Actionable Local SEO (For Business Owners) Part 1: Preparation

Actionable Local SEO (For Business Owners) Part 1: Preparation

The biggest problem entrepreneurs and local business owners face with search engine optimization is getting measurable results (at a relatively reasonable resource cost). I'm starting my Actionable Local SEO series with the basics and then we'll move onto the nitty-gritty details and actionable steps. The Actionable Local SEO series is where where I'll take you through the steps needed to get results for your local business online and how to know you're doing something meaningful with it (i.e. measuring results). At the end of the article I provide a link for you to the downloadable worksheet to help you get started. (Worksheet coming soon)

Actionable Local SEO (For Business Owners) Part 1: Preparation

Previously I wrote about Is SEO Worth The Effort and Understanding SEO For Local Business (Owners), so if you haven't read those yet take a look to understand my mindset on this whole SEO thing. The biggest complaint I hear from my clients about SEO, other than getting so many SEO spam offers, is that they don't know what's worth the effort and how to make it worth said effort.

This Actionable Local SEO series is going to address that. Before we jump feet first into the deep end we need to learn to swim, and in this case that's being prepared. Being prepared for a SEO strategy means:

  • Having your business information ready
  • Knowing what success means to you (for SEO)
  • Knowing how to do the needed (basic) SEO things
  • Understanding keywords, how they relate to your specific website and what to do with them (also having those keywords)
  • Know where put all that information and …
  • Having an action plan ready

Your basic information:

Before you start anything you need to know about yourself. This may sound silly, though hear me out first. You'll of course need the basics such as business name, contact info and address. But that's not enough. You may be surprised by this, but when I ask most of my clients (before we start working with them) what their tag-line is or even a short value proposition they are unable to tell me. Some people rattle off a bit about the company history or about themselves, though that's not what's needed here.

We're here to create a powerful brand that works well online, right? For this we need consistency and very relevant information for readers, customers and clients. What do I mean by relevant information and value proposition? Well something like this is NOT good “We are a 50 year old company take makes widgets.” That's not good because no one cares. Sounds harsh but it's true. Everything we present to the reader has to be from their point of view, use the mindset of “What's in it for me” from a prospects point of view. Also, the information that you have ‘out there' online has to consistent; thus writing it all down makes sure that it will.

The basic information that you'll need to gather:

  • (Business) name, phone, contact email, website address, store address
  • Logo (or banner) image file
  • Business owners
  • Detailed tag-line, catch-phrase or value proposition
  • Short tag-line, catch-phrase or value proposition (which is a modified short version of the detailed one)
  • Interesting, relevant and useful description

About your value-proposition statement:

Many people misunderstand (and downplay) the importance of a value proposition. This isn't some hippy happy-go-lucky thing, it's the reason people want to go to your store instead of the competition. Does it have to be a perfect phrase or statement? No. The point is to have something to will work well enough to get you going and be relevant.

You will need two versions of this: a long version and a short version. Both are needed because not every place online accepts long texts and descriptions, and others have text length minimums (to get some actual use out of it). So instead of trying to thing up something on the spot, you have both ready for when you need it.

For example, you only have 160 characters for your Twitter description so there we'll need to use the short value proposition statement as opposed to on a Facebook page where we have lots of space!

Since we're focusing on local SEO, your value proposition statement should include you local service area(s). Don't try to fit something like 50 cities into it though, two or three is good. If you have more than that try using either your main city or two or the general location (i.e. Chicago Northern Suburbs).

Create your long statement first, because it's easier and better to shorten a long piece rather than add stuff (and fluff) to a short one.

Value proposition statement vs description:

There is a difference between a value proposition statement and a description, and it's important to know that you should have both. A value proposition statement is all about ‘them' and what they get out of doing business with you and the description can (and should) be about you, the business, product info and stuff like that.

Another way to think about it is the value proposition is the why and the description is the what.

More than just basic information:

Depending on how far you plan to follow the rabbit hole, you can have a lot or just a little extra information. The extra information is good to keep handy just in case if there is a need for it, and if you're planning it out a lot you can add tracking for your marketing strategy into here, for example a local phone number specific to the Facebook page or to certain types of ads.

Some extra data you might want to keep on hand includes:

  • Various logo sizes
  • Other phone numbers
  • Links to Contact page, Store Location(s) or Store Locator page, and landing sales pages
  • List of (and links to) all major social profiles plus usernames and passwords
  • List of (and links to) all major local business directory services plus usernames and passwords
  • Cover/banner header images
  • Directions
  • Parking information
  • List of your best sellers, possibly related to the current season
  • Seasonal based logos and header images

Where all this Local SEO information will go:

The two general places are: on-site and off-site. On-site means directly on (or in) your website. Off-site means everything else (Facebook, Yelp, Google). If you want to have a good foundation you need to have your website in good SEO shape and have the basic online profiles pointing to your site. Before we get into how to setup your site, you should create accounts on all the best local seo places.

Here's a list to start creating accounts on that will help you have good local seo:

And there is also and of course your own website.

What success means to you:

Success isn't the same for everyone. For some, it might be good enough to be listed on the search engines. For others it's important to be on the first page, and other the first spot. It's important to know this because it will determine how many resources you want to throw at your SEO campaign.

If your goal is to simply be listed on local searches and that's good enough, that's pretty easy to do. Though if your goal is to have the number one spot locally for your keyword then you'll have to dedicate a lot of resources (time and money) to it.

This doesn't have to be a measurable goal (yet) so it really is good enough to just say “I want to get listed on Google” or whatever makes sense to you. For example, for my personal site and corporate site success means improving in the rankings bit by bit (and thus of course to be listed on search engines).

Write this down and keep it handy.

A word of caution, if you do want to rank well locally then ask yourself if you can devote the time, money and energy to do so because it can be a long and tough process.

SEO goals and you:

Goals are results we can measure and try to attain. Just like with the success statement, it's ok if your goal is to “just get listed online.” SEO isn't for everyone.

Don't set goals what rank you're going to be though. Your rankings will fluctuate up, down and all around on any given day and if someone comes along with more time, money and resources they'll beat you at SEO. So, your goals should either be tied to a marketing campaign or general site performance. Don't measure yourself against others, makes your own measurements based on your success statement.

Getting your website ready:

If you aren't using a CMS such as WordPress, you should be. CMS's make work like easier, so it's a really good idea to use them even if they might seem like overkill for a small website. If you're not using some content management system and are using a plain ol' HTML website, then there is nothing for you to do yet (other than gather the information above).

If you're using WordPress install one (and certainly NOT both) of the following SEO plugins:

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • All In One SEO Pack

It's also a good idea to integrate Google Analytics and Webmaster tools into your website, irrespective of which system you use.

If you use Drupal install these (and more):

  • SEO Checklist
  • Page Title
  • XML Sitemap
  • Footermap

If you use Joomla install:

  • SH404SEF

If you're using a monthly subscription system like Shopify, or even a page builder like Wix then you'll have to dig through their tools and documentation to see where and how you can set SEO options. For that you'll have to read their documentation or contact support.

You are now prepared for your Local SEO campaign.

Now that you have all your information ready, it's time to get cracking and ‘do' SEO work. We'll start with the most important off-site options first.

If you have an idea or trick to add to this preparation step drop me a comment below!