There’s a lot of information online about how to do SEO for local businesses. But one of the main problems is these guides are really really outdated. Or they are just some un-actionable tech advice that real business owners can’t actually even use (or even worse it’s Moz chatting sh*t again.)
As a result I wanted to create a training course using 2 live examples showing how we can build these businesses and actually get them to tens of thousands a month through organic traffic – That course is coming soon by the way, but today I wanted to talk about an outline of the strategy. The key elements to get right if you own a local business and want to profit from SEO, because this unactionable advice is getting out of hand!
So let’s get to it.
Oh, before we get to it, I actually have an entire daily local seo tips series on my YouTube channel, feel free to check it out here.
I’ve built a full Local SEO Video Training course that goes through everything you need to rank a website even if you are an absolute beginner. It’s built in teachable and is changing the lives of local business owners! Check it out at: SEOOasis.co.uk/localseo/
Actionable SEO Tips for Local Businesses
Local SEO Stage 1 – Auditing.
Stage 1 involves building out a strategy.
This almost always starts with a website audit.
An audit is where you look through different elements of a website from the perspective of Google. This is something we do for a number of clients and something that if done correctly will give you all the issues with your website.
As this is a local actionable guide I want to limit these aspects to 3 per stage. They are going to be super actionable and any local business owner should be able to implement them themselves.
I’m actually skipping over a big part of the video course here that is the pre-strategy. This is insanely important as when we can determine the ROI of a specific campaign and we know for a fact that you could earn an additional £300,000 or £500,000+ a year, it highly motivates you to do the entire strategies and tasks built out in the course….Even when you don’t want to do it! “Successful people do what they don’t want to do, when they don’t feel like doing it.” Try to live by this phrase when I’m procrastinating or feeling demotivated!
Ok so now you know you have to build a strategy and audit your website… But how in the f*ck we gonna do that?
Part 1 – Go to a tool called Screamingfrog weird name but instantly powerful tool and free up to 500 URLs, which is all you should need for your site if you are a local business.
Download and follow installation instructions.
Once it’s all set-up it should look something like the screenshot below, might be a bit different because of different versions but essentially the same thing.
Go ahead and paste your website into the “enter URL to spider” option at the top and hit start.
The tool will then go through all of the URLs on your website and give you some awesome data about what is on the page. We aren’t going to go through everything in this tool as I live by the 80/20 rule in SEO so don’t bother with the cr*p that’s going to give us a 1% increase, instead we do things that’s going to give us an 80% increase in the same time-frame!
If you need to pick up a license I think they are £150/year range so just get one.
Now we have a bunch of information including:
- Status code
- Title 1
- Title length
- Title 1 pixel length
- Meta description info
- Meta keywords (if your looking to waste your time then do something here)
- H1 Tags
- H2 Tag information.
- Size of URL
- Word count of URL
- A bunch of other stuff!
Unfortunately when your a small business owner who isn’t the most techy person in the world this will probably look extremely confusing and it is!
What I’m going to try do is remove everything that isn’t going to make a huge difference to your rankings…. What’s left is going to be extremely efficient for rankings and isn’t going to take long to implement either… Win Win anyone?
So what we are going to do is focus on a few key areas. These are the following:
- Title and pixel length
- H1 Tag
- H2 Tags
- Status/Status code – They essentially the same thing anyway.
- Meta description – Doesn’t actually affect rankings but super important anyway.
Now we have a few less issues.
All we are going to do is go through a few key criteria for each one and ensure you have this on the page.
Your SEO title is the most influencer ranking factor to this day.
This means you should probably put some effort into writing it. This is what will appear in Google’s search results too. You want to ensure you have your PRIMARY KEYWORD(S) in here. We will go over keyword research in extreme depth later on.
Below is a screenshot of an SEO title “seo company Cardiff – ROI Driven Internet Marketing Services” – This shows the primary keywords clearly whilst still being readable for the individual making the search query.
Title length should be based on PIXELS and not characters anymore. Saying that it’s a bit difficult to measure pixels…. But luckily there are a few cool tools that make this a lot easier to do. The one I use is at SEOMofo’s snippet optimiser. Great little tool. Before you publish your SEO title just put it through this and make sure that it fits in here and that you don’t get the … instead for the last few words/characters.
YOU SHOULD ONLY HAVE 1 H1 TAG ON EACH PAGE!
Freckin hell, the amount of times I see clients and even “digital marketing experts” having more than 1 H1 on each page is painful.
