Local SEO Strategy Guide 2019: 10 Simple Tips to Dominate Local Search
Marketing is all about being ahead the curve and I wanted to get a really solid look at what all the experts are saying about the best local SEO strategies and tactics for 2019. In my research, something became really clear: local search isn’t magic. It’s simply about using data to understand what works and what doesn’t. So, to help with that, I’ve compiled these 10 actionable local SEO tips you execute on now. Whether you use this guide for your current local SEO strategy or use it to start from scratch, you’re guaranteed to see results.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have the methodology for launching and maintaining your own local SEO campaign.
For the quick readers, here are my 10 simple tips for dominating your local SEO strategy:
- Optimize for Google My Business
- List Your Business in Local Business Directories
- Collect and Monitor Reviews
- Add Local Data Markup to Your Site
- On-site SEO: Optimize Your Site for Search Engines
- Off-site SEO: Build Relevant and High-Authority Links
- Create and Implement a Social Media Strategy
- Optimize Your Site for User Experience and Speed
- Integrate Your Local SEO strategy with Other Marketing Channels
- Use Tools to Monitor Your Performance
Before we dive into breaking these down, let’s talk a bit about what a local SEO strategy looks like and how to actually get started on it. For a quick overview of a few of our tips, check out this short video by Neil Patel:
What is Local SEO Marketing?
Local SEO marketing is simply the practice of optimizing a local business’s online presence so they rank at the top of a search engine’s listing for a keyword. For example, if I’m looking for a photographer in Minneapolis, here are few keywords I might use to try and find one:
- Photographers Minneapolis
- Minneapolis photography
- Minneapolis wedding photography
- Best photographers in Minneapolis
- Minneapolis family photography
If you go to Google and type these in, you’ll get a different result each time. Check it out:
Why does this happen?
You see, the goal of any search engine is to provide the most applicable and useful information to their users. It just so happens that by changing the keyword, your results will change because some sites are optimized for a certain keyword while others are not. As you can tell from the image above, just simply changing the order of the words you type into Google can completely change the results.
Why Ranking on Page 1 of Google Matters
After analyzing some of the data from this study, I found a few key takeaways:
- An organic result listed above the local snack pack receives 56% more clicks than the local results.
- The top 3 local results (businesses listed in the snack pack) received 44% of all clicks when listed below advertisements.
- Local businesses with the highest review rating received more clicks than businesses without review score.
- Just because a business is in the local snack pack doesn’t mean it’ll perform well. Without reviews, users are 40% more likely to resort to the first organic listing instead of the local result.
- Paid results receive between 15-20% of clicks.
Basically, all of this boils down to one thing: being on the first page of Google matters.
What Does a Local SEO Strategy Look Like?
Based on my experience of creating local SEO strategies, I can tell you one thing: they’re all different. Don’t let that discourage you, though. One of my favorite parts about being an SEO is the constant adaptability and learning necessary to succeed. Whether you’re working on client’s SEO or working towards running your own SEO for your business, you’ll want to document and track your performance in case you need to make changes on the fly.
Your local SEO strategy can be in any format. From a presentation to a plain old Google Doc. Just document it. It’s important that you have clear next steps on how to execute on your local SEO strategy and that it’s tailored to your goals.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take an in depth look at each of our local SEO strategy tips for 2019.
Tip #1: Claim and Optimize Google My Business
How to Claim Your Google My Business Page
The very first step in getting your business to rank at the top Google’s local snack pack is to claim your Google My Business Page. After logging in, you’ll want to make sure you put in 100% correct business information. Make sure your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) is complete and accurate, link to your website, and list your business hours. When you’re done, jump over to Bing Places and do the same thing.
How to Verify Your Google My Business Page
After setting up your account, you’ll be asked to verify your business. Verifying your Google My Business page is a pretty straightforward process. Google will send you a postcard with a PIN to you local business address and you’ll enter that into your account after receiving the postcard. Make sure your address is a physical location where mail can be accepted – no PO boxes. While you’re waiting for the verification, you’ll want to optimize your GMB page as much as possible.Here are a few tips to do that:
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page
- Enter your physical address completely. Your business address should match your NAP (I’ll cover more on NAP in the next tip). If you’re a service-area based company without an address, select that option during setup and Google won’t show your address.
- If you’re working with multiple locations, each location needs to have their own listings.
- Your business name should be 100% accurate. Be sure not to add any keywords or change your name from your NAP.
