A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO

The SEO strategy for attracting a national or global audience is different than getting people to visit your physical location or getting exposure among a regional population. If you want to reach potential customers closer to home, you’ll need to perform a few additional steps.

The overarching idea of SEO can be overwhelming. That’s why we created this SEO guide for local business owners. It covers all the basics as well as advanced strategies, all in terms that even a newbie can understand.

Why SEO Is Important for Local Businesses

Traditional media channels are still effective, but you need alternative ways to get found and become known to potential customers in your area. That’s where a digital strategy comes into play. Your company’s website might be the most beautifully designed page in the history of web design, but if no one can find it, it won’t do you any good.

And believe us when we tell you that people are searching online for businesses just like yours.

Fun fact: 46% of all searches on Google are local.

Do you want these people to visit your competitors instead?

You’ve probably heard some buzzwords over the years. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is an umbrella term that encompasses all the tactics that help your site show up at the top of the search engines. In the early years of the Internet, there were all kinds of “black hat” tactics companies would use, like keyword stuffing, bogus link building, and creating hundreds of microsites to dominate search results.

Small and medium-sized businesses had a hard time earning top search rankings when their sites were competing directly with multinational corporations. All of that changed relatively recently. In 2012, Google started including local businesses in the top-ranked Google Places results page as well as in organic search results.

Google has gotten incredibly smart over the years, and their newest algorithms (the rules that help you get found) take into account the user experience more than anything else. This guide will walk you through the steps you should take to create a positive experience for your website visitors. And, of course, we’ll also include some ninja, “white hat” tricks that will help boost your rankings, too.

 

Perform a Competitive Analysis

We won’t spend a lot of time on this step because we believe in outperforming your competitors, not copying them. However, it is important to know where you stand and how strong the competition is. There are several free tools you can use to analyse your competitors and see how strong their SEO strategy is. You’ll be able to see how many backlinks they have, what words they rank for, and even how often they publish content.

Use this information as a guide so that you know what you’re up against, and then do better than them. Tools like SEMrush, Google Search Console, and Ahrefs can help you compile and make sense of the data.

If you don’t want to use an automated tool, or you want a quick overview of the competitive landscape, then go to Google and browse the top 10 search results that come up for your niche. Enter “local area + keyword phrase.” If you are a dentist in Sydney, then simply type into Google “Sydney Dentist,” and pay particular attention to the top 3 results. Those are the ones to beat.

 

Get a Keyword Targeting Strategy

One of the first places to start with any local SEO plan is with a keyword strategy. What are the keywords that people are typing into the search engines to find businesses like yours? If you are currently running ads on Google, you can use their Keyword Planner to determine relevant keywords and search volumes.

These tools are helpful because not only do they provide you with valuable insights about your desired keywords, but they also give you inspiration for other words and phrases you might not have thought of yet.

 

Select Your Keywords

In addition to the obvious, low-hanging fruit that you’ll find with a keyword planner, look for words that have high search volume, low competition or are highly targeted. Look for long-tail keywords, too. A long-tail keyword is a combination of words that form a longer phrase.

For example, if you are in the retailing flooring industry, then “flooring” is going to be an extremely competitive term. You may be able to rank for it locally, but you’ll need to rank for other phrases in order to signal to the search engines that flooring is relevant to your business. In this instance, we would suggest additional related keywords like “vinyl flooring planks,” “vinyl flooring pros and cons,” etc.

Next, we’ll dive deeper into this strategy, which we refer to as building a keyword silo.

 

Build a Keyword Silo

One of the biggest mistakes we see clients make is that they choose a couple of keywords that they want to rank for, and then they try to make every single one of those pages rank for those few, specific terms. It’s an understandable mistake because it does seem logical that if you want to rank for a couple of important keywords, a good way to do it would be to create a bunch of content that supports that goal. However, that’s not the case.

What ends up happening with that approach is that you confuse Google. The search engines see several pages on your site that are all competing for the same keyword, and they struggle to decide which one of those pages is the most useful to the person performing the search.

As you might imagine, only one (or none) make the cut, and then you’re left with a bunch of web pages on page 12 of Google. Have you ever actually bothered to click through to the 12th page of a search query?

