Local SEO refers to the practice of optimizing a website and Google Business Profile to rank in local search results. This can be impactful for businesses that rely on local customers because it can help connect local businesses to potential customers who are searching for products or services in their area.
This means having a local search engine optimization strategy that’s focused on optimizing local listings, creating content that targets local keywords, generating quality backlinks, and focusing on efforts that target other local ranking factors. Use this complete Local SEO checklist to generate more visibility and customers for any local business.
Table of Contents
- Set up tracking
- Technical foundation
- Set up local listings
- Optimize local listings
- Create & optimize social profiles
- Generate monthly reviews
- Build ongoing NAP citations
- Create niche citations & profiles
- Create an offer
- Website accurately represents products / services
- Add & update brand pages
- Encourage trust on your website
- Ensure web pages are optimized
- Add Schema Markup
- Leverage blog content
- Format content for video
- Optimize videos
- Promote content
- Get quality backlinks
- Enhance website performance
1. Set up tracking
It’s important to track progress early on (before making any optimizations). This helps to create a baseline, and it will allow you to better understand how your optimizations are performing throughout your Local SEO campaign.
Here’s what tracking you should have set up…
📍 Keyword / rank tracking: Understanding how your business ranks for search terms in your target localities will help you gauge the impact of your campaign. BrightLocal is a great option because it offers several options, including geo grid reports, which are really helpful if you want to get the most out of your Local SEO campaign.
📈 Google Search Console (GSC): Search Console is a free tool from Google that provides detailed reporting and a wealth of data that will help you better understand your website’s performance, fix issues, and request indexation for new pages.
📊 Google Analytics (GA): Google analytics is another free tool that will allow you to better understand how your user’s are engaging with your site. Additionally, you can set up conversion tracking for valuable actions like calls and form fills.
☎️ Call tracking (optional): For many local business, a call tracking software like Call Tracking Metrics (CTM) or Call Rail can be helpful for attributing calls to specific marketing channels and sources. It can also be helpful when trying to determine call quality. However, this can be an unnecessary expense for smaller businesses or marketing agencies.
🤖 Facebook Pixel (optional): Facebook offers their own tracking, called Facebook Pixel, which can be installed on your website to track and target users. You can use Facebook Pixel to reach new users, retarget website visitors, and create other helpful campaigns to support your digital marketing efforts.
2. Technical SEO foundation
Before getting too far into an SEO campaign, I strongly recommend taking a look at your website’s technical foundation. Doing this early on helps ensure that your campaign is set up for success early on, and you’ll be able to catch any technical issues before they snowball into what can become a REALLY bad headache.
Here are some key technical SEO elements that you’ll want to consider…
🔒 SSL Certification: Your website should be serving pages over the
https protocol to reduce risk and ensure the safety. Depending on your hosting provider, this will either be free or paid, but you 100% need it because it’s an important ranking factor.
Note: Sites without an SSL will show a warning like the one above. In some cases, this can be a full screen warning, which can really deter users from further engaging with your website.
🗺️ XML Sitemap: Your website’s
sitemap.xml should be properly configured early on because it provides essential information about your site’s pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Generally, this means configured indexation settings for your website’s post types. If you’re using WordPress (which you should be), then this is typically configured with the Yoast or RankMath plug-ins.
Note: Generally, you’ll just want to make sure that your pages and posts are toggled to show in search results (see example above).
🕷️ Robots TXT: The
robots.txt file on your website is used to manage crawler traffic from search engines like Google and other web crawlers. This can also be edited with Yoast or RankMath.
Note: For most local businesses, the robots.txt file example above will suffice. Just make sure that you are specifying the correct sitemap link(s)!
📈 Google Search Console indexation: Once your sitemap and robots.txt file have been properly configured, you’ll want to submit your website’s sitemap to Google Search Console. Once submitted, Google will provide a success message (validating that it can crawl it), provide insights about discovered pages, and regularly crawl it to discover new pages on your website.
Pro Tip: Your site will likely have at least 3 sitemap.xml files to submit (a main sitemap, a sitemap for pages, and another sitemap for posts), so be sure to submit all of them!
📱 Mobile-friendly test: As a local business, it’s likely that a significant amount of website traffic will be from a mobile device. This means you’ll want to ensure that your website is mobile friendly using Google’s testing tool. It’s also important to do a manual review to ensure that all of your page’s elements display as expected.
