Have this post read to you in a natural voice, so you can do other things:
What do Zombies have to do with Local SEO + Marketing? Lots of people promise they’re going to help you get more leads and be more visible locally, but instead, they eat the brains out of your marketing budget.
Cold calling spam companies lie to you, saying you have to sign up with them to fix your Google listing.
Linkedin Business zombies spam your inbox, wasting your time (and money if you sign up with them).
Home Advisor, Houzz, Angie’s List, and Yelp claw at your marketing budget, wasting 10’s of thousands of dollars. But you should be OWNING your marketing, not paying for them to market themselves.
This guide is going to show you how to avoid the zombies and create healthy + robust systems for local SEO & marketing with expert tips, tools, how-to videos, and even checklists to make it happen. Get ready to thrive in the new (albeit occasionally brutal) environment.
“Imagine being on the dusty trail after losing a close friend to the murderous zombies. You flip your sweaty hair out of your eyes and remember – he thought that buying into every cold call, a friend of a friend’s pitch, and Yelp or HomeAdvisor would save his business – but instead, they drained his bank account, and his business was mauled. You see a map carved into the side of a tree trunk. With eager anticipation, you look at it. It reads, “learn local SEO, own your marketing systems, and dominate your niche.”
What is Local SEO Marketing?
Local SEO marketing is about getting higher on Google & Google Maps, and showing up in the cities for the terms that people search when they spend money—being at the top of Google = big bucks if people are searching and looking to make a purchase.
Local SEO bleeds into the broader context of local marketing. If people see you on Google maps at the top of the regular Google listing or in Google verified local services /ads, as well as see your truck or see you exhibit at an event, the chances of them becoming a customer goes up! “Hey, I know these guys!”
Local SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So, although the majority of this guide is going to give you highly actionable tips on getting higher locally on search engines, there will be little ‘knowledge bombs’ along the way that help with other local marketing.
“Local marketing is defined as marketing strategies and tactics that target potential customers locally within a certain radius of a business — typically within 50 miles. Sometimes called neighborhood marketing or location-based marketing, it can consist of traditional offline marketing or online marketing that is geographically targeted. Frequently today, local marketing includes a combination of both strategies.” – SmallBizTrends
But first, don’t underestimate your enemy — study them. Understand why they’re hungry for your delicious organs
Don’t let these 6 Lead Generation Zombies Steal Your Marketing Budget
Home Advisor, Yelp, Houzz, etc.
Big agency bullshit that’s focused on warm & fuzzies, not results.
Email Spam SEO Companies.
Your neighbor’s cousin’s brother, who knows a little SEO.
Linkedin Spammer, who looks like they might be legit. Spend 2k to find out, & regret it.
“Your Google listing is broken” phone spammers.
Get Higher on Google Maps Checklist
You see the map to the promised land – 10 feet high and nailed on a telephone pole at a location that was popular before the catastrophe. Written above it in blood: GET HIGHER ON GOOGLE MAPS.
Google Maps is massive for getting traffic and leads when you’re a local service provider. Getting higher doesn’t have to be hard.
Step One: Make sure your Google My Business is 100% Filled out.
Step Two: Create 100+ listings on local directories. Make sure the name, address, and phone number, are consistent across the website, Google My Business, and those listings.
Step Three: Ensure that you have city names in your meta titles and descriptions as appropriate, have 500+ word landing pages for the city’s you serve.
Step Four: Create local content that helps people in your area, beyond just your sales pages.
Local SEO & Marketing Expert roundup
The cast of renegades surrounds you, ready for a rallying cry. You throw your hands into a circle, chanting louder and louder. LOCAL VISIBILITY! LOCAL VISIBILITY! LOCAL VISIBILITY!
What’s the most critical SYSTEM that people can implement to get better local SEO results?
Kyle Enfield, Perrill
“For multi-location businesses especially, building in schema markup into location pages is huge. There’s a massive amount of schema markup options available, especially if your pages have any sort of star ratings/reviews.
We’ve seen huge increases in both C.T.R. and keyword rankings for pages once the review snippet started being served in SERPs.”
Adam Steele – Loganix
“I’ve come to realize that a lot of what we thought was uber important in local search, isn’t. Things like citations, or the consistency thereof. Not to say you shouldn’t do any of these things, but I’d give them very little budget or thought, relative to things like link building. In the last years, your organic standing in many niches appears to be the most important of all ranking factors for spots in GMB. Thus, if I am planning where to put budget, the largest majority is going towards things like link building and improving on-site performance. Everything else is just a small piece of the pie. ”
Cody Warren – Hook Agency
“If you’re trying to rank on local search, be a local expert. If you’ve got a content strategy, a good chunk of that should focus on local topics. So talk about what’s going on in your niche locally. If you’re a roofer, talk about issues local people can be having with their roofs. In Minnesota, ice dams are a huge local issue. Writing about local issues that are softer can be beneficial, too – like restaurants or other local businesses that are invested in your community. For example, you could have lists of top gutter companies, and top solar companies in your area, which also serves the purpose of getting the attention of referral partners, and supporting your local marketing more broadly than just from an SEO perspective.”
