Practical Local SEO Guide – How To Increase Local Rankings Today

My practical local SEO guide is going to teach you everything you need to know to increase the search engine rankings of any local small business website.

Honestly, SEO is fairly straightforward once you know-how. If you have followed Matthew’s blog for any length of time then you probably already have the basics down.

He has published some great articles including this blackhat SEO strategy and this competitor backlinks tactic that I use all the time!

SEO really just boils down to creating content (notice I didn’t use the phrase ‘great content’?) and then building links. Pretty simple right?

Local SEO isn’t much different from other types of SEO. If anything, local SEO is probably the easiest.

Think about it, you’re not competing with major brands that have enormous marketing budgets. You’re not going toe-to-toe with aggressive affiliate SEOs.

You’re competing with small business owners who are overwhelmed.

Of course, there are a few twists to local SEO marketing which I’m going to explain in my step by step in my local SEO guide below!

What You Will Learn

  • The differences between SEO & Local SEO
  • How to control link volume
  • How to build 100 local citations instantly
  • Critical on page local SEO factors
  • Access to my easy to follow local SEO checklist

The Local SEO Guide To Link Building

My name is Daniel Thompson and I like to keep things simple, so my local SEO guide will be no different!

I suggest three sources for local SEO links; citations, PBNs and Web 2.0s.

I usually encourage clients to source additional white hat links from industry sites, organizations they belong to, charities they donate to and through guest posts (please see what is guest posting).

Links from local organizations can go a long way and if you can source a handful it can help your efforts out.

Link Building

That said, I never personally build white-hat links for a client, at least not small local businesses.

The reason for this is two-fold.

Penalty Risk Management

If a site gets penalized it’s vital that you’re able to remove the links that were built.

With an affiliate marketing site, you could re-direct the URL to a new page and start fresh.

Client sites are often built on branded domains and/or they have several white hat links, starting on a fresh domain isn’t a casual conversation.

Client Cancellation

If a client cancels, you want to be able to not only remove the links from their site, but better yet, point those same links at another client.

The more clients you have in one vertical, the easier link building becomes. The ability to manipulate the links gives you leverage which saves time and money.

When you are selling, drill this point home.

If you decide to cancel, all of the links will be removed. You may stay atop the SERP’s for a few months but you will lose ground and eventually, you’ll be back at square one.

It’s critical to remember there is no marketing service in the world that doesn’t require a recurring fee. Billboards, flyers, TV ads, radio ads, PPC, media buys and social media marketing are a few of examples of services that will require a monthly payment.

SEO is constantly evolving and just like other forms of advertising, it requires long-term attention and commitment.

Volume and Frequency of Links

The absolute worst question in SEO is: how many links will it take to rank site X for term Y?

The only way to get a handle on this is by doing SEO.

How strong are the links, how aggressive is your anchor text, are your links follow or no-follow?

These are just a few LINK factors, the rest are shown below.


Link Factors: Courtesy of Searchmetrics

If you want to understand all the different ranking factors, take a look at this Google ranking factors SEO checklist.

Links are the most important factor and anyone that tells you otherwise is an asshole. However, the 200+ other factors are going to impact how many of those precious links you’ll need.

90% of the time you can mask other SEO mistakes with more links. On the rare occasion that you’re dealing with a penalized site, you’re going to need to address that before you get any traction.

Quality links are like duct-tape; they can fix almost anything that isn’t completely broken.

Link Volume

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m sure you’re all wondering how many links it takes to rank a local client.

I can’t tell you how many links it will take to rank a certain client, but I can provide you with a baseline.

I hit client sites with 50 citations, 30 of which usually stick. I then hit the site with 5 Web 2.0s with GSA tiers (optional, but not necessary). Lastly, I build 1-2 PBN links per week until it ranks.

Sometimes this means 10 links, other times it means 30 links.

I know Matt is currently experimenting with social signals via a social locker plugin as well as user engagement ranking factors.

If those prove to be fruitful we will likely build that into the front end of our contracts.

My Local SEO Checklist To Build 100 Citations for $16

You can use a citation building service. Depending on the quality of the submissions they will generally cost $0.5 to $4 per citation, which gets expensive quickly.

That said, I’ve manually built enough citations myself to know that I never want to build another citation in my life.

The only thing worse than manually building web 2.0’s is manually building citations.

There is a very simple way to get around this.

Step 1
Head over to whitespark.ca and sign up for an account.