The easiest way to think about having a H1 tag is just to think of it like a longer SEO title. If our SEO title is limited to roughly 70 characters (but remember its actually pixels) then we can write a longer more in-depth H1 tag as the H1 tag is the 2nd most powerful on-page factor (maybe 3rd but that’s a discussion for another day.)
In your H1 tags you should include your primary keywords that you either didn’t use in your SEO title or ones that are slight variations but mean the same thing (this is called LSI)
For example: In the example above, instead of writing “seo company Cardiff” in my H1 tag I might decide to say “Search Engine Optimisation South Wales” Or target another type of service or even a different area. The reason for this is we have more characters to work with with a H1 tag. There is no official limit to a H1 tag but I like to stay below 150 characters max.
Too complicated in text format? – Check out the video versions at: SEOOasis.co.uk/localseo/
URLs are the next ones on the list.
A URL is what comes after your domain name (technically it includes your domain name too but as you can’t change that most likely we will stick with after.)
In your URL you want to include your primary phrase(s), ideally speaking something you haven’t included in BOTH your H1 and Title.
Say you have 3 primary keywords, don’t put all 3 in the Title, H1, URL.
Instead put 2 in the Title, 2 in the URL and 2 in the H1. This means you have implemented each keyword in 2 major optimisation places and avoided being over-optimised at the same time.
Let’s say my 3 primary keywords are:
- Local SEO
- Local Search Engine Optimisation Services
- SEO Freelancer
I don’t want to/can’t put all 3 keywords in all 3 key elements for on-page optimsation because if I did it would look utterly stupid and be pretty useless as well.
Thinking about how long the 2nd keyword is we would want to put that in the H1 tag as not to use up any URL or SEO title “real estate”
The results would be something like this:
- Title tag: LOCAL Search Engine Optimisation Services | Local SEO Freelancer
- URL: domain.com/local-seo-freelancer/
- H1 Tag: Local Freelance Search Engine Optimisation Services by the Leading SEO Freelancer in Cardiff
See how I switched a few things around and got the best possible use out of the digital real estate available, without it looking crazy over-optimised either?
Also managed to get some local relevance in there too. Although if you are looking to target nationwide or internationally then don’t bother doing this.
Status or status codes just show what pages are doing on your site. Code “200” means everything is fine and you don’t need to take any action.
Any code that shows a “302” you need to change this URL redirect to a 301 redirect. Avoid having any 302 redirects on your site.
“404” Pages are ones that are currently “down” on your site. If you search the URL in a browser you would see a 404 page as a result. We want to avoid this for a number of reasons. To fix this either 301 redirect the URL to the most relevant page on the site.
That will be 99% of your status codes on the website, sometimes there will be others, in which case use this crazy technique called “Googling” – It’s pretty new but involves going to Google.com and asking them how to fix sh*t!
So H2 tags are H1’s younger weaker brother.
But we can use as many H2 tags on a page as we like…. But don’t go crazy.
H2 tags are like chapter titles in a book. The book title itself is the H1 tag and the chapter titles are the H2s.
This means we can use a lot of these to example specific elements of a page.
Let’s say you have a page that talks about a broad subject. Take Local SEO for example.
We want to break that topic down into subtopics, this could potentially be link building, on-page optimisation, keyword research, competitor analysis etc etc.
If we want to go even further we can start implementing H3 and H4 tags into the content. This will not only allow us to categorise further, it will also establish a nice structure to the article for users as well as search engines.
There’s a really nice post over on Hobo-web if you have any questions or concerns about headings and which ones to implement.
The meta description is the part of text that appears below the Title and URL in any Google search. This is the part that 90% of people don’t read all that much. But the 10% of people that do read that, we really want to convert into CLICKERS!
The meta description has no affect on SEO Directly! But indirectly it does, through things like bounce rate, click through rate, user experience and all that jazz.
What we need to do is write our meta descriptions to “win the click” not include keywords for that sake of it.
There are tons of other elements to on-page optimisation which we will get onto later but this is simply the audit section. These are the strategies that allow us to set the platform for our strategy.
If you want to watch our 26 part video series going through each of these then go check it out: https://seooasis.co.uk/localseo/
Local SEO Stage 2 – Pre On Page Optimisation
What do you need to do before you start your on-page optimisation? In this section we’re going to go through exactly what I like to do before taking on a clients, starting a project or just even out of interest (I’m nerdy AF like that.)
Remember each section on this post is an entire few videos in the course…. And yes Imma keep bringing that up because this course is f*cking insane!