John Vuong – Local SEO Search, Inc.
“Get to know your local clients (data mine) and the ideal persona. This allows you to cater content to them and drive more of your ideal customers to your business. Build strong relationships with your audience via personalization and genuinely caring about your clients, not just on a business level but on a personal level as well. And focus on community and tribe building to attract more of those ideal customers and by adding value with multi touchpoints for engagement. ”
Brendon Hufford – Directive
“1. Once you have the basics down (meaning this,) the best system that I’ve been able to put into place is to create exceptional content that gets picked up by other people.Tactically, this means two things:1. Be the authority for “stats” and “trends” in your industry. Create those pages, and internal link them across your entire site. Ranking well for these will build your authority links from publications that you simply can’t get from cold outreach alone. 2. Create “not boring” content. My buddy Ross Simmonds gave me the idea for a local window washer to create an article around how long it would take to clean all the windows on the Death Star. I couldn’t find a number for that, but I did find a Star Trek forum where they went through blueprints for 4 months to figure out how many windows the Enterprise had. I moved on from my position at that agency before we executed on it, but it’s still an incredible idea. Local restaurant? Talk about how long it would take to make some of the meals in Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Local realtor? Write up the Top 10 most expensive homes ever sold in your community.
Nobody wants to link to your services pages. Give them something to talk about and have F.U.N. with it.
And if you’re just getting started in a competitive industry? Write for guest posts sites that are already ranking well (like Upcity or Clutch) and leverage parasite SEO to get into the rankings right away.”
3 Tools Experts Suggest for Local SEO / Local Marketing
Rand Fishkin – Sparktoro “One of the best ways to earn local rankings is to get mentioned, talked-about, and linked-to to locally-relevant web publications. SparkToro is surprisingly good at this 🙂 You can describe your target audience, search, and get hundreds of sources — websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and social accounts — that reach that group. You can get specific by looking for words or phrases that appear in the bios/profiles of the audience you want to reach or go broad by searching for words/phrases they might talk about online. One trick I like for local in particular is using geography as the keyword in the profile, e.g.
If I’m targeting publications that reach people in Seattle, there’s no faster way to get a comprehensive list. And by applying filters or trying different searches based on the audience I’m going after, I can quickly build a list of outreach targets for my message, for guest posts, for pitches to be on a podcast or YouTube channels, for ad sponsorship, whatever your marketing tactics might be.”
John Locke – Lockdown Design
“BrightLocal has been one of my favorite SEO tools for years. For one, using the Citation Builder makes adding NAP citations pain-free. You can import directly from Google My Business, so it saves time while keeping the information consistent. The Local rankings reports let you track where your clients are ranking for certain keywords vs. competitors. There are also some useful free tools. If you have clients from outside your local area, you can use the Local Search Results Checker to see the results for any keyword in either Google search or Google Maps. If you have mostly local SEO clients, this is a useful tool.”
Brendon Hufford – Directive
“Hands down, the best SEO ‘tool’ that I’ve used is the Loganix Citation Audit. More than any sort of expensive monitoring tool, their audit and ability to execute based on it (or allow you to do it if you want to do it yourself, is exceptional. There’s a reason that all the top agencies trust Adam Steele and Loganix when it comes to local search results.”
Beyond Marketing – Making sure the entire experience is consistent
Cori Graft – Seer
“I think the most important system any business can implement to achieve strong results in Local is consistency. Most people will probably assume I’m speaking about N.A.P. consistency; data consistency is part of it, but to see continued business success from any Local Search campaign, businesses need to maintain consistency in everything from their listings to their on-site local pages to their in-store experiences. Today’s consumers have high expectations, and if there’s a breakdown in customer experience anywhere in that funnel (search to site to store), they’ll notice, and they won’t choose you. You might earn the ranking in the pack, but if you can’t earn their business, what’s the point?
I recently had an experience with a big-box retailer that left me extremely frustrated and unlikely to shop there again. I searched for a product, clicked on an organic result, and saw it was available for in-store pickup nearby, which was a pleasant surprise given all the COVID-related closures. I placed my order and waited for my confirmation email, then searched for the store on Google Maps, clicked directions, and drove there — only to find that their on-site inventory system was inaccurate and they didn’t have my item in stock. By the SEO metrics, this business was “winning” – they nailed the organic result, took me to a localized experience on the site, and got me to “convert” through G.M.B.’s driving directions. But I left annoyed and empty-handed, so they lost the revenue and my future business :)”
“Google Verification Phone Spam” Exposed Documentary
A dusty, empty grocery store. You’re running in for a raid. But something seems off – 10 (clean!?) cans glare at you from the front row, seemingly out of place. A scammer lays in wait for you to run in haphazardly.
