Practical Local SEO Guide – How To Increase Local Rankings Today

Are You Using Blacklisted Backlinks? Check Now

My practical local SEO guide is going to teach you everything you need to know to increase the search engine rankings of any local small business website.

Honestly, SEO is fairly straightforward once you know-how. If you have followed Matthew’s blog for any length of time then you probably already have the basics down.

He has published some great articles including this blackhat SEO strategy and this competitor backlinks tactic that I use all the time!

SEO really just boils down to creating content (notice I didn’t use the phrase ‘great content’?) and then building links. Pretty simple right?

Local SEO isn’t much different from other types of SEO. If anything, local SEO is probably the easiest.

Think about it, you’re not competing with major brands that have enormous marketing budgets. You’re not going toe-to-toe with aggressive affiliate SEOs.

You’re competing with small business owners who are overwhelmed.

Of course, there are a few twists to local SEO marketing which I’m going to explain in my step by step in my local SEO guide below!

What You Will Learn

  • The differences between SEO & Local SEO
  • How to control link volume
  • How to build 100 local citations instantly
  • Critical on page local SEO factors
  • Access to my easy to follow local SEO checklist

The Local SEO Guide To Link Building

My name is Daniel Thompson and I like to keep things simple, so my local SEO guide will be no different!

I suggest three sources for local SEO links; citations, PBNs and Web 2.0s.

I usually encourage clients to source additional white hat links from industry sites, organizations they belong to, charities they donate to and through guest posts (please see what is guest posting).

Links from local organizations can go a long way and if you can source a handful it can help your efforts out.

Link Building

That said, I never personally build white-hat links for a client, at least not small local businesses.

The reason for this is two-fold.

Penalty Risk Management

If a site gets penalized it’s vital that you’re able to remove the links that were built.

With an affiliate marketing site, you could re-direct the URL to a new page and start fresh.

Client sites are often built on branded domains and/or they have several white hat links, starting on a fresh domain isn’t a casual conversation.

Client Cancellation

If a client cancels, you want to be able to not only remove the links from their site, but better yet, point those same links at another client.

The more clients you have in one vertical, the easier link building becomes. The ability to manipulate the links gives you leverage which saves time and money.

When you are selling, drill this point home.

If you decide to cancel, all of the links will be removed. You may stay atop the SERP’s for a few months but you will lose ground and eventually, you’ll be back at square one.

It’s critical to remember there is no marketing service in the world that doesn’t require a recurring fee. Billboards, flyers, TV ads, radio ads, PPC, media buys and social media marketing are a few of examples of services that will require a monthly payment.

SEO is constantly evolving and just like other forms of advertising, it requires long-term attention and commitment.

Volume and Frequency of Links

The absolute worst question in SEO is: how many links will it take to rank site X for term Y?

The only way to get a handle on this is by doing SEO.

How strong are the links, how aggressive is your anchor text, are your links follow or no-follow?

These are just a few LINK factors, the rest are shown below.


Link Factors: Courtesy of Searchmetrics

If you want to understand all the different ranking factors, take a look at this Google ranking factors SEO checklist.

Links are the most important factor and anyone that tells you otherwise is an asshole. However, the 200+ other factors are going to impact how many of those precious links you’ll need.

90% of the time you can mask other SEO mistakes with more links. On the rare occasion that you’re dealing with a penalized site, you’re going to need to address that before you get any traction.

Quality links are like duct-tape; they can fix almost anything that isn’t completely broken.

Link Volume

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m sure you’re all wondering how many links it takes to rank a local client.

I can’t tell you how many links it will take to rank a certain client, but I can provide you with a baseline.

I hit client sites with 50 citations, 30 of which usually stick. I then hit the site with 5 Web 2.0s with GSA tiers (optional, but not necessary). Lastly, I build 1-2 PBN links per week until it ranks.

Sometimes this means 10 links, other times it means 30 links.

I know Matt is currently experimenting with social signals via a social locker plugin as well as user engagement ranking factors.

If those prove to be fruitful we will likely build that into the front end of our contracts.

My Local SEO Checklist To Build 100 Citations for $16

You can use a citation building service. Depending on the quality of the submissions they will generally cost $0.5 to $4 per citation, which gets expensive quickly.

