Local SEO is much harder now, for smaller businesses, than it was several years ago. Why? Well, Google makes it much easier for large franchise chains and brands to rank higher over the smaller local-only mom and pop shops.

For example, a local burger joint in Dallas is going to be overshadowed by McDonald’s, Burger King and In-N-Out Burger, with little to no chance of overtaking the top positions from them. Does that mean local SEO is out of the question for the mom and pop burger joint? No, but they need to realize they will be competing for the lower end of the real estate, which can still drive customers, as many searchers will be looking for a local spot rather than a fast food option.

When a local search is performed these days, the map overtakes the top of the page and those are referred to as the “local pack” and right now those are the most desirable SERP locations. The consumers like the visual element of the map, and the results can really help you attract business based on proximity.

Your position towards the top can often be impacted by the proximity of the person doing the search. For example, if you have a perfectly optimized website and a strong Google profile for your business, someone searching down the street for what you sell is likely to see your listing on top.

Below the map are more local organic listing, which mirrors non-local based searches on Google. This is still prime real estate, just not as valuable as the local pack, as it’s such a prominent section of the results now, on both desktop and mobile searches.

In order to help you move to the top of the local SERPs, I have put together a list of 10 tips that you need to address is you really want to see results.

If you follow these and spend the time and effort on these, you will see your local SERP results improve.


1. Audit Your Local Directory Listings

This is something that you should do on a frequent basis, at least every quarter. There are a few tools to help, with Moz Local and Yext probably the two most popular. Most are already familiar with Moz if they are knowledgeable regarding SEO, as their Open Site Explorer tools is used by the majority of the search engine optimization community to check Domain and Page Authority.

Moz allows you to run a. Report before purchasing, and their packages for the local product are fairly affordable. Just know that you can make changes and submit to most local directories without the use of a tool. This just helps you manage them and while a one location business can skip it if the budget doesn’t allow, I would highly recommend using this for local businesses with multiple locations.

The best use of an audit is finding high quality listings that you don’t have yet or contain inconsistent information about your business location.


2. Trade Links with Local Businesses (Power of Community)

Link exchanges. This is something that has been going on since the early days of SEO, the only difference was back then nobody tried to hide it by being clever. Old websites used to have tabs on their website labeled “Links” or “Partner Links,” but these days Google would slap you right out of the SERPs if you pulled that.

One of the easiest ways to swap links with other local businesses if by creating a page on your website along the lines of “Local Community Deals” and along with the name, a picture, description and link to the website, you will want to offer some sort of coupon or special offer. This not only looks legit and allows you to drop a link, but it also creates value and your customers will appreciate it.

You don’t even have to mention links with other businesses. Just ask them if they would like to exchange special offers for your websites. It’s as simple as that.


3. Get More Local Business Reviews

While Google loves reviews from the mega sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, the Better Business Bureau, etc., don’t you think that they will take Google reviews into the equation more? Of course they do, so while it’s important to have reviews across all platforms, you need to make Google reviews your priority, as they influence the local pack the most when it comes to reviews.

So many local businesses seem to struggle with this and complain that they don’t know how to get reviews. I will tell you the most effective way: ask for them. Yes, it is that easy. But, don’t simply send your Google URL for everyone to review, because that welcomes bad reviews. No matter how good your business is, you will never satisfy everyone.

So, since you should be collecting the email address of every single customer, set up an automatic email that asks them to review your business. Send them to a page on your website built to -re-screen reviews. If they select 5-stars, then redirect them to your Google page to leave the review. If they select anything less, then direct them to a form to complete and make sure your customer service department reaches out to them right away to make them happy. Convert them into 5-start reviews and then have your customer service rep send them the URL to your Google page. This is the easiest way to not only get a lot of reviews, but also a lot of 5-star reviews.


4. Respond to Every Single Review

I am going to keep this short and sweet: reply to every single review you receive. If it’s a positive review, thank them for being a valuable customer. This shows them you care, and it will encourage them to be a repeat customer.

By replying to less than perfect reviews it shows potential customers that you truly care. People know you can’t please everyone, and they will respect you more for replying to bad reviews than simply ignoring them.



5. Secure High Authority Brand Name Mentions

Links still are number one. Doesn’t matter if you are Best Buy trying to rank for every consumer electronic product on the planet, or a local shop trying to rank for location-based keywords. Links are the driving force between Google’s algorithm, on a national and local level. So, this means that no matter what kind of SEO you are going after, you need links.

And what are the best links? Authority links!