- Google discourages the use of toll-free numbers in their local listings. Be sure to use a local number and never toll-free. If you have multiple locations, make sure each of them has their own local number.
- Make sure to list your URL on your GMB page. If you have multiple locations or service multiple areas, link each location GMB account to the page for that location on your website.
- Add categories that fit your business. If your products or services vary by location, make sure your GMB page for that location reflects its proper services.
- Add pictures to your GMB page. I always recommend pictures of the inside and outside of your business, pictures of your team, employees doing their jobs, and anything else you can show to build trust with Google and it’s users. I don’t recommend using stock photos – make sure they’re unique.
- Add any additional information like hours and prices if it’s applicable to your business.
Now that your account is setup, verified, and optimized, the foundation for a powerful local SEO strategy is in place. Let’s move on to building local citations!
Tip #2: Build Local Citations with Business Directories
One of the easiest ways to raise awareness of your brand to search engines is to build local citations. A citation is any mention of your business anywhere on the internet. This can include places like YellowPages, Yelp, Angie’s List, BBB, Facebook, or Foursquare. In order to maximize the efficiency of your citations, there are a couple things we should go over.
Make Sure NAP is Consistent Everywhere
As I heavily emphasized in tip #1 with GMB optimization, every citation of your business on the internet should have a consistent Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). This means if you’re using Ave instead of Avenue or Blvd instead of Boulevard, you should use the abbreviation with every business listing. Google made NAP consistency a heavy ranking factor back in 2014 with their Penguin update making this vital to your local SEO strategy.
Tips for Building Effective Local Citations
- If you have multiple locations make sure to list every location when adding your business to a new local directory.
- Never use PO boxes in your business listings. If there are currently PO boxes listed in current citations, update them to a physical address that perfectly matches your GMB listing.
- Standardize use of abbreviations (Blvd. vs. Blvd vs. Boulevard).
- Remove any duplicate listings and update any listings without proper information. If you can’t have a listing updated, contact the listing webmaster and have it deleted. I’ll talk about some tools good for tracking this in the next section.
- Submit your data to the big 4 data aggregators:
- Submit your website and business info to niche directories like YellowPages, Alignable, or SuperPages. There may be small directories specific to your location. A simple search for local business directories in your area should result in a few of them.
Local citation building is paramount for any local SEO strategy. Search engines are all about finding the most accurate and useful information for their customers. By having your business citations optimized, you’re allowing search algorithms to have a better understanding of your business which allows them to place you in front of the right people.
One thing to keep in mind though: as I pointed out from Moz’s case study a few scrolls up, just because a business appears in the local snack pack, that doesn’t mean it’ll receive clicks. Without reviews, customers are 44% more likely to resort to the organic ranking below the local snack instead of the local result. So, let’s talk about managing and collecting reviews as part of your local SEO strategy.
Tip #3: Collect and Monitor Reviews
Local SEO strategy is about putting yourself in the shoes of the searcher. When you search for new places to eat at, what matters to you most when making a decision? For me, it’s reviews. If a restaurant has consistent bad reviews, I almost never go. I also don’t go to restaurants who ignore their bad reviews and don’t work to solve a customer’s experience.
Search Engine Land published an article back in 2016 after running a survey regarding consumer shopping habits prior to a purchase. They came to a few key takeaways:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
- 70% of people will leave a review for a business if asked.
- 90% of people will trust a business after reading fewer than 10 reviews.
The crazy part: this was 2 years ago! Think about how these numbers might have changed. If you ask me, reviews should be at the VERY top of your focus. Start by having previous customers submit reviews to your Facebook and your Google My Business listing(s). Managing reviews as part of your local SEO strategy can get tedious so here a few tools to help automate the process:
The truth is reviews matter. The more you have and the better your rating, the higher you’ll rank for keywords in your area. More importantly, though, your customers will trust you before they even land on your site or give you a call.
Tip #4: Add Local Schema Markup to Your Site
“Add what to who?” That’s what I said the first time I heard about data markup. Data markup goes by a couple of names. You might of heard it referred to as Structured Data Markup or Schema.org markup. Basically, all it boils down to is some code that’s added to your website that allows search engines to better understand your business, products or services you sell, reviews you’ve collected, and more.
Google wants structured markup on your site so its web crawlers can gather more information about your business. The more information they can gather, the more relevant you become and higher you rank. Data markup is still relatively new and in 2015, only 31.3 percent of sites were using it. Chances are, even for 2019 on the horizon, having structured data markup on your site will still set you apart from the rest.
