Hey guys,

There are a lot of posts and guides on how to do Local SEO out there, however, a good chunk of them are impractical, or they focus too much on the ‘quick hacks’ instead of the fundamentals.

Local SEO is all about the fundamentals (GMB optimization, keyword research, citations, etc). So, if you already know those well, you can skip reading this post entirely. You are probably not going to learn anything new from this.

Otherwise, read on to learn how I helped an interior design agency generate an extra $3M in yearly revenue, using only the exact fundamentals I’ll describe below.

Before starting, if you haven’t seen any of my previous posts before, here’s some backstory.

Backstory

I’ve been in SEO for over 6 years – not many years, not too few either. While my main focus is SaaS companies (B2B & B2C), I sometimes take up local SEO projects.

However, most of my experience has been in doing SaaS SEO. Here are some examples:

  • Taking an online resume builder from 1M to 7.7M in monthly organic traffic in 3 years
  • Growing an accounting software from 5K to 240K monthly organic traffic in 16 months
  • Growing a workflow software from 0 to 280k monthly organic in 2.5 years

Asides from that, some of my posts on SEO have been the top posts of all time in r/SEO, r/startups, etc…

Also, I’d be happy to provide screenshots of the above results to anyone that’s curious. However, I can’t link them here due to sub rules.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s jump into the nits and grits.

Key Info on the Client and Results

The client is a luxury interior design agency with offices in 3 different cities/states:

  1. Park City, UT
  2. Big Sky, MT
  3. Amenia, NY

When they reached out, they were ranked at the bottom of page 2. Obviously, they wanted to rank #1 for keywords such as interior designer, interior design firm, interior design park city, etc…

Their 2 biggest offices were the ones in Park City and Big Sky, so we focused on those from the get-go.

RESULTS

  • #1 rankings for “interior designer” and “interior design agency” in 3+ different locations, including Park City, Bozeman, Big Sky, and more
  • 250-270 qualified leads in 1 year
  • Increase of 3K+ monthly organic traffic
  • Generated an extra $3M in revenue spread over 1 year

And since they are a luxury interior design firm, a small number of additional leads per month meant several millions of extra revenue per year. This made SEO costs a lot more justifiable and ROI-positive.

Step-by-step Strategy

  • Step #1. Audit their website and perform technical optimization
  • Step #2. Create a keyword research plan
  • Step #3. Publish location landing pages with SEO copy
  • Step #4. Optimize their Google My Business listings
  • Step #5. Launch Google Ads to start driving leads before SEO efforts kick in
  • Step #6. Build NAP citations in local directories
  • Step #7. Build links to the homepage and location landing pages

We executed our full SEO strategy step-by-step in 16 months.

Step #1. Technical SEO Audit & Site Speed Optimization

Your website is the foundation of any SEO strategy. The first step is to do a technical SEO audit and optimize the speed of your website.

In the first month, you need to optimize your website from the technical side of SEO:

  • Make sure all web pages can be crawled and indexed – use Screaming Frog
  • Set up analytics and tracking – Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Facebook Pixel, etc
  • Verify that the robots.txt file doesn’t have a ‘noindex’ tag on landing pages – manually or through Screaming Frog
  • Ensure there are no pages that result in a 404 error – Screaming Frog
  • Optimize the URL structure and include keywords in the URL slug – you can extract the full list of URLs using Screaming Frog, and then dump it into a spreadsheet and start re-writing the URLs. Then make sure to do a 301 redirect whenever a URL is changed
  • Redirect duplicate content and inaccessible pages – 301 redirect
  • Make sure a sitemap is generated and submitted on GSC on a regular basis – WordPress plugins like Rankmath or Yoast will generate one for you automatically, you just need to submit the sitemap URL into GSC. Otherwise, you can use a free online tool to generate it.
  • Disavow toxic backlinks – this requires a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to analyze
  • Fix broken incoming and outgoing links – Semrush or Ahrefs will provide a list for you after the first crawl. Otherwise, you can sort through them using Screaming Frog too
  • Proper website architecture – The crawl depth of any page should be lower than 4 (i.e: any given page should be reached with no more than 3 clicks from the homepage). To fix this, you should improve your interlinking (check Step #6 of this guide to learn more).

Besides the technical SEO optimization, we worked directly with their developer in order to make the website load as fast as possible by:

  • Minifying JS scripts to optimize website load time
  • Losslessly compressing images on their website to load them faster
  • Resizing images to save space
  • Implementing lazy loading to further optimize page load time
  • Setting up a CDN for faster static asset loading
  • Working with the client’s developer to make the website mobile-friendly.

The main things you need to keep in mind when it comes to speed are:

  1. satisfy Google Core Web Vitals (read up on this – plenty of good resources – added a small explanation below)
  2. make sure your site is mobile friendly
  3. use Pagespeed Insights to satisfy point no.1 and to figure out possible improvements
  4. finally check the health of all your URLs through Google Search Console – under the Experience tab

In May 2020, Google rolled out its Core Web Vitals update, which in layman’s terms means starting next May (2021), the three most important website load speed metrics you will need to worry about for ranking will be:

  1. LCP – Largest Contentful Paint -> under 2.5s
  2. FID – First Input Delay -> under 100ms
  3. CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift -> under 0.1

Once your site loads super fast and it satisfies the above, you can move on to the next step.

