13 Pragmatic SEO Tips for Local Businesses

It’s safe to say there is no shortage of SEO tips to be found online. You’ve probably already browsed some blogs and watched a few Youtube videos. But how much of this advice has felt relevant to your local business?

Sure, receiving a backlink from a national newspaper will improve your off-page SEO, but what are the chances of that actually happening?

And, of course, publishing long and informative weekly blog posts is going to improve your topical authority, but when are you going to find the time (or budget) to do that? 

Here at Advance Online, we’ve managed the SEO of hundreds of local businesses. We know what works on a practical, everyday basis. In this article, we share 13 tried-and-tested techniques that will boost the SEO of any small or local business.

7 On-page SEO Tips for Local Businesses

On-page SEO encompasses SEO activities that take place on the website itself. It  is one of the key SEO building blocks. Below, we’ve detailed seven ways to improve the on-page SEO of your website.

1. Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Keyword selection is fundamental to your SEO.

Target a keyword with a large search volume but with stiff competition, and it will be difficult to rank highly enough to receive satisfactory traffic.

Target a keyword with little competition but no search volume, and the traffic might be disappointing again.

At its simplest, keyword selection is about balancing the SEO difficulty and the search volume to find the SEO ‘sweet spot’, where it won’t be too hard to rank and the virtual footfall is still good enough.

Keywords for local businesses typically consist of two things: the service or product and the area. This means you’ve got two levers to adjust the overall difficulty and search volume.

You can target broader, highly-searched, competitive services or products, such as ‘builder’, or narrower, less-searched, less competitive service keywords, such as ‘side-return extension’.

You can target large, competitive catchment areas, such as ‘Surrey’, or smaller catchment areas, such as ‘Guildford’.

Tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest or ahrefs can help you understand SEO difficulty and volume of your potential keywords. 

2. Implement Your Keyword Targeting Correctly

Combining all your service keywords and areas gives you your full list of target keywords (for example, five services/products and five areas = 25 keywords).

Now, you need to determine how you will target these keywords on your website. It’s no use stuffing them all onto a single page, and spreading them out too thinly is impractical and expensive.

 For a typical local business, we recommend the following:

  • On the home page, target the service or product that best describes your business alongside your most important catchment areas (preferably a maximum of two). As a general rule, this should be the most competitive, most general service or product keywords combined with the broadest area, e.g. ‘builder in surrey’
  • Target more niche service/product keywords on subsequent ‘service’ pages with the same areas targeted on the home page, e.g. ‘home extensions in surrey’, ‘loft conversions in surrey’. Target one service/product keyword per page
  • Target the rest of your areas on individual area pages or with local content silos. These pages target all the service/product keywords for these areas, such as ‘builder in guildford’, ‘home extensions in guildford’, ‘loft conversions in guildford’, etc.
  • Use separate, non-targeted pages for more general information, for example, a ‘Contact’ page

keyword targeting example

This approach can be adapted depending on the number of service or product keywords, the specificity of your service offering and the number and competitiveness of your areas.

3. Create Bespoke Local Content

Area pages are a great way to target the many locations in which your business operates, but they come with a catch.

Having multiple area pages can lead to similar or duplicate content across your website. With some exceptions, Google doesn’t tend to favour duplicate content. The pages will rank poorly or Google will refuse to index them at all.

For an area page to shine, it needs bespoke, local content beyond simply changing the name of the town. The information the pages contain should help customers in that area specifically. 

For builders, that might mean talking about the types of houses in the area, or for tree surgeons, a pressing local issue regarding trees. Adding local case studies and imagery is also a great way to improve the SEO of an area page.

4. Write Catchy, Targeted Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

The title tag is one of the most powerful SEO ranking factors. 

As such, you need to include the target keywords within the title tag. It’s also important to keep the title tag within the character limits (maximum about 70), otherwise it will be truncated in the search results.

meta data example

It’s also worth remembering that the title tag is often the first thing a customer encounters regarding your business. While simple, descriptive title tags are advisable for SEO, they also need to catch the eye.

Using modifiers is a great way to make your title tag appealing. Think about your unique selling point. Is it ‘Rapid response’? ‘Low cost’? ‘Luxury’? Include these words in your title tag.

keyword modifiers examples

Top tip: One challenge for local businesses is that the keywords are often long –  because they include both the service and the area. This issue can greatly limit the amount of characters you have to be ‘eye-catching’ (good luck to businesses targeting Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch…)


To combat this, we advise removing the company name from title tags of the service pages to free up room. You still need to include the company name in the homepage title tag, as it’s important for the SEO of your company name.

Finally, the meta-descriptions (the approximately 160 characters below the hyperlink in the search results) are a fantastic opportunity to include keywords and further sell your services. Think of it as an elevator pitch. Don’t waste it.