How to Add Structured Markup to Your Website
Adding structure markup to a website truly hasn’t ever been easier. Chances are, your website is built on WordPress or a CMS that’s offers plugins for it’s website themes. Simply visit the plugin or app store for your website CMS and search for a structured data markup plugin. Keep an eye out for good reviews and a lot of installs as you look for a plugin. Here are a few great resources for walkthrough guides on installing structured markup to your website:
How to Test Your Site for Structured Markup
Once you’ve gotten Schema Markup installed on your site, jump over to Google’s free Structured Data Testing Tool so you can make sure it’s installed correctly and not causing any warning. You can check your markup by fetching a URL or pasting in your code directly.
Making sure search engines understand the content on your website is critical for any local SEO strategy in 2019. Schema markup allows all search engines to easily understand the content on your site so they can put your site in front of the right searchers. So now that schema is installed correctly, let’s dive into on-site SEO – the practice of optimizing the content and structure of your website.
Tip #5: On-Site SEO – Optimize Your Site for Search Engines
You’ve heard this analogy before: you have to lay the foundation before you can build a skyscraper. Up until this point in the guide, we’ve been laying the foundation for your local SEO strategy. Now that we have all of the parts in place for search engines to understand your site easily, we need to shift our focus to optimizing the content you currently have.
But what does that mean, exactly? Let’s dive in.
Optimize URLs, Titles, and Meta Descriptions
Although this is a little more technical, optimized URLs, titles, and meta descriptions are essential to any successful local SEO strategy. For example, if I search for “photographers in Minneapolis”, Google shows me this as one of the results:
Note a few great things about this SERP:
- The keyword, “photographers in Minneapolis” appears in the title and meta description once.
- The URL is legible and not full of random keywords, numbers, or letters. It’s closely optimized for the keyword as well.
- The meta description isn’t cut off for being too long and it calls for an action. It’s clear right away what I’ll be able to find on that page.
These three things make up a fully optimized search engine result. Now let’s take a look at a SERP that’s not correctly optimized and how we’d fix it:
Right off the bat, I’m seeing a few things. First, the meta description makes it clear what Meghan’s specialty is. However, it doesn’t call to action. It doesn’t prompt an action from the user. The URL looks great and the title just needs a little bit more information. Let’s see what an optimized version of this might look like:
Title: Meghan Elizabeth | Newborn and Baby Photography | Minneapolis, MN
Meta Description: Meghan Elizabeth Photography is a boutique newborn photography studio in Minneapolis. Call for a free consultation: xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Here’s a full list of URL, title, and meta description best practices for your local SEO strategy:
- Title should be between 50-70 characters.
- Meta description should be between 120-158 characters.
- Target keyword should appear once in the title, URL, and meta description
- Make sure your meta description is clear and calls for action from the user.
- Make sure each page its own unique meta description and title.
Optimize Your Current Content for Local Keywords
Part of any strong local SEO strategy is having focused and intentional content on your website. Every page should have at least 500 words of relevant and keyword focused copy. If you have multiple locations, build individual pages for each area you service with embedded Google maps and link to them from your navigation.
Remember, the whole idea behind a search engine’s goal is to provide the best and most relevant information. That means they’re going to rank the sites with the best and most relevant content first.
One of the best ways to build content is to start a blog about the services you provide. Using tools like SEMRush and ahrefs, you can conduct keyword research and write blogs targeted to specific searchers. You can write how-to guides, showcase client work, provide tips specific to your industry, etc. – there’s a lot of options out there. For a complete look into keyword research and starting a content strategy, check out this guide from Neil Patel.
Improve Your Site’s Internal Linking Structure
Internal linking is simply linking to one of your pages within your website for another page within your website – hence, internal. The idea behind internal linking is that having a strong network of interconnected pages will help users navigate through your site, increase user engagement, and ultimately result in a better user experience. Because of this effect from internal linking, search engines will rank your site higher in comparison to sites with a weak internal linking structure. Linking internally will also disperse page authority and rank between linked pages making them more valuable.
But what does good internal linking look like? A blog from Neil Patel looks at exactly that. Here’s some of the best internal linking practices for your local SEO strategy:
- Create in-depth, relevant content, consistently. This will give you more of your pages to link to.
- Use anchor text rather than direct links when linking to another page.
