Running a local brick and mortar business is hard. You have to deal with everything an office/work-from-home business has to deal with, and you also have to deal with everything that comes with running a business with a physical presence. It’s like having double the work.
Take SEO for example, not only do you have to do the “regular” SEO, you have a related subset of SEO tactics and strategy specifically for a local business.
The reason is because no two search results are the same. In addition to constantly testing and improving what appears in the search engine results pages (or SERPs), search engines like Google also personalize the results of a search query for each specific user, based on their recent search history, demographic profile, and of course location.
Take a look at the above screenshot. I created a demonstration search for “newborn photographers near me.” Since Google knows that I am in Chicago, they have personalized my results, showing photographers nearby.
Google knows that this is a local business search, so it includes a rich data card with a map, and a list of local businesses. It will include additional metadata about each business; ratings and review count, address, hours, contact phone number, a link to the website and directions.
These results are incredibly important for the success of local businesses. In fact, when I was optimizing Local SEO for the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Fiat/Chrysler), I determined that over 53% of automotive dealerships’ leads came from their Google Maps listing. For context, that is dramatically more leads than came from AdWords call ads, which we frequently spent over $30k/month on.

“Over 53% of automotive dealerships’ leads come from their Google Maps listing”

Fortunately, Local SEO is also not very complicated to optimize for, however it does take a bit of diligence and initial elbow grease. A well organized marketer can easily create long-lasting results that will outperform their ad spend by multiples.
In this guide, I will outline some of the specific and tactical steps a brick and mortar business can do to improve their results. This is the type of guide that local SEO agencies want to keep you from seeing.

What are Online Directories? What are Local Citations?

In “regular” SEO (which local businesses still need to do), a marketer will focus on two primary tactics:

  • On-Site SEO: Often referred to as content marketing [1], this is the process of creating exceptional content that provides value for customers and helps to answer whatever questions they are asking the Google search bar. Content marketing should aim to solve the problem that your product or service solves, only through content instead. On-site SEO acts like your resume and demonstrates your credibility as a subject matter expert.
  • Off-Site SEO: If on-site SEO is your resume, then off-site SEO are your letters of recommendation. Off-site SEO is the process of earning legitimate backlinks that point to your website and original content. Different websites have different values of “SEO juice.” For example, a single link from to your website carries more weight than tens or perhaps hundreds of links from smaller sites. In fact, too many similar links from lesser known sites can actually hurt your results in the SERPs.

[1] This is a gross generalization. On-site SEO involves much more than just producing content, and also includes things like making sure your pages can and are indexed by the search engines, optimizing meta tags, making sure there are no errors, your site works on both desktop and mobile experiences and has lightning fast page speed.
The primary differentiator between Local SEO and regular SEO is the inclusion of online directories. These are websites like Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare and others that have taken over the service that your yellow pages used to provide.
A good way to think about the bulk of the work you can do to optimize your Local SEO is a specific subset of Off-Site SEO that is focused on optimizing your listings in these online directories.
A directory, sometimes called a “citation,” is a collection or list of businesses. They are the internet’s business listings, like the Yellow Pages if you are old enough to have used a phone book. Some directories are general, like Google My Business (Google Maps), or, but others are more specific. A good example of this is, which has a list of wedding vendors, like caterers, videographers, photographers, florists, planners, venues, etc…
The process of doing Local SEO is relatively straightforward. Find as many credible directories as you can and make sure you are listed in as many as possible, and that your information is consistent and up to date.
Many directories have their own web scrapers, and will constantly check other directories to make sure their information is consistent and up to date for you. By verifying your profile as a business owner on a specific directory, you are letting the directory know that you are the business owner, and thus are a credible source of information about your business.
This constant crawling and updating means that you need to be consistent with your information as you update it across the web. You don’t want one site to be pulling inaccurate and inconsistent information from another site, because this can create a spiral of self-updating by the directories that makes it harder and harder to keep clean.
Google and other search engines will look at the consistency of your information across all the directories it comes across and will use that consistency as a signal for the legitimacy of your business. The more legitimate your business looks to Google, the higher your business is likely to rank in their search results.
Specifically, you want to keep your name, address, phone number and site (referred to as your NAPS, more on this later) information consistent across all of the directories so that search engines are able to recognize each piece of information as related to the original business.
I have put together a list of general online directories that you can use to get your brick and mortar listed.
I have also included a sheet in the spreadsheet where you can pre-write some answers to some common form fields. Do this first. Spend some time getting the answers right. Unless you use one of the tools described below to keep your listings in sync, it can be a real challenge to go around to all of the specific directories and update them with changes.
In addition to the longer list of directories in the specific file, I will cover the big four: Google, Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook in greater detail below.

