This post appeared yesterday on Merchant Circle as part of their “Guest Blogger” series but Tad Chef insisted I put it up on my site so I could get a link from him and who am I to argue with that? So without further ado…

SEO, the art and science of ranking well in search engines, is one of those things that is easy to learn but hard to master, so let’s focus on the easy part. You’ve got a website and it’s not ranking in Google so well for whatever search term you are coveting. So what do you do?

Here are some (hopefully) simple things you can do, or even better tell someone else to do, to get your SEO strategy in gear:

1. Figure Out Your Target Audience
Until you know who you are targeting there is not much point in doing SEO. What words are your potential customers searching with when you want to be found? What are different modes are they in when they are searching? Are they ready to buy? Are they just doing research? Are they big spenders or are they cheapskates?

In general pick terms that match up with your service, that you think will convert well (conversion is a another five minute discussion altogether btw) and that have good search volume. To get an idea of search volume use Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool which can be found here:

Once you come up with your target keyword list…

2. Update Your Page Titles
The page title or “title tag” is perhaps the most important element of SEO. These are the words that appear at the top of your web browser when you are on a page. They are also the words that show up in the blue links in Google.

Put the search terms you are targeting in your page titles. In general keep the titles as brief as possible while at the same time making them appealing to searchers. No easy trick. Put the most important keywords at the beginning of the title. Don’t worry about getting this perfect the first time as these are very easy to change and Google usually reacts to these changes quickly. And if your website developer tells you these are really hard or expensive to change, get a new website developer.

3. Make Each Page Title Unique
It is also important that all of the pages on your site have unique page titles. A quick way to see if you have more than one page with the same title is to do the following search in Google: intitle”the words in the title”

The results of this search will show all of the pages in Google that have these words in the title. Once you identify these problem pages you can update the titles to make them unique.

And make sure you add your city name to the titles as a lot of people search for your service in your city.

It also couldn’t hurt if you added some text to the actual page that uses the keywords you are targeting as well, in both the body of the text and the
h1 tag, which is typically the headline of the page. If you don’t have a page that targets the keywords you are using, add a new page that does.

You also should check the meta descriptions tags of each page to make sure those are unique as well.

4. Add a Few Internal Links

The number of links a page gets from its own site and which pages link to it matters. The home page is the most important on the site and so the pages that are linked to from the home page are also important. Figure out which pages you want to rank the most (and don’t say all of them) and add links from other pages to these pages. Make sure you use relevant keywords in the text of those links. For example if you want to rank the page for “pizza” use the word “pizza” in the text of the links that go to that page. Try not to use the exact same phrases in each link to make it look more “natural”. For example in some of the links use “best pizza” or “man that’s a helluva a pizza”.

5. Add Your Address to Every Page
Ideally every page should have your address and phone number. This is helpful for users but it also reinforces your location to the search engines. If your business has multiple locations then you may want to create a separate page for each location or at least a single page that lists all locations. Make sure you link to these pages from as many pages as possible on the site. It would probably be a good idea to list as many location names as possible on the home page too.

6. Claim Your Profile on Merchant Circle, Google Local Business Center, Yahoo Local, etc.
There are a huge number of yellow pages-like sites that allow you to update your business information for free. These sites get a lot of traffic and tend to rank well. At the least you should go to each one, claim your profile and make sure they are linking to your site. You may be surprised at how much business you can get from these free listings. Here’s of sites that offer a free yellow pages listing:

7. Make a Video
And I am not talking about a multimillion dollar production. Ask your kid to point the camera at you and start talking. Explain your service and try to be charming. Mention your website a lot. Then upload it to YouTube and every other free video site and title the video with your top keywords (e.g. “Best Pizza in Pleasanton”). Make sure your website is linked to from your profile. Then link to these video pages from your site with the keywords in the link text. You will be amazed at how easy it is for these pages to rank for your search terms.

If you want to do something more professional, there are a number of services that can help you including,, , and .

8. Add a Blog To Your Site
A blog is just a simple way to add pages to your website. A good, or even bad, web developer should be able to set up a simple blog for you in a few minutes. If you don’t want it super customized it shouldn’t cost that much. Once it’s up start writing. I am not talking novels or even journalism. I am talking keywords. If you want to rank for “Pizza in Pleasanton” write a blog post called “Pizza in Pleasanton: What’s Cooking Tonight At Joe’s Pizza”. Go to and add your blog’s URL to Google’s blogsearch engine. Now everytime you write something on the blog it will instantly be added to Google, and each of those posts has a chance of ranking for the term you are targeting.

