Local SEO Checklist (2021):
The Ultimate Guide to Success Part 1
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You can’t conquer the world without conquering your own backyard first.
The importance of local SEO seems to be growing year-after-year – with no signs of slowing down. According to a study from Go Gulf, nearly half of all Google searches have local intent.
The undying task of building a presence on local searches – while not rocket science – involves many moving parts.
Now, we’re not going to sugarcoat it.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ve probably got a long road ahead of you before you start seeing good results. In this post, we want to provide the ultimate local SEO checklist to do more than just get your feet on the ground.
This checklist will give you a top-to-bottom, pull-no-punches view of how to optimize your site, get your name out there on the right platforms, and set yourself up for long term success.
In this article, we will share with you how we use the following tools in our strategies:
We’ll be covering the following categories in two parts:
- The Setup Process
- Pre-Work Analysis
- Google My Business
- Website Optimization
- Link Building
- Reputation Management
- Google Ads
- Social Media
Why Is Local SEO So Important?
When was the last time you looked up the name, address, or phone number for a business in the yellow pages? Speaking of which, when was the last time you even picked up a phonebook?
To state the obvious, the masses turn to the internet for information about businesses, where to find them, how to contact them, look at their reviews, and a number of other things.
To give you an idea, queries containing the phrase “near me” have been on a steady rise for the past decade:
But this is only a small reason why local SEO is so important to a business.
For companies that operate with a brick and mortar establishment – in any capacity – local SEO is how people find out you exist, to put it bluntly.
What’s the Difference Between Local SEO and SEO?
Local SEO falls under the gigantic umbrella of SEO.
The purpose of SEO is to get recognized via search engines on a national or global level. Local SEO, as the name implies, is about getting recognized via search engines on a local or regional level.
Local SEO is primarily about getting customers to come through your physical doorway. Based on the type of business you operate, understanding the nuts and bolts of both will be critical to developing your business, and driving in precious leads.
That’s what we’re here for.
Local Digital Marketing Roadmap Created by Foxxr Digital Marketing
While we’re still in the shallows, take a look at our local digital marketing roadmap below. You’ll see a general view of the many tasks that fall into each category of our checklist:
All these tasks might look like a super tall mountain at first glance.
Trust us, this is a mountain you want to climb – the view at the top is breathtaking. Think of us as the cable car that takes you right to the top!
Important Elements of Our Roadmap
What’s the best way to eat an elephant? I’ve never tried an elephant, but I think the saying is “one bite at a time”.
So, let’s break down the major components of our local SEO checklist into small, digestible bites.
The milestones refer to the checklist categories we mentioned earlier.
These are the linear steps we’ll take to maximize your local SEO. If we were climbing a mountain, these would be the checkpoints where we could set up camp, enjoy the view, and start planning out how we’re going to reach the next checkpoint.
The tasks are how we get from one milestone to the next.
We can’t start working towards the analysis milestone if we haven’t finished all tasks in the setup – and so on. The details of these tasks are what we will cover in the reports we send you. We’ll discuss the challenges in each task, the opportunities, and the approach we’ll take to meet those opportunities.
Ok, we’re going to come clean here.
Reaching the top of the local SEO mountain – which is being the top-listed site on relevant searches – is only part of the battle. When we’re at the summit, we want to build a home, live there, and soak up those revenue-driving mountain views for the rest of our lives.
How do we do this?
Carry out the re-occurring tasks.
The re-occurring tasks are going to be the jobs we do to maintain everything we worked so hard for as we were reaching the milestones. This involves keeping a close eye on your citations, monitoring your online reputation, creating fresh content consistently, optimizing for new keywords, and much, much more.
In SEO – whether it be local or global – you don’t walk off the field after a victory. You keep your nose to the grindstone and do everything you can to stay on the field. As soon as you let up, your competitor from down the street will swoop right in.
So now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s break down the tasks throughout our major milestones.
Foxxr Digital Marketing’s Local SEO Checklist: The Milestones
Milestone 1: Set Up
Client onboarding is the tip of the spear – or the base of the mountain if we want to keep our analogies consistent. The onboarding process is where we’ll gather the overview data about our client.
To kick things off, we’ve developed a tried-and-true onboarding questionnaire to gather the data we need.
The answers in this questionnaire form the foundation of the campaign and are the basis for our decision-making process. If we’re climbing a mountain, think of this step as acquiring all the gear necessary to reach the summit.
When you fill out this questionnaire, we need you to get as specific as you possibly can. We’ll help you, but keep in mind, the more detailed you are on this form, the better position we are in to create a stronger campaign.
Project Milestones (Teamwork)
At Foxxr Digital Marketing, we love Teamwork – both in the sense of working as a team and the acclaimed project management tool.