Website Domain Name
Your domain is something really important before you start and then something kinda irrelevant after that. You want to get the right mix between branded and keyword relevance. Most of the time I’ll say simply call your website whatever your Ltd company or LLC is called. If for example you can’t do this or it just sounds terrible, then think of something catchy, but don’t worry too much about any SEO perspective.
If you haven’t chosen a domain yet and you do want to gain some SEO value before you’ve even started then you will want one of two types of domains. These 2 types are exact match and parital match domains. They relate to the match with your primary keywords. For example if we have a keyword “seo company Brazil” Then a great domain would be seocompanybrazil.com, and for the record this still works to this day for exact matches, as long as you don’t over do it. seoservicesincentralbrazil.com probably not a great idea.
Personally though if we aren’t going branded I like exact match domains. But another option is partial match domains this is where you have some of the keyword in a domain name. For example take: HQSEO.co.uk or GhostMarketing.co.uk…. I like this as they are branded but also contain a partial match. You can also take this even further and go with something like TheSEOServicesCo.com but find these look a bit spammy when overdone.
Hosting & Site Speed
Hosting is really important for site speed. Site speed is a huge ranking factor, one that not only helps search engines but also helps users. The graph below shows how conversion rates are affected by site speed!
SSL + HTTPS
SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is the small green padlock you see on websites to prove they are who they say they are. This also means the site loads on HTTPS instead of HTTP. Personally I recommend all clients get on this the second they join. This gives you a nice boost overtime and if implemented correctly with 301 redirects means that you aren’t going to suffer much of a drop in rankings initially. You might experience a small drop as 301 redirects only pass around 95% of the link value.
Console + Analytics
Google console and Google analytics are two things you should be establishing at the very start of your website’s life. If you have a site that doesn’t have these things live… Then how do you know what’s going on? They take about 5 minutes to set-up and give you extremely valuable data in the long run. Search Google analytics and Google search console and follow the prompts to set-up both of these for any site you own or work on.
ROI, Goals & Budget + Believe
For me this is the difference maker.
This is why I got involved in SEO all that time ago.
The goal of generating traffic from the search engines on a very passive basis, people already looking for something that you offer. All you are doing is giving them exactly what they want. It removes a lot of selling elements and conversions are extremely high compared to other advertising mediums.
Calculating ROI is relatively easy too.
First get your keyword search volume (we will go through keyword research in full detail later), for maths sake we will say we have a local business in the service industry that combine gets 1,000 searches a month from real prospects in our area.
Next we need to use about 40% of this traffic, we will be ranking 1st in Google for all of these keywords. Giving us 400 organic visitors a month.
Conversion rate? Well that depends on how good your website and sales team is, but if should be very high! Because these prospects are already looking for what you are offering, they have searched for your service, have seen your website in #1 position (great from a psychological point of view.)
Assuming an average conversion rate of 3% that gives you 12 new clients a month. Average lifetime value of a client? Maybe £2,000 depending on the service your offering, if its law or accounting based then that’s more like £20,000. If its gardening then that might be more like £1,000. Assuming you offer a medium priced service your lifetime value of a client should be around £2,000. That means ranking for these keywords would equal £2,000 x 12 = £24,000 per month in additional sales. Close to an extra £300,000 in sales per year (that’s just one city too!)
When you have this figure and see directly how this translates back to your personal revenue, it will motivate you to actually take the actions needed in order to rank your website. When you are writing content and feel like giving up just think about the additional £300,000 per year. When your reaching out for resource links or talking to the media, just remember that £300,000. For most people these figures will be life changing. If they are not then you might be in the wrong business.
SEO Mindset – Think Like Google
Think like Google.
If there is one piece of advice I give to people every week its to think like Google not like a marketer. For example if someone asks “should I do this?” – Think about it from Google’s point of view, and actually think not just on the face of it too.
- Should I do this interview?
- Should I write this guest post?
- Should I buy social shares?
You can take this thinking for a number of questions, one of my most popular is the conversation around social signals.
Social signals don’t directly affect SEO rankings….
Here come the haters…….
Think it through.
From Google’s perspective.
Why would Google, one of the largest companies of all time want to dilute control.
Their asset is their algorithm.
If they start using other companies directly in their algo then what happens? They dilute their control of their own most valuable asset. The most valuable software in the world.
Think that’s a good idea?