⚙️ WordPress settings: I’ve seen dozens of sites get launched with “✅ Discourage search engines from indexing this site“, which is a signal to Google (and other search engines) that your site shouldn’t be indexed in search results. Be sure this box is unchecked! You can find it in the WordPress navigation. Once logged in, go to Settings → Reading → Search engine visibility.
Once you’ve set up tracking and established a decent technical SEO foundation, you’re ready to dive into the more exciting elements of implementation…
3. Set up local listings
Although you can automate creation of most (if not all) of your listings with tools like BrightLocal, Yext, or SEMrush, I strongly encourage that you set the following profiles up manually to ensure there are no errors, duplicates, or other common mistakes made during the process.
Pro Tip: Before creating any new listings, it’s important to search for your business to ensure that you don’t create a duplicate listing.
These profiles are the MOST important profiles in your Local SEO campaign.
Google Business Profile
You’ll want to create and set up your Google Business Profile ASAP – this is because it generates the most results in terms of SEO for local businesses.
Pro Tip: Inform your local SEO campaign with competitor insights by using this Google My Business optimization checklist & audit template.
Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to manage how your business appears on Google Search & Maps. By verifying your business profile, you can provide important information about your business to customers and search engines. This includes information about your business such as your address, phone number, hours, and products / services.
Once you’ve created and optimized your Google Business Profile, you can import the information to Bing Places.
If you already have a profile on Bing, you can claim it and sync the information with your Google Business Profile for free.
I don’t know why, but many people don’t install the Google Maps app on their iPhone, which means their default is Apple Maps.
So adding your business to Apple Maps increases the likelihood of someone finding your business when searching for local products or services on their mobile device. To create and optimize your business for free on Apple Maps, head over to Apple Business Connect, and then copy your optimized business information from your Google Business Profile to your Apple Maps listing.
For local searches, Yelp often ranks highly on the search engine results page (SERP). Plus, it functions as a search engine for users who want to find local products, services, and places of interest. This means it’s a good opportunity to capture demand (and it’s also free).
To get started with claiming and optimizing your Yelp business listing, go to Yelp for Business. Start by searching for an existing profile, and (again) copy the optimized information over from your Google Business Profile.
You’ll also want to claim and optimize your business listing on Yahoo. To get started, search for your business on Yahoo.com to see if your listing already exists. If so, claim it via Yext.
If not, you can add it directly using this link to Yext.
4. Optimize local listings
At this point in the article, I’ve probably said “optimized” many times without actually specifying exactly what I mean. And that’s to avoid some clutter!
When it comes to Local SEO, you’ll want to ensure your profiles have all of the relevant business information, which often overlaps with Google’s local ranking factors. Having all of this relevant business information means your profile is optimized. However, it’s also important to note that this should be regularly updated and maintained for accuracy – for both users AND search engines.
Note: You can learn how to optimize for each floor using The GMB Framework, which will help you maximize local engagement and visibility.
Here’s how to ensure your local profiles like Google Business, Bing, and Yelp are 100% optimized:
- Claimed / verified
- Business name, address, and phone number (NAP info)
- Business categories (primary and additional categories)
- Business hours
- Business description
- Video / photo uploads (includes logo & cover photo)
- Website URL
Essentially, whether you’re looking at Google, Bing, Yelp (or any other local profile), you’ll want to be sure that your listing is 100% complete and has information that’s relevant to your business’s products / services.
5. Create & optimize social profiles
Now, we do it AGAIN (but for social profiles this time).
Since social profiles are huge trust signals to search engines and users, it’s important to get them right. This means high quality photos, posts, accurate NAP info, business categories, page description, and so on.
Note: Just because you feel negatively about a certain platform – or all of them – doesn’t mean your customers feel that way. In fact, it’s likely that your customers (and potential customers) are active on social.
For most local businesses, you won’t need to be on every social platform, but here’s what you’ll have to consider:
- Facebook – This applies to all local businesses. Your customers are here.
- Instagram – Not a great place for say… a plumber maybe, but great for restaurants!
- Twitter / X – Probably the least applicable here because it’s difficult to build a following.
- LinkedIn – Great for all businesses. Plus, it can be helpful for internal efforts like recruiting.
- YouTube – Also beneficial for most businesses to create helpful how-to content.
- Pinterest – Also great for restaurants, clothing stores, and other show-worthy products.
- TikTok – You’ve got about 2 seconds to capture someone’s attention before they scroll.
Pro Tip: You can audit competitor profiles and their user engagement to determine where they’re spending their time and effort to inform your decision about which social channels might be a good fit for you.