Some marketing companies have stooped so low as to spam people’s phones. Small businesses with limited amounts of time and money for marketing get the bad end of the stick in this deal.
We recorded a couple of phone calls with one of these spammers, and unfortunately, these kinds of companies are still doing it to this day.
What to watch out for with Local Marketing Scams:
- They seem to say things that don’t line up with a reality you’re seeing.
- They say things you can’t verify by a quick Google search.
- Look at the company’s Glassdoor reviews and look for evidence of scamming/dishonesty.
20 Other Local Marketing Methods – find the right combination
When I was just starting out, I walked around Uptown Minneapolis with flyers I designed; I traded services for a spot in a local magazine, I asked on my personal Facebook “Who needs a website?” I did free work for local non-profit organizations. Be SCRAPPY. Be creative, and don’t just take expert advice, think critically. Local marketing is more of a combination lock than a key lock or a door you can brute force open.
- Posts on Google My Business.
- Truck Wraps.
- Yard Signs.
- Event Marketing – attending festivals, contents, seasonal events, creating events, and sponsoring events.
- Referral Systems (calendar reminders to yourself, documented 10% agreements with ‘competitors,’ rewarding adjacent providers, BNI and similar)
- Facebook + Instagram – regular posting + talking head videos (are you their local expert?), tagging referral partners.
- Don’t underestimate asking for business on your personal social pages.
- Testimonial Videos
- A Brand Video, storytelling 1-2 minutes
- REVIEWS on Facebook and Google My Business
- Linkedin – being the local expert and engaging people.
- Linkedin – reaching out to ideal prospects and providing value.
- A big-ass sign on the front of your building
- Radio spots
- Cold calling
- Letter campaign or direct mail
- Speaking at organizations and events.
- P.R. / Doing something newsworthy / connecting with local media production teams and personalities.
- Utilizing Influencers
- Flyers, business cards, spread it to the people that would be your customers. Where do they hang out, who owns their attention?
(Influencers + Events + Social Media + Referral Systems = Magic?)
5 Crazy Local SEO + Marketing Statistics
The opportunity in this barren local wasteland is high. The risk = is equal to the reward. You trudge onward, a golden skull affixed to the front of your low-rider matte black Harley.
Did you know that local searches are super ‘high intent’ – meaning many of the local SEO tactics you can employ have a much higher average R.O.I. than one’s that aren’t local. Because when people are looking locally, they are looking to buy “nearby” “near me” and “now!”
- 88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the company within 24 hours. (Source: Nectafy)
- “Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over two years. (Source: Chat Meter)
- 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. (Source: SEO Expert)
- 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. (Source: GoGulf)
- 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else. (Source: SEO Tribunal)
Deeper Methods / best methods (1-2-3 Video Tutorials)
You’ve aged what feels like 10 years in the last 3 months. Danger has a sharpening effect on your instincts. You feel more alive than you ever have, the invigorating effects not unlike war set in. Watch these three videos and implement the tips they contain to turn into a true apocalyptic (local SEO) warrior.
Local Schema Markup video from Cole Storley from Lead SEO Specialist at Hook Agency
‘The Absolute Ideal Set-Up for Google My Business’ from Cody Warren, Sr. SEO Specialist at Hook Agency
SEO For Google Maps: 6 Extreme Advanced Techniques
How do you handle SEO for multiple locations?
With your crew of renegades – you set up multiple outposts and find ways to attract refugees to increase your numbers.
Are multiple locations scary to you? I don’t think they need to be. It may seem advanced, but in my experience – it’s as simple as rolling out another location page, optimizing it, creating a G.M.B. listing, and getting reviews.
Here’s a step by step guide to handling SEO for multiple locations:
- Create separate pages on your website for each location
- Use a logical URL structure like /locations/minnesota
- Make sure the meta title, URL, and meta description are keyword rich for the appropriate highest volume keywords.
- Create a Google My Business Profile for Each Location – yes, every location!
- Build Local Business Listings for Each Location – Remember those N.A.P. listings? Time to roll out 100+ for each of these locations.
- Get Reviews for Each Location – perhaps the hardest part, but you have to do what you have to do.
Wrapping up – to rock local marketing NOW
Though you will never return to the comfort of pre-apocalyptic wasteland, your homestead is secure, and your people are safe. Scammers can’t penetrate, and your crops grow in healthy acres. Stay vigilant.
Social media… Attending events… Local influencers…
What about all three? Make an event, invite local influencers, and have them promote it on social media?
Make a contest – ask them to blog about it and raise money for a good cause?
Think outside the box – a marketing agency can only do so much, and you have the connections to make something more significant.
Don’t limit yourself to what’s scalable.
Just make sure you do the basics too. Local landing pages, local directories, and reviews are the first step to greatness, then layer on everything in this guide. Build epic content, promote it, and repeat.