That said, I’ve manually built enough citations myself to know that I never want to build another citation in my life.

The only thing worse than manually building web 2.0’s is manually building citations.

There is a very simple way to get around this.

Step 1
Head over to and sign up for an account.

The first month is free and then it’s $20/month. If you’re a business owner reading this, you’ll only need it for a month.

If you’re a local SEO consultant and/or in local lead generation, you should have Whitespark.

Step 2
Insert your target keyword into the tool.

Step 3
Let the hamster run for 2 or 3 minutes. Whitespark will compile all of the citations for the entire 7-pack.

Usually, this number is in the neighbourhood of 200-300 different sources.

WhiteSpark local SEO checklist

You can export all of these sources into a spreadsheet.

Step 4
Head over to Odesk and find yourself two data submission VAs who will work for $2/hour.

Break the list in half and let them run with it.

If they can’t build 50 citations each in 4 hours you need to find a different VA.

Step 5
Never build another citation again.

One last tip – before you start doing any citation building do a quick audit of the clients’ current citations with Whitespark.

The goal is to have all of the NAP of all of your citations matching the Google + page.

On-Page Local SEO Tips

How many times have you been told you can’t use duplicate content, or that you need to have quality content?

This may hold true for content marketing and to a lesser extent authority sites or niche sites, however for local SEO you can throw it out the window.

I had an epiphany while doing research for a family friend who works for a regional lender. After some prodding he revealed to me that they spend mid-six figures per year on marketing, all of which is done through one advertising agency, this includes their local SEO marketing.

What I noticed is that every single one of their regional pages has the exact same 300-word blurb! I’m not talking about 1 or 2 pages either, we’re talking more than half a dozen. The only thing that they change is the city.

Are they getting results? I’ll let you decide.

on-page local SEO tips

If you use SEMRush you probably know that the SE traffic & price estimates are normally quite low. Admittedly a portion of this volume comes from their brand name being searched, but the majority of it is from specific long tails.

These are pretty damn impressive numbers from a regional lender. The market they serve is ONLY 5 million residents.

I’m not going to tell you this is a local SEO strategy I use, only because it’s so easy to create 300-600 words of unique content. The point I’m making here is that the content doesn’t need to be good.

In fact, one of their 404 pages ranks for a small, yet competitive search term which makes for a VERY interesting local SEO example in the wild.

URL Structure

The URL structure is no better. This is how all of their SEO pages are setup

While you could argue this is a historically spammed industry, I’ve tried this methodology in other industries with great results. I recommend using a toned-down version of this.

Let me break down how to structure URLs.

If a client only has one city/region/suburb that they operate in, target the search term directly.

For clients who operate in several regions, build multiple pages. 1+kw 2+kw

The first page will link to all of the cities they serve.

This is one of the best local SEO tips that I can give you when it comes to creating the best permalink structure for your website.

On-Page Local SEO Checklist

  1. Add footer links with targeted KWs
  2. Add a relevant youtube video if the client permits it
  3. Setup URL Structure with KWs.
  4. H1 tag using KW
  5. If the client has an active blog, use it to create internal links – use Ahrefs to check if any of the pages have any inbound external links.
  6. 300-600 words of content for each KW page.
  7. Create and optimize social profiles.
  8. Optimize alt-text for image

Onpage local seo strategy

Off-Page Local SEO Checklist

  1. Create a G+ and get the postcard (if you’re doing lead generation just use your home/office)
  2. Get 5 reviews for the 7 pack. 5 is the magic number that makes the stars show up, stars = more clicks.

Wrapping It Up

In my opinion, there is a massive opportunity to provide local SEO services to small and medium-sized businesses. You have the opportunity to leverage the SEO skills you already have.

The best part, you’re usually competing with business owners who have decided to do their own SEO, as opposed to other SEOs.

If you’re just getting started the goal is to learn how to dominate the local SERPs and to build a portfolio because social proof is key.

I bet if you dug into your social network you could find at least two business owners that you’d be able to get an introduction to.

That concludes my local SEO guide, if you have any questions or have any of your own local SEO tips – don’t be afraid to leave a comment below :)

You can also pickup some extra tips from these local SEO experts or take a look at my full list of SEO tutorials.

And, if you prefer to outsource your SEO, check out these services: