Local SEO For Small Businesses: Strategy, Planning, And Result [Template Included]

19 minutes read
Local SEO for Small Businesses

You can’t expect your business to survive without local SEO in an increasingly digitalized market.

Just how powerful do you think local SEO is?

According to Google, the number of people buying locally after searching is 78%. Sounds great!

But there is one big problem with most local SEO strategies.

They FAIL!

It’s a colossal waste of time, money, and resources if your strategy fails after six months or one year of exhaustive efforts.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people complaining about how their local SEO tactics failed despite spending a fortune and hours on the project.

But it’s never about how much effort you put in.

It all comes down to strategy, planning, and Results.

Get all three in sync, and you’ll have the best local SEO for small businesses on your hands. You can get the sample report at the end of the post.

Still confused?

Let me help you clear things up, starting with “Why is local SEO important?

Why Do You Need a Solid Local SEO Strategy?

Local SEO for small businesses is a long-term game. And as more business owners are turning to local SEO to boost their sales, having a strategy is all the more necessary.

A solid local SEO strategy helps you:

  • Let your clients know that local SEO is a continuous process.
  • Show results (quarterly, six-monthly, and yearly) and track your local SEO tactics. This helps build trust with your clientele.
  • Think and plan long-term to enhance your clients’ online presence.

Most people make the mistake of spending too much on short-term gains. They often ignore the big picture. Sure, paid advertising (PPC) can boost your online presence quickly. But a well-planned local SEO strategy will pay tenfold in the long run. That’s why you need it.

What Are the Objectives, Expectations, and Adjustments Needed?

Now that you know the “WHY,” let’s understand “How to create a local SEO strategy?”

When you talk about local SEO strategy, you must have a clear direction. You can streamline your strategy if you have a clear direction and achieve the following.

a) Helps Set Your Objectives

Having a clear direction means you can easily set your objectives. These could be anything from increasing the web traffic to enhancing Google Business Profile visibility. Your objectives will change from client to client, making it necessary to set up the team.

b) Fulfill Client Expectations

Once you have set your goals, fulfilling client expectations comes naturally. Objectives are nothing but what clients want to see, whether the increase in positive reviews or a better citation score.

c) Plan the Resources (Set up the Team Needed)

When you know what you must achieve, you can plan the resources. Depending on the objectives, you can devote different resources for each client. For example, a technical SEO audit is necessary if a client’s website needs attention. So, you plan your resources accordingly.

On the other hand, if a client needs to improve their online presence, you will need a team of copywriters and SEOs working on their content strategy. The more clearly you can plan your resources, the better results you can expect from your strategy.

d) Update Your Local SEO Strategy

Local SEO for small business is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done deal. Moreover, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. You have to craft customized local SEO strategies for each client or project. In other words, you will need to keep updating your game plan over time.

And how will you know what is working and what isn’t?

That’s why you need clear objectives, expectations, and resources. Together, they will help you track your progress to see what is or isn’t working. That, in turn, will help you update each local SEO strategy as and when needed.

What Are the Secret Ingredients for a Successful Local SEO Strategy?

As local SEO specialists, we often face the question, “What is the most effective strategy for local SEO?”

The short answer is there isn’t one.

It’s often a combination of different strategies. And formulating this plan is a little tricky, usually because of the lack of the right ingredients.

So, what is a local SEO strategy consist of?

Let’s take a look.

The Big Problem: Not setting Goal

This is arguably the most critical ingredient in successful local SEO for small businesses. A goal or an objective is what your client expects. It is the very foundation of all local SEO for small businesses. So, the first question you should ask every client is what they need from a Local SEO agency.

As mentioned before, each client will have a different goal/s.

But this goal/s could be:

a) Increase Traffic

Increasing web traffic is often the most common goal of a local SEO strategy. Almost half (46%) of the internet searches include location, while nearly 97% of people using online search look for local businesses. In short, applying tried-and-tested local SEO tactics can boost your client’s web traffic.

b) Increase The Number of Keywords to Rank

Getting more keywords to rank comes with many benefits. For starters, it has a long-lasting ranking effect compared to a traditional marketing strategy. Why waste a lot of money on paid advertising when an organic local SEO strategy can get you lasting search engine rankings?

c) Lead Generation

Lead generation is all about getting potential customers that will make a purchase. According to Google, 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day. So there is no denying that a well-optimized local SEO strategy can help you get more qualified leads.