This part of the process is all about getting you familiar with how we set up projects, provide estimated timelines, track progress, share files, and communicate throughout the campaign. Now, Teamwork might look a little daunting when you first log in – but we promise, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
Once the campaign is planned out, we’ll have a screen share in which we will run through every aspect of the process. If you have any questions or need clarification, we’re just a ping on Google Chat away.
Set Up Reports
Teamwork is our home base for the local SEO checklist campaign. But several other platforms come into play for campaign analysis.
In this part of the process, we’ll get all set up on our reporting platforms.
Our go-to resource for this is Agency Analytics.
The platform will measure all the results and trends related to keyword analysis, URL tracking, reputation management, lead generation, social media, citations, email marketing, and much, much more.
But why use more than one reporting tool?
Marketing tools pull from a myriad of data sources. As much as we love Agency Analytics, it’s always good to use a couple of different tools to supplement the insight.
Milestone 2: Analysis
So now that we’ve got all the introductions, setups, and processes established, it’s finally time to dive into the campaign – or start hiking up the mountain!
Initial SEO Audit + Competitors Analysis
The first step we’ll take in our campaign is a deep analysis of what we’re currently working with, and what we’re up against.
For the sake of this local SEO checklist, let’s say we’re starting from scratch with a brand new website. Before we build out the design, we’ll perform an exhaustive analysis of your competitors as we draft up your long-term SEO strategy.
In this analysis, we’ll get into the details of:
- Who your real competitors are (5-10)
- What their data looks like (Google My Business)
- Business name
- Phone number
- City, state, zip code
- Phone number
- Landing page URL
- Number of GMB categories
- Data accuracy
- Their webpages
- Page titles
- Keywords used
These are the major checkpoints of our local SEO competitive analysis as we are drafting up a strategy.
This is where we will keep all our notes:
Keyword analysis is a cornerstone in every SEO strategy – and keyword optimization is rarely a one-dimensional task.
In our analysis, we’ll pinpoint:
- Your primary keyword
- Your secondary keywords
- The supporting keywords
Let’s unpack these items for a minute.
Your primary keyword is the overarching search term that defines your business or goals for the campaign. When people enter this term into a Google search, you want your website to pop up. The primary keyword is one of the most important items on the local SEO checklist.
For example, if you design trusses for buildings, your primary keyword might be custom trusses or just trusses.
Now, the primary keyword we decide on is more than likely going to have a sizable search volume. To give you an idea, trusses get 50K searches/month. Generally speaking, the higher the search volume, the harder it is to show up on Google for it.
Fun Fact: Most people never scroll past page one of the Google search results.
This is why we choose the secondary keywords.
Secondary keywords are going to be the subsects of your primary keyword that cover more specific aspects of your business. Using the trusses example, these secondary keywords might be:
- Roof trusses
- Floor trusses
- Pole barn trusses
These keywords show users – and Google’s bots – the extent of the services/products you offer.
The supporting keywords are going to get deeper into your service offerings. While not all of these will be as essential as the primary and secondary keywords, they will work to give Google a more complete picture of your business. For example, supporting keywords for roof trusses could be:
- Flat roof trusses
- Pre-made roof trusses
- Steel roof trusses
- Metal roof trusses
- Among others
This is how we will keep track of your keywords:
Once our analysis is complete, we’ll begin creating KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to target in our strategies. Moreover, we will develop a plan of what to do if we reach (or don’t reach) those KPIs.
For example, our first benchmark KPI of the local SEO campaign might be to reach 300 unique website visitors per month after three months. In the scenario we don’t reach this goal with our current tactics, we’ll figure out how to improve to reach the next benchmark KPI.
Milestone 3: Directories
These are the platforms in which you’ll list your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). There are tons and tons of directories online – most of which are free and can do a lot to amplify your local visibility.
Generally speaking, if you are listed on reputable online directories, Google will see your business as more credible.
Here’s what we do:
Local Data Aggregators Setup
Local Data Aggregators (LDAs) are online organizations that pull information on businesses, then pass it on to external sources. Think of LDAs like the digital age’s version of the Yellow Pages. LDAs act as a database of business information like the name, address, and phone number – only this is on a much, much larger scale.
The business data is gathered, then funneled to a vast array of services, including apps, business directories, niche citation sites, and more.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes can sign up for an LDA. Once this task is done, the system has a process to verify all the information before it’s officially entered into the database. This is step one of our directories process.
There are four major LDAs:
Using Bright Local, we will get you all set up on these LDAs. The priority here is to make sure everything is 100% current and accurate. Once you’re in the system, your business information will be fed to all the websites and services that pull information from the LDAs.
The next step in the directory process is to get you registered on the major citation platforms. This includes heavy hitters like Google My Business, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, and so on.
