Which elements of my website should I improve to increase local rankings?

By Darren Shaw
on May 29, 2020

It’s shocking how many small business websites don’t even have the basics in place for website optimization. How often have you seen a website homepage title tag that is just “Home”? Are they trying to rank for “Home”? Probably not.

Performing a quick audit of the most critical elements of your website can uncover missed optimization opportunities, and improve your site’s ability to rank in both the local pack and organic results.

For our Google My Business Management Service clients, we focus our website audit on these core areas:

  • Title tags
  • Homepage content
  • Product and service landing page content
  • Site speed

Inspect and Update Your Title Tags

The page title is one of the most keyword sensitive areas of a web page and is the #1 most important on-page element to optimize for rankings. If you want to show up in local results for your targeted keywords, you need to ensure that your page titles (title tags) on your homepage and product/service landing pages incorporate the keyword + city name.

Start by drilling down to the main keywords you would like to target. Here’s our simple and effective process for creating your keyword list:

  1. Go through your website and list your main services and products. Note your homepage and product/service landing pages’ current title tags and target keywords.
  2. Find out how customers are already searching for your business and which queries your site is already ranking for. To do this, go to Google Search Console: Search Queries and look at your Historical Query results. In Google My Business: Insights, look at your Queries.
  3. Get national search volume for your broad keywords (i.e. “plumbers” not “Seattle plumbers”) by running your list through Google Ads Keyword Planner. The national search volume will help give you a sense of local search volume, at least in terms of what keywords are most searched.
  4. Add any good keywords suggested by Keyword Planner that aren’t already on your list.
  5. Assign and reassign keywords to your website pages. If you don’t have an existing page that works with some keywords, create new pages targeting those terms.
  6. Build a list of “content ideas” for the terms you weren’t able to assign to the main pages of your website. These could be blog posts or resources later.


Further resources if you want to take your keyword research efforts to the next level

  • Will Scott of Search Influence recommends that you take your keywords to the next level with semantic topic research. Doing this can improve your ability to rank for the anchor topic, and for a larger set of search queries. Check out his thoughts on semantic keyword research outline from his presentation at thisw LocalU Advanced Workshop. It is a great reference material for when you have more time to dig deeper into semantic topic research.
  • This Whiteboard Friday episode also goes into more detail on how to expand your keywords into targeting topics.

Optimize your page titles using your keyword list

Now that you have created your ultimate keyword list, use this data to make an informed decision on what pages should target which terms. One of the most common errors we see when it comes to title tag optimization or rather lack there of, is businesses not removing the default – home – page title. This is both a missed opportunity and a sad sight to witness in search results. 

Don’t do the above! Here’s a very helpful chart of page title formulas for local businesses, created by Dani Owens, that we recommend you use for your homepage and main service and product pages. When it comes to your homepage title tag, it’s a good practice to incorporate your Primary Category from your GMB profile into the title tag.==Pro Tips:
If you’re using WordPress consider adding the free Yoast SEO plugin so you can seamlessly edit your page titles. For SquareSpace sites check out this guide from KickPoint on how to change your title tags, and for Shopify sites, check out this article

Refresh Your Homepage Content

Stop under-utilizing your homepage! Site visitors often land on the homepage and what they see will impact their first impression. When reviewing your existing content, does it answer the following questions?

  • What is your website about? 
  • What does your business do?
  • How are you different from the competition? What is your company’s value proposition? 
  • What is your main product or service? 
  • What problems are you solving? 
  • Does your company have a tagline, slogan, or mission statement? 
  • When was your business established?
  • How long has your business operated in the community? 

Your homepage content should answer the above questions, appeal to your ideal customer, and tell/show them why your business can solve their problem. In most situations, your homepage is the ideal website URL to link to from your Google My Business listing. It’s important that the page your GMB listing links to contains your top keywords and related content. This can improve your listing’s ability to rank in the local pack.