A better strategy is to create a keyword silo. Here’s how to do it in 3 easy steps:

  1. Make a list of all the keywords and phrases you want to rank for.
  2. Make a list of all the pages that are on your site.
  3. Assign two keyword phrases for each one of your pages.

This procedure allows you to create an organised site structure while also ensuring that all of the words you’d like to rank for are included prominently in your content.

 

Focus on the User Experience

As you create content for your business’s website, focus on the user experience, and you can’t go wrong. Resist the temptation to stuff keywords into your content that adversely affect the readability. Instead, write conversationally.

Include images that are high-quality and engaging. If possible, add videos to your site. Make sure you create original content that your audience and customers would find helpful. Don’t just regurgitate information from Wikipedia. Instead, create pages and blog articles that educate, inform or entertain your visitors.

One ninja tip to find out what your audience might want to know is to visit a site called  Answer the Public. This website aggregates all search queries about a given topic into an easy-to-understand visual chart.

If you’re a chiropractor, for example, you might be struggling to know what types of blog articles to write. If you type the word “chiropractor” into this tool, you’ll find the top questions people ask about chiropractic. There’s also a list of more than 100 long-tail keywords you can include on your pages and in your content pieces.

 

Gather Testimonials

Include several testimonials on your site and consider adding a page dedicated to testimonials. If you’d like the testimonials to include keywords or stay focused on certain topics, give your clients and customers a survey to fill out with room for comments. Then you can select the excerpts from the testimonials that best fit on your site. As you may have guessed, keyword-rich testimonials will also help you rank more highly in the search engines.

 

Get Listed in the Directories (Major, Local and Niche)

A directory is a list of businesses. Directories are often highly ranked in search results, so if you want to be found by a local audience, make sure you’re listed.

The first step is to get listed in the major directories like Yelp, Google My Business, and Yellowpages.com. You’ll also want to appear in local directories like the Chamber of Commerce. And finally, don’t forget to submit your business information to industry-specific directories. For example, if you are a law firm, then submit to directories that include lists of lawyers.

 

Add Citations

A citation is any mention of your business online that includes your NAP (name, address, phone number). The more of these you have, the stronger signal to the search engines that you’re a legitimate business.

There are two types of citations:

  • Structured: A mention of your business on a directory like Yelp or the online Yellow Pages. With a structured citation, you manually input and verify the information is correct.
  • Unstructured: Any mention of your business’s contact information on a site that’s not specifically a directory. If an online newspaper covers a story about an event at your business and gives your address, for example, this would be considered an unstructured citation.

An important SEO tip to remember is to maintain consistency across all of your citations. There should be no variations in the way your name and street address are listed. If you use an Pty Ltd after your company name, keep that consistent any time you submit your business information. The same goes for how you structure the name of your street.

 

Sign up for Google My Business (GMB)

Uploading your information to Google My Business is perhaps the most impactful ranking factor you can do for local SEO. It’s almost like having a standalone site hosted by Google. Include your basic details like NAP and operating hours, and also make it stand out from the competition by adding photos and videos of your business. You can even use GMB to gather reviews and book appointments.

 

Be Active on Social Media

Social media platforms help with your citations and your backlinks. They also naturally drive traffic to your site, which is another key indicator for the search engines. You don’t have to be active on every single platform. Use your time wisely and create content on platforms that your customers use.

For the other social media channels, create an account and maintain a presence, but don’t worry as much about being active. Some social media platforms where you should create accounts include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • GooglePlus
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr

 

Build Links

You might have heard about getting backlinks. That’s when websites post a link to your business on their pages. Typically, the higher the domain authority of the site that links to you, the better. A link to your business from The Huffington Post would be more valuable than a link from an unknown media company.

When it comes to local SEO, the rules are a little bit different. Almost any local website will be a powerful ranking factor for you. Google interprets the links, even from small sites, as further indicators that you’re a legitimate business servicing a specific area and that your content is valuable.

