So now we’re going to dive in to the on-page SEO aspects that you need to know for local SEO. Most of this will be a recap on the previous chapters on on-page SEO so if you haven’t read them I recommend that you do so now as it will allow you to have a deeper understanding.
So we’re going to start off by searching for your main keyword for most this will be ‘service + location.’
Then from here we’re going to look at the following areas for the top 5 results:
- Age of site
- Backlink profile
- On-page optimisation
Age of site
A lot of sites in local searches are ranking purely due to the age of their site, they don’t really have a strong backlink profile or on-page optimisation. Therefore if you are starting a new site it may be worthwhile buying an aged domain.
I know some agencies who will also 301 a relevant aged domain to the site they are trying to rank if for example the client has a brand name domain that they want to keep.
Again here you want to run a report on these competitors using a tool like SEMRush, Majestic or Ahrefs to see how many backlinks they have pointing at their site. Often in local searches they will have a low amount of referring domains coming from pages such as directories and social media profiles. This will give you a general idea of the amount of backlinks you will be required to build in order to outrank this site, although there is no way to truly tell the exact amount.
You can also use this as an opportunity cross reference with all 5 competitors and see if there are any easy backlinks to be made for your site.
An example of this is if a plumber is registered as gas safe qualified there may be a directory on the certification website or their local council website that they can get a relevant backlink from.
Here I usually use SEO tools for excel or SEO Quake to create a spreadsheet with the following columns:
H1+ (where H2-6 are listed)
Meta description (even though this doesn’t affect rankings directly but it could affect your CTR)
It will look something like this:
I am just looking to see what they are doing, if there are any trends or any areas where I can easily outdo them. For example it isn’t uncommon in local searches to see pages with multiple H1s and super high keyword density. So on your site you will just ensure that you don’t make these mistakes.
On-page optimisation for local SEO
For most local clients it really is about Pareto’s principle, spend 20% of the time to get 80% of the results. I recommend for all but the most competitive local SEO terms that you start by just getting the basics right.
So this is for the most part ensuring that you have your main keyword in your H1, your title and in your first and last paragraph of content on the page. Having your H1 different to your title. In general I try to outdo the amount of content that the top 3 competitors have unless it is a ridiculous amount. If you do this you are off to a good start.
Topical / local relevance
When I am creating content for the site I am looking to make it relevant to the niche and the area an example of this may be for a tree surgeon in Manchester so I would write an article on the different types of trees found around Manchester. Then would use internal linking to link back to the money page so if I send backlinks here it will pass on some link juice to the money page.
Also uploading photos for local sites a few SEOs I respect have recommended to me that I geotag my photos to the location of the business. It literally takes no time at all for a VA to do and I can’t say I’ve tested it but I can guarantee it won’t have a negative effect but it may have a positive effect.
I also always check the page speed of local clients as often they will have signed up for the cheapest hosting plan they can find or the site may have been poorly designed so I will make sure that their page speed is ok. If it is unacceptable I tell them and usually charge (depending upon how much they pay per month) for this to be resolved. This is something I will usually outsource. For hosting we recommend this and use it for all our sites.
I also always add in Schema to my local sites and check it is working using this tool from google. You can also use plugins to make schema markup but typically these aren’t as extensive as if you do them yourself. There’s a great guide on schema here.
Off-page for local SEO
Again there isn’t much difference to the off-page guidelines mentioned in previous chapters and often not a lot of backlinks are required to rank for local search terms. For example if you look at Charles’ case study from 2016 he ranked a local site using only free link sources.
The one thing that again I have been recommended to do (and have done) is to pick up a few (maybe 3) locally relevant expired domains and build them out into PBNs, they don’t have to be super powerful and just point them at the domain. This supposedly is a trust signal and again is a very low cost way to build some backlinks. Often it is easy to pick up a locally relevant expired domain as not many people will be looking for them I generally scrape local directories looking and then have a quick look at the backlinks to make sure they’ve got a few backlinks pointing at them and aren’t spammed.
If you follow this, for most local clients this will be enough to get them to the top of the SERPs. If this is the case then you try up-sell them to a higher package or just maintain the rankings, possibly adding a new piece of content each month and a new backlink.
If it is more competitive and you’re not ranking you generally just have to spend longer building more backlinks to the site. While of course ensuring that you are maintaining good on-page. There isn’t really that much to it with local SEO which is why it is a great testing ground for beginner SEOs.
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