Working

Security isn’t optional when it comes to your website. HTTPS encrypts data between your website and its visitors, safeguarding against intrusions. Search engines like Google prefer secure sites, making HTTPS a non-negotiable for better search rankings.

  1. Do a free SSL Server Test
  2. Put your URL into the tool and submit to run the test
  1. Analyze the results, if an SSL is missing or scores very low you’ll want to address this issue ASAP.

Further tips:

  • In most cases, your hosting provider will also provide you with an SSL certificate. I’d recommend setting it up this way. Read through the documentation on your host’s website or reach out to their support if you need assistance setting this up.
  • In rare cases where your host doesn’t provide SSL certificates, you can use a plugin. “Really Simple SSL” is one of the most widely used on WordPress.

Enforce HTTPS

Whether your SSL gets installed through your host or by plugin, once this is complete, you’ll want to ensure that all the URLs on your website are served with HTTPS rather than HTTP.

Here is a great article to read through to ensure this is done correctly.

Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Responsiveness

Over half of global web traffic comes from mobile devices, and if that isn’t enough here’s a quote directly from Google:

“Google predominantly uses the mobile version of a site’s content, crawled with the smartphone agent, for indexing and ranking. This is called mobile-first indexing.”

This means Google will crawl the mobile version of your website for rankings. So needless to say, a mobile-responsive website is CRITICAL.

  1. Run a mobile-friendly test (Google recently shut down their tool, but the one from Bing works just as well)
  2. Review result of test, if your page doesn’t score well, you’ll want to address this immediately

Modern Design & Logical Hierarchy

A site that looks good and is easy to navigate wins on multiple fronts. It’s great for users and Google values user experience, a modern design with a clear hierarchy boosts SEO by making it easy for search engines to crawl your site and understand your content.

  1. Check out the web design museum – If your site looks dated like the old layouts from that gallery, give your website a more modern design. If you need help with these, be sure to reach out to us for web design services.
  2. For hierarchy, do a site audit using Screaming Frog
  1. Add your website to the search bar as shown in the image above (1). Toggle to HTML (shown in 2) as we only want to see images, etc. Then scroll to the right until you find the row titled “Crawl Depth” (3).
    Crawl depth is important because it tells you the “distance”, or how many clicks it takes, to get to the given page on your site from the starting point (the homepage). Ensure this number is 3 or less, and for your most important pages, make sure it’s 1.

2. Making Sure Your Site Gets Indexed

Now that the foundation of your local business website is set with a secure, responsive, and user-friendly design, it’s critical to ensure it can get indexed by search engines.

Test to Make Sure Your Site is Crawlable

You’ll want to verify that any given page on your website can be crawled by Google in the first place.

  1. Download Detailed SEO Chrome Extension
  2. Go to the page on your site you want to test and click the Detailed SEO icon in your extensions menu
  1. Once the tool opens, scroll to the “Robots Tag” and make sure that it shows “index, follow” like it does in the screenshot above. If it shows nothing you’re still fine, but want you don’t want it to show is “noindex, nofollow”. If this appears, it means your robots.txt file is preventing search engines from indexing that page.

Sitemap Creation and Submission

Creating a sitemap and submitting it to search engines is a straightforward yet crucial task. It maps out your site’s content, making it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your website.

  1. Check to see if you currently have a sitemap by inserting this slug immediately after your domain: /sitemap.xml – here’s an example of what this would look like for Libss Media –> https://digitallydrivenmedia.com/sitemap_index.xml – If you already have a sitemap, you can jump ahead to the next section.
  2. From your WordPress admin dashboard click on “plugins” from the sidebar menu –> “Add New Plugin” –> then search by keyword and type “SEO.” You’ll see a few options, but I’d recommend either “Yoast SEO” or “Rank Math”
  1. For the sake of this article, we’ll continue with Yoast but if you opt for Rank Math you can follow this guide on their website. Click “Install Now” for the Yoast plugin then “Activate”
  2. Once you activate the plugin, it will show up on the sidebar menu in the backend of your WordPRess site. Click “Yoast SEO” –> “Settings” –> When you click settings it will take you to “Site Features” and from this page scroll to the bottom where you’ll see “XML Sitemaps”
  1. Make sure the feature is enabled, and then click the “View the XML Sitemap” button. This is the page we’ll submit to Google Search Console.

