Your Simple Local SEO Checklist
Local SEO is a big deal. If you haven’t figured out how to do local SEO for your local business, I have a simple, yet comprehensive, local SEO checklist to help get you started.
If you’ve ever wondered what your local SEO consultant or agency would audit on your website, for a quick local SEO strength check, this list of simple and effective SEO tactics will help you understand how your home page is so very vital for your local SEO strategy.
Search Engine Land contributor, Chris Silver Smith, argues that your homepage is the most important page of your website. I agree with this. Think about how much sense it makes.
If you’re going for a full on local SEO strategy for your local business website, your homepage provides pretty much everything you want a perspective customer to see.
It also holds plenty of valuable SEO opportunities where a local strategy can flourish. This is clearly what you want the search engines to see.
With some help from the SEL article, here are my 14 Local SEO Opportunities to exploit on your company’s homepage.
14 Local SEO Opportunities On Your Homepage
1. To www Or To Not www
The first thing I like to check is to see if there are duplicate homepages. Sometimes business owners don’t even realize they actually have the same homepage living on two different url’s. This could cause duplicate content issues and/or penalties from Google.
For example, let’s say you typed in VPDM.ca to the address bar of your favourite web browser. That url, http://vpdm.ca would properly redirect to http://vpdm.ca. See the difference?
I have set www.VPDM.ca as my preferred URL for my content. As opposed to VPDM.ca. I’ve let Google know this through using a canonical tag on my preferred url. Using a canonical url, we’re able to improve link and ranking signals for content available through multiple URL structures.
Since duplicate content issues can occur when the same content is accessible from multiple URLs, it should be considered an SEO best practice to use a canonical link element.
Wikipedia says “A canonical link element is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the “canonical”, or “preferred”, version of a web page as part of search engine optimization.”
On the subject of homepage redirects, it’s important to note that it’s not an ideal thing to do from an SEO perspective. Sometimes however it becomes necessary. In this case you would want to only have one, 301 redirect in place, rather than a multiple of redirects.
2. The Ranking Goldmine: Your Homepage Title Tag
I’m surprised how much of a local SEO “secret” this is. The homepage title tag is most certainly one of the most valuable (and powerful) local SEO opportunities on your website. Take this opportunity to add primary, secondary, or related, short and long-tail keywords to this meta goldmine.
Think about what your customers are searching for when looking for your product. SEL says:
“The two things that consumers most search for when trying to find your business are your business name, and your business type/category.
So, these should be concisely added to the TITLE text.”
Are you wondering how many business type/category keywords you should use in your homepage title tag? This is a debatable topic in many SEO circles. I say load it up to the max. Now what is the maximum amount of characters Google allows in a title tag?
That varies as well. Google will tropically show 50-60 characters of the title tag. I’ve heard some SEOs say it’s as much as 65 characters allowed in the title tag.
I’d use the business category and the city in the title tag. If I had extra room, I’d add a near by city or the local neighbourhood name. The business name will automatically show up at the end of the title tag if your website name is the same as your business.
3. On-Page Home Page Copy
Since the homepage is one of the most important pages on your website from a local SEO perspective, the on-page copy you have on this page provides a valuable local SEO opportunity.
It’s key to optimize your metadata, header tags in particular (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>), and organize your text to fall under the appropriate optimized and descriptive headers.
Your home page needs to include the following information somewhere on the page. It should be in HTML text, not embedded in an image, and the information should be consistent on all your digital spaces: website to all social platforms, and especially your Google My Business page (link).
- Your business name
- Your category or type of business that consumers would search for (ex: “Dentists”)
- Your City
- Your Local Neighbourhood area name if applicable.
- Your business street address
- Your business phone number
I’d suggest adding this information in the footer, in HTML text, so that it appears on your homepage as well as globally, throughout your site, on every page.
4. The Relevancy Goldmine: Your Meta Description Tag
Even though the meta description does not directly affect rankings, it still is very important to include key search terms in your meta description tag as it adds a huge ‘relevancy’ factor for users.
Your meta description is what is shown under your link in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When users search for particular terms, those keywords and phrases appear in bold in your meta description.
This relevancy factor will cause greater click through on your link to your website. Keep in mind that the meta description is not shown in the Big 7 local-pack results, with place pins and the local map you see in local search results. It is however shown in your organic listings.
Some tips on what to include in your meta description tag include details on what your business does and what its competitive advantage is. Keep it brief, to the point, and as close to 155 characters as you can.
5. Did you Optimize Your Logo?
I love this stealth SEO tactic! Is your logo optimized with schema markup for logos? If it’s not, it should be, asap.
It seems so many local businesses forget to do this essential local SEO step. Think about it like this: many sites will use a static piece of code in the header section of their website, which normally would include the company logo. So…
If you link that logo, you have a link title tag as an SEO opportunity. Optimize that with your company name and local location. You’d also want to optimize the logo file name with descriptive local keywords.
Your final step would be to add the schema.org mark-up, specifically for logos. Now you have some major local SEO in place on your home page, and throughout your website as a bonus.
6. The Schema Goldmine: Structured Local Data
Staying on the theme of Schema markup, there are huge benefits to using organization schema for local SEO. You should ask your developer to use local business/organization schema markup on your business name, address, and phone number.
To make sure all is correctly in place, check the mark up using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool in webmaster tools.
Note that Google doesn’t display rich snippets based upon organization Schema…yet. However, Google and other search engines can and do make use of the information.
