A study showed that 78% of “local” Google searches resulted in offline purchases .
In other words, if you own a local business, capturing Google searches = more customers .
In this post, I’m going to break down the exact “local SEO” tactics we used to help Dr Smood increase local keyword rankings and organic traffic by over 320% in just 9 months’ time.
NOTE: Dr Smood is fiercely protective of the information published online — they did not want to publish content on their website. All new organic traffic came from “bottom of funnel” keywords (i.e. “coffee shops near me”).
Find out exactly how many customers you SHOULD be getting from organic search.
Finding keywords is straightforward – there’s already plenty of info on the web about this.
The challenge is trying to identify localized keywords when:
For Dr Smood, we had to tackle both .
Not only does Dr Smood have 9 locations, but its model is a hybrid – it is a coffee shop, juice bar and organic cafe.
Each of these keywords (i.e. “location + coffee shop”) trigger a different set of results in Google.
This tells us that Google sees each keyword as completely different. It’s challenging to rank the same page for multiple terms that Google sees as unrelated.
But each of these keywords was vital to Dr Smood’s growth. The goal was to maximize organic foot print by ranking for all of them.
We had to come up with a strategy that would allow Dr Mood to rank for multiple keywords in multiple cities . We decided to go this route:
Before working with us, the website was relying on the homepage to target all keywords, across all locations.
If you want to rank a website for multiple locations, you need dedicated landing pages targeting each local market.
We decided to set up “cafe” pages that would target the broad, high search volume keywords (i.e. “location” + cafe). For example:
Click to view full location page
Ranking these pages for high volume keywords allowed us to dictate the band messaging, conversation and discovery process for potential customers.
I wrote an article on Moz a few years ago that talked about not “forcing” your website into places it doesn’t belong.
Google is looking heavily at “searcher intent” and matching result types based on that.
For example, if you’re looking for “coffee shops in Miami”, Google will tell you the “types” of content it wants to rank (based on user experience signals).
My point is, sometimes your website isn’t the best result type . Instead of forcing your site into a SERP it doesn’t belong on, you can leverage the properties Google wants to rank for these keywords to your advantage.
In Dr Smood’s case, our research turned up a few properties that ranked well across the board (for our target keywords):
To summarize our plan of attack:
As mentioned, we created “cafe” pages for each physical location using a subfolder architecture.
I love building pages from scratch because it lets us dictate both the UX and SEO aspects of the page.
Note: the design of the website has since changed – a few elements were removed.
We focused our efforts on a few key areas:
When people are searching for “cafes”, they are generally on the go, in the moment. These pages had to render fast and clean on mobile devices.
Set up a standard naming convention:
Location Main Keyword – Secondary Keywords – Brand
Wynwood Organic Cafe – Juice, Food & Coffee Shop – Dr Smood
We then used citation page titles to capture other keyword searches.
Dr Smood – Wynwood Juice Bar (since changed)
Google My Business:
Dr Smood – Wynwood Coffee Shop (since changed)
We want to associate our website with a verified GMB location.
A great way to do so is building a section for the Google Maps embed into your landing page’s design.
In order to get review stars to pull through in the SERPs, there needs to be reviews hardcoded into your page.
We developed each location-based landing page to pull through Google My Business reviews.
The result was a HUGE boost in SERP CTR.
Adding images to store landing pages helps improve the overall user experience. Personally, I love to hang out, have meetings and work out of cafes. As a potential customer, I want to see what the inside of cafe looks like before visiting.
On top of that, it gives you an SEO boost from people using Google Images.
Make sure to name all images with proper titles and ALT text.
It’s important to add store info to each location page – it’s one of the main things a potential customer looks for on a page.
Search engines crawl from page to page through links – these links help to build an association and “equity” between linked pages.
We like to add external links to create an association between online properties.
This helps clean up your branded search, specifically if you have multiple locations.
Pages with unique text rank better in Google. We like to add 250 – 400 words of hyper specific information about each location.
Structured Data (some call it Schema or microdata) helps search engines understand your page’s content.
In Google’s Intro to Structured Data, they note:
You can help Google Search understand the meaning of a page by including structured data in your code. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.
To implement the proper local SEO schema, we did the following:
You don’t need to be a technical savant to write this – you can use free online tools to write it for you.
Google Tag Manager is by far the easiest and cleanest way to add the markups to your page.
If you aren’t using GTM, I have a quick intro training on our YouTube Channel .
Adding the markup is easy. This is how you do it:
1. Create a new tag in your GTM Workspace
2. Tag type = Custom HTML
3. Add the output from the Schema generator
It’s that simple.
You can use schema to tell Google your page is tied to a physical location. We added this markup to each of the “cafe” pages we setup.
Read more about Local Business Structured Data
AggregateRating markups allow for review stars to pull through to the SERPs – this can be a huge CTR boost for your site.
In order for this markup to show up in the SERPs, you will need reviews on the page. This generally requires you to modify your page’s template to allow for them (please review we have done this on our tools pages ).
Read more about Review Structured Data
“Maps pack” rankings are tied to your Google My Business listing, not [necessarily] your website.
Since the Maps Pack dominates clicks , it’s important we pay special attention to optimizing our listings.
You cannot rank in the local pack without being verified by Google.
Google keeps expanding this section for what you can add.
Obviously, make sure your hours and contact information are correct. More importantly, if you have multiple locations, make sure to deep link to the location specific landing page on your site.
Again, cross property association is key.
As mentioned above, we like to use Google My Business to target the main keyword.
You’re able to edit the title of your page to include keywords. You have to be careful not to spam your title, or your’ll get dinged by Google.