To start the process of building links, the first step is to ask. Contact other businesses in the area and request that they include a link to your site on one of their pages. Alternatively, offer to guest blog on local media properties in exchange for a link mention. Not only do you get the link, you also get valuable exposure, too!

 

Get Reviews

Reviews are helpful for your business, even outside of an SEO strategy. If there are two seemingly similar bicycle shops, and one has ten times the amount of reviews as the other, then where do you think most customers will go?

When it comes to being ranked highly by the local search engines, reviews also play a major role. Given the fact that many people won’t write about a business unless they either have a bad experience or are asked directly, take a proactive approach and ask your customers to review you. If they happen to say something negative, make sure you respond promptly and professionally.

You may have noticed that we mentioned testimonials earlier this local SEO guide. For the purposes of SEO, reviews and testimonials are different. Think of a review as something that’s posted off of your site, like on a local directory or social media. You don’t have control over what someone publishes on a review site.

With a testimonial, you’re the one who publishes them with the permission of your client or customer. They’re helpful for SEO because they can contain keywords, they encourage people to stay on the site longer to read what others have to say, and it can also lead to more prospects becoming customers.

 

Don’t Forget the Technical Details

Many of the above steps require little or no technical knowledge, but there is some heavy lifting involved as you refined your local SEO stratetgy. Below are seven technical aspects of this guide that you may need to get expert guidance to complete.

 

Add a Map that Shows Your Locations

There’s more than one way to do this, but the gist is that you want a visual representation of where your location is on a map. This Google page has step-by-step instructions, and there are also free tools available that make it even easier. If Google’s instructions are intimidating, try this site, which generates the code for you automatically.

 

URL Structure

An often-overlooked piece of the local SEO puzzle is the structure of the URLs. Your URLs should be descriptive and include the relevant keywords that you’re targeting for the page. Just don’t repeat them. That’s considered spamming.

Also, strip out unnecessary words like prepositions and articles. Be consistent with how you use upper and lower-case letters. As a general rule, we recommend only lower-case letters. A final tip is to keep them under 164 characters. Anything longer gets truncated.

 

Page Load Time

When deciding where to rank your page, search engines take a close look at how fast it takes for your site to load. Users will click the back button if there’s a long delay, and that makes for a poor user experience. Make no mistake: Google will penalise you heavily for that.

You can test your page load speed from a variety of free places online, including Pingdom. You’ll get a letter grade with a detailed performance insight summary and suggestions on how to make your page load more quickly.

 

Rich snippets (schema markup)

A rich snippet is a visual piece of data that shows up in search results. An example is when you type into Google asking for the definition of a word or when you want to know the conversion rate from Australian Dollars to US Dollars.

Similar functionality has been extended to local businesses. By putting data like your reviews, location information, and phone numbers into something called a Schema markup, the way your business shows up online gets an upgrade. The steps to implement a local business schema can get complicated, so if you’re looking for a quick, easy, and free solution, then use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. It will do all the hard work for you.

 

Locally Optimised Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Your title tags and meta descriptions are what show up on the search engine results page when your page appears in a search query. For national and global brands, a location might not matter, but for local businesses, this is essential information to include.

Your title tags and meta descriptions should ideally have the name of the city or community you serve. If people are searching for your type of product or service using postal codes, then add those as well.

A well-written title tag and meta description not only helps you rank, it also encourages a higher click-through rate (the percentage of people who see your link that click on it). And, the higher the click-through rate, the higher a page will rank in the search engines.

 

Submit an XML Sitemap

Once you’ve completed all the above steps, it’s time to submit your XML sitemap to Google. This is typically a one-step process that allows Google to crawl and index all of your pages, so they can begin to show up in the search results.

 

Mobile-Friendly Design

It’s no longer optional to have a mobile-friendly site design. If you want your local website to rank highly, it must be mobile-friendly. This includes a responsive design that scales appropriately on devices of all sizes. It also means you must limit popups. Never allow a popup to take up the entire screen on a mobile device. If Google detects this, then your ranking will drop.

 

Conclusion

As you get started on the recommended steps in this guide, and you start ticking off boxes, keep in mind that Google is placing more emphasis than ever on the user experience. When you work on your site or hire developers and content marketers to help you on this journey, make sure they understand this rule.

