Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

SEO Checklist for Local Small Business Websites


  1. Marshall Stevenson says:

    Rae this post is great. I’ve got a few clients that are small and want to do SEO, but just can’t afford it/me. I’ll be sending this through to them so that it can help in the education process of some do’s and don’ts…like the @yourisp.net emails and that homestead url on the trailer is priceless. I think that people just don’t understand how affordable these things are and just what a level of professionalism it adds to the business.

    I’m happy to see that you’re posting more regularly and that the content, as usual, is of high quality. Looking forward to the next nugget.

  2. Melissa Smith says:

    This is great information that helps keep the power in the business owner’s hands. When you are creating an online presence for your business, you should never feel as though you are being held hostage by your designer / developer / SEO company, so having a basic understanding of what you need (and what you don’t!) is critically important.

    Also glad to see you posting more often :)

  3. Jeff Wolf AAG Insurance says:

    Great post. Really informative. Great starting point for pursuing strong SEO

  4. Josh @ Pure Web Results says:

    In a situation similar to Marshall. The immediate area sees a lot of small businesses come and go really quickly, as they don’t get the proper exposure to be able to survive. Seems lots of people don’t even know they exist until after they’re already gone.

    So we try to offer some basic website, SEO and Google Places services to those types of businesses in the area to help give them a chance. However, some of these businesses have such low ROI it makes it difficult for them to afford it and still be worth the effort on our part. Though that kind of bad business planning is probably which will lead them to fail, but that’s another topic and out of our control.

    So I’d still like to offer them something, even if they cannot afford or aren’t interested now. Because down the road as having a web presence becomes increasingly necessary and they want to expand, they’ll know where to go. In the mean time, will direct them here and hope all goes well for them.

    Glad to see you writing more as well, your posts are always lush with detail and from a clear perspective, without the fluff.

  5. JW from Smart Start Websites says:

    This is healthy dose of what we all hope will become common sense. I recommended the old version many times and will gladly pass people along to this version as well. As a freelance developer who focuses exclusively on these types of businesses, I’d recommend a couple additional steps/tips.

    You mentioned it above, but it’s so important to get the ownership issues right. Domain name, Hosting account, Google accounts, Directory accounts … all should be registered in the business’s name. I constantly run into small businesses that have let their local “computer guy” or an employee (guaranteed to be a former employee when the mistake is discovered) register the domain name and other important accounts in their personal names. It’s so easy to get this right, and so expensive if you get it wrong.

    Develop a professional, web ready logo. This should be common sense, but in reality many small businesses didn’t need this in the old world. On the web a simple, distinct logo is critical. Make sure one portion of it fits into a square… so many directories and services allow uploading a logo or image, but it is often limited or displays best if it’s a square. If it’s a simple design, it will also translate well to a favicon which adds a nice professional touch to a website.

    I would also add Merchant Circle to the list of directories to sign up with… it’s a free one too. They have greatly improved the local networking process and are offering kind of hybrid local directory/social networking site. It has proven an effective resource for many of my clients.

    Thanks again for a great post, I look forward to more.

  6. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    Thanks for the input JW! I agree there is no harm in claiming your Merchant Circle profile… however, I don’t feel comfortable recommending them on the list above based on my past experiences with Merchant Circle. :)

  7. Lyena Solomon says:

    Very good playbook, Rae! One thing I would like to emphasize is that “full address” includes city and state. And “telephone number” has to have an area code. Local businesses have to think global now.
    As far as tools, I do like GetListed.org for the basic business listings. And to track reviews – Yext.com is a good tool.

  8. Some great advice there Rae.

    I think this post applies to website developers as well as business owners. I’ll be reading over this to use in my own workflow and putting it on my recommended reading list for clients too.

    Glad to see you are posting again. Keep up the good work.