The first month is free and then it’s $20/month. If you’re a business owner reading this, you’ll only need it for a month.

If you’re a local SEO consultant and/or in local lead generation, you should have Whitespark.

Step 2
Insert your target keyword into the tool.

Step 3
Let the hamster run for 2 or 3 minutes. Whitespark will compile all of the citations for the entire 7-pack.

Usually, this number is in the neighbourhood of 200-300 different sources.

WhiteSpark local SEO checklist

You can export all of these sources into a spreadsheet.

Step 4
Head over to Odesk and find yourself two data submission VAs who will work for $2/hour.

Break the list in half and let them run with it.

If they can’t build 50 citations each in 4 hours you need to find a different VA.

Step 5
Never build another citation again.

One last tip – before you start doing any citation building do a quick audit of the clients’ current citations with Whitespark.

The goal is to have all of the NAP of all of your citations matching the Google + page.

On-Page Local SEO Tips

How many times have you been told you can’t use duplicate content, or that you need to have quality content?

This may hold true for content marketing and to a lesser extent authority sites or niche sites, however for local SEO you can throw it out the window.

I had an epiphany while doing research for a family friend who works for a regional lender. After some prodding he revealed to me that they spend mid-six figures per year on marketing, all of which is done through one advertising agency, this includes their local SEO marketing.

What I noticed is that every single one of their regional pages has the exact same 300-word blurb! I’m not talking about 1 or 2 pages either, we’re talking more than half a dozen. The only thing that they change is the city.

Are they getting results? I’ll let you decide.

on-page local SEO tips

If you use SEMRush you probably know that the SE traffic & price estimates are normally quite low. Admittedly a portion of this volume comes from their brand name being searched, but the majority of it is from specific long tails.

These are pretty damn impressive numbers from a regional lender. The market they serve is ONLY 5 million residents.

I’m not going to tell you this is a local SEO strategy I use, only because it’s so easy to create 300-600 words of unique content. The point I’m making here is that the content doesn’t need to be good.

In fact, one of their 404 pages ranks for a small, yet competitive search term which makes for a VERY interesting local SEO example in the wild.

URL Structure

The URL structure is no better. This is how all of their SEO pages are setup


While you could argue this is a historically spammed industry, I’ve tried this methodology in other industries with great results. I recommend using a toned-down version of this.

Let me break down how to structure URLs.

If a client only has one city/region/suburb that they operate in, target the search term directly.


For clients who operate in several regions, build multiple pages.


www.yourclient.com/kw/city 1+kw

www.yourclient.com/kw/city 2+kw

The first page will link to all of the cities they serve.

This is one of the best local SEO tips that I can give you when it comes to creating the best permalink structure for your website.

On-Page Local SEO Checklist

  1. Add footer links with targeted KWs
  2. Add a relevant youtube video if the client permits it
  3. Setup URL Structure with KWs.
  4. H1 tag using KW
  5. If the client has an active blog, use it to create internal links – use Ahrefs to check if any of the pages have any inbound external links.
  6. 300-600 words of content for each KW page.
  7. Create and optimize social profiles.
  8. Optimize alt-text for image

Onpage local seo strategy

Off-Page Local SEO Checklist

  1. Create a G+ and get the postcard (if you’re doing lead generation just use your home/office)
  2. Get 5 reviews for the 7 pack. 5 is the magic number that makes the stars show up, stars = more clicks.

Wrapping It Up

In my opinion, there is a massive opportunity to provide local SEO services to small and medium-sized businesses. You have the opportunity to leverage the SEO skills you already have.

The best part, you’re usually competing with business owners who have decided to do their own SEO, as opposed to other SEOs.

If you’re just getting started the goal is to learn how to dominate the local SERPs and to build a portfolio because social proof is key.

I bet if you dug into your social network you could find at least two business owners that you’d be able to get an introduction to.

That concludes my local SEO guide, if you have any questions or have any of your own local SEO tips – don’t be afraid to leave a comment below :)

You can also pickup some extra tips from these local SEO experts or take a look at my full list of SEO tutorials.

And, if you prefer to outsource your SEO, check out these services:

141 Responses

  1. Questboards Emsdc

    Loved all that you shared, and you are right! Such a great article. Thank you so much!

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 11th, 2020 at 10:18 am

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Questboards Emsdc

    Well I really love this article. Helpful and Informative at the same time. Thanks a lot

  3. Jake Miller

    This is something new which I never read anywhere. Thank you for providing info about local SEO

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 21st, 2019 at 4:19 am

      Happy to help Jake.

