Local SEO: The Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses in 2019

Local SEO: The Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses in 2019

Two weeks ago, I was speaking to my friend on the phone. We talked about small business owners who try to do SEO on their own but end up throwing money down the drain.

He narrated a story about a new client who came to him after spending money on paid search without seeing any results. The client assumed all he had to do was set a budget, pick a keyword and voila! Traffic and sales would pour in.

The client’s site had a low domain ranking. It wasn’t optimised for search and multiple elements needed to be tweaked before he could convert. I imagine there are small business owners who want to do local SEO for small business but don’t know where to begin.

Before jumping into Local SEO, let’s cover the basics of SEO first.

What is SEO?

SEO is all the efforts towards ranking on Google search engine pages. It’s driving targeted traffic to your website through organic search engine results. In plain English, you’re not driving traffic from everywhere, but traffic that is most likely to convert. The people who land on your pages are guaranteed to be interested in your content.

How do you do it? How do you create pages and content that drives quality traffic from search engines? Remember that you have a business to run, production deadlines to meet, customers to keep happy and books to balance.

Here is the hard truth – you don’t have the time to learn technical SEO or the budget to hire an expensive marketing team to implement these tips on your behalf. This article focuses on cost-effective exercises that improve your SEO. Some of the tips you’ll have to outsource to an SEO expert such as Zenith Copy and the rest you can DIY yourself.

Which SEO Terms Do You Need to Know?

User Intent

You’ve probably heard one or two people say that content is king. That’s because Google uses content to fulfil user intent. It looks at the intent behind a question and generates content from different websites that best answer the question. This means you need to create content that fulfils user intent.

For instance, if you want to sell “luxury wristwatches”, you would need to target many keywords around the term. Are you targeting global buyers or people in a specific region? What brands are you selling? Examples include “buy luxury watches in Lagos” and “luxury sports watch”. These are just a few keywords for the overarching term “luxury wristwatches.

Content around these terms includes

  • Location-based landing pages for each location you target – Where to Buy Luxury Wristwatches in Manhattan
  • Guide to buying luxury female wristwatches
  • How to spot a fake luxury wristwatch
  • 10 features of a luxury watch
  • What to do when your luxury sports watch stops working
  • How to fix common errors with a Hublot Watch
  • 5 Exciting Things To Do With Your Gold Apple Watch

If you need help creating content based on user intent, Zenith Copywriters can help. We’ll plan your content calendar based on questions and problems surrounding your audience and craft insightful copy your audience needs.

301 redirect

This happens when you’ve deleted or migrated a web page on your site. A user receives a 404 error page when they try to access the deleted content. A 301 redirect sends search engines and users to an active page you’ve specified. It prevents you from losing ranking authority from the deleted pages.

Search Algorithm

Google’s search algorithm is the second best-kept secret, next to the formula for Coca-Cola. However, we know that Google uses over 200 ranking factors. They include backlinks, high-quality content, RankBrain, domain age and meta tags.


Think of links as votes from one site to another. Your PageRank increases when a site passes a link to you. The link carries more juice when it comes from a high authority site because it’s more likely to be clicked across the internet.

It’s important that the link is relevant to the content the reader is on. It should lead to content that explains a point in detail or adds authority to a statement. The anchor text used to link to a site should match what the reader expects. It should look natural, not forced.

In SEO, there are two types of links; internal and external links. External links are links going out of your website or coming into your website. You’ve linked to content or someone has linked to you. Links to content within your website are internal links. While both link structures are important, Google values external links from high authority sites when ranking your website. Read my Guide to Link Building to learn more.


Google uses PageRank to estimate the importance of pages around the web. Like we said above, a link from one website to another or from one page (on your site) to another is a vote of trust. The page with the highest number of links is seen as the most important on your site.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO refers to server and website optimisations that help search engines crawl and index your site more effectively. Google gives preference to websites that display specific technical traits such as responsive design, secure connection and XML sitemap.

If you’re completely clueless about SEO, outsource to an SEO expert. There are tools that automate processes if you have a basic understanding of WordPress CMS.