  9. Very good, comprehensive post. I particularly like the idea about having a coupon page to offer a “special”.
    In fact I am going to make one now..Thanks

  10. Sunny @ Marketing Tools says:

    Wow – very detailed post and great for those who are trying to get a grip on the fundamentals. It seems that most small businesses dont even know what SEO is and usually end up getting ripped off. A little bit of research, and stumbling across posts like this, goes a long way to empowerment!

  11. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    @Lyena – actually, that was already in the post under what should appear on the homepage. :)

    Be sure to list this information in full, including street address, city, state and zip code. List the phone number with area code. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a site that does business in a locale I’m not from that lists their phone number without an area code – and since I’m not local, I have no idea what it might be.

  12. Kurt Scholle says:

    Nice post, Rae! (As always) I have a question and it actually came up with a colleague a couple of days ago. You recommend getting a dedicated IP address for your website. Why? Does it help SEO, and if so, how?


  13. Thank You Rae! Great info as always.

    Outbound Links, thanks for stressing that. On each of my sites I have created a page that lists nothing but resource links and it out ranks the pages in many cases that are the actual resource.
    It’s a very valuable tidbit that most people don’t take advantage of because they are scared to give juice to the inbound side. I believe Google views a resource directory more valuable than the resource sometimes.

  14. Pure Performance says:

    Awesome post. Very high-level where a business owner that is not super web savvy can understand. Thanks!

  15. Alex Aguilar says:

    This is an excellent primer for anyone looking to establish a business presence online. I’m going to bookmark this post and refer it to anyone who asks me for advice on setting up or optimizing their business site.

    There so much information out there on this topic it becomes overwhelming for the first timers – we need more concise and informative articles like this. Great job!

  16. PR Agencies says:

    Excellent post Rae – I wish I had seen it a few months ago as I was looking for a kind of checklist on SEO.

    I do have a question about DMOZ – some experts still put a lot of weight on their authority, and others say that is it something that is not a small part of SEO – as google/search engines have moved on. What do you think?

  17. Rae Hoffman-Dolan says:

    @PR Agencies – for me, Dmoz is “submit it and forget it” – if you can get a listing, great, it’s a nice link on an aged site that doesn’t link to everyone. If you can’t, no big – you can find ways to get the same kind of links – IF, in the case of a small local business – you even need them (local business SEO wise) after getting the rest of the above links. :)

  18. Great post Rae! I work with nonprofit and collaborative projects and your post hits the major points I’m constantly promoting to organizations.

    While geared toward mom & pop biz, I will definitely be pointing them to this article as an excellent resource!

  19. Great article! Very useful information that can be implemented straight away pretty much. You star!

  20. These are some great points Rae! I’ve already sent this post to several local businesses to use as a checklist. I especially like the advice on what to put on each individual page – it seems obvious to have your address and contact details on every page…but a lot of local businesses tend to leave this out!

  21. Great post .. i would always make sure any new business starting in SEO is carefully picking the keyword targets they are going for. Its always better to first think about hitting long tail keywords that potentially have a high conversion rate. This will allow for initial SEO spend to have a much better chance of turning a positive ROI.

  22. jey raul says:

    great post. Google citations is efficient technique that helps to improve local business. In recent times when working with local clients in US, citations really helped to improve rankings in google maps. Only problem with citations is its very monotonous and kind of long boring process until you got VA for it do those :) .

  23. Jean-Marie Moës says:


    Your checklist is nothing less than the roadmap I needed to let my customers understand what I mean when I tell them they should have some SEO work done for their Local Business Website.
    Guess I’ll need to translate it though and have the ‘local listings’ part adapted to the French market ;)

    Best regards
    – Jean-Marie

    PS : Do you believe an ancient photographs online merchant could also benefit from this checklist?

  24. Bill Bean says:

    One of the most helpful, succinct “plans” for small biz getting started (or rehabbing) with their online marketing. Only thing I would add is a few tips/recommendations with regards to social and the importance of reviews. I might be co-opting this material for some clients. Great work!

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