6. Generate monthly reviews
Now that you’ve got a solid foundation between tracking, technical SEO, and local + social profiles, it’s time to generate reviews. Ongoing reviews will serve as social proofing to help establish your business as a credible source for a product / service.
Pro Tip: You can use this guide to generate more Google reviews, and use it to get reviews on other platforms like Facebook and Yelp.
You’ll want to be regularly generating reviews across multiple profiles…
⭐ Google reviews: Generating reviews to your Google Business Profile can make a MASSIVE difference when it comes to ranking in local search. This is because Google reviews are a ranking factor when it comes to Local SEO.
Pro Tip: You can determine how many reviews you need by using the GMB audit template, and comparing how many reviews top competitors have.
⭐ Facebook reviews: Most likely, Facebook will be a valuable social channel when it comes to building and engaging with your local community. Obtaining reviews for your Facebook page will serve as social proof for your local business, and encourage customers to take more valuable actions.
Note: Facebook reviews are also sourced to Bing, so you’ll want to make sure you have a good star rating. Facebook often appears high in search results for branded searches, adding further reason to get reviews.
⭐ Yelp reviews: Like Facebook, Yelp can also add an extra layer of social proofing, and encourage potential customers to take action when searching for local products or services offered by your business.
Note: Yelp reviews are sourced to Apple Maps, which means you’ll also want to maintain a high star rating here as well.
In terms of generating reviews, these are just the basics that you’ll want to cover. In some industries, there may be other profiles that can benefit from receiving regular reviews.
7. Build ongoing NAP citations
Accounting for nearly 10% of local ranking factors, local citations (also called NAP citations) can be an easy win. This includes location data, NAP consistency, and citation volume.
Essentially, citations are any web mention of your business that include your business’s name, address, and phone number. Ideally, this also includes a link back (backlink) to your site. Some common local citations include:
Syndicating NAP information across these sites also improves accessibility. In other words, it ensures that your business is easy to find – no matter where potential customers are looking.
Pro Tip: Local directories are such an easy win for Local SEO, but most businesses don’t get it right. You can use this Local Citation SEO Guide to start building directories the right way.
There is also software like BrightLocal that automates the process to make building citations easy.
8. Create niche citations & profiles
In addition to general citations like BBB or YP, there are likely more industry-specific websites where you can list your business.
Often, these websites rank high in local search results. For example, in the legal niche there are several common local profiles (like Super Lawyers) that can be created for the law firm or attorneys.
Often, you can find these niche websites by searching your
keyword + city name. In most cases, you’ll be able to add your business or a team member for free.
Pro Tip: This is a great way to leverage parasite SEO for any local business.
9. Create an offer
At this point in the checklist, you should have a fairly strong SEO foundation, and it should be quite easy for people to find you. Now, it’s important that when they find you, people have a good reason to contact you. To accomplish this, create an appealing offer.
Your offer should meet at least 2/3 of the following criteria:
🦄 Unique: Stand out in your market by having a unique offer. This can be a great way to build your brand, and differentiate yourself from the competition. However, in some industries (like the personal injury niche), it can be hard to get away from industry standard offers like “free case evaluation.”
👀 Prominent / accessible: Whatever your offer may be, ensure that it’s easy to find on your website, and at least mentioned on your profiles like Google My Business. A great way to ensure that your offer is prominent and accessible on your website is to include it in the viewport across all devices.
⚠️ Low risk & guarantee: Additionally, your offer should be low risk, and it should generally be free. For example, a free case evaluation from a personal injury lawyer, or a free estimate from a plumber. It can also be important to guarantee something such as a set time frame.
Pro Tip: Have a unique landing page and form for your offer. This makes it easy to add more details about the offer, and it allows for an easy tracking setup.
It’s important to note that some offers may not work, AND THAT’S OK. You can test new offers and learn what works. For many businesses, you won’t want just a single static offer. Some businesses will benefit from seasonal offers, and other businesses will benefit from a mix of offers.
10. Website accurately represents products / services
All of your business’s products and/or services should be accurately represented on your website. Generally, I recommend creating a prioritized list, or having your client create one for you.
From there, you can compare it to competing websites, determine a good site structure, and build your site’s navigation around your core product or service offerings.
Generally, it’s important the each of your pages meets the following criteria:
👤Personalization: People buy from people, especially when it comes to local businesses. Add personalization to your pages by including key team members. This can help build trust and really build your brand.