Using the trusty Bright Local tool, we’ll get this taken care of quickly and accurately. To give you an idea, here is the list of the key citations we’ll build for you as part of our local SEO checklist:
Local/Niche Citations Set up
As the third and final step in our directory setup process, we’re going to get a bit more in-depth with your citations. This involves researching directories that lie within your industry or local region.
For example, if you are a dentist, we would get you set up on directories like The Dentist Hub, American Dental Association, Smile Guide, and so on.
When looking for industry and local directories, we use a series of search queries. This allows us to check for existing listings.
Our most common searches include:
- [location] business listings
- [location] business directory
- [location] directory
- [business type keyword] business listings [location]
- [business type keyword] business directory [location]
- [business type keyword] directory [location]
Getting set up on directories and establishing citations is only part of the battle. If there’s one thing Google hates, it’s inconsistencies. Using Bright Local, we’ll track your citations and monitor exactly how your NAP is appearing across the web and major directories.
This is a report that runs a scheduled time – and the citation data is tracked in the project workbook.
If you’ve just set up your citations, optimization will be pretty minimal. If you did this a long time ago – and moved offices, changed numbers, or anything else – the process to update the citations might be a bit more intensive.
After noting down the citations and their statuses via Bright Local in our directory management tab, we will contact the websites to remove any inconsistencies.
Milestone 4: Google My Business
People don’t turn to the Yellow Pages anymore when they want to find a business – they turn to Google. If you’re going to do anything to improve your local SEO, getting set up on Google My Business (GMB) is non-negotiable.
Here’s how we’ll get you ready to rock on GMB.
Creating/Optimizing GMB Listing
For starters, we’ll look and see if there is already a GMB listing by searching your business on Google. If there is a listing, we’ll claim it for you, then request for verification. Once your business is verified, we’ll go through the listing and make sure ALL your information is filled in properly and accurately.
Back in the old days of SEO, businesses would try to stuff in industry-specific and local keywords to try and gain an advantage in Google. While that tactic is long dead, we sometimes start working with businesses that haven’t updated their GMB profile since the pre-Penguin days.
We’ll make sure you’re steering clear of any shady SEO tactics to avoid Google’s bad side.
Setting up Products and Services
Once the general business information is ready to go on your GMB profile, the next step is showcasing the products and/or services you offer. This feature allows businesses to add a complete menu of their offerings to show users – and Google – exactly what value they bring to the table.
GMB posts allow you to showcase a plethora of information about your company. When people find your business via a local search, these posts allow you to display the most relevant messages.
There are 5 post types presently available:
- What’s New
- Welcome Offer
You can choose between an image or video to accompany the content of your post. All of these post types allow you to add a CTA button for searchers to engage.
Upload GMB Images
The last step in meeting our Google My Business milestone is getting some pictures up!
This is where we want to make your business a little more personable. Always remember, Google likes to see that you’re a legit business and engaged with a dedication to serving the community. Uploading various types of images related to your business provides exposure to the GMB listing.
We’ll ask you to send over some photos of:
- The exterior of your building
- The interior
- Your team members
- Any other pictures that prove you’re the real deal
Here are a few from our GMB profile:
It’s recommended to upload one image every week to the GMB listing of your business.
By this point in the local SEO checklist, all your business information is on GMB.
Our team will periodically touch base to find out what’s new with your company to make sure your profile is updated with the most relevant information.
Milestone 5: Audits
Auditing is all about making sure your digital roadmap is headed in the right direction.
If we’re starting from scratch with a brand new website, there won’t be much to audit. If you’ve got a long, checkered history of local SEO – or your previous agency had no clue what they were doing – we’re in for a ride.
Here’s what we’ll do in the auditing process:
The website audit is where we will really dive deep into your setup. Generally, this audit will consist of a comprehensive analysis of your:
- On-page SEO performance
- User interface (UI)
- User experience (UX)
- Mobile responsiveness
- Site loading speeds
The findings will be recorded and tracked using our Foxxr Digital Marketing Website Audit Master Template:
In this step, we’ll take inventory of all your citations across the web – and make sure they are correct and consistent.
To perform this task, we’ll use:
- The Bright Local Citation Tracker
- NAP Hunter (Chrome extension)
- Branded searches
- Searching GMBs’ primary categories in Google
In the GMB audit, we’ll first take a look at all of your company data to make sure it’s correct and beneficial to users. From here, we’ll figure out a plan for how to make your listing more meaningful. This might involve:
- Adding more pictures
- Creating more options to get in touch
- Planning out your next round of Google Posts
Ahrefs SEO Analysis
The next big step in our local SEO checklist is a deep dive into your searchability.