  4. Samsul Huda

    It is comprehensive guide for local seo, specially for me url structure i got new.


    • Matthew Woodward
      September 14th, 2019 at 5:01 am

      Hope it helps!

  5. Kumar

    Nice website great information thank you

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 8th, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      No worries, here to help!

  6. Emmanuel

    Hi, thank you very much for your post. helped me a lot, thanks to you I learned a little more.

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 21st, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Hey Emmanuel, glad to hear this post helped you learn more about increasing your local rankings!

  7. James

    Does your citations have to have the same structure ie. Business name, town, city, county, postcode I ordered 50 off fiverr they did them quickly but I noticed the directories changes the structure, some were name, city, county, postcode and some where name, town, county, postcode. I know I need to keep my site in the same structure with an embedded google map. Should I contact the directories and change or will it make no difference. Great article BTW James

  8. David Wester

    This is a very comprehensive article! Well done!Thanks and Keep sharing with us

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 25th, 2017 at 7:12 am

      No worrys :)

  9. CP

    Are you building your own PBN for these clients, or buying the links from someone? Thanks!

  10. John

    I’ve been doing national SEO for some time but started getting into local.
    Do you link to your citations? Seem a lot don’t get picked up. Blog comments, 2.0s? crap links?

    I bought 80 citations and saw zero movement. Thought I’d see a little jump when ranked in the 50s.

  11. Andrew Stutz

    Hey Matthew, I wanted to ask you a question no one ever seems to anwser. What would you say an average cost to rank a local site is I need an idea what I’m in for

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 26th, 2016 at 11:49 am

      There is no single blanket answer to that, every niche/keyword is different – some are super competitive and others are not.

      Equally there is not an SEO company on the planet that can guarantee results with certainty.

  12. Tom Livingstone

    Mate this is golden! Cheers!! Keep up the good work and great posts. I only follow you, Mr Floate and Mr Barby now becauyse of the great stuff you guys churn out. Nice one

    • Matthew Woodward
      September 26th, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Glad to be of service Tom :) Barby4Life

  13. Joshua Allen

    Wow, You have deeply written the articles which is so great for local SEO, I used to missed few points, thanks Matthew for the help.

    • Matthew Woodward
      August 24th, 2016 at 11:00 am

      No problem Joshua, glad to be of service!

  14. jeff

    sweet nuggets. i’m trying to find a list for international citations. specifically for mexico. any thoughts?

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 1st, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Sorry I don’t have any experience here =\

  15. Craig

    If you service multiple cities within a country and would like to rank on the 3 pack, how would you go about doing the citations?

  16. David

    There is nothing more daunting than writing citations. This was a great article nonetheless. This has opened my eyes as to what to do to lighten the burden when working on client sites. Thanks

    • Matthew Woodward
      January 12th, 2016 at 10:56 am

      No problem David glad it has helped you out!

  17. MIke

    What do you do when google finds your PBN and devalues those links?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 17th, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Buy a crate of Vodka, then sit on the crate and drink until you are sat on the floor.

  18. Alex

    I hope this is not a stupid question my friend.

    I’v also read somewhere about NAP consistency. Does that mean you have to constantly be submitting citation/directories link after your site has ranked?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 17th, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Unfortunately that nature of the web means that NAP consistency is often inconsistent. For example I put my business listing on Yell 3 years ago, then a bunch of sites scrape and republish that data. BUT then I move address or get a new phone number – its literally impossible to get those details updating on all the sites that scraped the old data.

  19. Hamilton copy copy

    Nice articles for local seo.I have learned a lot of important matter for local seo for my site.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 12th, 2015 at 6:31 am

      Come back and let us know how it goes =D

  20. Matt

    Interesting article, Daniel.

    The only thing I’m unsure of is the building of non-unique content for the location based pages (as in your example of the company).

    Isn’t this somewhat old school and ineffective? Even potentially damaging?

    I couldn’t work out from your example if you were saying this is a good thing that we should implement now, or if you were saying to do the location pages with unique content?

    I know unique content would obviously be better, but I’d like to try this strategy with small locations that don’t get a huge amount of searches per month. I’m sure a large number of the small locations would add up to a lot of searches, but I’d rather not write unique content for each, as I’m talking over 100 here.

    So, I’m beating around the bush, so here’s my question:

    In 2015, is building non-unique content location pages a good strategy?

