Standing at the trailhead of a local SEO project, there are four key things you need before you begin auditing a local business and creating a strategy for it.
1) The guidelines for representing your business on Google
Google's local search guidelines will heavily influence how you think about and advertise a local business online. The criteria for representing your business on Google dictate what you may and cannot do. Before you take your first step on this adventure, get to know them like the back of your hand.
Every local business marketer should have a copy of the standards for portraying your business on Google. It teaches you how to conceive about a business from Google's perspective, how to advertise your firm using the Google My Business platform, and how to prevent costly mistakes. Violations of the standards can result in rankings loss, various degrees of penalty, and possibly the removal of local company listings. Because Google often adds new provisions and clarifications, bookmark the guidelines, study the regulations they contain, and refer back to them frequently.
The standards detailing eligibility for inclusion in Google My Business are the most important for you to grasp at the outset of your journey. This is a criteria that must be met by every location:
"A business must make in-person contact with clients within its specified hours in order to qualify for a Google Business Profile."
In other words, if a company location does not serve consumers face-to-face during its open hours, it is not qualified for a GMB listing and cannot run a comprehensive local search marketing campaign. Local SEO is dependent on in-person service, whether it's in a store, on the street, or at a customer's home.
The guidelines go on to explain how to fill out the various fields of the Google My Business profile, including how to name a business, how to handle its addresses, departments, and forward-facing practitioners, how to set hours, and more, once you've determined the eligibility of any location you plan to market.
2) Basic business data
Make sure you have the correct name, address, phone number, hours, and other information for each site. Ascertain that the canonical state of this data is fully agreed upon by all relevant business departments. From start to end, inconsistencies may wreak havoc on a local search marketing effort.
If you skip this step, you'll end up in difficulty later. Make a copy of this easy, free spreadsheet and fill in all of the fields, assigning a store number/code to each company location. Make sure you complete out a column for each of these entities if the brand you're marketing qualifies for multi-department or multi-practitioner listings according to Google's rules for representing your business.
If you need more fields, add them to the spreadsheet. Consider adding sections for franchisee contact information, for example, if the business is a franchise, so you may immediately reach out to them when you need to interact.
Finally, if your company has more than ten locations, you'll be able to use Google's bulk upload option, which entails filling out a spreadsheet.
3) Clear identification of the business model
Take extra time to carefully identify your business model in particular. Business models include:
Brick and mortar, like a retail shop or restaurant customers can visit
Service Area Business (SAB), like a plumber or caterer who goes to customers' locations
Hybrid, like a pizza restaurant which also delivers
Home-based, like a daycare center
Co-located/co-branded business, like a KFC/A&W chain location
Multi-department business, like a hospital or auto dealership
Multi-practitioner business, like a real estate firm or dental practice
Mobile business, like a stationary food truck
Kiosk, ATM, and other less common business models
Each model has its own set of constraints and potential when it comes to representing your business on Google. We won't reprint the complete text in this tutorial since it is subject to regular editorial changes; instead, study the entire set of instructions to ensure you understand how to navigate Google's online terrain.
4) A clear statement of business goals
In certain cases, your objective will be to create the whole range of online (and maybe physical) assets for a local firm. Everything from the website to local company listings to email marketing to social media accounts to review management will be in your control. You could just be concentrating on a tiny part of the picture at other times. Whether the breadth of the job ahead of you is large or restricted, the only way to gauge your achievement after finishing your chores is to set objectives from the start.
It’s typically best when the business owner can state their goals by answering the question:
“What will success look like?”
Try to formulate an answer to that question by defining success as:
An increase in foot traffic
An increase in phone calls
An increase in transactions
An increase in form submission leads
An increase in requests for driving directions
An increase in links
An increase in positive reviews
An increase in local pack visibility for X search phrases
Avoid vanity metrics such as "I want to be number one" or "I just need more website traffic." At the end of the day, the majority of firms desire bigger earnings. How to go from point A to point Z is where strategy comes in, outlining which techniques and message will help you achieve your stated objective, which will lead to improved profitability.
Set a timetable after all key stakeholders have agreed on a goal. When it comes to generating realistic time estimates, both in-house and third-party marketers should be very explicit. Because the effects of virtually all local search marketing initiatives take time to completely develop, be sure whatever schedule you provide does not over-promise and under-deliver.
Now that you have the canonical business data, know the model and goals of the business, and have Google’s guidelines well in hand, you’re ready to begin your local SEO journey.