4. Start a Blog

Okay, we promised not to tell you to write a weekly blog, but hear us out.

We understand that you’ve got customers to serve, jobs to complete, a hundred emails and calls to respond to. SEO is important, but it’s not your primary focus. You haven’t got time to sit down and write a blog every day, or you can’t justify the budget to commission one. 

This is why we advise writing or commissioning a multi-purpose blog

What we mean by this is that each blog post serves an additional purpose beyond SEO.

Need to learn about a new building regulation? Take that extra moment at the end of your research to type up your findings. There will be lots of people performing the exact same search as you.

Find you’re getting similar questions over and over from customers? Save time by creating a post you can direct them to for information.

blog examples

Of course, a truly effective blog, in SEO and content marketing terms, requires keyword research, data analysis and expert copywriting. If you have the time or the budget, it’s an incredibly powerful way to enhance your topical authority and website’s SEO.

5. Use Unique Images and Add Localised Alt Tags

Stock images tend to fall flat with users and with Google. The media on your website should be unique and authentic.

It might seem obvious, but the first step is to take plenty of photographs and videos when you’re out on the job. You might think a blocked drain isn’t all that appealing, but to a user suffering a similar plight, it can be almost reassuring. And what’s more, Google will like it too.

unique image example

When you post the images on the website, it’s important to include ‘alt tags’. These text descriptions lie behind the image and don’t appear on the page (unless the image fails to load), but Google uses them to understand what the image is of. Alt tags also improve accessibility as they are used by screen readers.

Writing concise, accurate and localised descriptions (e.g. ‘drain blocked by fat build up in aylesbury’) informs Google of the image’s content and helps bolster the page’s SEO.

6. Get the Technical SEO in Order

It’s safe to say, if you don’t get your technical SEO right, the rest is unlikely to succeed. 

Technical SEO mainly revolves around the technical user experience (e.g. loading speed rather than content) and the ease with which Google can crawl and index your website.

Technical SEO can be daunting to the uninitiated, so we’ve listed a few simple checks below:

    • Ensure the page loads quickly. The faster a page loads, the better. You can check your loading speed at https://pagespeed.web.dev/. If your speed is low (for example, under a score of 65, which roughly translates to a load speed of over 2 seconds), you should try reducing image file size, install a plugin or consult a web designer
    • Ensure the page is mobile friendly. Consult the Mobile Usability tab on Google Search Console or use the Mobile Friendliness Checking Tool. If it flags issues, your developer may need to make changes
    • Upload html sitemap to Google Search Console. The sitemap helps Google navigate the content of your website. Upload the sitemap to Google Search Console by copying and pasting the URL into the relevant box. The URL is typically something like www.your-website.co.uk/page-sitemap.xml
    • Check Google has indexed your pages: You can check whether Google has indexed your pages on Google Search Console. If it hasn’t, try re-submitting the pages or installing an indexing plugin. If it’s still not working, you may need to check for issues like duplicate or poor content on the page
    • Create a robots.txt: The robots.txt file tells Google which pages to crawl and which to leave alone. It might be that you want Google to crawl and index all your pages, but it’s still good practice to have a robots.txt file

If that seems a little opaque, you can always consult a technical SEO specialist to assist you. 

5 Off-page SEO Tips for Local Businesses

Off-page SEO refers to SEO activities that occur externally to a website.

Google uses your presence across the internet to determine the ‘authority’ of your website. In simple terms, the ‘domain authority’ is decided by how many other websites link to yours and the quality of these websites.

Off-page SEO is one of the most difficult aspects of SEO to get right, especially for a local businesses with limited time and resources.

Below, we’ve listed five pragmatic ways for a small or local business to improve its off-page SEO.

1. Optimise Your Google Business Profile

Google Business appears prominently in search results and is often the first thing users see, particularly for lucrative ‘near me’ searches.

What’s more, its ranking criteria are highly localised, using the exact location of your business rather than the areas targeted on your pages.

In short, it’s essential for SEO for local businesses.

Optimising your Google Business profile will help it rise up the Google Business rankings. An optimised Google Business profile will have:

  • Up-to-date, accurate and consistent contact information, including opening hours
  • An informative description containing the relevant keywords
  • An extensive services list with descriptions
  • High-resolution photos
  • Regular posts
  • Lots of positive reviews, and your responses to the reviews

Optimised Google Business Profile

The importance of positive reviews cannot be understated, but we understand they are difficult to obtain. There’s nothing worse than making a customer feel ‘on the spot’ by asking them for a positive write up in person.

One simple tactic to improve Google review uptake is to give customers a business card with a QR code that links to the Google review. It makes them more likely to complete a review in their own time.