Keyword + Brand
Wynwood Coffee Shop Dr Smood
Brand – Keyword
Dr Smood – Wynwood Coffee Shop
It’s subtle, but it works.
Reviews are a huge ranking factor within local search – they can be challenging to get.
We used 2 methods:
To unlock the wifi (in stores) we implemented a prompt to leave a review (or follow their Instagram account).
We setup an email campaign to customers asking them to rate their satisfaction with their experience on a scale of 1 to 10. Anyone who responded with a 10, we set an automated follow up asking for a review.
The video below walks you through how to optimize GMB listings to rank in multiple local markets.
A “local citation” is an online mention of the name, address and phone number (AKA “NAP”) for your business. Essentially, it’s the online version of a phone book.
These citations help with local SEO because they show Google you’re a legitimate business that wants to be found .
We have a 3 step process to manage citations:
We want to make sure our website’s NAP is properly optimized across the web. If you’ve moved physical locations or changed phone numbers, you should audit + cleanup incorrect information.
We look at citations in 2 buckets:
When it comes to cleaning up citations for SEO purposes, we outsource using these businesses:
Citations for customer purposes we clean up internally. Not only do potential customers actively search these sites, but we can also rank them in organic search for valuable keywords (mentioned above).
These pages are too important to outsource – we use a Google Sheets file to organize each page / location.
For the customer-focused citations, we optimize them for “on page” SEO, just like you would for a website’s page.
For example, we were targeting Dr Smood’s Yelp pages to rank for “juice” keywords.
Your primary Yelp “category” pulls through into the SERPs.
Make sure to select the category based on the keywords you want to rank for.
Other items to optimize:
After cleaning up existing ones, we want to look for new opportunities.
We want to focus on local, relevant websites – it’s best to find them manually. You can do this 2 ways:
If you’re on a budget, you can find quality local opportunities by using Google.
If you have a budget, Whitespark has a quality tool that does the legwork for you.
This generates a full list of citations your business should be on.
The final step is to take your list of sites and manually create a profile on each. This is a manual process, but I recommend offshoring it.
We wanted to use authority publications to achieve 2 goals:
Using these goals as a guide, we targeted 2 types of placements:
“Best of” articles
(to rank for “secondary” keywords)
“Best” keywords generally return “roundup” style posts on local authority sites – these articles present a perfect opportunity to gain additional organic exposure.
It’s a simple process to secure coverage in these articles:
My name is [YOUR NAME]. Our agency manages the marketing for [CLIENT].
We’ve got a new menu that we think would be a great fit for your column. We’d love to host you in our Wynwood location to sample the tasting menu.
If interested, please let me know a time that works for you.
New store announcements
(for links + exposure)
Again, nothing special here – just find the opportunities and send them a nice email.
Local news outlets are more than happy to cover new store launches.
People love taking pictures of food and sharing it on Instagram.
We saw an opportunity to bring local “influencers” into the stores and give them an experience worth sharing.
We built a list of relevant keywords and manually prospected Instagram to find each influencer.
This is a manual process, but it’s required to find the right influencers. Outreach is a numbers game, you have to find a lot of opportunities to get results (we found over 2,000 and about 100 agreed to our offer).
We recorded each influencer in a Google Sheets file for the client to approve.
Each influencer received a personal email and invitation to a “tasting event” at a store location of their choice.
We saw a tremendous results from the campaign :
There’s no official correlation between social media and SEO rankings.
However, SEO aside, your business needs a presence on social media.
Facebook (and Instagram) ads present a massive opportunity for local businesses to generate both awareness and foot traffic.
These ad offerings allow us to market to people who have visited your website and are in walking distance to one of your locations.
Instead of explaining it all here, I am just going to give you the pitch deck we put together for them.
In a nutshell, we tried to use Facebook and Instagram ads like mobile TV commercials. You were ONLY served an ad if:
We mixed things up with different ad types (Instagram stories, Canvas) and focused mainly on video.
The results were incredible. While Facebook tracks store visits from seen ads , the tech isn’t great.
Is this your first time here?
How did you hear about us?
We saw a consistent increase in first time customers citing Facebook videos as the discovery channel.
On top of that, we saw a steady increase in branded search during the heavy advertising periods.
I am a huge believer in branded search as a ranking factor – read more about that here .
Damn, I love reading your blogs, Ryan. Are you going to keep publishing (here or guest posts) since selling your agency?
I’ll definitely be using this as a new local seo checklist for at least a handful for our clients.
I’m really looking forward to watching your growth buddy, keep pounding the payment.
I really appreciate you sharing this case study, I learned a few more brilliant tricks from this post!
Side note: Absolutely loved “secure the bag”! Great read..
Thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.
Ryan, what an EXCELLENT case studies. So many amazing, actionable takeaways. Thank you for always raising the bar and providing GREAT content.
What do you mean when you say “maximize organic foot print”
I hear the phrase foot print thrown around a lot in the industry. What exactly is a foot print
Great article Ryan, as always :). Is there something wrong with my twitter account that I can’t open Google sheet template? When trying to share I’m getting this message: “error connecting to twitter! try again later!”.
Great stuff Ryan! Follow up question.. What would you use on JSON-LD Schema Generator for Dance Studio / Dance School? I couldn’t really find a category that fits under local business. Thanks!!
This is amazingly detailed and well written. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Your article is well laid out and has many important steps to success, but we run a service area business and there are different limitations for SABs that affect us differently. Do you have an article that deals with the issues we face in the SEO and local search (battle)field? SABs can’t, for instance, create a GMB page for each city we service because we don’t have a physical location there, etc. Would love to hear your thoughts!
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