Set Up Search Console and Submit Sitemap

After creating your sitemap, you’ll want to make sure you have Google Search Console set up for your site. This tool is invaluable for SEO, offering insights into how Google views and indexes your site.

  1. Go to Search Console and add a property (your domain)
  1. Select “Domain” property type
  2. Enter your domain into the text box and continue
  3. You will be given a TXT record that you will need to add to your domain’s DNS
  4. Navigate to wherever you registered your domain and log in to your account (Godaddy, Namecheap, etc)
  5. Find your domain in your account, and find the button that will say something along the lines of “Manage DNS”
  6. From here, you’ll want to add a new record, follow the set up in the table below:
Record TypeRecord NameTTLValue
TXTLeave blank (you want this to be your domain nameLeave as Default (usually 24 hours)copy and paste this from search console
  1. Once your domain is verified, you’ll want to select “Sitemaps” under the indexing dropdown menu on the left sidebar
  1. Once you click “Sitemaps” you’ll see the option to “Enter sitemap URL” – go back to your sitemap page we created in the previous section, copy the URL, and paste it here. Once you paste it, press “Submit”
  1. Make sure the status says “Success” and you are done with this section

3. Keyword Strategy

A strong keyword strategy is essential for dominating local search results. It’s the backbone of SEO that connects your business with potential customers. Here’s a straightforward approach to developing your keyword strategy:

Brainstorm Keywords – You Know Your Business Best

You know your business better than anyone, so start with what you know. Ask yourself, “What words would customers use to find your services or products?”

  1. Brainstorm a list of 5-10 of these keywords (Ex. “Your service” + “your city” / “dentist edmonton”)
  2. Head over to Google Keyword Planner – a free keyword research tool
  3. Select “Discover new keywords”
  1. Take that list of 5-10 keywords you brainstormed and enter them into the search bar and then click “Get Results”
  2. You’ll then be given metrics on the keywords you provided, plus a list of Keyword Ideas Google deemed relevant based on the keywords you provided.
  3. Select the checkbox beside every keyword idea you deem important to save these to a spreadsheet, or alternatively, you can download the entire list by clicking “Download keyword ideas”

Competitor Keyword Analysis

Investigate your competitors’ keyword strategies with tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. This analysis reveals the keywords drawing traffic to their sites. Your aim is to identify both competitive keywords and untapped niches. If competitors rank for certain terms like “emergency dentist in [City Name]” and you offer the same service, those keywords should be part of your strategy.

  1. Let’s stick with the dentist in Edmonton example. To start, I’m just going to perform a Google search for “dentist edmonton”
  2. Scroll past the ads, as well as the local pack (the map results) as we want to see the first organic search result.
  3. In this case, a company called Albany Dental is the top result
  4. Go back to keyword planner, and select “Discover new keywords” once again
  5. This time though, instead of starting with keywords select the “Start with a website” tab, enter the URL into the address bar, make sure the “use the entire site” radio button is selected, then get the results
  1. A list that looks identical to the one we generated by searching with keywords will generate, the only difference being of course this list is based on what your competitor is ranking for. Follow the same steps – Either download the entire list, or go through and select only the relevant ones.

Find Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are the secret sauce to rankings. By focusing on long-tail keywords you’ll be able to capture more specific, less competitive search queries that ideally lead to higher conversion rates. Long-tail keywords, such as “emergency dental services in [City Name],” target users closer to a purchase decision, and you stand a much better chance ranking for something like this rather than a keyword like “dentist,” which is extremely broad and hyper-competitive.