The impact of technical SEO is mostly felt in

  • Scripts and tracking
  • Site speed
  • Internal linking structure
  • Website security
  • Duplicate content
  • Structured Data

Technical SEO You Should Outsource

Switch to a Secure Sockets Layer  – Google announced in 2014 that they wanted HTTPS everywhere. It’s not just e-commerce sites or those who receive sensitive information.

Create a Mobile-Friendly Website – Responsive design is not a fad word. A responsive website auto-adjusts to the screen size of any device. It became a significant ranking signal for Google algorithm after the Mobile First index.  A few things to keep an eye on include: Faulty redirects, flash videos, blocked JavaScripts, popups and irrelevant cross-links.

Speed Up Your Website – For search engines, the faster, the better. Use a fast domain name system and speedy hosting. Keep the use of plugins and scripts to a minimum to reduce HTTP requests. There’s a ton of complicated stuff I’m not going to add here because I don’t want to confuse you. Safe to say, you need a web designer or technical SEO expert to complete these steps.

Fix Duplicate Content Issues – Duplicate content is mostly used to manipulate search rankings for traffic. Google could punish your website if they notice duplicate content. It is confusing for bots and users alike. Do not allow your CMS to publish multiple versions of a post. Use the canonical link element to tell search engine bots where the main version of your content is.

DIY Technical SEO Tasks

Submit your XML Sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools – Think of your sitemap like a roadmap. It tells search engine bots where to look when they crawl your website. WordPress users should download the Google Sitemap Generator.

Optimise Images –Most images have metadata that take up space. WP Smush and Optimizilla are great tools that compress images.

Use Structured Data to Describe Your Content – Search engines can tell what your content is about just by looking at the page content. Make it easier for Google bots with structured data markup. Schema.org is the gold standard for the top search engines. This article details tips to insert schema terms in your existing HTML.

Now that we’ve gone through all the technical SEO stuff you can DIY or outsource, let’s talk about local SEO.

Local SEO

Small and large businesses alike can attract more customers and grow their business using local SEO strategies. Local SEO is an effective way to increase the reach of your local business. You promote your services and products to local customers who are looking for them online.

For instance, if you run a restaurant, your target audience is located in and around the town where your restaurant is located. You would need to optimise your business name, address details and other elements that make it easy for people to find you.

Local SEO is not limited to brick and mortar stores. It’s for anyone who targets a local audience. For instance, someone looking for a “Copywriter in Lagos” or “Digital Marketer in Port Harcourt” would type in these related terms in the Google search page.

Local SEO Tips That Improve Your Search Ranking

Claim Your Google My Business Listing

It’s important to claim your Google My Business listing if you run a local business. Surprisingly, 56% of local retailers haven’t claimed their listing even though 46% of all Google searches are local.  GMB is the cornerstone of local SEO. While there are alternatives such as Bing and Apple Maps, 87% of people are using Google to find local businesses.

Two parts of the result page include the snack pack results and organic results. In the images below I entered the search query “fried rice near me” (really delicious food by the way) and these are the results.

Google My Business is the cornerstone of local SEOThe top result is the snack pack – a boxed area that comes up when you conduct a local search through Google. It shows the top 3 local business listing for “fried rice near me”. Everything in the snack pack is from your Google My Business profile.

Organic results are also vital to local seoOrganic results are the second set. It shows GrubHub, a food delivery site. Do I want to wait for food delivery or go out and get fried rice myself? A study revealed that 40% of clicks go to organic results and 33% goes to local results. Invest in both so you’re not leaving any money on the table.


Citations are typically found on online directories where your business name, phone number, website URL and address appear.  The two types of citations are structured and unstructured citations.

Unstructured citations are the result of your social media and press coverage. It is not in a structured format but your NAPW information is visible on the web page.

Improve local seo by listing your business on YELP and other relevant directories

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Structured citations appear in business listing where the owner of the listing fills out detail about the business. The image above is a Yelp listing for a plumbing business in San Francisco. Citations are a big part of local SEO because it shows details of your business and makes it easy for your customers to get in touch.