9. Make Sure You Don’t Have Any Technical Issues
There are a number of technical issues that could be preventing your site from ranking. An easy way to identify them is to sign up your site to Google Webmaster Tools at By copying a short line of code to your site you can get an idea of some of the common problems that Google is having with it. Google provides you with some detail about the problem. There is not much you yourself can likely do about these problems, but you can at least show them to your website developer or a SEO guy and ask him/her to figure it out.

10. Get Links
Now none of this stuff will work very well if you don’t have any links to your site. The big search engines look at links from other sites as a sign of quality and trust. So you should spend the remainder of your five minutes thinking about what other sites you think you can get links from. Here are some of the obvious ones:
– Chambers of commerce/local business groups
– Local business directories/Local newspaper site
– Friends who have sites (including your kid’s blog)
– Partners/Vendors

There are hundreds of other ways to get links like writing articles for other sites, sending out press releases, adding your business info to social media sites, making a fool of yourself in public, etc.

It’s important to understand that SEO is not a one-time thing just like running a TV ad campaign is not a one-time thing. It’s a marketing tactic like any other. And as more people use the Web to find local services, SEO could become one of the more important components of your marketing plan. So get familiar with it today so you can master it tomorrow.

Ok, so maybe that took more than five minutes, but half the battle of marketing is just getting your attention right? If you want to spend substantially more time then five minutes then check out our local seo audit template.

If you have any more questions about SEO or Pleasanton, but not about proctologists, please drop me a line here.


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58 Response Comments

  • Don Campbell  May 13, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Great tips, as usual Andrew.

    I would also add Google Analytics so you can track keyword people are using to find your site, visit trends, etc. But then you’re over 5 minutes 🙂

    Also totally agree that good SEO is an ongoing process.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Dave Oremland  May 13, 2009 at 10:52 am

    All great advice….but seriously how do you optimize against….anywhere?

  • Andrew Shotland  May 13, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Dave I am a firm believer that truly local sites can beat the national directories if they focus on creating targeted content and getting targeted, local links. The “Pleasanton Apartments” page on is buried deep in their architecture and likely has very little pagerank flowing to it. Contrast that with a site that has these keywords on the home page and has local links pointing directly at the home page with these keywords in the anchor text.

  • Jae Burnham  May 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Great list. I used the blogsearch straight away for my blogs. We’ll see what happens. Thanks for the info.


  • Will Scott  May 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    5 minutes? You’re mad. Great list nonetheless.


  • Andrew Shotland  May 17, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    I guess I meant you could read it five minutes (or so) 🙂

  • bradleybradwell  May 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    These are some great tips. You mentioned quite a few times that titles are a very important part to getting people to find your link on Google. I couldn’t agree more.

    When I initially started my website I was wondering why my search engine traffic was so low. I then realized, after months of trying to figure it out, that my website name was appearing before my title. All I had to do was move the website tag to the back of my title to fix it. It was such a simple task that took forever to do.

    There’s no doubt that linking is a very important part to getting your search engine rankings higher. The only thing I hate to see is reciprocal linking. Why? Because these links are usually irrelevant and have no connections(other than the link) to the other site. Moreover, Google frowns upon reciprocal links because they’re looking for relevant, informational content, and not random “dating sites”….

    Getting a blog on your website is a great way to create more pages. In fact, my whole website is a blog. It allows me to do what I love most(writing), but it also gets me that little bit of extra traffic that I need.

    Once again, great post

  • Artur | Seo.Net  May 28, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    “What words are your potential customers searching with when you want to be found?”

    I would recommend to ask your customers for what they would search for when looking for your services. Do a small survey on your website.

    The best source is the customer!

  • Carl  May 29, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Hey Andrew, I have a question about web citations. How does one get those listed on their Google profile? I mean I am already on superpages with a listing, but their aren’t any citation to my Google listing. I have had this listing on Superpages for years, so it’s not new. Okay when someone does a review on insiderpages and that shows on google is that considered a website citation as well?

  • Sascha Kimmel  May 31, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Great article, Andrew!
    I think you should remove the link because the page currently says “Welcome to the default website on” Doesn’t look like the page is still available.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 31, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for the quality check Sascha. I meant “Spotmixer”. The link has been fixed.

  • Ace Of Adsense  June 1, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Great Tips….Love to hear more from a pro like you


  • Brad  June 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Good post Andrew. I am just starting my own local seo here in chicago for small and medium sized businesses and you have some very good advice here. Keep up the good work. I do not have a web designer yet so I was curious to what you used to make this site? WordPress? what plugin did you use with it? thanks again andrew

  • Chris Chong  June 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I am sure about one thing that one can not do SEO in 5 minutes daily time frame.Is this a marketing strategy?

  • Website SEO  June 18, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Search Engine Optimisation for Beginners. These articles cover SEO Basics that will help you get your website ready to be indexed properly by search engines.

