8-Step Local SEO Checklist to Boost Your Search Rankings

Search engines rank webpages for local search queries based on relevance, location, and popularity. 

Imagine that a local librarian (search engine) receives a request (query) for a book on producing honey in Iowa. They’ll recommend (rank) the few books with a title or description that somewhat fits the request (relevant keywords). They’ll likely speak highly of books that have been mentioned by other honey producers before (popularity), and draw attention to books that are specific to Iowa (distance). That’s how local search works.

The foundation of most search algorithms is to evaluate for:

  • How closely your webpage or business profile matches the search query.
  • Your location and how close you are to the searcher or a location specified in the search term.
  • How well people know your business physically and how much information search engines have about your local business online.

We compiled a list of tactics you can use to send signals that say ‘we match your criteria best’ to search engines. These tactics are based on: 

  • Recent research: SEO tool companies like Moz and BrightLocal research local businesses ranking for thousands of keywords to dig up Local SEO trends.
  • Inputs from local SEO experts: We captured strategies based on the current ranking trends observed by local SEOs and

Statements from Google: The most prominent search engine, they never disclose precisely how they rank pages – but they drop hints on interviews and official documents.

1. Include Longtail Local Keywords in your Website Copy and Content

There are three reasons we advocate for longtail keywords in content and copy:

  1. Longtail keywords help you easily rank on search engines like Google since fewer brands compete for them.
  2. Location-specific longtail keywords boost your page rankings for organic local search and put your business in front of searchers in your service area.
  3. Your targets are more likely to convert since they know exactly what they want and search with precise queries.

Since many home service companies try to rank for seed keywords, long-tail keywords are often less competitive. Not to mention that they’re easier to win buyers from. 

A search for “AC repair” has 40,500 monthly searches from the United States with 68% keyword difficulty, for example. You need about 71 backlinks to compete and rank for this keyword.

Lokal - screenshot showing 'AC repair’ keyword you could optimize for local SEO

A longtail keyword like “Los Angeles AC repair,” on the other hand, has a smaller monthly search volume, about 140 queries. But, these queries often come from people who need AC repair services in Los Angeles

So, if you’re a Los Angeles-based HVAC business, people from this search are better-qualified leads since they are more likely to convert. 

And because fewer companies compete for it  (difficulty is 23%), it’s easier to rank for the keyword with quality search-optimized content and no backlinks.

Lokal - screenshot showing Los Angeles AC repair’ keyword you could optimize for local SEO

You can also target people who need emergency or 24/7 services with variations of these keywords. 

For example, “24/7 air conditioning repair near me” is a specific query your ‘air condition service’ page can easily target and rank for. And you don’t need any backlinks to rank for it. 

Lokal - screenshot showing ‘24/7 air conditioning repair near me’ keyword you could optimize for local SEO

Takeaway: Rather than chase search volume, target keywords that put your business in front of prospects in your service area.

1: Build a Database of longtail keywords

Use Google Search Console to find keyword ideas

Identify keywords with high impressions and click-through rates. These keywords drive the highest traffic to your website. Create similar content or content targeting these keywords and their variations on your service pages and blog. 

To find these keywords: 

  • Open your Google Search Console account
  • Click on Performance. This shows you the clicks and impressions
  • Scroll and select Queries
Lokal - screenshot showing 'Google Search Console Queries’ for keywords to improve local search
  • Note the keywords with the highest impressions and click-through rates
Lokal - screenshot showing 'Google Search Console Impressions and CTRs’ for keywords to improve local search
  • Exempt branded keywords – keywords that have your business name in them. The aim is to find efficient keywords and topics for your content strategy.
  • List these keywords and repeat this exercise intermittently (every month, for example)

Tip: If some longtail keywords have high impressions and low CTR, you can optimize the relevant pages with these keywords so that they will rank and searchers can notice you.