- Avoid linking to your homepage and contact us page. Only link to your contact us page where absolutely necessary.
- Make sure your links are relevant.
- Keep your internal links to a reasonable number. Make it feel organic. Links shouldn’t be stuffed all over the place, just where they’re most relevant and useful for the reader.
If you’re looking for a great video regarding on-site SEO, Brian Dean over at Backlinko does a great job explaining exactly what it is and provides 9 actionable tips to improving your on-site SEO:
Tip #6: Off-Site SEO – Build Relevant and High-Authority Links
One of the most effective ways to increase your rankings and organic traffic is to acquire backlinks from other websites. Backlinks are links that are posted on other sites that point to yours. The reason these are so effective is because each link adds more authority to your site. More authority equals higher rankings and more traffic to your site, making this a top priority for any local SEO strategy.
In tip #2, we talked about building local citations with local business directories. Each time you list your business in one of these directories, you’ll receive a link back to your website. Because business directories are finite, I’ll give you a tips for getting more backlinks to your site.
Tips for Getting Effective Local Backlinks
- Collaborate with local blogs on blog posts and start guest posting.
- Join your city’s Chamber of Commerce and list your business
- Join the Better Business Bureau. The BBB has huge domain authority and having a BBB seal is a trust indicator for both search engines and your users.
- Attend and sponsor local events to list your business on other sites
- Work with the local press to talk about your business. This can be in the form of blogs, radio segments, Podcasts, or video segments. Links from news websites are typically extremely valuable because of the authority they have.
- Share your content with other bloggers in your industry to get links back to your site.
Tip #7: Create and Implement a Social Media Strategy
Marketing is all about optimizing as many channels as possible for traffic. Social media can be one of the best ways to generate local traffic to your business and is a must have in your local SEO strategy. People take pride in their communities and using social media can be a great way to stay in touch with those people. Aside from the benefits of social exposure and trust from customers researching your company, being active on social media has huge benefits for SEO.
Part of a search engine’s algorithm is to decide whether or not your site has domain authority in your niche. One of the easiest ways to be seen as an authoritative site is to have a social media strategy in place. You can use tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Sprout Social to automate your social media posting and gain insights about your followers.
Tips for Winning at Social Media
- Make sure each of your social profiles are optimized.
- Remember the 80/20 rule: make sure 80% of your posts are conversational and 20% promotional.
- Build trust by sharing photos of your office and team.
- Be social! Respond to comments, participate in others’ posts, and promote discussion with your own posts.
- Share customer reviews.
- Post frequently and consistently.
- Cross promote your other channels.
- Promote your blog and other content creation (YouTube, Podcasts, etc.)
Tip #8: Optimize Your Site for User Experience and Speed
Over the last year, site speed has become a HUGE deal for rankings. And this makes sense when you think about it. If a Google’s goal is to provide the best user experience possible, why would it show a site that hasn’t been optimized properly? The answer is now they won’t.
Another thing to keep in mind about site speed and user experience is up to this point, if you’re following this guide closely, you’ve optimized the content on your website and built a really solid foundation for generating organic traffic. Not having a mobile friendly and speed friendly site can drastically lower the effect of all of your other efforts. Not only will search engines begin to devalue your site, but so will your users.
Tips for Optimizing User Experience and Site Speed
- Test your website for mobile friendliness using Google’s free tool.
- Test your site speed using Google’s free tool.
- Use a fast and reliable hosting provider. Here’s a list of the fastest hosting providers for 2019.
- Use a content delivery network for your site’s images and files. My personal recommendations are CloudFlare or Stackpath (MaxCDN).
- Aim for a site speed under 3 seconds. Here’s a great article on why.
- Don’t go more than 5 years without a site redesign (even this is a stretch). Stay modern with design trends and user experience.
- Stay up to date with the latest trends in speed optimization. Technology is ever-changing and it’s all about keeping up. (Hint: Web 3.0 is on it’s way)
I can’t stress enough how important site speed and user experience is for a successful local SEO strategy in 2019. If you’re not an expert at website development and setting up some of the aforementioned tips seem challenging, use Upwork or Fiverr to find someone who’s experienced in site speed optimization.
Tip #9: Integrate Your Local SEO Strategy with Other Marketing Channels
One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make when it comes to marketing is having tunnel vision. I often run into articles that talk about SEO vs. PPC or why one is better than the other. But that’s not the point at all. In order to be successful in your marketing efforts, you need to have an omni-channel approach.