Add Schema Markup to your website

While schema doesn’t have an impact on rankings, it helps Google match your business with local searchers. If you serve multiple locations, place your schema markup to each location page. For more information, read this guide on how to implement schema markup.

Create location pages

Use location pages to rank for areas outside of your primary business residenceThe example above is a location page for a rehab centre in Cambridgeshire. However, the main rehab centre is in Halstead, not far from Cambridgeshire. Instead of targeting Halstead exclusively, Sanctuary Lodge created location pages for places within a 3-hour drive from Halstead.

When I typed “Help for Drug and Alcohol in Cambridgeshire” they showed up on Page 1 result. Location pages increase your chances of appearing for location-specific searches.

Zenith Copywriting Agency creates high-quality long-form location pages for local businesses who need help reaching a targeted audience. Get in touch today to learn more.

Improve site architecture

Site architecture is the arrangement of the visual and functional aspects of your site. In layman terms, it’s placing the most important information at the top and flowing down in that order. Best practices for local search include

Place your phone number in the header and footer of your web pages

A screenshot of Zenith Copywriting Homepage with contact information at the top of the pageWhat is the ultimate action before a sale? You want your prospect to call your phone number and your sales team to follow up. Placing your phone number at the top and the bottom makes it easy for customers to contact you for a transaction.

Uniform information on your contact page and Google My Business Listing

It is extremely important that your contact details on your website are the same as your Google My Business listing. Include a contact form for customers who prefer email. If you’re actively collecting reviews, display some of them on your contact us page.

Brick and mortar stores should include driving directions from popular destinations, just as you’ll see in the example below.

Entities show relevance for local seo termsListing entities in and around Wiltshire allows this rehab centre originally located in Oxfordshire to rank for Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Wiltshire. Include an embedded Google Map on your contact page. Link each unique location page to your contact page. Incorporate location-centric testimonials from clients who’ve enjoyed your service.

Localised content based on local keyword research

Identify local keywords, entities and phrases. Create high-quality content around these keywords. Ensure the content types are diversified through videos, infographics and blogs. Apply a service/product schema to each offering with unique pages based on your keyword research. It helps your product rank for that specific offering in your location.

Use local pages to capture leads from different locations in your regionsThis is a location page Google generated for “Electrician in Northern Suburbs” or “Northern Suburbs Electrician”. Mr Switch serves many locations and uses local keywords to capture leads in each location.

Do not lump all your services into one page. Each service should have a stand-alone service page. During keyword research, you’re looking at your geo-specific keyword + product/service to see how many times it was searched. In the example below, a local plumbing service would ignore the global monthly searches in favour of the local monthly searches on the far right.

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From the data above, Tacoma Plumbing has more local searches than Everett plumbing and Edmonds Plumbing combined.

Google related searchesDig deeper if you want to find targeted local keywords for your business. Get more keyword ideas by searching for the specific keyword on Google search and use searches related to variations. Install Keywords Everywhere for more detailed results.

If creating SEO copy is your goal, Zenith Copywriters are skilled at writing content that helps you rank high for a specific keyword. Our SEO copywriting service is designed for small and medium-sized businesses who need help competing with established brands.

Optimise your local business for voice search

Voice search is important for local SEO. Millions of people conduct voice search through Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and more.

Here are some interesting statistics

  • 53% of people use voice search to find information about a local business
  • 40% of voice searches are local.
  • Majority of local searches are mobile and 18% convert within a day
  • 41% of adults and 55% of teenagers conduct a voice search at least once a day on mobile
  • 40% of adults and 38% of teens use voice search to find a local business.

Hence, it’s imperative to ensure content on your site captures the attention of local customers. Three areas of impact for local SEO include on-the-go use, the urgency of questions and quick answers. Prospects who conduct a voice search want to find a solution immediately.