  • Brad  June 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Does anyone have an opinion on this…

    I found an seo consulting/company site where I noticed they had a resources page/links page where other companies could link to them and exchange links so to speak.

    Then as I looked at their client list I noticed on many of those sites there was a common link as a footer called resources. Then I noticed their customers were basically linking to each other etc. That doesnt seem like great seo to me but what does anyone else think?

  • Bernie  June 29, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Hey Andrew. Thanks for the post, very interesting and concise.

    I would also suggest to check the new ‘Insights’ statistics feature on Google Local Business Center. It provides tons of useful information about what customers entered before clicking on your business listing, but also searches trends allowing you to know what they’re looking for. A nice tool.

  • Michelle  June 30, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I like this list but i am sure it is not a 5 minutes job 🙂
    It is better to combine link exchange and video ads to do the seo things. I know that do the same great thing.

  • WordsmithBob  June 30, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Hope you don’t think my moniker is spammy. It’s what I go by.

    Anyway, there’s some great information here. My SEO guy always adds the name of the communities my client is targeting in the Title, Description, and Keywords meta tags.

    Most of my local clients will have several communities within the Twin Cities they want to target such as White Bear Lake or Blaine. Rather than using Minneapolis or St. Paul, we’ll create a Title like:

    Goodyear Tire Repair Blaine | Sam’s Tire Mart

    Because we are targeting communities within the larger metropolitan area, we often get number one listings for them for each of the communities. Just something to think about…

  • Carlos Machado  October 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Hi guys,

    This article is very interesting.
    Very suitable for people new to SEO segment, leading them to the true path of professionalism.

  • ewan  January 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Excellent list of the SEO essentials. I would also recommend existing clients to complete a review in the Google local business center as Google appears to be giving UGC more weighting these days

  • Dev Basu  February 13, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I wanted to quickly add an update to your readers that they should also be knowing which categories to choose for their listings, rather than guessing them using Google’s auto-fill options. Just use the category search tool at

  • Todd Bryson  February 17, 2010 at 9:56 am

    5 minutes ha! – But good list nonetheless. I use a Local Directory Submitter that accomplished #6 and #7 of your list plus help’s builds citations for local businesses.

  • John James Massage Plano  February 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Perfect timing! I’m going online with my first website this week and this post on Local SEO shows up.

    I kinda understand the importance of keywords but how do I find the very best ones for my business?

  • Rhino Web Services  March 1, 2010 at 6:43 am

    The Blog is the best way to get some google love. Def. do that. Won’t take 5 minutes however. Maybe two hours if you are fast. Luckily, you can outsource that if you need cheap. 🙂

  • SEO  May 4, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Great information there, well researched.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Chicago Daily Deals  June 1, 2010 at 9:53 am

    One of the best ways to drive interested visitors to your site is through pay per click (PPC) advertising. It is common sense that if you provide someone who is looking for a specific product with a link to that product they will buy it instead of just getting more information about it.

  • Chicago Daily Coupons  June 1, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Ok for the purists reading, you will peceive this as being spammy, but if every result in the Top 10 does it, then you must too!

  • sutanu  August 4, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Local search marketing is a little bit different than general seo. But what i think which is most important is that by choosing the location in google webmaster tools and by putting links in numerous yellow pages and if try the new technique of SEo Audits.

  • SEO Analyst  August 28, 2010 at 3:02 am

    The tip no. 9 is not the less because before you are doing this make sure that the technical part of your Website for optimization are all be done well because for me its a waste of time to offsite campaign if your onpage part has not done properly well.

  • Brian Crstser  September 6, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for this important post but what I am looking for is that what should be the daily action plan of doing SEO for a local business as what we need to do first and what strategies do we need to follow in order to get good PR in google maps.

  • Andrew Shotland  September 6, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Here you go Brian:

    Step #1: Hire a local seo consultant


  • Dev Basu  September 6, 2010 at 8:43 am

    @Brian – There is no PR in Google maps, so I agree with Andrew: Either hire a good local seo consultant/agency, or be prepared for a lot of reading, not to mention the trial and error process you’ll be subjecting your business to.

  • Keith  September 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Great tips. Yelp is a good place to be listed in as well.

  • Sally  September 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Hi – great tips. Thank you so much for posting.

    I have a quick question however, when deciding which keyword phrases to go after, how can you gauge how competitive it is to assess whether it is worthwhile going after? I am referring to only the 7 items that are listed in the local search box….

    Thanks so much.