d) Rank in A Specific Area (For Multi-Location Business)

Many businesses have multiple locations. You can create a highly targeted local SEO plan for each. In short, you can provide your clients with location-specific local search services.

e) Increase Google Business Profile Visibility

Optimizing Google Business Profile is integral to a successful SEO for small business. As a result, your client’s Google Business Profile will get better online visibility. Once it starts showing up in top local search results, your client’s business will enjoy more traffic.

f) Get More Reviews

Many people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In 2022, nearly half the online shoppers (45%) found customer reviews very helpful when making a purchase. If your business offers excellent products or services, people will love to share positive reviews. And the purpose of local SEO for small business is to get as many reviews as possible.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

What is the point of setting goals if you don’t know whom to reach?

Understanding the target audience allows you to set analytical goals and relevant local SEO tactics. This also helps your clients better communicate with their target audience. You can use different demographics and identifiers to find the target audience.

They are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Income
  • Education level
  • Profession
  • Marital status
  • Who do they trust – micro-influencers, peers, or friends?
  • What kind of content do they read/watch?

Plus, you can use identifiers like the current customer base and who the competitors are targeting. You can choose the identifiers depending on what your clients want to achieve through local SEO tactics.

The good news is there are plenty of SEO tools to help you find your target audience in a few clicks. A few of these well-known tools include:

a) Google Analytics:

This is probably the most popular SEO tool, and it’s FREE. Google Analytics can provide insights into demographics, such as gender, age, and interest. You can track and monitor the visitors coming to your client’s site. With this information, you can quickly identify the target audience.

b) SEMrush:

Another popular SEO tool. SEMrush is a complete toolkit that helps you do extensive market research, including identifying the target audience. Using the Market Explorer tool, you can dig into social media, blogs, and websites based on demographics like age, gender, and location.

c) Social Mention:

This tool lets you track how people perceive your brand. It allows you to find who is talking about your brand or products on social media. Social mention is a critical demographic. It helps you identify and target potential customers who have already heard about your brand.

d) Audiense:

Audiense is another reliable social media management tool. It also allows you to identify your target audience on social media. But there is one notable advantage – you can send a personalized message to your target audience.

e) Social Media Insights:

Many social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer demographic insights. You can find information like age group, gender, and location for fans, followers, and people you are reaching. This information can help you craft a successful local SEO strategy.

Why Do You Need Competitor Analysis?

The third most important ingredient you need is competitor analysis. Because competitor analysis helps you identify:

  • Who are your clients competing against?
  • The websites your competitors are linking to.
  • The right keywords to rank.
  • The changing local SEO trends well in advance.
  • The local SEO strategy your competitors are implementing.
  • The target audience your competitors are tapping into.

These factors help you create a more suitable local SEO strategy for your clients.

Importance of A Baseline or Benchmark

The fourth ingredient you need is a baseline or a benchmark. Successful SEO for small business rests on carefully crafted benchmarks. A baseline or benchmark lets your SEO team evaluate the progress of your campaign. It helps:

  • Evaluate the current performance of your client’s website
  • Calculate return on investment for each local SEO campaign
  • Understand where your current search ranking stands
  • Look into the impressions and clicks your client’s brand receives

Getting this data becomes quite simple with tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and BrightLocal. Using these tools, you can collect a few metrics to create a baseline for your client’s local SEO strategy. They include:

a) Technical:

Site Health Score

A perfect local SEO for small business starts with a thorough technical analysis of your client’s website. In this analysis, you can find technical errors such as:

  • HTTP errors like 401 (Unauthorized), 403 (Forbidden), 404 (Not found), 500 (Internal Server Error), and 504 (Gateway timeout).
  • Lengthy page titles and meta descriptions.
  • Missing ALT text tags.
  • No proper redirection.
  • Orphaned pages.
  • Missing schema.
  • Duplicate page content.
  • Slow loading speed.

b) Off-Site SEO:

Off-site SEO, also called off-page SEO, comprises actions taken outside your client’s website that will impact the search engine ranking.