For instance, Peter is driving through Los Angeles Downtown West and suddenly feels the urge to eat pizza. He isn’t familiar with the area so he uses voice search. He says, “find pepperoni pizza near me”. Based on his current location, Google presents the top three pepperoni pizza huts closest to Peter.

How do you optimise your local business for voice search?

Own your digital footprint

Voice assistants are not all-knowing. They rely on information from websites to answer queries. Voice assistants use citations from trusted sources such as GMB, Apple Maps and Yelp to provide information. What should you do? Cite your business on major directories such as

  • Apple Maps
  • Bing
  • Yext
  • Yelp

Optimise your Google My Business listing

Google has invested a lot of time and energy into GMB. They continuously add features such as messaging, Google Posts, product/service offering, multimedia and more. The goal is to help your audience get detailed information about your business and its offering.

Produce content that answers voice searches

optimised content for voice search query

This is where user intent is important. When you know what your audience is searching for, you can create content that briefly answers these questions. I am not saying you should create unique pages for each question. But a short subheading inside a relevant article or post should suffice.

Google pulls it as a snippet and shows the answer in search results. Use Answer the Public to find long-term queries and work them into your content as subheadings.

Create an FAQ page

A screenshot of an FAQ pageThis is a screenshot of an FAQ page we created for Globat Skills. An FAQ page should answer all the questions a user may have when using your service. FAQ pages help you optimise your content for long-tail keywords and voice search queries.  Since voice search is conversational, your FAQ should mirror a similar tone with the questions. Focus on leveraging user intent to answer long-tail voice queries. Answers should range between 30-50 words, which makes it perfect for an FAQ section.

On-Page Optimisation for Local SEO

SEO Title Tag and Meta Description

Ensure your meta description includes your location keyword. Your meta description doesn’t carry SEO juice but it tells your audience what the page content is about. People look at your meta description and SEO title tag before clicking on your site. Your title tag should be within 70 characters and your meta description shouldn’t exceed 165 characters.

Create Local Content

A few tips to guide you

  • What are the topics your customers and prospects enjoy reading? Use Google Trend, Google News and Google Keyword Planner to find in-demand topics for your content creation.
  • Are there any local festivals, holidays or events coming up? Write about local events. People use Google to find information.
  • Interview local celebrities and customers who enjoyed your service or product.
  • Identify problems your local audience faces and create blog posts that solve each unique problem.

Off-Page Optimisation for Local SEO

List your Business on Yelp, Bing Local and Yahoo Local

Does anyone still use Yahoo and Bing in 2019? People do. It doesn’t hurt to claim your free listing and add your information to these sites. Unlike Google, Bing pulls in reviews from different sources.

Yelp is a popular search directory. Sadly, it doesn’t cover many countries. If you live in the listed countries, claim your business and add photos to your business profile. Yelp allows business owners to respond to reviews. They also offer PPC advertising to get your listing in front of a wider audience.

Link Building

Get backlinks within your local industry

Building links for local keywords could be tricky. The first thing you want to do is find local businesses in the same industry but not in direct competition with you. For instance, a restaurant could build backlinks from a local food review website or a local tourism website. Get in touch. Convince them to link to your business either in an exclusive piece or inside an article.

Connect with Local Bloggers

If there are local bloggers, ask them to let you guest post on their site. Alternatively, you could invite them to sample your offering in exchange for an honest review on their blog. Nothing like a 5-star review from a respected blogger to increase foot traffic to your business.

Competitor Link Profile

Use Ahrefs or Mangools SEO tool to uncover where your competitors get their backlinks from. Can you get your business listed on those sites as well?

Link to and from your social media pages

Have statuses with links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. It sends a strong signal to Google.

Collect Reviews

People read reviews before calling your business phone number. Google is usually the first place they start. Do you know who leaves a review after using your service? A happy customer. The image below is from a Google search for “Orthodontist in Brooklyn”.

I was immediately drawn to the first snack pack result that had a 5.0 rating. I clicked on it to read reviews and his patients had wonderful things to say.