    Here’s what I’d do:

    Write a 300-500 word piece of content, then build pages for each location, adding the content and just changing location keywords each time.


    • Derek
      March 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am

      @Matt – I’ve done that recently in Ireland.
      I did it a few months back for a local offline retailer.
      Here’s what I did and what happened in outline:
      I made one page for each county (26 total).
      The content was the same on each page.
      The only changes were to the specific locations, probably only 5 or 6 references each.
      Made the pages live.

      Many page 1 and page 2 rankings in a couple of days.
      They have stuck with little change for months (low competition).
      Business boomed, with calls from all over the country, they sent me an email with that message.
      The worst that came from it was that they began to get emails looking for the location of their local stores. So I’m about to alter the text to indicate on each page that they serve the area but have only one physical location.
      So it looks OK to me.
      Just my experience.
      Any one else care to share??

      • Matt
        March 28th, 2015 at 6:35 am

        Thanks, Derek – that’s great to know.

        I’ve personally seen this in my niche (an offline service business) where a guy was doing it for loads of areas all around the UK. I’ve noticed his rankings are awesome and (judging by the samples and reviews on his site) he’s picking up a TONNE of work. Also, loads of enquires on his Facebook page, too.

        His formula is: the same generic text on every page – he just changes (it looks like) two words in the whole text to add the location specific keywords.

        No one else is doing this in my industry, but he seems to be crushing it!

        This strategy looks fantastic. Thanks again for the feedback, Derek. I thought it was some old-school SEO method that no one works, but looks awesome!


        • Dan
          June 4th, 2015 at 4:11 pm

          Hey Matt,

          Sorry I didn’t get back to you on this. Yes I was saying create unique content for each page.

          Derek is right, it still absolutely works and it very well could work for years to come. I got skiddish (and I don’t get spooked easily) when Google mentioned they were releasing a doorway page update.

          If you’re building parasite sites that you don’t care about I’d say go for it. That said for clients I always explain to them hey you can do it like this (copy paste, change KWs). OR you can spend $100 and get 15 short blurbs that don’t read exactly the same.

          So in short. Yes I think it still is VERY effective. BUT the amount of work required to create unique content (or hand spun content) for each suburb/city/location/etc. is very minimal.

  21. Derek

    Hi guys,

    I have 2 questions about this strategy if you please.

    1. You said “That said, I never personally build white hat links for a client, at least not small local businesses. ” – is that meant to be “black hat” instead of “white” or I am just not understanding the point? If so, can I find out more detailled instruction on this please?

    2. How do you feel, or what is your experience of using 301 redirected domains as a buffer that can be turned on or off / repointed, when link building for a local client?


  22. Paddy

    Got a question regarding Citations. I am mainly into affiliate marketing and got no experience in ranking local sites. Recently i built some big sites where each page target different city of USA. I want to know if buying Citation for such sites improve the authority of domain and helps in ranking all inner pages of the site? Or Citation are helpful only for sites targeting just 1 area/city?

  23. Janet

    Thanks for the great article Matthew! I am never disappointed when I come to your website to read an article. Thanks again!

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 17th, 2015 at 8:47 am

      Thanks for coming back =D

  24. Andre

    Hey Matt. Thanks for this post. You said the URL structure could be any of the following.
    http://www.yourclient.com/kw/city 1+kw
    http://www.yourclient.com/kw/city 2+kw

    However, if you have multiple keywords for the city, would you just have redundant pages? Multiple pages with the same city and different keywords. so for example…

    http://www.yourclient.com/kw/city 1+kw1
    http://www.yourclient.com/kw/city 1+kw2
    http://www.yourclient.com/kw/city 1+kw3

  25. Kahriq

    I love the content on this site, but a lot of it does go over my head. I know a good deal about blogging and affiliate marketing now but the nitty gritty of SEO (especially local) still mystifies me. Do you have a “Local SEO Guide For Complete Dumbasses” pdf I can download? Lol I’d love to be able to understand all this stuff but, when it comes to SEO, it just feels like most of the crucial info foundations are spread all over hell and I never even know where I should look, what info is good or bad, or where to begin!

    • Matthew Woodward
      March 1st, 2015 at 11:38 am

      The best way to learn is to get your hands dirty, take this guide as a basis and work through it. If you get stuck, Google is your friend :)

  26. wilfred abicoco

    Hello wood always good stuff here

  27. Pete Collins

    Hi Matthew,
    I found your blog via a recommendation from MOZ and I must say, it’s pretty impressive so thank you for posting your knowledge. I will definitely be following your tutorials etc.