The top off-page SEO factors to focus on include:

  • Inbound Links
  • Social Shares
  • Domain Age
  • Citations
  • Reviews

c) Domain authority:

MOZ domain authority score
It’s a search engine ranking score for a website created by Moz. It ranges from one to 100. The higher the score, the better your client’s website can rank. Essentially speaking, it shows the relevance of your website in your niche. In other words, higher domain authority should be a part of your local SEO strategy.

d) Total number of KW:

Total number of KW
Every local SEO specialist needs to know what keywords their clients’ websites rank for. This helps you update your SEO strategy accordingly. Check the current number of keywords each website is ranking for. You can use a keyword checker tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs for the same.

e) Total number of Backlinks:

Total number of Backlinks
Good quality backlinks offer credibility to your client’s websites. It’s like a vote of confidence from trusted authorities in your clients’ niche. So, you need to know the number of backlinks before kicking off your local SEO plan.

f) Current Traffic:

Current Traffic
Once you put your local SEO plan in place, your client’s website may start seeing more traffic. However, you won’t be able to calculate the increase in traffic without a benchmark. That’s why you need to find out how much web traffic the website currently attracts.

g) Top Performing Pages:

Top Performing Pages
Not all pages on your client’s website will rank higher in search engine results. Each page will rank differently depending on metadata, keyword optimization, content quality, and backlinks. A thorough analysis will help you identify top-performing pages.

h) Google Business Profile:

Another important benchmark is your client’s Google Business Profile. Every local SEO specialist knows Google Business Profile is at the heart of your strategy. Before you put your local SEP plan into action, you need to know how optimized your client’s GB profile is. For more on Google Business Profile stats and its optimization, check out this post.

What Are the KPIs to Set?

Once you have your benchmarks ready, you can set the required KPIs. KPIs are key performance indicators that will help you monitor the local SEO strategy. Although KPIs are different, they go hand in hand with your SEO goals. Here are a few KPIs that you can’t miss.

a) Keywords Ranking:

Track the keywords your client’s website ranks for from day one. The more keywords it ranks for, the better traffic its website will get. Also, this KPI will help you identify the trending keywords and target a suitable audience.

b) GBP Action:

A Google Business Profile comes with many actionable features such as website visits, calls, reviews, and questions, among others. Track what actions potential customers took after visiting a client’s GMB profile. Did they call? Or visit the website? Or leave a review? Make sure to monitor every action.

c) Citations Score:

A citation is nothing but the mention of your client’s business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP data) online. It is one of the key factors in local SEO. These citations can occur on social media, web forums, and business directories. In other words, a higher citation score will help your clients attract more traffic.

d) Reviews:

Consumers highly trust reviews. So, a steady stream of customer reviews can help your clients boost sales faster. According to the local consumer review survey 2022, 98% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Make a provision to keep track of customer reviews.

e) Domain Authority:

You will also need to track your client’s website’s domain authority. It should increase over time. If it does, your local SEO strategy is working.

f) Traffic to Specific Topic:

This is also an important KPI. But people often forget to track it. Tracking this KPI allows you to identify the most trending topics and change your local SEO strategy accordingly.

As you can see, these KPIs will help you to design your final local SEO plan.

Basic Audit and Planning

Before your local SEO tactics swing into action, you will need a basic audit. This audit will tell you where and how to start. Here’s what this audit should include.

a) Website Audit:

A quick technical Local SEO audit helps you understand how much work needs to be done. It also tells you where to focus more, including factors like:

  • Type of content you need to deliver to the target audience.
  • Keywords you need to focus on when doing GAP analysis.
  • Website errors you need to fix.
  • Efforts required to improve GBP and citations.
  • Information (or data) you need from your clients.

Website Audit
Use the technical audit and the reviews to develop a strategy that will go into your actual local SEO plan.

b) GBP Audit:

You will also need a quick GBP audit. It will tell you the current status of your GB profile, helping you to optimize whatever is necessary. For example, if your client’s profile is missing NAP information, you can add it. Likewise, you can update other business details.

GBP Audit

c) Citations Audit:

This audit comprises checking your client’s business details against the information on various sites, directories, and social media accounts. It helps you determine how many sites have missing, incorrect, and incomplete information. You can also find out if top sites are covered or not.

Citations Audit

Actual Plan and Schedule

Once the audit is complete, you can start drawing your actual plan and schedule. This is when you define your client’s needs, your goal plan, and the overall local SEO strategy.

You should also set your resources and put together a timeline. It could be months or even a year, depending on the client, their goals, budget, and the resources you have.