Stage 3 – On-page Optimisation
Keyword research is the single most important element to SEO. Some people swear by it, others have started to say Google is too smart of keywords nowadays. Local clients – Always start with keyword research. It is the key to getting better rankings. If you don’t know what you are trying to rank for, you are going to end up ranking for nothing or at best the wrong keywords. This is taken off a basic business principle written below:
If you do not know where you are going, you will likely end up somewhere you do not want to be.
Keyword research doesn’t have to be difficult. I’m going to explain exactly how to do it now.
- KW Planner.
- Common Sense.
I refer to their only ever being 3 keyword research techniques. I’m going to outline each one quickly but not go into too much detail. Remember to use the magical Google tool if you have any questions.
I’ll start with common sense. You’ve been in your business for years. What do people call it? If your a plumber then its obvious what your keywords are – Plumber + Location. When you do multiple services just write down each service in an excel document and variation of how each individual who describe it. Let’s say we did digital marketing. That’s very similar to internet marketing, SEO, web design, branding, graphic design, paid ads, social media marketing etc etc.
The Keyword Planner
If you’re not quite sure what people would be searching you can play with the keyword planner and get started that way. I like mixing this technique with common sense and the technique below. That way we can get a huge number of keywords in a relatively short period of time. We can then reverse engineer the ones that are the most popular or would convert the best for our business and BOOM! Rank those and bank £300,000+ a year.
My personal favourite as I’m a big advocate of working smart not hard. Go to Ahrefs.com sign up for a free trial, put your competition in and hit submit. On the left hand side under organic search hit organic keywords. Check all that are relevant and make notes, really that easy!
I did a quick video on this not too long ago that goes into this strategy a little bit:
The 80/20 Rule
As mentioned above the 80/20 rule is very prevalent in SEO and rankings. There are over 200 rankings factors. Are we really going to look through 200 of these for each individual page on a website? F*CK THAT! Instead we take the 20% that make the biggest difference to rankings and implement those to each page of a website perfectly and as a result we get 80/99% of the ranking increase in a fraction of the time!
Structuring of the Site
Structuring of your website is insanely important. If you get this wrong it f*cks up everything in the long run. This includes everything from URL structuring, Ecom products, page structures, categories etc. Here is the basic structure of how a small business website should look:
Audited Info (H1, Title, URLs)
Remember in the first stage when we talked about the importance of auditing a website. This is why its important because when it comes to implementing our keywords into the content we can do this very effectively and efficiently instead of conducting an audit now. It doesn’t matter which way you do it but what does matter is you implement all your keywords into the content areas we talked about earlier in the guide. Local SEO is built on on-page and finished with links.
If you were to start with a massive website then on-page is actually less important in a way but with local correct on-page gives you a massive head start on your competitors who don’t know what they are doing!
Content Length, quality & Style
Content length is a question I get asked all the time as well. “how long should your content be?” – For local businesses I love having service pages that talk very specifically about what you will do. Let’s take digital marketing for a niche juts as its easy to explain.
Instead of having 3,000 words on the homepage about what you do, rank individual pages for individual services. So the homepage could have a target keyword of digital marketing, internet marketing etc. Then inner pages could be domain.com/service-1/ where service 1 could be search engine optimisation and service-2/ could be web design etc etc
But honestly F*CK the people who offer “digital marketing” – If you think you can do 9 different services insanely well for anything less than £10,000 a month you need to run away fast…. Go with individuals who are experts in one specific area and you ROI will be much better.
Content length itself though should be slightly longer than your competitors. When we have slightly longer content that is also better written and better optimised we tick all of Google’s boxes more than the competitors and hence will rank higher.
The style of the content is very important. If we are writing a blog post we want it to be engaging and information. If we are writing a homepage for a service website we want it to be concise and solve problems quickly in the prospects mind.
Image optimisation is something I’ve written about before in extreme depth especially for ranking local images. I even did a funny case study on this exact topic which shows the exact details. As a quick checklist ensure you have the following:
- Smushit installed (if on wordpress) – This is to reduce image size and hence load speed without sacrificing quality.
- Image title and alt tags – Optimised title and alt tags, be careful not to overdo this though, ensure you do not put too many keywords here and instead just talk about what your image shows.
- Geo-tag images – Use a geo-tagging tool such as: https://www.geoimgr.com great for adding locational relevance
If you’re not sure still check out the video guide below.
Stage 3B – On-page Optimisation Advanced.
These techniques are fully explained in the course but we aren’t going to reveal this yet in this guide. These are things like:
- How to correctly implement schema.
- Internal linking & silo structure advanced.
- Content Freshness – how to chill Google out.
- Content Relevancy – How to rank for everything.
- Map and video embedding.