Is getting SEO right this year one of your new year business resolutions for 2020 ? Look no further for a comprehensive guide on Local SEO, the most important search engine strategy of the year, created by an SEO expert. 

2020 : The Year of Local SEO 

A new year for those in the world of digital marketing means new changes and challenges to the Google algorithm and search engine optimization in general. In this constantly evolving field, it is important to know what to expect in the year to come so that you can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to SEO and keep yourself at the top of search results. In 2020, local SEO strategy will be one of the most crucial components of search engine optimization and online marketing as a whole, as search engines are putting more weight on this element when determining rankings. 

Therefore, if you have one new year resolution for your digital marketing strategy, make it getting your local SEO strategy right. To help you get started, our local SEO experts in Chicago share the best local SEO tips for improving your strategy, plus new tools and services to help you achieve results. 

The Basics: What is Local SEO and Why is it so Successful? 

Local SEO 2020

Local SEO, or local search engine marketing, is a way of promoting products and services to local customers online. Search engines take into account the location of the user to provide it with results that are geographically relevant, doing so by taking into account location optimization on the part of the business when determining its rankings. Local SEO a more focused marketing technique, working together with the rest of your SEO and online marketing strategy, spreads awareness about your brand to customers in a specific geographical location.

It is powerful and important for businesses of any caliber, although when performed correctly it usually shows the greatest improvement for small businesses or those who are local- oriented (such as a local service provider which can only deliver its service in one physical location). 

Location matters

Search Engines recognize that location often matters when it comes to purchasing products and services, and they always take this into account when it comes to rankings. That is why Internet searches work so well, because they take into account your location so as to give you more relevant results. Even for businesses catering to several geographic areas, search engines take into account these multiple relevant locations and calculate search results accordingly. To give you an example: an individual in the Los Angeles metropolitan area is looking for a dentist. If your business is dentistry, but in the Houston area, it makes no sense for either of you to come up as that person’s search results, as they are not your target customer and it is highly unlikely that they will use your service. 

3 Key Steps on the Local SEO Checklist 

To thrive in local search, you need to do three things: optimize your Google My Business account, update your website accordingly with local SEO in mind, and make use of the many opportunities for local SEO that go beyond just your own pages. 

#1 Local SEO Google My Business

If you are only going to remember one thing off of this list, make it Google My Business. One thing that people often overlook is the importance of business listing in SEO. This is a common mistake – people often dedicate so much of their efforts to on-page SEO, they forget that off-page SEO can be just as powerful. In the case of your Google My Business listing, this is even truer. Think of it this way: Google is the ultimate authority in SEO and also your main target for optimization – why wouldn’t you aim directly at your goal and optimize the platform that Google is actually providing you and asking you to optimize? 

Create a Google My Business Listing and get verified 

Every business needs a Google My Business listing for many reasons, starting with that it is a way to gain validation and verification in the eyes of Google. Once your Google My Business is created, Google will verify its authenticity and proceed to give you the sidebar space in the Google local search that you will recognize from searching for specific businesses or places. 

Get active on your GMB  

Once your Google My Business account has been created and verified (a process that usually takes about a week), you need to create content and buzz around your account. Encourage customers to post reviews, as these are highly coveted in Google’s eyes. Answer their reviews authentically, and make sure to include your business name, sector, and location. For example: “Thank you for your review on (product/service) in (place). We look forward to working with you again. Thank you from (company name).” Google posts from your account are another easy yet efficient to give yourself a one-up. You really need to focus on creating original content for the above mentioned Google My Business posts, and can also add images and offers to gain more visibility to your business.

#2 Update your website 

Once your Google My Business is set up, it is time to head back to where it all began: your website. There are plenty of improvements to be made to even the best of websites to make them more local SEO-oriented. Here are a few. 

Make your website mobile friendly 

Before you even get started on actually modifying any of your website’s content, make sure it is mobile-friendly. If it is not already, do this immediately! (STAT/10) Google searches take place on a mobile phone, especially for local searches where people tend to look for products and services around their immediate area. Make it easier for your potential clients to find you by having a mobile-friendly website. Plus, in 2020, virtually every website should be mobile-friendly, regardless of whether it is relies on local SEO.  Install an AMP plugin (accelerated mobile page)

Use geographical keywords 

There are a lot of opportunities for emphasizing your location on your website, long before anyone even gets to the contact page. On anything that gets published on your website, make sure that the URL, title tags, content, headers, and meta description are optimized, and that can often be with a geographic search phrase. A great opportunity to implement keywords with location words is your blog – here, you can make blog entries with geographical search phrases, zip codes, neighborhoods etc, which will be indexed and improve your local rankings. Other good opportunities for geo-targeted content are customer success stories and case studies. 