Additional Tips on Keyword Research

  • A tool like Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free option, but if you have the budget it’s definitely worth your time to invest in a paid tool like SEMrush. You get more data on keywords, competitors, and more.
  • That being said, you can get away without paying for a tool. Tools like AnswerThePublic or AlsoAsked allow you to enter a broad term related to your industry, and they’ll spit out many questions people are asking, which you can then use to create informational content and establish topical authority in your industry.
  • When creating informational content, you’ll want to answer as many local queries as you can. We’ll pick this back up at the end of the article in section 6. Establishing Topical Authority

4. On-Page Optimization with Your Keywords

On-page SEO is where your keyword strategy comes to life, turning your website into a magnet for local search traffic. Here’s how to weave your chosen keywords into the fabric of your site for maximum impact:

Optimize The URL (slug)

Placing the target keyword in the page URL clarifies the page content both to search engines and potential visitors. For instance, if you’re targeting “teeth whitening in [City Name],” your URL should be yoursite.com/teeth-whitening-edmonton. It’s clean, descriptive, and SEO-friendly.

  1. In your backend, navigate to your page and edit the page
  2. Scroll down until you see the Yoast SEO tab, and edit the slug to include your target keyword

This process is the same no matter what SEO plugin you use, the location will just be different. You can easily find out how to do this by reading through your SEO plugin documentation.

Optimize the Title Tag

Ensure that the title tag contains your target keyword. Some additional best practices include:

  • Keep your title under 60 characters to ensure it displays fully in search results
  • Make the title engaging and informative. Something that stands out to potential visitors and can increase CTR
  • Place the target keyword toward the beginning of the title tag to emphasize its importance
  • Make sure each page has a unique title tag to avoid confusion in search results and maximize SEO benefits.

Steps:

  1. In the backend, navigate to the page and edit it
  2. Make your keyword the page title
  3. Scroll down to Yoast SEO, and you’ll see the option edit the SEO title + a preview of what it will look like on Google. In the image below, since my page is titled “Local Business SEO Checklist” and I left the “title” variable in place, my page’s title will also appear as the “SEO title.”

Optimize Headings and Content

Incorporate your target keyword prominently in the H1 heading to set the topic for your page. Then, use variations of your keyword in subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) to structure your content effectively.

Include your target keyword naturally within the first sentence of your content, then continue to weave it throughout the text. Remember, the goal here is to create informative, engaging content aimed at your audience, with keywords fitting in smoothly.

Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs.

We want the best piece of content on any given topic, not a piece of content littered with keywords just for the sake of fitting them in.

If using Yoast, it will provide you with an analysis on some of the on-page tasks we’re talking about (check out the image below). Now I’d advise not to take these green or red lights too literally, treat them more as a reference. Just because you get green lights across the board doesn’t mean all of a sudden you have the best piece of content for a given keyword and you’re going to jump to the top of the SERP’s. Here’s a good article from Yoast themselves advising against chasing green lights.

To quote the article “getting green traffic lights should never be more important than your keyword strategy, content (strategy) and site structure. “

Optimize Images

Alt Text & Image Names

Images are also SEO opportunities. Use descriptive, keyword-rich alt text and file names for all images. This improves accessibility and helps search engines understand and index your site’s visual content.

  1. Before uploading images, ensure their file names include keywords relevant to the image and content on the page.
  2. Be descriptive and specific when describing the content/context of an image, and if relevant, include keywords if they align with the image. The golden rule with all of this is to avoid keyword stuffing, don’t place a keyword in alt text if it adds no value. Alt text allows visually impaired users to understand an image’s content through screen readers, so be mindful of all your users and make your site as accessible as possible.
  3. Accessibility isn’t a direct ranking factor, but as Google’s John Mueller says “if you drive your users away with a website that they can’t use, then they’re not going to recommend it to other people.”