Google My Business

Google has made a lot of changes for the better during my career as a Local SEO, and for good reason. “Google My Business” essentially serves as a lead magnet for their bread-and-butter AdWords and AdWords express platforms. While AdWords can be an excellent source of top-of-the-funnel leads for your business, you don’t need to invest in SEM ads to take advantage of the Google My Business platform.
Once you submit your listing to Google My Business, Google will verify that you have a right to claim the listing by confirming that you are the business owner. Typically they will mail a unique code to the address you added to the listing, but occasionally they will just call the number you have on file as well.
In my experience Google Maps is always one of the biggest drivers for leads for local business. In my agency days when we were doing call tracking, we measured 53% of all inbound phone calls originating from the Google Maps (what is now Google My Business) listing. That included monthly AdWords budgets of $30k or more.
If you only submit your business to one listing, make it this one.


Yelp… Well it is what it is. No other directory elicits such a visceral reaction from a business owner than Yelp does.
Whether you love them or hate them, as a small business owner you have to deal with them. Claiming a business on the Yelp platform is free, so make sure to register your business on the platform, keeping all the information consistent across all of your directories to the best of your abilities.


A lot of people shrugged off Foursquare when they split Swarm out into its own app, but Foursquare is not going away anytime soon.
In a former position, I had access to hundreds of thousands of anonymous credit and debit card transactions for a subset of brick and mortar stores. Of all the data sets I analyzed, nothing had a stronger correlation with revenue for a given location than the Foursquare score.
Part of the reason, we suspected, is because Foursquare calculates their score differently from the rest of the directories. Where the other directories are primarily based on reviews, Foursquare considers a variety of factors. These include number of check-ins as well as frequency of check-ins; we also suspected they had extensive partnerships with Beacon providers to count foot traffic.
While the exact algorithm Foursquare uses is confidential, we saw a strong correlation with the ratio of total check-ins to the number of unique check-ins and a local business’ Foursquare score. Meaning the more a single customer checked in on average, the higher the Foursquare score.
Whether a higher Foursquare score was a correlation or a causation of higher revenue is certainly up for debate. Still, I would advise making sure your business is listed and you encourage your customers to check-in.


Chances are, if you run a business, you are already active with a Facebook page for your business, and Facebook has done a great job recently of providing the tools for marketers to advertise their businesses.
Optimizing Facebook for a local business is easy, just make sure that you include accurate location information in your Facebook page details. This is true even if you are a local service business that travels to your customers location (cleaning service, lawn care, construction, etc.).
Once you start to generate positive reviews (more on this later) you should make sure to optimize your page so that the “Reviews” tab is close to the top for everybody to see.

Pro tip: if you instead have a Facebook “person” for your business you should change it. It is against Facebook’s terms of service and you run the risk of getting it shut down. Follow this guide to migrate a personal profile to a page:


NAPS is an acronym that stands for Name, Address, Phone, and Site.
Directories are mostly made of structured data, like NAPS, but also include things like business categories, hours, description, keywords, products, menus, services, and more.
NAPS are the four structured data fields that are most likely to appear in a directory, and so Google and other search engines place stronger influence on those fields.
It is far easier for Google to use a phone number or a website — essentially a unique key just for you to identify your business as the source of the directory listing.
However, I strongly discourage you from using any type of phone tracking number for each specific directory. You can use a call tracking system for call ads, but you should pick and use a single phone number to use for all of your directory listings.


JSON-LD is a markup schema that you can use to include relevant information about your website inside the website tracking information.
Prior to JSON-LD, rich data markup could be complicated, and focused more on the markup of a specific page. JSON-LD simplifies this process, by relying on a special <script> tag inside the page containing a JSON object. JSON, or JavaScript Object Notation is a simplified way of marking up hierarchical data.
JSON-LD utilizes the markup for a page to help provide additional structured data to search engines, so they may in turn provide more contextualized information to search requests.
If you are comfortable with HTML and a little bit of JavaScript you can write your JSON-LD yourself, or there are plenty of JSON-LD generators that exist out there on the web for you.
Once you have your JSON-LD, you can simply paste it into your site. Make sure to include it on the homepage; I would also recommend including it on every other page on your site as well.
If you are using a CMS like WordPress there are frequently plugins that make it possible to include a script or snippet in the head of your site.

<script type="application/ld+json">
    "@context": "",
    "@type": "LocalBusiness",
    "address": {
      "@type": "PostalAddress",
      "addressLocality": "Chicago",
      "addressRegion": "IL",
      "streetAddress": "123 North Street"
    "name": "Heather Read Photography",
    "description": "A professional Chicago photographer...",
    "telephone": "555-111-2345",
    "openingHours": "Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr 09:00-17:00",
    "geo": {
      "@type": "GeoCoordinates",
      "latitude": "40.75",
      "longitude": "73.98"
    "sameAs" : [