Ahrefs is by far the best tool for a thorough SEO audit – based on our experience. During this phase, we’ll examine:
- BIG, overarching issues holding your site back from ranking properly. This might include:
- Unoptimized/missing tags
- Broken links
- Ineffective keywords
- Easy fixes
- Organic search traffic
- Where is your traffic coming from?
- What search terms are pulling in visitors?
- Are there any opportunities you’re missing out on?
- Backlink analysis (VERY important)
- Gaps in your content
The SEO audit is arguably the most important part of our local SEO checklist. Our findings here will highlight your biggest strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities. The data we uncover here will form the foundation of our strategy.
Bright Local Analysis
As you can probably tell by this point in the post, citations are a key component of local SEO. Our Bright Local analysis will work to:
- Track your citations
- Look for pending citations of your business
- Examine your competitors’ citations
The purpose of our Bright Local analysis isn’t just to keep tabs on your citations; it’s to make sure you’re staying ahead of the curve within your industry.
Milestone 6: Website
At this point in the local SEO checklist, we’ve taken care of the general housekeeping tasks, assessed what we’re working with, and hammered out a strong plan to get you noticed on local searches.
Now we’re going to start building up your website.
This is what we’ll cover:
The importance of website architecture cannot be overstated. For one, it determines how search engine crawlers can read your site, index the content, and rank it accordingly.
A website’s architecture must make it instantly clear to search engines (and users):
- What the site is all about
- What you offer
- The depth of knowledge you have on the topic
To manage these three tasks, we use the silo structure. The silo structure encompasses:
- The homepage
- Target pages – generally the product/service pages
- Supporting articles – blog posts, informational guides, etc.
- Interlinking within the silo structure to send clear signals to search engines
For tasks a) and b), we’ll make your mission and offerings abundantly clear with your homepage, product/service pages, and the site’s layout.
Now, the task of c) is quite a bit more complex than a) and b).
C) is a never-ending job of adding new informational content, updating existing content, and making sure each piece is relevant and working as a vector in showcasing your expertise.
D) is about tying it all together in the most logical way.
For example, let’s say you’re a law from specializing in a few different areas – personal injury, family law, and appeals.
The first thing we’ll do in the silo structure is to make these areas of expertise clear on your homepage. From here, we’ll designate the target pages, which will be based around the main service pages. In this case, target pages would be:
- Personal injury services
- Family law services
- Appellate services
Then, we’ll devise a plan to create informational content that branches off of these three target pages based on keyword research.
- X Reasons Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
- What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?
- What is the Appellate Court?
This is just the tip of the iceberg in building out silos. The more high-quality content you have in each silo, the more search engines and users will see you as an expert. As a result, you’ll (ideally) rank higher on local searches.
The last step is linking it all together.
This part is pretty simple, yet is a crucial ingredient to healthy website architecture.
The process involves linking your target pages to the homepage, then all the related blog posts, and informational content assets to the target pages.
Here is a general diagram as to what a silo would look like:
Ultimately, the silo structure of your website tells search engines and users:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Why you’re qualified to do it
In addition to succinct copy and strong site architecture, Google loves updated websites. If necessary, we’ll redesign aspects of your website that are outdated or unoptimized.
We will also migrate a copy of it to the WP Engine server. From here, we’ll install our premium plugins and themes, then apply any updates/changes needed based on our website audit.
If a client isn’t using WordPress and wants to migrate, we’ll create a new website install on WP Engine. This may sound like a huge undertaking, but all we need to do is copy/save the site content and put it into a Dropbox folder.
Website On-Page SEO/CRO
Once the website is migrated, we’ll start the process of implementing the best on-page practices for SEO. The goal is to improve the overall usability of the platform, and ultimately, the conversion rate.
Our first order of business here will involve making any updates to page layouts and UX design. These updates are based on recommendations we get from PageOptimizer Pro (POP), our findings in the website audit, and competitor research.
Each of the top-level webpages is run through POP and Ahrefs.
This is what the process looks like:
A. In Page Optimizer Pro
We start with the money keyword and the target URL, then add the top competitors.
This will populate the summary pages with items that are “under-optimized”. Our focus from here is to take care of all the unoptimized items and ensure the structure/content of each page is up to standards.
After we make all the suggested website changes (structure and content), we’ll re-run through POP to double-check that everything meets the guidelines and POP’s recommendations.
B. Technical SEO
We use a handful of different tools for technical SEO, including Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Lighthouse, and Diib. Fine-tuning the technical SEO elements of your site involves:
- Identifying/rectifying crawl errors
- Assessing how Google views the webpages
- Making sure the site is mobile-friendly
- Fixing broken links
- Securing the site with HTTPS
- Optimizing loading speeds.
At this point, we’ve reached a HUGE milestone in our local SEO checklist. We have optimized your website, its layout, silo structure, and technical aspects to put you in a prime position to rank!
The summit is getting closer.
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