Image File Sizes

We touched on this at the beginning of the article, but it’s so important it’s worth stating twice – optimize the size of your images! You can install a plugin that optimizes images for you after they’ve been uploaded, plugins like “Smush” for example, but I prefer to just optimize all my images prior to uploading them.

In terms of image dimensions, a common size is going to be something like 1080px x 1080px, if you need a landscape image aim for something like 1200px x 800px, and flip that for a portrait image. Now tailor this to your exact needs of course, but the main point is don’t upload a massive 4000×5000 photo that’s 3MB in size.

  1. Resize the dimensions of your image. I tend to use Canva for everything image-related. It’s quite simple to create a new design, upload your image, and resize it. But another good option is Image Resizer.
  2. After the image is the correct dimensions, you need to optimize the file size. First make sure your image is in next-gen format (JPG, WebP), if it’s not use Cloud Convert to change the file type.
  3. Finally, use an image compression tool like ShortPixel to further compress the size of the file. Ideally aim for less than 100KB, but try to keep the file as small as possible.

5. Off-Page SEO: Building Your Web Presence

Off-page SEO is about enhancing your site’s reputation and visibility beyond your own pages. It’s crucial for local businesses aiming to dominate local search results. Here’s some steps you’ll need to take:

Set Up and Optimize Your Google Business Listing

Your Google Business Profile (GBP) is your storefront on Google. Make sure it’s fully optimized by filling out every section accurately—business name, address, phone number, and operating hours. Use high-quality images and update your profile regularly with posts about offers, events, or news.

  1. Create your Google Business Profile
  2. Follow the setup wizard and add the information mentioned above, address, number, hours, etc.
  3. Take high quality photos of your business, service, products and upload them. Add a high-quality image of your logo.

Create a Review Acquisition Strategy

Reviews are by far one of the most important factors influencing your business’s online reputation and search rankings. You should be actively encouraging your satisfied customers to share their experiences on your Google Business Profile and other relevant review sites.

Make it a routine part of your customer service process to request reviews, providing easy instructions or links to guide them. When you receive reviews, whether positive or negative, respond promptly and thoughtfully.

Perform a Citation Audit

Before expanding your citations across new directories, you need to evaluate your business’s existing online mentions. A citation audit is necessary to ensure every mention of your business is accurate and consistent,

The cornerstone of a successful citation audit is the emphasis on NAP consistency—your business’s Name, Address, and Phone Number. These details must be uniform across all platforms. Inaccuracies or discrepancies in your NAP information can confuse search engines and potential customers, severely hindering your visibility in local search results.

  1. Use SEMrush’s free citation audit tool

Get Listed in Local and Industry Relevant Directories

After the audit, acquiring citations is a foundational step any local business should take once your website is up and running. There are so many ways you can do this, you could manually submit your listing to each relevant directory or you can use a tool and pay as you go.

I prefer using a tool to get this done, but let’s look at both options.

Build Yourself (Manually):

If you don’t way to pay and prefer to build citations manually, follow these steps:

  1. View the top 50 general business directories
  2. View the top citation sites by industry
  3. Compile a list of all the citation sites you want to create listings on
  4. Go to each citation site, create an account, and submit your listing

Built For You (Pay As You Go):

  1. Go to BrightLocal and choose a plan – You can either choose a paid plan that comes with additional features (choose how many locations you’ll need) or you create a free simply listings account to access the citation builder
  1. Add your location
  2. Choose the citation builder option and add in all the necessary information under “campaign details” and “Business Details”
  1. When you submit and go to the next step the citation builder will audit your business across thousands of citation sites.
  2. Once it’s done, you can create your campaign. Leave “manual submissions” checked, then choose the number of citations you want BrightLocal to manually build for you. If you’re a newer business, you can uncheck “Remove harmful duplicate listings” as you likely won’t have duplicate listings. However, if you’ve been operating for a while, it may be worth it to leave this selected if you’d prefer to not do this task on your own. Go through the page and set up the campaign the way you want. Then “confirm and continue”
  3. The next page will get you to review the campaign details, add a description of your business, choose your business categories, provide your hours, images, etc. Once all of this is done you can pay for the campaign and let it run.