Use other keyword research tools like Semrush

  • Use a keyword research tool like Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to type a seed keyword. For example, ‘Air Condition repair.’
  • Look at the Keyword variations below and choose relevant longtail keywords with some search volume.
Lokal - screenshot showing how to choose longtail keywords to improve local search
  • Choose longtail keywords below KD 40 from the broad match tab.
  • You can also repeat this search in the Keyword Overview tab, copy the longtail keyword variations to the bulk analysis tab and choose those with a keyword difficulty of 40 and below.
Lokal - screenshot showing how to choose longtail keywords to improve local search

Modify service keywords

Another idea is to modify the service keyword with words like

  • your location(s), 
  • near me, 
  • emergency, 
  • 24/7 ‘Below is the overview for ‘emergency air condition repair’ WIth a keyword difficulty of 21%. It’s possible to rank for this keyword with quality content focused on the search intent.
Lokal - screenshot showing emergency air condition repair’ keyword variations to improve local search

You can test variations like

  • Emergency + service + near me
  • Emergency + service + location
  • Service + location
  • Location+ Service

2: Group the keywords according to the services you offer

Compile the keywords you listed from Google Search Console and SEMrush (or any other SEO tool). For example, this is a SEMrush Keyword Magic tool research for ‘Duct Cleaning’ service

Lokal - screenshot showing ‘duct cleaning’ keyword variations to improve local search
  • Make a list of your services and group these keywords under each service. This gives you an idea of the keywords to target on each service page and informational assets like blog posts.

3: Naturally include the longtail keywords in relevant service pages, resources, and blog posts.

Write the keyword in a grammatically correct way. You don’t have to use them exactly as they are. Google is advanced enough to identify a slightly modified phrase. 

For example, Don’t write ‘AC repair Los Angeles’. Instead, write ‘AC repair in Los Angeles.’ Carini Home also does this well on their AC maintenance service page. Notice the longtail keywords underlined below.

Lokal - screenshot showing how to use Headings in service page copy to improve local search

2. Add secondary categories to your Google Business Profile

HVAC contractors that use additional categories have higher local search ranking and visibility for relevant keywords. 

Secondary GBP categories broaden the range of keywords your business profile ranks for. They work well with users’ search queries and help you rank in the local pack and local organic search results for specific local queries. They ranked among the top 10 local pack ranking factors in a recent Local SEO expert survey.

Lokal - screenshot showing WhiteSparle’s top 10 ranking factors for local pack

Imagine you’re an Illinois-based HVAC company with a GBP primary category set as ’HVAC Contractor’ and your secondary categories are

  • Air duct cleaning service
  • Heating Contractor
  • Furnace repair store
  • Air conditioning repair service

It’s more likely for your business to rank for a search query like “duct cleaning service Illinois.” 

Add this secondary category to provide helpful and specific results as searchers may not write the primary category, ‘HVAC contractor’ in this case.

Choose the home service category that best decribes your business as your primary category.

Choose the category that describes your business’ main service. For example Select HVAC as your primary business category if you major in Air Conditioning repair.

Lokal - screenshot showing GBP primary business category that you could optimize for local SEO

Research possible additional categories

To find categories to add:

Add GMB Everywhere’s extension to your browser to quickly check for categories your competitors use.

Lokal - screenshot showing GMB everywhere extension at work for local SEO

Click on basic audit to see the additional categories of the businesses in the local pack.

Lokal - screenshot showing GBP secondary business category that you could use for local SEO

Click Category Finder to find additional categories to add to your profile. It also displays the keywords’ or category’s average monthly search volume in a dark orange box.

Based on this research, we see that additional categories for Air duct cleaning service can include: 

  • HVAC contractor
  • Furnace repair service
  • Air compressor repair service
  • Air filter supplier
  • Air conditioning contractor 
  • Heating contractor
  • Air conditioning repair service 

Once you have a list of categories, only include relevant secondary categories to your GBP profile. Don’t add categories for services you don’t offer. It’s misleading and can bring negative reviews from disappointed prospects. 

Add four secondary categories that describe specific solutions.

Visit Google Business Profile and click on Manage now

Lokal - screenshot showing GBP homepage to manage profile for local SEO

Click Edit Profile

screenshot showing GBP Edit your profile icon to update GBP account and rank on Google Maps

Click the dialog box under Business Category

Lokal - screenshot showing business category you could optimize for local SEO

and choose Add Category

Lokal - screenshot showing the steps to add an extra business category for local SEO

Type the category you wish to add in the dialog box and choose an extra category from the pop-up list. Repeat this step.