Every change or improvement made to your site should be done to enhance the experience of your visitor. If your site is useful, easy to navigate, and loads quickly, then you’re well on your way to a top ranking.

Here is a very thorough explainer video from Sam Oh & Ahrefs.

Transcript

Fact. 46% of all Google searches are local, yet 56% of local retailers haven’t even claimed their Google My Business listing. If you’re not getting visibility and customers from local search, then you and I, we are going to solve that problem right now with the jam-packed Local SEO Tutorial. Stay tuned.

Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors, and dominate your niche. I’ve got quite a complete tutorial for you on how to do local SEO, so even if you’re just starting out, this video should simplify the process for you quite nicely and help you gain visibility in local search. Let’s dive right in.

First, what is local SEO? It’s the process of optimising your online presence to attract more business from relevant local searches. For example, if I type in “best Mexican restaurant Toronto”, you’ll see that the top of the search results are dominated by a box of local listings on Google Maps, which is called a Snack Pack. Below that are your typical organic search results.

It’s super important that you can gain position in the Snack Pack because they generate 33% of clicks on the search results page, but it’s equally important to rank in the organic search results since they attract 40% of clicks. Bottom line, it pays to rank in both spots, which is where local SEO comes in. Now, Google has an estimated 87% market share in the U.S., which means that most people are using Google to search for local businesses, so in this tutorial we’ll be focusing on local SEO in Google only. Now, let’s get on the same page and draw out an example scenario.

Let’s say that I’m opening up a new coffee shop in downtown Toronto for cool, hard-working people like SEOs and entrepreneurs. We’ll be open 24/7 because our target audience tends to work around the clock, and of course, there will be fibre internet because there’s nothing more frustrating that slow public Wi-Fi. To differentiate ourselves from other coffee shops and build some nice recurring revenue, we’ll offering virtual office services for a set monthly fee, which includes bottomless coffee, your own private cubicle, and incoming mail service. I’ve invested in this concept, I’ve dropped a lot of coin, but no one knows about my business because they’re finding other coffee shops like this in Google Search.

We’re going to start with Step 0, and it’s something all local businesses need to do, and that’s to ensure your website is optimised for mobile. According to a BrightLocal study, 61% of mobile users are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile site. You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. Just enter in your domain or URL, and shortly thereafter Google will tell you whether your page is mobile friendly or if it’s not.

On to Step 1, and that’s to claim and optimise your Google My Business listing. This is arguably the most important part of local SEO, and it’s actually quite easy to do. Just go to google.com/business, sign into your Google account and the first think you’ll need to do is enter in your NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number. If you have a business with multiple locations or you purchased a franchise, then you can start typing in the business name and you’ll see a list of businesses that are already registered in Google’s database. My coffee shop is called High Speed Coffee, so that’s all I’ll write and click “Next”.

It’s important to note that your business name is not meant for keyword stuffing, so I wouldn’t write something like, “Coffee Shop Downtown Toronto 24/7 High Speed Coffee.” It’s not going to help you rank, so don’t bother. Next, we’ll enter in our address. Now, since we’re a coffee shop, we’ll obviously have a physical location, but if you’re an independent service provider like a photographer or a work-from-home consultant, then your typical client meetings might happen in their office or in a coffee shop like High Speed Coffee. If that’s the case, then you can enter in your home address. Select the “I deliver goods and services to my customers”, then choose to hide your address since it’s not a store.

Now, when your business shows up in Google search, it’ll just show the city and province/state where you work from. Since that doesn’t apply to our business, let’s move on to the next step, which is to pin the marker on the map. Google is pretty good with this, but you’ll want to examine the map and make sure it’s in the exact position where your store is located. Just drag and drop it and click “Next” when you’re done. As Google recommends, don’t add multiple categories to list all of your products and services. Instead, you should focus on this statement. “My business is a blank”, rather than, “My business has blank.” In the case of High Speed Coffee, are business is a coffee shop, even though it has virtual office space. Just start typing in a description and select the most appropriate one from the drop down.