📢 Call-to-action (CTA): Let customers know what action they should be considering when landing on your product or service page. Include a CTA in the viewport whether they should be calling, filling out a form, or buying a product.
⭐ Reviews / testimonials: Build trust with prospective customers by showcasing relevant product or service reviews on your pages.
Pro Tip: You can use this local landing page formula to consistently create high-performing pages for your business’s products or services.
11. Add & update brand pages
A business’s brand is a key element when it comes to ranking, generating traffic, and building trust.
For your website, this means creating (and refining) the following pages:
🕗 About page: Your website should have an “About” page that provides comprehensive information about your business. This should include it’s history, mission / vision, founding date, key founders, etc. Not only does this help provide social proofing (especially for aged businesses), but it can also help to build your company’s Knowledge Graph.
👤 Team page(s): At minimum, local business sites should have a single team page that includes relevant team members, and showcases their awards & accolades. Not only does this help build trust, but it creates a level of personalization and uniqueness.
🎯 Offer / lead magnet: As covered in a section above, your website should have an appealing offer, and a page dedicated to information about it.
✉️ Contact page: Having a general contact page can help segment tracking, and it provides a clear alternative contact option for people who may have questions and are not necessarily looking to buy.
❓ FAQ page(s): A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can help . This can help create more informed prospective customers, and reduce time spent answering basic questions on calls or meetings with prospects.
⭐ Testimonials / reviews / case studies: Depending on your business, you may want a simple testimonial page, or a more complex case study directive on your website. This is to further add social proofing and build trust with your website visitors by showcasing success stories.
12. Encourage trust on your website
I mention getting reviews and showcasing them a lot, but it bears repeating (and some more detail).
Here are some elements you’ll want to consider adding to page to encourage trust:
- Product / service pages contain relevant reviews
- Product / service pages have accurate and sufficient descriptions
- Social proofing is prominent on high value pages
- Team member pages have credible bios
- Trust badges / awards appear prominently
Pro Tip: You can use this E-E-A-T guide to ensure each page incorporates experience, expertise, authority, and trust – all of which Google evaluates when ranking pages.
13. Ensure web pages are optimized
🗺️ Keyword mapping: Each page should have a target keyword (or group of keywords) for which you intend it to rank. For example, a personal injury law firm might have a
car accident lawyer that focuses on the specific practice area of auto accidents. Similarly, a plumbing company might have a
drain cleaning service page that explains their service, its costs, and briefly answers relevant questions.
Pro Tip: You can use this SEMrush keyword research template to perform keyword research, and map keywords to target pages.
⚙️ On-page SEO: Each page should have an optimized title tag, headings, images. You can use a tool like Surfer SEO to get a loose score for your optimizations. While it’s important to include your keywords, it’s also important to not overdo it and ensure that your page provides value + reads well. You’ll also likely want to include your high value pages (like products / services) in your website’s navigation.
🦄 Content uniqueness: Each page should be unique, meaning that there isn’t a large percentage of content that’s identical (or very similar) to other internal pages or competing website. Ensuring that your content is unique will improve its quality and increase the likelihood that it ranks in search results.
Note: You can use a tool like Siteliner to check for duplicate content.
📁 URL structure: Your website should follow a logical URL structuring to help users and search engines easily understand your website. Due to how websites like WordPress display pages, this can also help keep things organized on the back end. For example, a personal injury might have the following URLs for their auto accident practice area pages:
/auto-accidents/bus-accidents/, and so on…
Note: Using a tool like Screaming Frog, you can better understand your website’s structure with a visual representation.
🔗 Internal linking: Pages that are topically related to each should all internally link to each other. Continuing the example above, the
/auto-accidents/ page would be linked to all other child pages (e.g.
/auto-accidents/motorcycle-accidents/). Additionally, it might also link to FAQ-related pages such as
Pro Tip: You’ll want to be sure that you have a healthy number of internal links to pages that you want to rank. You can use a tool like Ahref or Screaming Frog to understand how many internal links a page has, and then compare it to the competition.
🎞️ Image optimization: Each page should also have unique images (not stock photos) with a relevant file name, alt text, formatted for web (such as WEBP), and compressed using a tool like Optimizilla. For example, the
/auto-accidents/ might feature an image of an auto accident or an auto accident attorney from the firm.
14. Add Schema Markup
Schema Markup is additional code that can be added to specific webpages to further enhance how search engines understand your webpage. For local businesses, there are a few types of Schema Markup that apply.