Search engine optimization performs best when combined with other marketing efforts. In fact, tip #7 was all about social media as a marketing channel and how that affects a site’s organic performance.
Even more so than social media, when combined with SEO, paid advertising works extremely well. If you recall from earlier in the guide, we talked briefly about where people are clicking after searching for something. We found that up to 20% of clicks go to paid ads. Combine that with local and organic rankings and you’ll dominate the entire first page of Google.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Bigger Picture
My whole point here is to make sure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture as you build out your strategy. By no means do you have to tackle every marketing channel at once. As you get more comfortable managing SEO, move on to social media, then maybe email marketing or Google Ads, and then onto the next channel. This omni-channel approach will help ensure you don’t lose business in the event something changes.
For example, in regards to SEO, if Google releases an algorithm update tomorrow that causes my website to plummet in ranking, it might take me days, weeks, maybe even months to recover depending on what changed. By having an omni-channel approach, even though I may have lost organic traffic, I can rely on other channels to perform for me.
Tip #10: Use Tools to Monitor and Automate
Okay so we’ve obviously covered a lot about what to do for your local SEO strategy. Tip #10 is all about managing and automating your efforts. Below you’ll find a list of each of the tools I use on a daily basis. From keyword research to backlink management and local citations, here are my favorites (they’re in no particular order).
Google Analytics is a must have for any website. Google’s free analytics tool easily plugs in to your website to give you realtime and historical trend data about your website. Google Analytics is a full suite of reporting tools that’ll help you understand how your site is performing at any moment.
Another must have for your website, Google Search Console helps measure your site’s traffic and performance, helps identify search related problems, and provides recommendations to help your site shine in search results.
Believe it or not, Google is one of the best tools for keyword research. You can use Google to provide information about other things users are searching for, other questions people ask, and it of course allows you to see who your competition is for a given keyword. Be sure to use Google search as a resource when conducting keyword research so you can cover as many topics related to the keyword you’re competing for.
KeywordsEverywhere is a free Google chrome extension that provides incredibly useful insights as you’re searching. Keywords everywhere has search analytics for over 20 different search engines. I use this literally all the time as I conduct keyword research. When I’m searching Google for a keyword, it’ll provide LSI keywords, average CPC, and competition. This is an absolute must-have if you’re just starting out.
AnswerThePublic is a tool that creates visualization of how people are searching for a keyword. it provides insights on the emotions of users as they search for a keyword which creates tons of content ideas surrounding a keyword. This tool works best when paid for but they offer a great free version as well.
UberSuggest is a free tool offered by Neil Patel, another SEO I reference quite frequently. Neil is a leader in content marketing and ranking #1 in Google. UberSuggest is all about helping you conduct in depth keyword research for FREE by pulling in data from search engines directly. This is one of my favorite tools to use as I’m writing a new piece of content.
Local SEO checklist is a free tool that offers over 40 different recommendations for optimizing your local SEO performance. This is a great tool if investing in higher priced tools isn’t an option.
Yoast SEO is WordPress’s #1 SEO plugin and for good reason: they make SEO easy for anybody. This plugin is packed full of features like a keyword density checker, live recommendations to improve each of your pages, easy to setup social cards, and easy to use schema markup. If your site isn’t on WordPress, I’d consider switching simply to use Yoast SEO.
I’ve referenced Moz quite a few times at this point and there’s a reason for it: they’re really good at what they do. Moz local is the best local citation and directory management tool out there, period. You can manage your local business listings, make sure your listings are accurate, manage duplicate listings, along with submitting your business information to the largest data aggregators.
SEMRush is one of the most popular tools for marketing out there. Here’s a look into some tasks I use SEMRush for:
- Technical SEO audits
- Backlink audit and analysis
- Position tracking
- Competitive intelligence and analysis
- Keyword research
SEMRush was actually the very first tool I invested in as a marketer. If you’re starting out with SEO, this is definitely the tool to start you out.
Local SEO, more than anything, is about crafting the most helpful and usable information in your industry. A lot of SEO is simply execution. It’s a lot of work and it may take time to see results but it compounds exponentially once you’ve been going at it for awhile. The bottom line is simple: why pay for traffic when you can earn it?
As always, I hope you found our complete guide to local SEO strategy in 2019 to be useful. Join the conversation and comment below to let me know what your thoughts are along with any questions you may have.