Click Save

Lokal - screenshot showing additional HVAC business categories you could optimize for local SEO

You’ll see your primary and secondary categories

Lokal - screenshot showing additional HVAC business categories you could optimize for local SEO

And though you can add up to 9 additional categories to your GBP profile, stick to four categories if possible. 

HVAC companies with four additional categories ranked the most (5.2 AMR) for generic keywords like:

  • HVAC contractors
  • HVAC repair
  • HVAC system
  • HVAC installation
  • Air Conditioning repair
  • Air Conditioning unit
  • HVAC supply
  • HVAC company
  • HVAC mechanical contractor
Lokal - screenshot showing local Search ranking research for HVAC companies
brightlocal

NB: Measured on a scale of 1-10,  Average Map Ranking is a Bright Local metric used to measure the average search ranking of local companies within a defined location for specific keywords with the Local Search Grid.

TIP: Adjust your categories to suit the weather. For example, if you offer heating services, ensure it is included in your secondary or primary categories in winter

3. Ensure the Name, Address, and Phone Number on local listings and your website are consistent

Accurate online mentions of your business information, like name, address, and phone number (NAP), is one of the top 6 Local SEO ranking factors for organic search results and the local pack (map pack). This is because search engines like Google rank your business for a relevant local search when they establish the proximity of your location to the searcher’s own or the search query. 

What happens when you have different NAP across several platforms in the local search ecosystem — a network of platforms, directories, websites, search engines, and apps that aggregate, distribute, and share vital business information? Search engines may be reluctant to rank your business if they can’t determine which location is accurate.

whitespark.ca/local-search-ecosystem/

When your NAP is accurately listed on a large platform in the local search ecosytem (like Data Axel), it flows to many other websites. This increases your brand awareness, visibility, and chances that prospects will find you. The drawback is that if you fail to update when anything changes, an inaccurate listing can easily spread among other platforms. 

For example, this home service company’s location is wrong on almost nine directories. They can lose leads as customers may drive to the wrong place and write negative reviews.

Lokal - screenshot showing citation audit results for local SEO

Some common causes of inconsistent citations to watch out for are,

  • Minor errors by team members or third parties (news sites, sponsorship beneficiaries, or business partners) like missing or extra digits in your phone number, address misspellings, and outdated addresses 
  • Using different phone numbers on several directories to track attribution 
  • Changing business address or phone number without updating some platforms
  • Automatically created GBP profiles. This generates multiple GBP profiles with inconsistent NAP and doubts about your brand’s legitimacy.

Create business listings on relevant platforms

  • Visit data aggregators like Foursquare and Data Axle. Register with them to find and update your listing. They let you create a new listing if your business is not on their database.
  • Create citations on significant websites like Yelp, Google Business Profile, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local.
Lokal - screenshot showing Bing directory for local businesses to improve local SEO

Submit your business details to industry specific directories. If you’re in HVAC for example, you may submit to directories like:

(NB: The list is ordered from the highest to the least domain authority)

Lokal - screenshot showing Find AC Repair directory for local HVAC businesses to improve local SEO

Just run a Google search for “[industry] directories in [country/state/service area] to find relevant places to list.

  • Reach out to local bloggers and local news sites to get unstructured citations.
  • Choose industry and general directories relevant to your overall marketing strategy. 
  • Discuss the options with an online reputation management agency like Lokal.

Find your business citations online

Use Semrush’s listing management tool to find where your business is listed online. It covers 50 directories and shows business owners the challenges and strengths of their business listings. 

To do this, 

Lokal - screenshot showing Semrush’s listing management tool to improve local SEO

For example, a scan shows that this company has the wrong business name, wrong phone number, and missing address on some directories. It also displays opportunities your business can leverage.

Lokal - screenshot showing GBP primary business category that you could optimize for local SEO

Claim your listings:

Visit and claim your listings on websites that share your business information automatically, though you didn’t open them.

Lokal - screenshot showing Yahoo Local’s homepage - Claim your listing to improve service area ranking

Update incorrect or obsolete information:

Edit and correct inaccurate listings manually or with listing management tools like Semrush’s listing management tool or Moz Local

Lokal - screenshot showing Moz Local homepage to update your listing for local search.