Step #2. Keyword Research

Once you are done with technical SEO, you need to start doing keyword research.

There are many ways to do keyword research. However, when it comes to local SEO, it’s generally extremely straightforward. You don’t need to analyze your competitors. You don’t need to use any fancy tools like Ahrefs. All you really need is a spreadsheet, some common sense, and Google Keyword Planner.

Open a spreadsheet, and start typing keyword combinations of the main service you offer + [location]. For example:

  • park city interior design
  • interior design firm park city
  • salt lake city interior design
  • interior design salt lake city
  • big sky interior design
  • interior design firm big sky
  • yellowstone club interior design, etc.

You get the idea.

Next, go on Google Keyword Planner, and start feeding these keywords (10 at a time – that’s the maximum allowed).

Download the data that Google provides as a spreadsheet, and start copy and pasting the following data into your keyword research:

Keyword, search volume, PPC competition, low bid CPC, high big CPC, growth trend (%).

This is pretty much all the data you need.

You might be wondering, why do you need CPC data if you are doing SEO? Well, that’s because highly competitive keywords (the ones that people are willing to pay more for), should be of higher priority when it comes to SEO.

This way, you know exactly which are the highest converting keywords.

After you’ve done all the above, you can go through the list of suggested keywords by Google, to see if there are any keywords you might have missed.

P.S: If I could, I would have added a screenshot of the spreadsheet, but don’t think I am allowed to add links or images.

Step #3. Publishing Location-Based Landing Pages

To rank in the top 3 positions on SERPs in locations that our client operates in, we created a dedicated landing page for each location.Each of these pages is optimized for a different target keyword, such as “park city interior design”, “interior design big sky mt”, and so on.To make the process of creating these pages much faster, we created a general template page format that all these pages would follow, and then customized the copy for each page.This way, we managed to deliver 8 unique landing pages during our 3rd month of working on the project.

The pages looked something like this:

/locations/big-sky-interior-design

/locations/park-city-interior-design

/locations/bozeman-interior-design

etc… you get the idea.

Of course, we also made sure that each of these landing pages is SEO-optimized by:

  • Mentioning the target keyword w/ 0.5%+ keyword density.
  • Ensuring that all images have alt text with the right relevant keyword.
  • Mentioned different variations of the target keyword where possible (“interior designer,” “interior design firm,” etc.).
  • Included the target keyword in H1 and H2 headers.
  • Wrote a dedicated FAQ for each page.
  • Included a Google Maps snippet that links to the relevant office for that location.

For more details on how to optimize specific pages, you can check one of my other posts here on Reddit, where I published a local SEO checklist with tips. I can’t link it, but it should be somewhere on my profile.

Step #4. Optimizing GMB Listings

Google My Business (GMB) optimization is a key part of local SEO campaigns.

By optimizing your website according to SEO best practices, you only get to rank on the standard Google search results.

If you want to rank on Google Maps, though, you’ll have to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) profile too.

And honestly, as a local business, you want to focus on your GMB listing just as much as you focus on your website. Since Google Maps results appear on the SERPs as well (on top of the page – also known as the local snack pack).

So, once your website is properly optimized, you want to focus on your GMB listings for each location by:

  • Ensuring the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) details are correct and consistent with other NAP mentions (for ex. on their website)
  • Updating the working hours
  • Including a URL to the website – you have different locations, I’d suggest adding a link to each location page (the ones we created in step #3)
  • Adding (significantly) more portfolio pictures
  • Get a direct link from your GMB dashboard, that allows users to leave a review. If you are doing local SEO for a client, then send the link to the client and remind them to send the link to each satisfied customer so that they leave a 5-star review. If you are the owner of the business, then just keep this in mind every time. Initially, I’d even suggest offering new customers a small discount in exchange for a review.
  • No matter what, do not buy fake 5-star reviews from some random agency. They use the same accounts to review all their clients and this can easily get your account flagged and delisted from Google Maps. Some business is better than no business at all.
  • If you only have 1-2 reviews on your profile, don’t start building 10 reviews in a week. That will look extremely suspicious. Instead, build 2-3 reviews per week, and scale that up as you progress.
  • Start building local citations (more on this below in Step #6)

Step #5. Launch Google Ads for Immediate Results

I know, I know…. Don’t start hating on this step, please. I will explain.

Launching ads has nothing to do with SEO. However, the main downside of any local SEO initiative is that it can take up to 6 to 8 months to start seeing results (or even longer in competitive locations like NYC, for example.)

In order to start driving leads & revenue from month #1, you should start running Google Ads.