Let’s go to the next step, which is to enter in your phone number and website, which is pretty straightforward. This step is optional, but I recommend it including both. Now, I’ll need to finish off the process and verify the website, which can be done by phone or mail. You just need to follow the instructions from Google and your My Business listing should be active in no time.

Before you continue, you should add a few more optimisations to your listing. You can click on the info menu in the side bar, then you can click on the pen icon to edit different parts of your listing so you can add more relevant categories, for example. Other things you should do is to set your hours of operation, add specific URLs to important pages, add a description of your business, and photos of your actual location. Now that we have the foundation set up for local SEO, let’s move on to Step 2, which is to do some keyword research.

There’s some obvious terms you’d want to rank for like “coffee shop near me”, “High Speed Coffee”, “What time does High Speed Coffee open or close?”, and High Speed phone number. With these kinds of local search queries, Google pulls the information from the Google My Business listing. For example, if I type in, “What time does Starbucks close?”, Google will pull up the Starbucks in my vicinity and show the hours of operations for all locations on the map. If I specify a location or use a single-location business, then you’ll see a quick answer box like this, which is pulled directly from Google My Business. Rather than going deeper into the Snack Pack or Google Maps listings, we’ll be talking about keyword research for the organic search results.

First, we need to brainstorm your SiLs, which stands for Service in Locations. As a coffee shop, I’d want to rank for queries like these. “Coffee shops in Toronto, 24/ coffee shops in Toronto, 24-hour coffee shops in Toronto, virtual office in Toronto.” We want to rank for synonymous variations like “café in Toronto.” A photographer on the other hand might want to rank for “photographer in Toronto”, or, “a photographer in a nearby city.” Here are a few ways you can generate solid keyword ideas.

First, use Google’s Autocomplete. Just type in the main query you want to rank for, and you’ll see a few good suggestions here like, “open late, financial district, and Toronto, Canada”, which may likely come from tourists or travellers. If you’re in the services industry, then you can look at local classified sites like Craigslist. I can search in the services category and use a keyword like “photographer”, and you’ll see some cool ideas here like experienced, freelance, engagement shoot, and more. In my opinion, the absolute best place is to find the keywords that your competitors are already ranking for, and the reason why this is so effective is because this is basically telling you which keywords that you can also rank for.

You can tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer and enter in the domain of one of your search competitors. Next, go to the Organic Keywords Report, and this report will show you all of the search queries that a domain is ranking for. You’ll see that they’re ranking for a lot of branded queries, so you can use the “Exclude” box and type in the brand name which will give you a nice list of relevant keywords to target. Just from a quick scan of this list, there are a couple of keywords that I would have never thought of like, “coffee places near me”, and, “coffee place near Eden Center”, which is a large mall in downtown Toronto.

You should have a solid list of keyword ideas now, so it’s time to move on to some on-page SEO. If you’re familiar with SEO, then you’ll find that a lot of the typical on-page SEO best practices apply here. For example, it can be advantageous to include your keyword in your H1 tag, add your target keyword in the title tag, set the URL slug to your keyword, and use short URLs. There are a few other things that you should specifically do for local SEO. Now, these optimisations will vary depending on if you have a single location versus multiple locations, so I’ll cover both.

The first thing you’ll want to do is optimise your homepage. In general, most single-location businesses should optimise their homepage around their primary location. As a Toronto-based coffee shop, I would probably target keywords like “coffee shop Toronto”, rather than just “coffee shop”. Here’s why. If you look at the Organic Keywords Report for that Toronto coffee shop we were looking at before, you’ll see that nearly all of their keyword rankings revolve around their homepage, and you can see that they rank in the Snack Pack for that keyword phrase. If I do a search just 30 miles away from downtown Toronto, you’ll see completely different results for the same keyword phrase.

Here are few on-page optimisation tips for your homepage. First, show NAP information, which again, is name, address, and phone number, on the homepage. In fact, you can add this to the footer of your entire website if you operate from a single location, as you can see in this example here. It’s absolutely critical that your name, address, and phone number match exactly or as close as possible to what you’ve submitted to Google My Business. You can also add testimonials or reviews of your business here, and use schema markup, which we’re going to attack right now.