Reviews are a great way to rank high for a local search queryReviews are a powerful marketing tool. A study found that Google My Business reviews were the 2nd most influential ranking factor for local businesses. Similar to Dr Eli Halabi, a high number of rave reviews increases your chances of ranking in local SERP.

How to Improve Your Local Ranking on Google SERP

Get on Google Places

  • While creating your GMB page ensure it links to your social media profile and website.
  • Choose the most relevant category for your business.
  • Include photos of happy customers, business premises and employees.
  • Add operational hours, a local phone number and address
  • Do not forget to add your business logo

Create a Facebook Business Page

People use Facebook as a search engine to find local businesses. Update your business profile with the same information on your website. Claim your listing on other social media sites even if you don’t plan to be active on them.

Optimise your site for mobile

When ranking your website, Google looks at your mobile site before your desktop site. Check your site here for mobile-friendliness.

High Domain Authority

According to Moz, domain authority is in the top six local ranking factors. DA is measured on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the highest number. Websites with a high domain ranking are more likely to show up on Page one.

There is no quick fix to improve your domain authority. Sites that have spent years building their DA hover around 40-65. They have backlinks, traffic and high authority. Moz also explains that MozTrust, MozRank and Link profile determines your DA. Improving your DA should be part of your overall SEO strategy, not an isolated action.

Here are a few tips to help you improve your link profile

Conduct a link audit

Google wants you to have a healthy link built through “white-hat” SEO techniques. Read through Google’s list of prohibited link schemes. Are you guilty of these offences?

Black hat link schemes businessowners should avoidA few tools to consider for your backlink audit include Ahrefs, Moz Open Site Explorer, Majestic and SEMrush. Disavow unwanted links that are not in-line with Google’s recommendations.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is a great way to increase dwell time on your site and improve user experience. Ensure that the post you’re linking to is relevant to the content the reader is on.

Guest Post on High Authority Sites

Guest posts increase the number of sites linking to your webpages. Sadly, not all websites are equal. Only publish guest posts on high authority sites that drive traffic back to your site. Guest posts help you become an authority in your field. It exposes you to a new audience who follow and trust your content.

Create linkable content

To increase your MozTrust and MozRank, you need to create content that people link to. Readers will link to your content if it’s high-authority and solves a problem for them. It should be well written, in-depth and informative. The longer your article, the more backlinks you’ll earn.

Leverage the power of social media

Promote your content on social media. It’s a major ranking factor for Google. Post links from your site to your social media profiles and encourage your followers to share, like and comment on it. Add social share buttons to your blog post. It allows readers to share directly from your site. More social media shares lead to a higher DA for your site.

Blog regularly

Google bots favour regular content. They want to see new content when they crawl your website. Use an editorial calendar to schedule your posts at regular intervals.

Improve site loading time

Web pages that load slowly lead to high bounce rate. Online users are impatient. They’ll bounce quickly if your page takes too long to load. Use Google’s PageSpeed tool to analyse your site speed and identify ways to make your site faster.

Create Infographics

Infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than blog posts with text. They are also 3x more likely to be shared on social media than other types of content. Infographics give you a major advantage because most bloggers do not use infographics.

Measuring the ROI of Local SEO for Small Businesses

Small businesses may struggle to track and measure SEO ROI. It makes it difficult to understand where your money is going or to see the value of SEO.

Determine who’s clicking on your website

The first question to answer is – how many prospects in your niche use Google.com to find your services? Head over to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to find search volume data for your location keywords. The total number of impression is the number of times your target audience typed your keyword.

If the total number is 10,000 searches for your keyword, don’t assume you’ll automatically get 10,000 website visitors per month. 30%-40% of the total number will click on the top result. No.10 on the first page gets about 3% of the total search.

Monitor changes in rank

Take screenshots every week to monitor the changes in ranking. You’re making progress even if the rank increases slowly. For search marketers managing a client’s account, understand that your client only cares about conversion, not an automated report. They want to see the additional business you’ve driven.

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Estimate revenue

To calculate estimated revenue, multiply the average lifetime value of a customer by the average closing ratio and the number of conversions. If your monthly revenue is $154,375 and the ROI from each $1 spent on Local SEO is $77, that’s money well spent.