Needless to say, your Google Business profile should be verified and searchable, while you should react to any suspensions as quickly as possible.

2. Don’t Just Stop at Google Business

review site alternatives

With Google Business accounting for 73% of all online reviews, it’s clearly top of the pile when it comes to business appraisals. However, that also means there’s still significant review interaction to be found on other websites. 

Make sure you have a presence on the following: 

Did you know that only 9% of people would consider using a business with a 1 or 2-star rating? And that 29% of customers will read reviews even when they’re standing right outside the premises? Reviews are the lifeblood of small businesses.

3. Build Your Local Citations

A local citation is the mention of your company name, address or other contact details on a website other than your own. They are a critical factor in SEO as they help build your domain authority.

Creating local citations simply involves entering the information into all the relevant business directories. You can build citations however you like: do it yourself, pay someone else or use a citation aggregator, like Uberall.

Consistency of contact details and business name is essential. Google doesn’t like conflicting information, and neither do customers. 

There’s no single, comprehensive list of citations as it is dependent on your local area and the industry in which you operate, though examples of the major players include YelpThomson Local and Hotfrog.

Adding citations in batches is a good idea. Citations should also be as comprehensively filled out as possible. That means uploading opening hours, photos, logos – the works. 

Citations should be kept up to date too. If you change your details, make sure that’s reflected accurately across the web.

4. Follow a Link-building Strategy

That dreaded term: link-building. Of all the SEO activities, it’s often the most difficult to see the returns for your effort. After all, you could spend hours, days or weeks trying to encourage websites to link to yours with nothing to show for it.

However, there are certain backlinking methods we recommend for local businesses looking to increase their online footprint. These include:

  • Citation building. Good news, you’ve already built some excellent links through your citation building.
  • Quotes on local newspaper websites. It might not be The New York Times, but a link from the Guildford Express will still boost your SEO. Keep an eye out for local journalists making requests. Perhaps they want an expert comment from a personal trainer or roofer. Follow them on social media and respond when they reach out.
  • Links from (local) trade associations. Similar to citations, but a stronger, more specific offering, especially if membership is controlled.
  • Guest blogs. Got an idea for a blog post? Write it and submit it to relevant guest blog websites, who will post it and link back to yours. Sometimes, they charge an administration fee. Local bloggers are a great source of relevant, accessible backlinks too.

The higher the domain authority of the linking website, the better. You can check the domain authority with tools like ahrefs. The relevance of the linking website is also important here. A local or industry site with a relatively low domain authority can still have a sizeable, positive impact on your local SEO.  

directories, blogs and media website backlnks

5. Participate in Your Local Community

There are many reasons to participate in your local community; it might surprise you that SEO is one of them.

That’s not to say Google will directly reward you for making a generous donation to a local charity, but it will index the post you’ve written about it on your website, complete with local keywords, and it will index the inbound link the charity has included on their own site.

Don’t stop with charities. Consider sponsoring local events and sports teams too.

Bonus SEO Tip for Local Businesses: Don’t Stop SEO-ing!

seo tip for local businesses: don't stop seoing

We promised a baker’s dozen of tips, so here’s one more to round off the batch. 

You’ve made and optimised your website. You’ve developed a backlink profile. You’ve reached the top of the front page for your chosen keywords. It’s time to give yourself a pat on the back, sit back and watch the leads roll in, right?

Certainly, the pat on the back is well-deserved, but just because you’re at the top now doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there.

For a start, Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm in order to improve user experience. These changes are publicly announced, typically a few times a year. Particularly large or influential updates are called ‘core updates’.

An update may take aim at a variety of factors. Perhaps Google wants to better reward useful content or downgrade spammy backlinks. Whatever it is, it could impact your rankings, up or down. It pays to be vigilant and make adjustments as and when necessary.

You may also find your search competition has recently upped their game or there’s a new entrant to the local market. If someone has knocked you off your perch, you’ll need to figure out why, and react.

Other matters that need regularly checking are errors shown by Google Search Console, such as new mobile usability issues or broken external links if other websites remove pages you’ve previously linked to.

Finally, as mentioned, Google is constantly trying to improve user-experience and prefers websites aligned with its goals. An active website making frequent, useful updates and acting on emerging SEO and content opportunities will always curry favour with search engines.

SEO Tips for Local Businesses: Final Thoughts

By employing our 13 pragmatic, targeted tips, you can improve rankings, increase traffic and generate high-quality leads.

We’ve provided a whole lot more information on our Digital Marketing Help & Advice pages, so if you would like to learn more about SEO for Local Businesses, make sure to check them out.

Do you still have questions or would you like to comment on our article? Then please don’t hesitate to get in touch on the phone or via our contact page. We would love to hear from you.

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