Schema markup is code that you add to your website to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in the search engine results. You can use Google Structured Data Markup Helper to eliminate a whole mess of complicated coding. Just select a data type, so in this case, we choose “local businesses”, then enter in the URL of the page you want to markup and click the “Start Tagging” button. Next, just click on the elements that you want to tag. If I click on the logo here, I can set it to the name, then I’ll scroll down to the footer of the page and add a few more markup elements. Here, you can see that they have two phone numbers, so you’d want to choose the one that’s submitted in their My Business listing.

The last thing I’ll add is the address. You would need to select all of the different parts of the address and choose the correct field. Also, you’ll see that they include their address here, but left their postal code out, so in this case, if I were this business, I would include that in the footer, too. Once you’re done, you can click on this button and a piece of code will come up which you can add to your website.

Now, if you’re a business that has multiple locations, then you’re exempt from the rule of optimising your homepage around your primary location, and by multiple locations, I’m not referring to a couple of brick and mortar shops 10 miles from each other, but bigger companies like hotels or car rentals where they might have hundreds or even thousands of locations. Instead of the homepage, you’d want to optimise local landing pages by including key elements like the location’s NAP, operating hours, and sprinkle in related keywords targeted at that location.

Let me show you how Enterprise Car Rental does it, and pay attention to the URLs, too, as we go through this process. If you want to rent a car in the U.S., then you’ll start at their location directory where you need to select a state where you want to rent a car. Next, you’ll need to pick a city within that state, then you’ll be brought down to the branch level. Finally, you’ll see the local NAP information that’s actually designed to convert visitors into customers. Scrolling down, you’ll see the operating hours for this specific location. If we look at the organic traffic for these four pages, you’ll see that they all get a good amount of targeted search traffic on landing pages, which I’m sure is quite profitable.

The next step is to build local citations, and citations are online mentions of your business. There are two main types of citations, there’s structured and unstructured. Structured citations are mentions that include your NAP information and it’s usually presented in a visually structured manner. This would include places like business directories and social profiles. Unstructured citations are mentions of your business that don’t follow a structure, so this might be in blog posts, preferred vendors’ pages, or on other websites. Building local citations is super important. According to a 2017 study done by Moz, citation signals were on of the top local ranking factors, which was true for both Google Snack Pack results and regular organic search results.

This is likely due to having consistent NAP information from all over the web, which verifies that the data Google has in their My Business listing is accurate. On the other hand, inconsistent NAP information can confuse and mislead both Google and potential customers, so your job is twofold. First, you need to make sure that your existing citations are correct and consistent. Second, you need to build more relevant citations. To handle the first part, you need to perform a citation audit. More often than not, some of your citations will be incorrect and/or incomplete, and you can run a quick search using Moz’s local search tool. Just enter in the name of your business and choose one from the auto select options from the best results.

From here, you can see a breakdown of the complete, incomplete, and inconsistent, and duplicate citations, which you can then manually fix. You can also do a manual audit using Google Search Operators, which I won’t get into now, but you can check out our local SEO blog post. The link is in the description. After you’ve completed your audit, you’ll want to build more citations. Now, if you’re a new business, I would start with a list of core structured citations. Whitespark.ca has a great resource on places to build these structured citations, which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Just choose a country and you’ll see a list of places to add your mark. You can then branch out to other relevant local directories, like your local chamber of commerce, other local business associations, and the expand to niche-specific websites like TripAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, FindLaw, and more.

Another great place to find citation opportunities is to let your competitors do the work for you. Using Ahrefs Site Explorer, look up the homepage URL of one of your competitors, since most citations will lead to the homepage. Next, go to the Anchors Report, and here you can use the search box to look for any of these keywords. These are common anchor tags that you’ll find in directories which make them easy citation opportunities. If I search for a website, then I’m going to click on “Details” and “Referring Domains”, then you’ll see a bunch of places where we can build both structured and unstructured citations.