    I have a couple of questions about my Site , I’m really struggling to fix and wondered if you mind offering your thoughts.

    1) We are a Uk based eCommerce affiliate site and previously we have dynamic landing pages for each city . We would bring in the City for Title tag, H1 , H2 tag and also have the branch NAP in on page content.
    Due to alot of duplication , we began writing unique content for our major city landing pages and also got rid of the cities which we dont have a physical branch. We did this by doing 301’s back up to the category page so inessence we have alot of 301’s until they drop out of serps and our sitemap has reduced in size from 45K pages down to 4K pages. We also have lots of smaller sitemaps for each category/location to help things along to and have also implemented schema.org for all locations.

    Where we are now , is that we have unique content for most our location specific landing pages with Title tag, H1, H2 all mentioning city name but we have varied the keyword phrases. Also NAP is in the bottom of the on page content.
    However, we are still struggling for rank top 3 for these location pages. Our main competitor has a lower DA than us, far more duplicate content and they are ranking top 3 whilst we still hover around 6-10 (towards of 1st page). These local search pages are not that difficult in terms of competition so I don’t know what we are doing wrong.

    We did however have an “partial match – unnatural links pointing to site” penalty for most of last year which we managed to get removed in end of November and our Site Profile is cleaned up with mainly branded links but nothing has really changed. Our Traffic plummeted from this penalty and it doesn’t seem to be moving up at all.

    I’ve been getting citation done for the local branches but can’t think of anything else.

    Any thoughts ?

    • Daniel Thompson
      March 1st, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Pete,

      I’m the guest author of this post, I’d be happy to take a look at your site but Id need to be able to look at the site.

      It sounds like a fairly complex issues, would be happy to give you my thoughts if you want to shoot me an e-mail with the url.


  28. eichie

    Thanks really good work all the time. Before i forget i love your sense of humor

  29. Hotel Boutique

    Hola Matt, reading your post I realize that we are not so far doing Local Marketing as you told here. I have a question, if you are so kind to answer: ¿Building reviews with Google must be done with profiles that they have a minimum number of circles? I meant, ¿the profiles to build reviews must have any requirement?
    Thanks in advance

  30. Matty

    Hey Matt.. I’ve some questions. If I m trying to rank for multiples suburbs in big city, how should my footer look? Let’s say I’m based in Seattle, and. Want my service to be available to all the surrounding regions, counties..should a these names? In the footer so it’s displayed on every page or somewbdre else m

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 22nd, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      If it’s a keyword you’re targeting build a page for it and put it in your footer. If there is no volume for Everett (just an example) there is no point in building a unique page for it.

  31. Kareim

    When creating multiple lead gen sites – can you run into problems using the same address for Google business pages? what about using virtual office addresses?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:17 am

      I haven’t done it personally but that would work ;)

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Hey Kareim,

      Really good question. It is actually possible to change your address after you’ve created your G+ page. I think you have to wait a few weeks.

      I’ve never tried to build multiple sites on the same address. I might give it a go and see what happens as an experiment.

      I’m not 100% if this would work, but my suggestion would be to create a G+ page. Wait the allotted time period, change the address to a random location. Build the second page etc.

      Google explicitly says you can’t use PO boxes. In terms of virtual office addresses, as long as you can receive mail there you shouldn’t have an issue.

      Would be interested to see if this is possible.

      • Laurie
        February 26th, 2015 at 7:27 am

        I do it all the time…I work with trades people, plumbers, locksmiths etc and I use the same mail forwarding places to get the postcards…never had an issue yet. As long as you have a street address you should be fine.

  32. Varija tripathi


    Wow nice article.These tips really helpful for me and all newbie bloggers.I hope it is most suitable for me.I will share this useful tricks with my all followers.I will definitely keep my eye on your future articles.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:18 am

      No problemo :)

  33. Iman

    There is a new factor in SEO off page – citation. This factor should be noted and practiced to improve the SERP for a targeted local keyword.

    Local SEO with link building for ranking a local keyword – citation + PBN + Web 2.0 plus tier #2 (with GSA SER).