7. Can Spiders Crawl Your Navigation Links?
Are you wondering why your homepage is typically your website’s best page when it comes to rankings? The reason, typically, is that the home page has so more external links than any other page on your website.
Google also recommends standard website layouts. This helps them and other search engines create an “automated hierarchical analysis of a site, so typical navigation features such as a top masthead toolbar or sidebar are frequently a good idea.”
Be absolutely sure that all your external and internal website links are crawl able by Google search engine spiders. Particularly in your main navigation.
Some web developers will use clunky scripts or Flash elements to create dynamic pull-down menus from the main nav. This makes little sense as Google doesn’t like Flash or clunky scripts, and a simple HTML/CSS navigation could be just as functional, and lighter, than the former.
8. Mobile Optimization, Responsiveness, and Validation
Don’t take your developer’s word for it. Check out your site on different smartphones, some using Android, others using iOS. Also check how your site renders on a tablet.
It’s absolutely an essential requirement for your site too not only be mobile responsive but also adaptive to any size screen. People view websites on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and large screen TV’s. Be prepared.
Google has already confirmed that mobile responsive design in affecting website rankings since June 2013.
9. Format Your Phone Number, Please
If your phone number is properly formatted, it makes contacting your business so much easier when users access your site via a smartphone. You need to add your phone number in HTML text and not in an image.
You should also use standard formatting for phone numbers such as: (123) 456-7890, 123-456-7890, or 123.456.7890.
10. Keep Your Image Optimization Game Strong
I can’t begin to tell you how many websites I’ve audited or SEO’d, and found that all of the site’s images were not optimized with alt and title tags. WTF? and Why not???
Optimization of website images is a major opportunity for adding your primary, secondary, or related keywords. SEO best practices will state that optimizing both an images alt and title tag can bring so much good SEO to your website.
Think of the benefits:
i. You website and social images can show up in Google Images.
ii. If users are blocking downloading images from unknown websites, on their smartphone, your optimized alt text will allow the user to read what the image is, and then choose to view it or not.
iii. Have you ever moused over an image on a website hoping for some more info on that image? If your image has a descriptive title tag, that text will show up when a user mouses over any image (that is optimized) on your site.
iv. If your images are linked, you now have a third SEO opportunity from one image! Not only can you optimize the images alt and title tag, you can also optimize the link from the image with a descriptive, relevant title tag.
v. For some super anal crazy SEO – I’ve gone as far as optimizing an image by geotagging it by auditing the EXIF metadata in the image.
11. Check Homepage Load Time
Often neglected as an SEO audit item, page load time is so super important to your local SEO as well as your overall website optimization. People don’t have patience to wait for a slow loading website.
Google says rankings can be affected by load time. That’s right, Google now counts site speed as a ranking factor.
This is also a huge user experience (UX) factor as well. Quick page load time is useful and appreciate by users. After all, it’s your homepage! Make it load quick!
Test your website by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
12. Proper Social Media Integration
Have you ever messed up on linking from your website to your social channels? Maybe by including the wrong link, or making a typo when linking the social icon? It happens! You need to triple check that all your social media links are working as you’d like them to.
You also want to check to see if social integration with Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol and Twitter Cards has been set up, installed, validated, and tested properly.
13. The Internal/External Link Goldmine: Title Tags!
As we mentioned briefly above, all the external and internal links on your homepage (and entire website), are key local SEO opportunities for your local business.
If you’re linking to your contact page or about page, there’s a prime opportunity right there, to add descriptive local text to your title tag. For example, business category and location!
14. Google My Business Page Optimization
While this piece of digital real estate doesn’t live o your homepage, it is connected to it in a major way. After all, it’s your business page on Google! The search engine you’re trying to dominate.
Why not optimize it for as part of your local SEO strategy?
Your Google My Business connects you directly with customers whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+. This means you’re connected to your customers on any device that they’d be using. Cool right?
This tool allows you to give customers the right info at the right time, whether that be driving directions to your business in Maps, hours of operations in Search or a phone number they can click to call you on mobile phones.
Another bonus with this strategy is the ever important Google Reviews for your business. This approach facilities a loyal fan base. Your customers can show their appreciation with ratings and reviews, use the +1 button to endorse your content, and re-share your Google+ posts across the web.
So what have we learned about the importance a comprehensive local SEO audit of your homepage? We know that the home page is likely one of the most important pages for your local SEO strategy. It contains many SEO opportunities that any good SEO worth his hourly rate, should be able to fully exploit to your advantage.
Such opportunities include using descriptive and relevant local keywords that specify your local business category and location. The title tag is SEO gold, you need to use it as such.
Your meta description is an important relevancy factor. Including keywords and phrases that your customers use to search for your services is a wise move. Those words will end up being in bold, under the link to your website, in the search results pages. Users will be drawn to those bold words, as they searched using them, ans they will now see those same words in your page description.
Other important SEO opportunities noted above include always optimizing your sites images – all of them, as well as your company logo. Using rich snippets and structured data is a good SEO tactic as is proper social media integration within your website.
Your website should be mobile responsive and adaptive to fit any size screen. Finally, always pay close attention to the page load time on your site. Especially with the homepage. Google confirmed that page load time is a ranking factor.
If you need to make sense of your website’s analytics, or if you feel you’ve been hit and penalized by a recent Google algorithm update, you should do a through audit of your entire website. Some of the tips included in this post will help you analyze the health of your homepage as well as internal pages.
If you’d like some help sorting through any SEO errors or issues, we offer a complimentary basic website marketing and SEO audit. Contact me today and we’ll get started crafting your local SEO strategy and get that edge you need over your competition.
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