Other elements to consider incorporating on your homepage:

  • Headers (H1, H2, H3..) and sub-headlines throughout the content make it easy for visitors to scan the page and find what they’re looking for. 
  • Links to your main service/product landing pages help visitors navigate to the information they need.
  • Unique visual media, including images and videos, such as photos of your staff, your business, and your products and services. This media should showcase your business, try to avoid stock photos.
  • Customer testimonials, link out to any case studies, any other social proof.
  • Easy to use menu.
  • Footer that includes contact information, hours, and links to social sites. 

Broadmead Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Clinic is a fantastic example of how to optimize your homepage content.

Improve Product & Service Landing Page Content

Your product and service landing pages deserve the same attention you just gave your homepage. 

Elements to incorporate on your landing page:

  • Showcase photos of products or services, and include before and after images where applicable.
  • Add reviews and testimonials specific to that product or service. This also is a way to include unique user-generated content.
  • Include additional trust signals that are relevant to your business to encourage site visitors to become customers:
    • Product or service guarantees. Give customers peace of mind about the investment they are making in your company.
    • Share any associations or business memberships that you are part of. This can be anything from your local communications business association, specific industry related associations, or even meet-up groups.
    • News and mentions. Have you been featured in a local newspaper or magazine for your specific product or service? Share this with your visitors! 

Here’s an example of a service landing page that takes content and topic to a very in-depth level.

Optimize Site Speed

A slow site will hurt your rankings and your conversions. You need to optimize your site to load fast for Googlebot and visitors, especially for mobile visitors. Mobile devices can have a slower download speed compared to desktop and this can translate to a slow website being even slower when visited on a mobile device. Google recently updated the factors for how they measure and score site speed, and this will continue to evolve over time as well, which is another reason to keep informed on site speed. 

“The average bounce rate for pages loading within 2 seconds is 9%. As soon as the page load time surpasses 3 seconds, the bounce rate soars, to 38% by the time it hits 5 seconds!” This will also have a negative effect on conversion rates.

Source: Royal Pingdom

Start by checking how fast your current site is by using PageSpeed Insightsand GTMetrix. These tools will give you actionable lists to improve your site speed, which you can share with your web developer. Here are some common recommendations:

  • Increase your site speed by compressing your images (learn more on how to optimize your images) and text while maintaining their visual quality. 
  • Review your current website hosting company. Did you cut costs by going with the cheapest provider? This could mean your site is on a slower server. 
  • Reduce file sizes and load files by incorporating plugins to your WordPress site. Here’s an awesome guide to making your WP site faster
  • Implement HTTP-caching methods to improve page load times for returning visitors.


“Page speed is one of the most overlooked and yet most important factors in customer attention, retention, and ultimately, converting browsers to buyers. Ensuring that you’re taking measures to increase page speed or reduce lag can be the difference between failure and success.”

Krista Seiden – Analytics Advocate, Google (source)

More resources to get your site up to speed

Bonus Optimization Tip: Ensure Critical Business Information is Published and Current

Now more than ever, due to COVID-19 customers want to be informed about what’s happening at your business. Are your doors open to customers? Are you operating at reduced hours? What safety measures are in place? How are you supporting your customers at this time? Use your website’s most visited pages, such as your homepage and contact page, to share these important details. While sharing critical updates does not directly impact your local visibility, it impacts customer experience, your business’ reputation and can establish trust with future and current customers. Optimization opportunities not to miss out on

For many local businesses facing COVID-19, their websites have become their storefronts. With ongoing closures, restrictions, and major changes to operations, some businesses are unable to open their doors right now and are pivoting their business to offer curbside pickup, delivery services and online stores.  Having an accessible website that ranks locally can help your business weather the storm. If you’ve been putting off reviewing your website for opportunities to improve your traffic and rankings, now is the time!

Have a local question? Send it our way.

That’s it for this edition of Whitespark’s Local Mailbag, but if you have a local search question that you need help answering, leave it in the comments or email our team.

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