The only case in which I would suggest against it is if you are doing this for a law firm in a competitive/big city. Law firm ads can cost anywhere between $200-$800 for a single click in big cities.

Now, if you haven’t tried Google Ads before, here’s the catch:

Instead of waiting for months to rank organically, you instead pay Google to display your URL as a “Sponsored Ad” on top of the organic results instantly.

This, however, won’t be as cheap as SEO – you’ll need to pay for each click your website gets, and the prices can range from anything between $1 to $100, depending on your location.

Places like NYC, London, etc. are going to be significantly more expensive than, say, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Google Ads are also not as effective as organic SEO for getting a constant flow of targeted leads.

But they are good to start off with when launching an SEO campaign, because they can drive leads immediately.

Asides from that, running ads can boost your SEO efforts, since it can drive more branded searches, i.e: people searching directly for your brand – which in turn can drive up website engagement metrics.

Just think about it for a second. Imagine you are a carpet cleaning business in the Hamptons. You don’t rank anywhere, and very few people know about your business. So no one searches for your company’s name on Google.

After running ads for a couple of months, some people might navigate to your website and remember the name. A few weeks later, they directly search for your brand.

Suddenly, you have 100 people searching for your brand name every month. And that’s a really good signal for Google.

Mixed in with all the other SEO efforts you might have put in, Google might start realizing that you are a reputable business in the area. And by default, it will contribute to you ranking higher, faster.

Step #6. Building Local NAP Citations

A citation is any mention of your company on the internet that includes the following information:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website address (optional)

Building such citations in local directories is important for local businesses because they give search engines a stronger signal for ranking your business locally.

Additionally, listing your business in niche directories, such as interior design firm directories, in this case, reaffirms your area of operations to search engines.

Some popular citations directories we listed our client in were:

  • Yahoo Maps
  • Yellow Pages
  • Local.com
  • Elocal.com
  • Yelp.com

…and over 100+ others, including niche directories. We started building local citations in the 3rd month, after creating the landing pages and optimizing their GMB listings. Honestly though, if you can start from the second month, that’s even better.

For citations to improve the local SEO bottom line, you need a mixed approach of both well-known general business directories, and niche business directories (in this case interior design ones).

There are 2 ways to build local citations.

The first one is by doing a manual search. You go through thousands of sites and extract the relevant ones into a spreadsheet. Then, you manually submit your business to those directories.

The second way is by using a tool like Brightlocal. There are other tools in the market though, so just research them before settling on one. I believe they charge on average $2-3 per citation. This works well if you want to build them fast. However, they generally just list the most common directories. Their list of niche directories is kinda limited. If you want to find niche ones, in your area, you need to look for them manually.

The most important thing to keep in mind when building citations is that you need to have an extremely consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) + website link.

If you have any inconsistencies, you need to fix them, ASAP.

Step #7. Link-Building

Other than citations, link-building is another essential part of local SEO.

Link-building is the process of acquiring backlinks to your website, which basically means getting links from any other website to yours.

Just like citations, backlinks have a very significant impact on how your website ranks.

In order to build links to the interior design client’s website, we did the following:

  • Every month, we created a list of 100+ online bloggers who cover interior design topics.
  • We used Snov.io to send mass personalized emails to the bloggers, asking them for either a guest post or a link insertion.
  • We built relationships with dozens of bloggers over the course of the year, which netted us a total of 60+ backlinks.
  • The links that we built were pointed at the location landing pages that we explained in Step #3.
  • Some of the backlinks were pointed at the homepage, in order to increase the domain’s authority.
  • Also, it’s fine to pay for backlinks, just don’t purchase links from questionable websites. And don’t buy more than 1-2 links from the same website.

Bonus Step #8. General Advice

  1. Once in a while, stop doing things, and just analyze the data you have. Go through Google Search Console, and see which pages have been improving, and which haven’t. It’s easy to get side-tracked with following a process to the T when instead it’s the end goal that matters, RANKING.
  2. Don’t forget about basic SEO things such as tracking your CTR (Click-through-rate). You might be ranking, but you are not getting any clicks. Maybe you should fix your headline?
  3. Analyze your backlink profile every 3-6 months. Maybe some of the links you built have dropped off? Try to replace them.
  4. Before pouring money into SEO, think about whether it’s actually worth it. If you are spending $2000-$5000 every month on SEO for about 1-2 years in a very competitive area, but your revenue per lead is only $400, maybe SEO isn’t the right growth channel for you. If however, 1 extra client per month brings you an extra $20k in revenue, well, that’s a no-brainer. In other words, SEO is not for everyone – and it’s getting more and more expensive every year, as big players take over most rankings.
  5. Finally, I compiled a Local SEO checklist a year ago. All of this is still valid advice, and it’s a good accompanying resource for this post. Happy to send over the link to anyone that wants to take a look. Not sure I can link it here.

And, that’s a wrap. Damn, that turned out to be a 3k words guide, lol. If you have any questions or want me to clarify something, just type something below.

Cheers,

Malchik

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