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:18 am

      I think PBN’s are a bit overkill for local but then again it depends which city/state/region you are trying to hit

  34. Ray John Agregado

    Who wrote this tutorial Matt?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:49 am

      Daniel Thompson

      • Ray John Agregado
        February 23rd, 2015 at 9:51 am

        Thanks for clarifying Matt! First time I read this, it was still attributed to you and got me confused.

  35. Bhim Rai

    Don’t you need to verify google business page first?

    Or are saying this in here?

    Off-Page Factors Checklist

    Create a G+ and get the postcard

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Hey Bhim,

      Getting the postcard verifies the google business page.

  36. Daniel

    No matter how much I read on SEO the information never seems to be consistent.

    I’ve read blogs, articles and forum posts from big names claiming the high value of ‘grey’ techniques like PBNs, and then I’ve been absolutely slammed for mentioning them on places like /r/SEO.

    I contact SEO agencies about their approach and they all insist they strictly stick to whitehat with all their clients, from small local to global enterprises.

    Who’s lying? Who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

    As someone with no practical experience, but years of reading on the subject, I can honestly say I feel far less confident about ranking a website now than back when backlinks was a completely new concept to me. I know there’s no replacement for personal experience, but it’s mighty hard to know what/who to trust in.

    I’m looking for the most ‘cost effective’ approach for small budgets, which inevitably will include techniques like the ones mentioned in this post, but my confidence gets smashed when suggesting it to SEO communities, querying agencies, reading Moz etc.

    That said, it’s encouraging to read posts like this that seem to be so clear cut about the effectiveness of these techniques.

    My questions:

    You mention PBN links. Are you referring to purchased PBN links or building a real PrivateBN, perhaps on expired domains?

    5 x Web 2.0 links. Could this simply be 5 links from a single Web 2.0 site, or 1 link from 5 different Web 2.0 sites?

    Thanks for the write up.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Hi Daniel,

      The way I look at SEO is it is simply a game of risk management. I don’t believe in ‘white’ or ‘black’ hat or any of that, there is a single algorithm and we just have to please the metrics within. Building links to your site in any form to manipulate rankings is against webmsater guidelines so it’s all ‘black hat’ in the end if people want to put a label on it.

      How you do that is purely down to your businesses needs, goals and budget. This is where I feel a lot of people drop the ball – every business and niche is different and needs to be treated as such and this is also why you see a lot of conflicting information.

      For example ranking sites with private site networks (I’ve evolved past private blog networks) is the most cost effective way to rank any site – however there are risks involved, if you get caught you will be penalised. At the same time there are things that can be done to manage that risk and the very nature of private sites networks means you are in full control if things do go south.

      But you’ll also be penalised if you get caught doing ‘white hat’ outreach to build links – the only difference is then you don’t have the required control to instantly clean up your link profile.

      In my opnion every business should invest in their own private site network that is truly private to them and treated like a true business asset.

      SEO is risk, there is no 2 ways about it. There is no such thing as ‘safe SEO’ – whether your doing outreach/guest blogging, web 2s, private site networks – a single update can take you out without any warning. Heck I’ve had clients that have never done any form of SEO get penalised (primarily by Panda).

      All you can do is manage that risk against your businesses goals & budget.

      I would personally be very warey of people that shun a certain ‘type of SEO’ – this only means they are very close minded and do not have a complete understanding of the full circle of SEO. This goes for ‘black hats’ that say ‘white hat’ is useless and vice versa. Again – I don’t believe in ‘black’ ‘white’ or ‘grey’ – we just have goals to achieve.

      Sorry if thats a bit long winded and makes some sort of sense to you.

      • Your helpful elf
        February 21st, 2015 at 3:03 am

        This is one of the best summaries on SEO I’ve read. The only caveat I’d add would be not to rely on only SEO to drive traffic, there are plenty of other sources of traffic that are immune to Google updates.

        SEO is indeed a process of risk management, and internet marketing as a whole is best done with risk mitigation in mind.

        Now the really smart marketeers also practice great risk TRANSFER :)

        • Matthew Woodward
          February 21st, 2015 at 7:43 am

          Well again, that depends on the business and current situation. Sometimes relying on search traffic is a solid strategy (new business with parasite on lead up to Christmas) and sometimes not.

          But I agree SEO is a small component of internet marketing.

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Hey Daniel,

      Matt nails it “I would personally be wary of people who shun a certain type of SEO”.

      Most clients I’ve dealt with haven’t been burnt by SEO’s who use “shady methods” it’s usually be hacks who blast link building. Then they proceed to charge a few thousand upfront for zero results, those are the guys I’d be worried about.