When building links for a local SEO campaign, you will want to try to secure them as brand mentions. For example, if a local search features 10 local companies, the one with more authority brand mentions is going to rank higher. Why? Because Google will take everything into consideration, but then see that the one particular business has been mentioned on the top sites in the world, which tells the algorithm it’s the favorite/authority option when it comes to businesses in the specific niche.


6. Join the Better Business Bureau (and register for as many categories as possible)

Many business owners dislike the BBB, because they feel it’s a pay for rating system, which it essentially is, but as long as you are a legit business you will hold a strong rating. Joining as an Accredited Member allows you to use the BBB logo on your site, but in terms of SEO value, you also get a website link on your profile. BBB chapters have very high authority, and it’s a listing that Google weighs heavily.

When you sign up, they tend to let you list under one category. Well, call your BBB rep once you pay for Accreditation, and ask them to review all possible business categories you fall under. The more you are listed under, the more links you score.


7. Enable Schema on All Website Pages

Schema markup is what helps Google identify where your business is located, your hours and it also links your Google reviews to your business. Simply put, schema impacts and influencers the local pack significantly, so take the time to have schema implemented throughout your entire website correctly.

If you look at the official schema website and its guidelines and instructions it will look foreign to some. Rather than stress about trying to figure it out or the possibility of making an error, hire a developer to handle it. You can find competent coders with a great deal of schema experience on freelance marketplaces. I have seen local SEO clients get their schema dialed in for less than $100. It’s well worth the investment, as this is a critical component of local SEO.


8. Steal Your Competitor’s Links

If there is a business (or businesses) ahead of you in the local pack results, dive into their backlink profile(s) and then copy what they are doing. It’s a simple concept: if you can copy their link profile and then add more authority links to your own profile, you will slide right past them in the SERPs.

Use tools like OSE (Open Site Explorer), SEMrush and Ahrefs to spy on your competitor’s link profiles. You will want to use some common sense though, as not all of their links will be desirable. Pay no attention to spammy or low authority links. The may have used an incompetent SEO agency in the past or may have been been victims of negative SEO, so never copy 100%.

When you build more of the links Google obviously likes and omit the bad ones, it makes your link profile more desirable. Google is not going to devalue links anytime soon, so the effort put into competition spying will not be wasted. You are likely to uncover some great link opportunities doing this.



9. Build Authority Across All Inner Pages – Not Just Your Homepage

A website for a local business is typically going to be smaller, in terms of number of pages, compared to a large national brand. They will often have a homepage, an about section, some product or service pages and then a contact page and maybe a blog if they do any type of content marketing.

It’s important to focus on building links across all of your pages, and not just the homepage. I would say that 9 out of 10 local websites that I audit are very unbalanced when it comes to links.

It just doesn’t look natural to Google. If you have a blog, build links to all of your content and then interlink it. If a business is popular and the top sites in the world are talking about them, don’t you think they should draw attention to their other pages as well?

Be smart. You want everything to look as natural as possible to fly under the radar.


10. Audit Your NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) Across the Entire Internet

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to spreading your business information throughout the internet. There are three things that you want to make sure consist of the same format everywhere it appears online, and that’s your business name, complete address and phone number.

Use the same capitalization and character spacing every time you type your business name and use a full complete address. If you abbreviate anything, keep it consistent. For example, if you are “Suite 500” you want to type it out like that every time. Don’t use “Ste. 500” or “#500” because it creates discrepancies. If Google has to question whether or not an address is valid, it will greatly impact your position in the SERPs.



Final Thoughts

“SEO is dead.”

“Local SEO is dead.”

How many times have we heard this over the past several years? It’s said every year and each year we learn that SEO isn’t dying, nor will it ever die. It simply evolves and requires more thought process and effort in order to rank organically in the SERPs.

Listen, you have two choices. You can either adapt with the changes and continue to pursue the number one spots (actually, now the most desirable spot is “position zero”) or you can give up on local search and put all of your effort and money into paid advertising.

Are some businesses doing this? They sure are, because let’s face it – local SEO is not easy by any means now, especially for businesses with a lot of local competition. Can you imagine a Los Angeles personal injury law firm trying to go after position one? There would be hundreds of firms going after that one spot. There will be some businesses that can’t compete, so they will have to pay for that top real estate, which is what Google loves. Let’s be honest: they are in this to make money.

But, if you truly want to see results in local search, make sure you are paying attention to all of the tips outlined above. They are all very important right now if you plan of chasing the top spots for any local based terms.

If you have any questions or want to discuss anything related to local SEO, drop a comment below. Just don’t tell me local SEO is dead. It’s still very much alive and kicking!

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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