📍 LocalBusiness Schema: You can use the LocalBusiness Schema markup type to help Google better understand information about your business. This includes your location, services, additional web properties (like social profiles), and other information.
Pro Tip: You can add this to your business’s homepage or local landing page for a potential increase in rankings by using this local business schema guide and templates.
🌐 WebPage / Article Schema: Another type of schema that can help improve your visibility is the WebPage and Article Schema types. If you’re on WordPress, you can specify which markup you want, and Yoast or RankMath will automatically add the markup for you.
🔧 ServiceType Schema: For service pages, you can use the Service Schema Markup type to clearly define your service. This includes the name of the service, description, URL, image, and other helpful information such as the area served.
Pro Tip: This can really help Google better understand your service offerings, and where you serve customers (especially for service area businesses).
Once implemented, you’ll want to test it to make sure that your code is valid by using the Schema Markup Validator.
Note: It’s important that each element contained in the Schema Markup is represented in the page’s source code.
15. Leverage blog content
In addition to your service and brand pages, you’ll also want some pages that are informative and relevant to your services.
Pro Tip: Topical relevance can be a great way to give your site a boost. Simply put, the more quality content your website has for a given topic, the better those pages will rank.
One of the best ways to get ideas for blog-related content is to start with questions related to your products / services. You can easily find keywords with a 7-day free trial from SEMrush.
Then you can apply filters to include questions that people are asking around the topic…
From here, you can select keywords to build a list of blog content ideas that you believe are relevant.
It’s also important to consider the “KD” metric, which estimates how easily you can rank for the keyword. Generally, you’ll be able to dive deeper into the data and find some good opportunities due to how Google displays local results (versus national SEMrush data).
Pro Tip: Some other common content types include “How-to / DIY guides” and “FAQs” – you can get a TON of helpful ideas from simply typing your target keyword in (e.g. phoenix personal injury lawyer), and taking a good look at Google’s People Also Ask Feature.
16. Format content for video
Not all of your content will easily translate to a video, but some will. You can determine whether or not your content will make a good video with keyword research (and filtering by video SERP features), competitor research, or by using YouTube’s suggest feature.
Pro Tip: To maximize efficiency, you can create your YouTube video first, and then use the transcript to create a website article, social posts, etc.
17. Optimize videos
To get the most out of your videos, you’ll want to make sure that they’re optimized.
- Engaging thumbnail
- Title, description, and hashtags contain keyword(s)
- Description links to other relevant content / videos
- Description contains business name, address, and phone number info
- Videos are embedded on relevant web pages
Get this down, and you can rack up some real engagement…
18. Promote content
For content like blog posts and videos, you’ll want to maximize visibility and engagement by promoting your content across other channels. To do this, there are several options that you’ll want to consider…
♻️ Social media posts: Incorporate your blog and video content into your social strategy.
👥 Facebook groups: Join relevant Facebook Groups and your content (but don’t spam).
✉️ Email / newsletter: Share your content with your email contacts and newsletter.
🏠 Internal: Encourage engagement from team members by sharing your content with them.
📣 Local PR / news outlets: Consider pitching your content to local news outlets.
🗨️ Forums: Post your content to relevant online forums for increased visibility.
19. Get quality backlinks
Not matter your industry, you’ll want to be generating consistent quality backlinks.
To accomplish consistent growth over time, you’ll want to be generating links from the following sources:
- Industry-specific profiles and review sites
- Host noteworthy events and promotions for local PR
- Share your experience and expertise with local news outlets
- Find competitor backlink gaps for additional ideas
Pro Tip: To generate ideas for specific websites, I personally prefer Ahrefs Link Intersect tool, which allows you to easily find backlinks that you don’t have but competitors do have.
20. Enhance website performance
Core Web Vitals are a ranking factor, which means you’ll want to consider how each web page performs. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to better understand how a specific page performs.
Pro Tip: Results from Google’s PageSpeed Insights are on a page-by-page basis. Performing a homepage audit is not representative of page speed for other pages on the site.
Generally, you’ll want to follow Pareto Principle here, and focus on the items that are likely to have the biggest impact upon fixing them. In most cases, images are the biggest problem for most sites.
You can use tools like Smush and Imagify to fix these issues at scale. However, you should only need to do this retroactively and not on a regular basis if you’re optimizing images before creating a page or post (see full image optimization guide).
Aim for a load time that’s under 3 seconds, or try to exceed the load times of top ranking competitors.