Delete duplicate listings:

Merge or delete duplicate listings to avoid having variations of your NAP

If you don’t have the time or expertise to manage your citations, you can hire a home service SEO agency like us.

Backlinks (external links to your website) from local sources are like votes of confidence that your site’s information is credible and important to searchers. For example, Today’s Homeowner.com with 78 Domain Rating (DR) and over one million backlinks links to Atlantic Heat, An HVAC brand’s website with 16 DR. This contributes to Atlantic Heat’s page domain authority and ranking.

Lokal - screenshot showing a www.atlantic-heat.com’s backlink profile - backlink building for local search

The number of referring links to your GBP landing page from different locally and topically relevant URLs boost your site’s authority and local search ranking, too

Create accounts with both general and niche-based directories and review sites

Create citations on these 10 top free US business directories:

Top free US business directoriesDomain Ranking
1Google Business Profile100
2Apple Maps100
3LinkedIn Company Directory99
4Facebook90
5Yahoo! Local/793
6Yelp93
7Bing93
8Foursquare92
9Better Business Bureau91
10Map Quest89

Get listed on your Local Chamber of Commerce:

Your local Chamber of Commerce will publish your website link on their news articles, blog posts, or directory. These become locally relevant backlinks. Visit the US Chamber of Commerce directory to find your local Chamber of Commerce.

Lokal - screenshot showing the Chamber of Commerce homepage, which you can register with build backlinks

Find outreach opportunities with email finders like Hunter.io and Respona

Use Hunter.io and Respona toFind the best outreach contacts. Hunter reveals all the emails associated with a domain and verifies them. Pitch sites with high domain authority, like Today’s Homeowner and ACHR, to link back to you.

Lokal - screenshot showing hunter.io’s homepage for local backlink building and SEO campaigns.
  • Book podcast sessions with local podcast platforms.
  • Pitch your story or ideas to local news agencies.
  • Pitch authors of the top ten home service brands in (your location) to include you.
  • Find unlinked mentions of your brand and ask them to link back to you.
  • Customize outreach templates.

Respond to expert contribution requests on Connectively

Contribute to news articles to get backlinks and mentions on news websites. Meet reporters writing on home services through Connectively (formerly HARO).

Lokal - screenshot showing a HARO’s homepage for local search outreach campaigns

Connect with people in your service area

Participate in and host local events like football contests and tradeshow. Your brand will likely receive links from the local club’s or tradeshow’s websites. 

Give donations and sponsorships, and build partnerships. It is easier to ask for backlinks from people you have built relationships with.

Lokal - screenshot showing local sponsorship example, which you can do to build backlinks and rank higher on Google Maps

Do No-follow links (links that tell search bots not to pass page authority to other pages) count?  Formerly, Google didn’t count no-follow, UGC (User-generated Content), or sponsored links to rank pages. But Since March 2020, Google has treated them as “hints to which links to consider and exclude in search.”There’s limited information how other search engines treat no-follow links. But it doesn’t hurt to get them when you can.

rel=”noopener noferrer nofollow”>Command Comfort

If you have any questions about implementing these strategies contact our team

5. Build Regular Positive Reviews on Google Business Profile and Other HVAC and General Review Sites

A steady flow of quality positive reviews, high ratings, and responses to customer feedback demonstrates your brand’s prominence to Google.A recent local SEO ranking study of over 5,000 keywords revealed a correlation between the number of reviews brands have and their ranking for the first key positions on Google Maps.

Lokal - screenshot showing how the number of reviews influence ranking in organic search

Ideally, reviews are online conversations by consumers or people who have interacted with your brand. Most review sites allow owner responses so you can thoughtfully join the discussion to respond to positive reviewers and negative feedback. 

You can influence the narrative to build a strong reputation with ratings and reviews that boost your local rankings in the local pack and organic search results. 

A search for the “best HVAC service in Dallas” on a laptop pops up review sites – Angi (with a list of local companies) and Forbes. A strong profile on review platforms like Yelp, Google Business Profile, Home Advisor, and Better Business Bureau lets you leverage their domain authority to rank for highly competitive keywords.

