SEO for your small business (SMB) clients can be a never-ending task. We’ve scoured today’s best practices for local SEO for small businesses to produce this list of just 9 essential steps that you can do today for your small business accounts.

Since last year, Google have been showing their desire to produce hyperlocal search results in response to what they term ‘I-want’ queries. If someone is looking for a plumber, Google currently shows them a map with just three results for local businesses, which are the closest to their location (see the screenshot).

In choosing which businesses to include in the three-pack, Google ranks their relevance to the search query, their distance from the user and the prominence of the business. In other words, your SMB client needs to use long-tail keywords to prove their relevance, ensure that their location is accurate and consistent across the web so that Google knows where to find them, and generate rich local links, citations and reviews to increase their prominence. Note how all three results in the screenshot have their websites attached to listings as well as ratings and reviews.

Before You Start
Before beginning work on your SMB client’s local SEO standing, carry out a quick audit of their website. Check that nothing obvious has been overlooked, such as broken links, content that is not SEO-friendly, missing meta tags, etc. It’s a basic step, but one that is all too often skipped when you manage a lot of accounts.

  1. Claim Their Business

Make sure that your SMB client has accurate information linked to their website by claiming their business listing. Visit ‘Google My Business’ to create or update your SMB client’s Google business listing, and do the same on other search engines and directories such as Bing Places, Yelp and others local to their city and country, etc., as well as niche directories specific to their field, for example a directory of lawyers. Remember to include their opening hours and accurate name, address, phone number and link to their website.

Verify that your SMB client’s details are consistent across all entries. A 2017 Moz survey of Local Search Ranking Factors lists the consistency of citations as one of the top five factors affecting inclusion in the local three-pack of Google results. Inconsistent location details can seriously affect your SMB client’s SEO. You can use Yext to check how their business appears online, and speed up the task by using Yext (in the USA) or Moz Local to clean up your small business client’s listing and share their details with all directories and business information aggregators.

2. Optimize the Website for Local SEO
Hopefully, your SMB client’s website is already optimized for local SEO basics with simple, clear URLs that state their business offering and their location. Build on those basics by stamping their contact details across the website, ideally in the footer of every page. You should include their NAP (name, address and phone number) as well as a geolocation tag. Embedding a Google map snippet is an even stronger way to establish your SMB client’s local presence.

You already know to take advantage of ALT image tags to boost your SMB client’s SEO standing, but you might not be maximizing them for local SEO purposes. Include local SEO keywords in alt tags and headings as often as possible, remembering to follow the headings tags rule of using H1 H2 and H3 for every page without breaking the logic. “When applying this rule in Camilyo’s system, we can pre-style all the heading tags and create them with a few clicks with no additional design” says Sivan Kotek, Camilyo’s website building expert.

If your SMB client has more than one location for their business, prevent search engine confusion by creating separate pages for each site, each one optimized with the relevant local SEO tags and contact details. Alternately, you can create a multi-location map with up to 10 different locations. Camilyo’s website builder allows you to create a Google map with up to 10 locations.

3. Optimize Social Media for Local SEO

Make sure that your small business client’s profile name is accurate across their social media platforms and include their location and full contact details in all their social media profiles to reinforce the strength of their local SEO. Ensure that their opening hours and NAP are all accurate and consistent across all platforms. Social networks tend to rank high in search results. Of course, these social media accounts need to be updated a few times a week with quality content to build your SMB client’s audience and encourage engagement.

“Add links to your website on social media (either in your profile or linking back from others). It remains unclear if Google take these into account, but it definitely doesn't hurt to have them,” advises Camilyo’s social media team.

4. Optimize Content for Local SEO
Keep local SEO in mind when creating (or reviewing) content for your SMB client. Blog posts about local events and well-known sites add authenticity and depth to their local SEO ranking. Target a hyper-local audience when choosing blog topics, such as writing about a neighborhood farmers’ market for a food-related site rather than a generic post about buying local produce. Ensure that all their content is focused on local SEO as much as is possible, including alt text for images, title keywords and internal links. On a slightly different note - please do make sure to reduce image sizes as much as possible by in photo editing software, or by compressing websites, such as TinyJPG, that maintain image quality.

5. Gather Reviews

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Just as individuals rely on their friends’ recommendations when choosing where to shop, SEO gives weight to reviews when choosing how to rank a business. Local reviews are very important for local SEO today, so urge your SMB clients to encourage their happy customers to leave positive reviews on big review sites like Yelp and Google Plus. Similarly, enable reviews on your SMB client’s Facebook page. Remind your small business client to monitor reviews and to respond when necessary, including dealing with bad reviews by attending to the issue rather than by deleting the review.

6. Create Local Links
There’s been a lot of debate about how much weight Google gives to backlinks in 2017, and it still hasn’t been satisfactorily settled. While it might not be an important factor in Google ranking, links to other local businesses demonstrate an integrity of local SEO positioning. If your SMB client’s town has a Chamber of Commerce, make sure to include your small business client there to boost the authenticity and depth of reliability of their SEO. Mentions in local publications and newspapers or from hyper-local influencers further buttress your SMB client’s local presence. For example, a new restaurant could seek inclusion in the food column of a local newspaper or a food blogger.

7. Be Mobile Friendly
Over the past year, Google has been steadily increasing the weight it gives to mobile SEO. Apps are now included in Google ranking and a mobile-first index has been on the cards for months. A mobile-friendly site now has an even greater impact on local SEO for your SMB clients, so make the phone number clickable on mobile sites to increase visitor engagement. You can check the page speed and mobile friendliness of your SMB client’s site and receive a report of steps to improve scores by using Google’s new tool testmysite, designed specifically for small businesses.

8. Use Structured Data
Another rapidly rising star in the local SEO game is the use of structured data, or schema. Schema markup can be added to your SMB client’s website code to send Google and other search engines added information about them. Google encourages its use since it makes it easier for search engine bots to identify what the website is about. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, recently commented that structured data might be added to Google’s ranking factors. According to SEO expert Sherri Bonelli, “Only 31.3 percent of websites are using this markup — and most are only using the basics. You can make your local business stand out (and possibly rank higher than your competitors) if you add structured data markup to your site where appropriate.”

Google even created a tool to help you verify that schema have been applied correctly, and Camilyo offers aids to make schema easier to create and apply. “At Camilyo, we have popular pre-sets for schema as well as custom pre-set if you want to get more advanced,” says Sivan Kotek, Camilyo’s website building expert. You can use structured data to strengthen your small business client’s local presence by using it for their NAP, geolocation, and to generate business-related rich snippets.

9. Use Local Longtail Keywords
Longtail keywords are nothing new in SEO tactics, and should be taken just as seriously in local SEO work. Longtail, or according to Yoast SEO, midtail keywords for local SEO should include your SMB client’s location or geolocation keywords so that Google can fix their location based on those.

These nine recommendations for local SEO for small businesses will help you to maximize your SMB client’s SEO standing in 2017 without it taking forever. We will be updating the list as rules of the game change.

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