  • David the oven repair man  September 15, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Thanks, great tips, I need to read more about this local search marketing, do you have a more detailed section

  • Necs_analyzer  September 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I will agree 🙂 …webmaster Tools was a great for SEO…

  • Priyanka Sahu  November 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    You told all the points that comes in On-Page SEO except #6 point. Other than that ,is there is any other Off-Page SEO that helps in Local SEO….

  • Rutika  November 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Ya!! I also want to know about other processes……….

  • Pitstop Appliance Repair  November 9, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Another few spare minutes = more reading and adjusting things. This is never ending. 🙂

  • amit  November 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    it is very important to add the city name at the h1 tag

  • Priyanka Sahu  November 10, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I am asking about the Off-Page.Without touching the website page.H1 Tag comes in the On-Page

  • Buffalo SEO Shark  December 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    As an SEO professional focusing primarily on local campaigns, I couldn’t agree with this list more. The one thing I think was not given enough screed is including keywords in your content. I’m not talking about keyword stuffing, but the author mentions “it couldn’t hurt to include the keywords in your text” – this will absolutely make or break your campaign. You can achieve pretty positive results from some inbound links and solid meta tags, but to truly optimize, your page needs to be relevant to the keywords you’re focusing on. If it’s not, you’re targeting the wrong keywords – regardless of what your research says people are searching (if they don’t find it on your page, they’ll bounce right back to Google). A blog, one of the other suggestions is a great way to naturally pepper in keywords while keeping your content fresh.

    Sorry for the long comment, I just don’t think you can possibly understate the importance about actually having your pages be about what you’re optimizing them for.

  • Dentist  December 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I know this blog post is over 18 months old, but I’m curious to know how the official name of the business or DBA affects local SEO.

    For example- if a dentist legal name of his practice is Dr. Joe Schmoe DDS PA but he’s been using the name Schmoe Family Dentistry, how much (if any) is it a factor?

    Some LBLS have listings for ” Dr. Joe Schmoe DDS PA” and also “Schmoe Family Dentistry.” From what I’m hearing, there needs to be consistency across the board and it’s best to use the legal name of Dr. Joe Schmoe DDS PA.



  • Jim  January 4, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Citations seem to take a long time to get picked up by google and reflected on your goodle places listing. Anyone else experienceing this?

  • John@ Vancouver Washington  January 24, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks Andrew. The Competition for real estate in my local area is fierce, to say the least. You’ve provided a few extra tools for me that I did not have before.

  • Blue Fire Media  February 4, 2011 at 9:56 am

    You are absolutely right. For most small businesses that are not in a large market, these steps alone can get them to the top of the rankings for local searches.

  • Rob  February 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    This post is exactly what I needed. I have gone through this process dozens of times. Having each client co-ordinate their google accounts, but feeling like I have been doing it mindlessly.

    I am going to make a nice excel sheet, and pdf for preparation. Sometimes trying to communicate these very important bases to cover, along with security measures.

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a concise KISS type of resource.


  • Aubrey Wigg - SEO Student  February 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Hello I am Aubrey an SEO marketer. I’m just going through the net when I ran across your post. I also have a few SEO techniques I can share in my website let’s exchange notes if you want!

  • Susan Martin  March 12, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Now that google has instituted the “panda” update, have you changed any of you local recommendations on this or the “how to update your internet yellow page listings for free” post?

  • David philips  March 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I just want to know that, if i am optimizing my website then what type of links will give me higher SERP , local links or links from all over the world.Please mention the reason that may cause more link juice to a site,after getting a local link( is it true?).

  • Johnny  March 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Andrew kudos!

    These are all great tips. I think that it is also important to stress that when choosing appropriate keywords that people do not get overly ambitious. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing keywords is that they assume that they are going to rank for terms that are entirely way too broad.

    For example, I have a website that is about computers, but I am kidding myself to think that I am going to out rank the big guys like Apple, Dell, HP, Newegg and Bestbuy for that term. It will never happen. I do however, have a chance to rank for the phrase “new computer users” (1st page, #2). Some traffic is better than none.

    Good stuff man… BTW, I love how you just sit in the top spot for the phrase “Local SEO”. I am sooo Jealous…LOL

    Continued success!

  • pritiman  March 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    thanks for this greate information for us. carry on.

    Good job

  • AStewart  April 19, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Informative SEO List. The explainations of each topic are written in away that even a novice SEO’er can understand the how to’s of SEO.

  • Stacey  April 21, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Has anyone else noticed that the organic results in Google have changed since the Panda update.

    Before the update we were able to easily rank high organically for base keywords such as dwi lawyer.

    Since the update we are now buried on the third page for the same keywords although still holding spot #1 in places results.

    The organic ranking gets better as we add the state and city modifiers to the base keywords.

    Does this mean we will not be able to rank high organically with base keywords?

    Any comments, suggestions or discussions are appreciated.