Also, create your business profile on home service review sites like HomeOwner’s Circle and Air Conditioning Professionals

These sites share links to your website, providing quality backlinks for your business. 

List your company here to show up in front of local searchers who’ll likely walk through your door or call in minutes. 

Create your business profiles

Create business profiles on Apple Maps, Google, Yelp, Bing, and TrustPilot, among others. You can run a citation audit with tools like Semrush’s listing management tool to discover, claim, and track existing business listings on review sites.

Update your profile details with recent and accurate business information and track the reviews.

Your profile on review sites should be up-to-date and active. Assign team members to follow and respond to reviews on different platforms.

Lokal - screenshot showing a HVAC brands on Yelp - local SEO checklist

Promptly respond to negative reviews

Recent research shows that more than half of your customers expect your response in two days or less. So respond as soon as you can. Be polite and offer to help aggrieved customers. Report fake reviews to have them removed.

Lokal - screenshot showing a negative Yelp review which brands can respond to as part of your local SEO strategy

Encourage as many customers as possible to leave reviews.

Encourage customers to leave reviews that describe

  • Their problem
  • Their experience with your technicians
  • The result of the service with images, if possible
  • The technician’s name

At times, Google features snippets of reviews in the search results, which can help searchers trust you more.

Find out the policy of each platform to avoid penalties.

Lokal - screenshot showing Yelp No-review request policy - local SEO strategy

6. Include Local Keywords in Title tags, H1s, Headings, and (H2-H6).

Search engines see pages with keyword-optimized title tags and headings as relevant to search queries. Local search experts also agree that keywords in titles and headings are important ranking factors for organic search.

Optimized Meta Tags

For example, if you offer furnace repair services in Los Angeles, your website’s furnace repair service page’s title tag (HTML element that shows search engines the webpage’s title) should reflect this. It shows web crawlers that the page’s content is relevant to a related query and increases your chance of ranking for that keyword.

Heading tags like H1s and H2s-H6s help to up the page and show readers and search crawlers more about sections of the page. Include keywords like your services and location in headings so crawlers can understand the relevance of your pages or page sections and rank them for suitable search prompts.

Lokal - screenshot showing headings of a Quick Fix Air Repair’s copy which they optimized for local search

Title tags

Title tags should be short. Aim for about 50-60 characters so the full title shows in the SERPs. Notice the second and third title tags in the example below weren’t displayed fully.

Make each Title tag distinct. They should reflect the unique page’s purpose and keyword. For example, don’t use a generic title tag like home service vertical |quickfixairrepair for all service pages

For service pages, you can write

  • AC repair Dallas, TX quickfixairrepair
  • AC installation Dallas, TX quickfixairrepair
  • Furnace repair Dallas, TX quickfixairrepair

Don’t cram too many keywords into one title. Focus on only one keyword per page. This is why each service or location should have its page.

Here’s a free tool by Moz that shows you a snippet of how your title tag will likely appear on the results page.

H1s

  • H1s should suit the readers’ search intent, and its wording should be similar to the page’s title tag
  • Write only one H1 per page.
Lokal - screenshot showing H1, which you can optimize to rank on Google Maps

H2-H6s

H2s should be brief and descriptive of the content in that section. They should include relevant keywords.

Break up your copy with headings.

Lokal - screenshot showing H2, which you can optimize to rank on Google Maps

7. Create Location-Specific Landing Pages.

A unique location landing page helps your local pack ranking (if you have a physical store there) — it’s a top five organic local search ranking factor

It helps search engines show your brand for +near me and +city/county+service keywords. 

People use qualifiers like that to search for services you offer in their location. 

For example, someone may search for “HVAC contractor in Dallas, TX” or for “(your brand name)+Dallas”. If you have a Dallas location, for example, your Dallas location page would rank for those Dallas queries.

Lokal - screenshot showing search-optimized multi-location HVAC business
Image Source

Note: If you only have one service area, you should design your home page as your location-specific landing page.