Monitor Search Queries

If you recently optimised your pages for better keywords, analyse the search queries in Google Search Console. Import the data to a spreadsheet for historical comparison. Return in a few weeks and check for increased impression.

Track calls from website leads

Use a call tracking software to have leads call a different phone number based on where they viewed your website. For SEO reasons, it is important to have a uniform number across the web. Use schema to add business phone number into your site. It ensures your tracking numbers aren’t picked up elsewhere. If your website runs on WordPress, this guide from Kinsta should help

Top 6 Small Business Tools for Local SEO

Local SEO Checklist

Local seo Checklist is a top tool to boost your seoThis is a must-have for every small business. They offer a step-by-step guide to help you track your optimisation efforts. It goes one step further than other Local SEO tools to fix glaring issues on your website. With this tool, you ensure that

  • Your GMB listing follows correct guidelines
  • You have the right schema markup
  • Audit the appearance of your business listing across 48 different websites.

Moz Local

Moz Local ensures your business listing is the same across the internetDeveloped by Moz, Moz Local is the most popular local SEO tool in the world. You’ll boost the visibility of your small business by ensuring all listings are consistent across the web.  Moz Local submits accurate location data of your local business to all major online directories. Other features of Moz Local include

  • Syncs with Google My Business
  • Real-time Update Distribution
  • Distribution Reporting
  • Local Listing Dashboard
  • Review Monitoring
  • Review Management for Google

Price: Between $99-$249 a year per listing

Bright Local

Bright local puts you in control of your local listings

Bright Local is an all-in-one local SEO reporting platform. Top features include

  • Visual snapshots of important metrics
  • Keyword search volume
  • Shows insights from Google My Business
  • Audit citations
  • Multi-location reporting
  • Lead generation tools to manage leads in one place
  • Track local, organic and mobile ranking
  • Alerts for new online reviews

Prices range from $29 per month or $290 to $790 per year

Unamo SEO’s Multiregional Tracking

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While some of the features on the platform are not free, the free add-on lets you track keywords in different locations from the same campaign. Check the progress of keywords and plot your SEO strategy accordingly. With Unamo, you don’t have to track each keyword across search engines.


Yext helps you improve your local seo across the digital universeYext provides a variety of solutions to improve local SEO. It integrates with all the top directories to ensure your data and information stay up-to-date across hundreds of platforms.

Top features include:

  • Yext Pages to update listings and provide accurate information
  • Knowledge manager to answer the most common questions your prospects and consumers ask about your business.
  • Yext Listings to control the information you share with search engines and digital services.
  • Yext Reviews to generate reviews from your customers.

SEMrush Listing Management

Developed in collaboration with Yext, SEMrush offers a platform for local businesses to manage reviews, listings and local pages. They’ve used Yext Knowledge Network to publish your data on popular directories such as Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps and Google.

Let’s Wrap Up with A Local SEO Checklist for Your Small Business

  • Get to know your customers and their problems
  • Ensure your meta description, title tags and URLs are local SEO friendly
  • Add your business phone number to the header of your website
  • Include your NAP details in the footer of your website
  • Ensure your NAP details are consistent across all online listing
  • Embed a Google Map on your contact page
  • Claim your GMB listing
  • Run an SEO audit on your site
  • Ensure your website is optimised for mobile
  • Get local links from influencers
  • Post regularly on your blog
  • Create a profile on the major social media channels such as Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram
  • Use Schema to tell Google about your local business
  • Improve on-page and off-page local SEO
  • Create high-quality local content
  • Solve all issues with technical SEO
  • Research your local competitors and improve on their strategy
  • Collect reviews and include it on your homepage and contact page

Local SEO for small business is a great way to increase conversion through local search. An optimised local website leads to increased brand visibility, higher return on investment and accelerated growth for your small business. The tips we’ve mentioned in this guide makes the process easier. If you need help optimising your website for local search, send us an email and we’ll help you increase your local audience.

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