The bottom line is to be prepared to handle a few things before you ask the client for help/approval. Usually, your strategy would include:

a) Solving Technical Issues:

This would include solving technical issues like broken links, duplicate content, and missing or incorrect metadata, among other things.

b) Updating/Creating Webpage Copy:

This local SEO strategy focuses on updating content. Optimizing your client’s homepage & other website pages with new keywords and content is a surefire way to improve the search result rankings.

c) Website Speed Improvement:

The probability of bounce increases 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds. If the technical audit reveals your website is slow, you will need to improve it as soon as possible.

d) GBP Optimization:

Similarly, you will need to optimize your client’s GB profile based on your audit. Fill out the missing NAP data, add website links, keyword optimize its content, and add as many reviews to the GBP as possible.

e) Citations Building:

A low citation score is a big hurdle in getting your clients to shine in local search results. You will need to correct the existing citations and target high-ranking websites.

f) Linking Opportunities:

Building backlinks also helps increase the overall search engine rankings. You will have to look for opportunities like guest blogging, influencer outreach, podcasting, and text interviews.

The bottom line – build and implement an organized local SEO strategy that aligns with your client’s goals.

How to Report?

If you think the challenging part is over, think again!

Writing a perfect SEO report is often as hard as creating a local SEO strategy.

As every business and client has different goals, your report will change. But the crux of it will remain the same – keeping your client aware of the latest progress.

Here’s what needs to go in a local SEO report.

It should include:

  • Only a few important KPIs or metrics.
  • Show the progress over a specific period.
  • List all your milestones or accomplishments.
  • Use a simple reporting template.
  • Get straight to the point.
  • Go over any shortfalls or issues that remain unresolved.

It shouldn’t include:

  • Technical jargon as your client is no SEO expert.
  • Too much data. It will only confuse your clients.
  • Lengthy explanations. Your report needs to be short and crisp. So, stick to charts, bullets, graphs, and images.
  • Unrealistic expectations for your clients. It will probably backfire.

Here’s an example of how to write a Monthy SEO report.

August 2022 SEO Campaign Performance Update

In terms of SEO, the SEO performance report for Feb, ‘22, your visibility across search engines has been increased compared to the previous month. We are now ranking in the top 3 for 10 keywords (3 more this month).

  • Looking at a couple of keywords: “keyword 1” ranked at #14 (first time), “keyword 2” 4 positions higher ranked at #10
  • And for location name, “keyword 1” keyword ranked at #12 (2 positions higher).
  • We are working towards improving the ranks for terms that are on the 2nd and 3rd page of Google SERP, & have planned for it in the upcoming weeks.
  • In the month of August, ‘22, we gained a valuable backlink with a guest blog post that was published: Guest post title and hyperlink
  • We have SEO strategy for the current month that includes an on-site blog post for your website, targeting “keyword 1”, the idea for which is as follows: Title of the post

What we’re working on:

  • We are working on so and so things
  • We will continue with your ongoing prospecting and SEO strategies!
  • You can see the work report here: Link of work report

Please have a look and let me know for any questions.

In addition to a report, you can also use project management tools like ClickUp, Basecamp, or Monday.com. These tools let your clients track the work progress in real-time, saving your and your client’s time.

The Big Result

A perfect balance in activities and Google updates can help you hit your KPI. You can change the plan depending on the progress. Here’s a real example of how to showcase the big result.

Task Metrix Expected Current
Website Copy Optimization No. Of Keywords Ranking 3 to 5 Per Page Avg. 3 Keywords
GBP Optimization GBP Actions Increase from 3% to 5% 35.29%
Citations NAP Optimization Citations Score From 58 to 68 83%
Backlinks Domain Authority (MOZ) Between 10 to 20 17

Sample 3 or 6 months SEO Performance report format (Make a COPY or DOWNLOAD it):

In Conclusion

As you can see, local SEO for small business is not a hard nut to crack if you know what to do. The moment you onboard a client, get all the information you need. This will help you create a local SEO strategy based on the required KPIs, metrics, and goals.

But most importantly, start with a plan and revisit it regularly. Take this approach for every new project or client. It will make your life as an agency partner easier!

And if you still have doubts or need more information, reach out to us immediately.

  • Vivek Patel is a project manager for local SEO campaigns at E2M. He has 12+ years of experience in the local search industry. He leads the Local Search division at E2M, where he oversees the workflow, project execution, marketing innovation, and client satisfaction.

    When he is not working, he enjoys staying fit, spending time with his pets, and living a healthy lifestyle. He believes that life is a matter of choice and that we should always strive to do the right thing.