 Create local content 

One of the great things about this era is that Google is smarter than ever, meaning that content creators can really just write naturally and still get ranked for what is it genuinely meant to get ranked for, rather than forcing certain keywords. By writing about your geographic location and for a local audience – about local industry information and other content – you will be seen as valuable for search engines and get promoted to a higher ranking. 

Add location pages on your website 

Create a locally-descriptive About Us Page, preferably with a Google Map on your website providing your location. If you have multiple locations, create multiple location pages and fill them with your address, hours, testimonials, and any other pertinent information regarding that specific location. 

#3 Take advantage of all that is out there on the Internet 

I get it, keeping up with a local SEO strategy, or any SEO strategy for that matter, can require a lot of work. Many times, people are so busy trying to improve their own website that they forget to make themselves present on others’. However, this step is what will really give you leverage in local search strategy. For local search off-page SEO, you should perform all of the usual off-page SEO, like getting backlinks, appearing in directories, commenting on blog posts, etc., but make an extra effort to make it local-oriented. 

Consistency is key

A big off-page mistake that occurs is not being consistent with your location. Ensure that your address and coordinates are the same everywhere on the web, so that there is no chance of confusion for Google. This goes for NAP (name, address, and telephone number) and more. Something small like abbreviations, lack of suite number, misspellings, or different phone number can throw Google off and might even cause you to disappear from search results all together. 

Focus on authority and relevance for inbound links

To repeat, Google is getting smarter. This goes for inbound links as well. There is definitely an important difference between getting inbound links from a bunch of random sites or directories and getting them from places that matter, especially when they are pertinent to your business. Focus on blogs and directories that are related to your industry or location and remember that quality wins above quantity. You can also find a lot of opportunities with the Chamber of Commerce (if you are not yet listed – here is your first inbound link!), licensing bureaus, affiliates, vendors, and much more. Thinking more long-term, it is a good idea to guest blog, network, build relationships, host community events, and do other things often in-person which can get you credibility and later will develop into an inbound link somewhere important. 

The Best Tools for Local SEO  

Now that we have covered best practice local SEO tactics, we can go into the different tools that can help you to optimize your strategy. With so many offerings on the market, it can be difficult to know what is worth using. Here are my picks for the best tools to improve your ranking, focusing on where it matters the most.  

GTMetrix An online website speed tester to identify items that are slowing your site down.  So you can speed it up!
Ahrefs Paid tool I use for keyword research and checking backlinks. 
SEMRush Another paid tool that works great for website audits and Swiss army knife SEO functions like keyword rankings, .
Moz Local Check your local citations and in their paid program they synchronize your listings, remove duplicates.
Screaming Frog A program you download and install on your computer. Works great to identify orphan pages, 404 errors and more.
Local Viking Agency class Google My Business listing management, GMB post duplicator and scheduler, add exif data to images before adding and has awesome local SEO reporting and tracking.
Keywords Everywhere On the fly keyword research tool. The best $10 I ever spent on an SEO tool.

When it comes to buying SEO tools as an end user, don’t forget you still have to learn the program for it to be effective.  Maybe it’s easier just to work with an SEO consultant and leverage his tool sets and experience than trying to do it yourself.   Then you can keep doing what you are best at.

Final Thoughts from a Local SEO Company in Chicago

As an SEO Consultant, I created this guide as a way to get you on the right path for local SEO in 2020 as you work towards better online visibility. With my local SEO checklist consisting of 3 “keys to success”, you will find a combination of one-off tasks that you can cross off your lists and others that will be an ongoing process to maintain throughout the year and beyond. Then, with my list of tools for local SEO, you can find some of the most useful and worthwhile tools to help you with your checklist and take you even further. When you are ready to do more, other parts of the puzzle include optimizing your site for local results the way your prospects are searching Google, mention voice search, listing your business in local directories, optimizing your images and more.

While my Local SEO Company is located in Chicago and its suburb Naperville, I work with clients all over the world, so no need to be local to get in touch with me. I am a local SEO expert with extensive training on Google My Business – if this or anything related to Local SEO is of interest to you, feel free to contact me and start up a conversation with me !