Create unique pages with location-specific information

Create a page with distinct location-specific content for each service area. At least 40%-70% of each page’s content should be unique. To set each page apart, include:

  • Address of that branch
  • Phone number of the branch
  • Reviews from that location
  • Staff bios and portfolios
  • Unique offers
  • A list of the services offered there
  • Community engagements like local sponsorship and events you hosted
  • Local partners
  • Other relevant information
  • Mention the location and keyword variants in the pages’ content, title, meta title, and headings. For example, the air condition service page’s H1 could be ‘Air Conditioning repair service Minnesota.’
  • Look at the title tag of the first result descriptions of the results in the example below Meta description. They all mention their location.
Lokal - screenshot showing meta description for HVAC local SEO strategy
  • Create a drop-down list of locations on the navigation panel. Link the location pages to all pages on your site to avoid orphaned pages.
  • Use location finder if your home service business business with many locations.
Lokal - screenshot showing service areas navigation drop-down list for HVAC local SEO strategy

Create separate location pages for each service you offer

  • Create a page for each service per location if you have multiple locations. It allows you to target one main keyword and share more information with longtail keywords. 
  • If you offer five services in five areas, you’ll create 25 pages. This helps you increase the page’s relevance and easily rank for  (service)+(location) keywords.
Lokal - screenshot showing service area location pages for HVAC local SEO
  • For service pages, It makes sense to write a decent amount of content on service pages as it gives you more room to use relevant keywords. Write 1500-2000 words and include answers to commonly searched questions.
  • Track the locations you get traffic from with GA4. Create landing pages for locations you cover, that you get a lot of traffic from.

8. Add Local Schema Markup to your site to appear in Rich Results

Search engines use schema markup or code snippets to understand and classify your website’s content. This helps them easily find relevant data about your business and rank your pages for the correct search intent.  

So structured data lets search engines easily display essential business information among results such as star ratings, number of reviews, knowledge panels, offers, and more. 

Schema.org shares the complete list of schema types this gives you more opportunities to rank apart from traditional blue link results.

Lokal - screenshot showing schema for local business SEO strategy

Local business schema markup reveals essential details about your business, like the name, phone number, address, hours, and reviews. 

When users search for your brand, Google can display these in a knowledge panel or a local pack. 

Though Google supports 35 markups, only use markups relevant to your home service business. Other relevant markups include offers, products, and service schema markups.

For example. you can mark up important site navigation pages you want customers to visit like E.Smith Heating and Air did.

schema in local search results

Visit Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper Tool

Lokal - screenshot showing how to mark up schema for local search

Begin Page Markup

Select the sections of the page and mark them up.

Lokal - screenshot showing how to mark up schema for local search

Generate HTML

  • Click Generate HTML to see the code.
Lokal - screenshot showing how to mark up schema for local search

Add mark-up to your page

You can do this yourself if you have some technical knowledge or ask an expert.

Test your Structured Data in the Rich Results Test tool

Test your Structured Data in the Rich Results Test tool to see which Google Rich Results you can generate on your page or the schema markup validator.

Lokal - screenshot showing how to test schema for local search

Tips

  • Use JSON-LD
  • Only use relevant structured data. Don’t Include schema irrelevant to your business, as it incurs penalties.
  • Google Search Console will deliver performance reports of your rich results and inform you of challenges and how to fix them.

Choose a ranking strategy for your home service business

To take advantage of the local SEO checklist do the following,

Assess your home service business. What keywords are you ranking for? Do local customers easily find you online? Are your competitors ranking higher than you for local search queries that matter to your business?

Choose an area to begin with.  Don’t take on all the steps listed in this checklist at once. Which one of the steps can you implement soon? Which areas are most pressing?  Work with your team members to gradually make changes.

Tweak your strategy and don’t give up. As you work to boost your local search performance, track your progress. Are you getting more calls from customers who found you online? Are your ratings and reviews regular and positive? If not, what can you learn from them?

Gradually include other areas into your strategy. Be patient as it takes time for the results of your search optimization efforts to show. A solid online presence comes from many little steps of team members who did not give up. Ready to go all in? Get a higher spot on the search engine results page and get discovered by paying customers with Lokal’s help. We build user-friendly search-optimized websites that attract your ideal customers and increase your revenue.

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