Another hyper effective tactic you can do is to use the Link intersect tool. In the top section, enter in the name of a few of your organic search competitors. I’ve already entered in a few domains of the top-ranking Toronto coffee shops, then I’ll set the top drop down to show websites that link to any of these sites. You can enter in your domain in the bottom box which exclude links that are already linking to your website, but since we don’t have a real website, I’ll leave the bottom section empty and run the search.

Now, when you’re looking through the results, just scan these three columns and look for referring domains that link to at least a couple of your target websites. In general, the more sites a domain links to, the better the chance of it being a legit place to create your own citation. Dinehere.ca would be a solid one that we can add our coffee shop to. With these citation-hunting methods, it should be enough to keep you busy for a while, but we can’t stop here because we still need to build quality editorial links. According to Moz’s 2017 survey, link signals were the most important ranking factor for local organic results. For the local Snack Pack, links were the second most important factor.

Rather than focusing on a full-out link building tutorial, I want to leave you with two tried and true tactics that work. The first is to create and promote a useful resource. In this case, a local resource related to your niche will be ideal. I know I say it all the time, but people are more willing to link to helpful articles over sales-y content like product and services pages. A couple of ideas would be to create local “best of” guides or content that would appeal to your target audience. For example, we could create content on how to make the best cup of coffee, or we can plug our own products. We could also create content targeted at coffee-drinking solopreneurs on the best in affordable local places for office space since we offer virtual office services.

The second tactic would be to guest blog. Even though guest posts normally come with a link back to your site, I want you to look at this as an opportunity to build yourself up as an industry expert. This is particularly important for people in the services industry. People want to hire professionals they can trust and know will do a good job, and oftentimes they’re willing to pay a premium to have the peace of mind that they job is going to get done right the first time. You can look for local blogs that accept guest posts by Googling any of these queries.

Looking at the search results for “Toronto” “write for us”, you’ll see some very relevant local websites that are seeking writers. You can also do this in Content Explorer to expand your list of potential guest posting prospects. Just type in a topic related to your niche. I’ll type in “coffee beans”, and I’ll also set the search to a title search for more relevant results. Next, click on the “one article per domain” filter, since we don’t need to contact the same website multiple times. Scrolling down a bit, you’ll see this post on the 12 best coffee beans to buy. From here, you could easily pitch yourself as a pro barista that runs a café in Toronto and share some actionable or interesting insights on something like roasting beans.

The last and final step is to take care of ongoing activities. Even though you’ve set up your Google My Business and built a bunch of citations, these are all things that you want to have well documented. In business, things change. That might be you moving to a new location, changing your phone number, or even changing your business name, in which case you would need to update all of your citations.

The first thing you need to do is ensure that you keep your Google My Business account active. There are three important regular tasks that you need to take care of. First is to consistently respond to customers and client reviews. This includes both positive and negative comments. Next is to be on the lookout for inaccurate edits to your Google My Business listing. Anyone can click on “Suggest An Edit” on your business listing and sometimes Google will accept these suggestions without notice to you or the business owner. In fact, scammers have even swapped phone numbers with legit businesses for a quick pay day. It’s your job to ensure that your listings are up to date and correct at all times.

Finally, it’s to use Google Posts to keep your customers informed and engaged. Google Posts is a microblogging platform within Google My Business, and all of these updates are visible in the knowledge panel and accessible with the click of a mouse. This provides an opportunity to attract more attention to your listing, connect with your audience, and ultimately boost conversions. You can create a Google Post from within Google My Business by going on the Post menu, click “Write Your Post”, and then add an image and up to 300 words of text.

This is a great way to share your promotional offers or teasers for your blog posts. You can also choose a call to action button from a list of preset options to bump clickthroughs. I recommend all local businesses play around with this feature and stay active with Google Posts. It doesn’t take any more time than a tweet and there’s a ton of potential to garner attention from Google searchers.

Now, we’ve covered a lot here, so what I recommend doing right now is putting these techniques into action and watching some of the video suggestions in the cards, which will dig deeper into some of the topics that we’ve talked about, like link building, SEO for blogs, and on-page SEO techniques. Hit the subscribe button for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. Go and get your local website ranked, and I’ll see you in the next tutorial.