Whether you have existing listings are or creating new ones, ensure your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are consistent across all platforms. Inconsistencies can confuse search engines and potential customers, negatively impacting your local search rankings.

One last thing, don’t confuse citation building with link building. Citations are important to have because it’s vital for local search that you appear in places like Google Maps, Bing Places, Apple Maps, etc, but there’s no barrier to entry with these and every business can, and should have these foundational listings.

Link Building

Now link building is where you can move the needle in terms of growing the authority of your site and the amount of organic search traffic you receive.

How to build links could be an entirely separate 4000-word post and checklist, but thankfully some great content already exists. Check out this article from backlinko.com on link building for more in-depth information

Here are some general tips as well:

  • For effective link building, focus on acquiring high-quality, relevant backlinks from authoritative pages and domains, as these significantly impact rankings.
  • Ensure links are editorially placed within the main body content rather than footers or sidebars for better SEO value.
  • Utilize strategic outreach for guest posts on relevant sites and leverage tools like Semrush to assess the authority of potential link sources.
  • Avoid over-reliance on keyword-rich anchor text to prevent spammy tactics, aiming for a natural link profile that supports your site’s credibility and search engine trust​

6. Establishing Topical Authority with Local Content

To this point, we’ve made sure your local business website is built on a solid foundation, taken the steps to make sure it can be indexed by Google, learned how to find keywords and what to do with those keywords on your pages, and set up off-page trust signals.

Now that last thing is to use all of this to establish your business as a local authority through targeted content, this is key to long-term success.

  1. With the keyword list you created earlier, start by planning out your service pages. Each page’s target keyword should be the service + location. Let’s use the dentist example again:
    – Dental Clinic in Edmonton (this would likely be a homepage target)
    – emergency dental in Edmonton
    – root canal Edmonton
    – teeth whitening Edmonton
    – family dentist Edmonton, etc, you get the idea
  2. Once you’ve got your service pages created, you’ll want to support them with content that answers local queries, a great way to do that is by checking the “People Also Ask” section on the first page of Google for your search query.
    In the image below, you can see that I searched “dentist edmonton” (this would be more of a homepage target, but it’s the same idea if we searched “teeth whitening edmonton”) You can see there are a bunch of related questions being asked that you can then create content around.
    The first result in particular perfectly illustrates the point. It’s an informational search term you can write about and it targets the local area.
    If you have the Detailed SEO extension we mentioned earlier, it will populate on the right side of the search engine result page, and you can extract as many layers of these questions as you want to a CSV. Use these questions to build out the content on your site. (If the option to extract isn’t showing, then click the Detailed SEO icon in your extensions menu, choose “Advanced” in the top menu, and ensure “Enable PAA Extracting” is selected
  1. Do this for every single service. Put your target keyword into Google, scroll down to the PAA, and extract the questions.
  2. Depending on how many services you have, you should have a comprehensive list of content ideas. Create the best content possible for any given question on your list.

This is a great strategy to combine with the other keyword research ideas mentioned back in section 3. What you ultimately want to achieve is the building of trust and authority with your audience, and that your website becomes the go-to source for information in your industry on a local level.

Now Get Your Hands on The Local Business SEO Checklist

Our Local Business SEO Checklist serves as your guide to effectively implement an SEO strategy tailored for reaching your local customers. Our goal is to simplify the process and ensure you can easily optimize your online presence without feeling overwhelmed.

This is your chance to significantly enhance your digital footprint and secure a dominant position in your local market. So get your hands on the checklist today and turn your website into a traffic and leads generating machine!