  37. Stefan

    Great article!

    A couple of questions:

    1. How much could you charge local SEO clients for a monthly SEO contract. The kind of people I’m thinking of are tradesperson, wedding photographers, therapist etc

    2. If a client leaves, you can remove PBN links to their site but they will benefit from all the work you did ranking them in the 7-pack, right?

    ~ Cheers

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Stefan,

      Contracts range depending on the competition. In an ideal world you want four figure monthly contracts. My absolute minimum is $400. Anything less than that isn’t worth the PBN links.

      Unavoidable. They also benefit from “ghost links” even after you change the URLs. I don’t like to think of it like “they still get the benefit” but rather, I can swap the links for free and start charging someone else.

      If your pricing is spot on, it’ll be hard for them to cancel.

  38. Prashanth K

    Thanks Matt!

    “The first page will link to all of the cities they serve.” -this kind of goes against the silo site proponents, don’t you think?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Not as long as the silo folder structure is retained

  39. Rikko

    Hi Matt,
    I´m a reader of Spain, I wonder if this strategy (and services recommended in the post) will work in my country.
    Thanks for your awesome posts. I´m surprised of your ever-super-actionable-high-quality-content.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Hola, no se lo siento =/

    • Rikko
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      We ranked a client in almost EVERY spanish speaking country simply by creating a Spanish page. No joke, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Spain etc. They’re #4, we haven’t built a link.

      It works even better. The competition is weaker.

  40. wilfred abicoco

    thanks for this article it came when i needed it,i just launch a new website so i need to know more about search engine optimization

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:56 am

      No problem!

  41. Andrew

    This is absolute gold and the last thing I want is my competitors finding this blog post. Literally over 80% of my local SEO strategy is described in this post and it is stressing me out!

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Sorry about it! I can guess what the other 20% is but I’ll be shh :)

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      There’s enough space for all of us Andrew. Most SEO’s can’t sell, so you’re probably OK. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  42. Tom

    Another excellent post Matt, this is very useful to me. I appreciate you giving out this information

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Let us know how you get on

  43. Inzamam

    It was really an useful post indeed.To be frank, I never tried citation ever in my life apart from building web 2.0 and PBN.
    Strategy you’ve explained is simple and client cancellation is like charm for me.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:03 am

      Good luck =D

  44. Jacob Folmand

    “Get 5 reviews for the 7 pack” – Could you please specify this a bit further? Where and how. Is this the starratings shown in Google? Once I used a WP plugin for that feature but doesn’t work any more.

    And last – thanx for this one: “Links are the most important factor and anyone that tells you otherwise is an asshole.” Best quote so far in 2015 !!!!!


    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:04 am

      On the Google+ business page

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Hey Jacob,

      Glad you enjoyed it. I’ve created a template for biz owners to send out to clients to get 5 reviews on the Google+ page. It’s super simple.

      75% of customers will give you a review if they like the service, you just need to ask.

      • Matthew Woodward
        February 21st, 2015 at 7:46 am

        Especially with a free delivery coupon included in the box :)

  45. Dave


    Brilliant write up this thanks so much!

    If I create a G+ account for my Brand, and send citations for the NAP – if they keyword is in the category is that enough to get it listed in the 7 pack or would you need to send citations with the Brand name + Keyword?

    Thanks so much.

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Hey Dave,

      Eh, probably not. It depends on the competition. What I have noticed is building the websites authority has had a substantial impact on the 7-pack.

      My best guess, is they found citations were too easy to source and game so they’re now placing more weight on the domain it’s tied to.

      I would leave citations as brand citations and then build PBNs.

  46. Isaac

    I have been trying hard to rank for some keywords without success, i must have missed one or a couple of things. Will try following this and see

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Good luck Isaac!

  47. Niko

    Hey Matt!

    Thanks for the ‘to-the-point’ article! with so much info on local seo these days, its easy to get off track!

    I have a couple of questions;

    1) Whats your anchor text like for your PBN links?
    2) Whats your anchor text for your web 2.0 links? Im assuming you are referring to tumblr, blogger, twitter, g+, Facebook for your web 2.0 properties. Do you fill each property with content?
    3) Do you do any pillowing for your back link profile to include; naked URL, misc, branded anchor etc? If so, what properties do you use for these & what ratio % do you like to stick to?
    4) what % do you use for exact match / partial match KW anchor?


    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      1) Hopefully the client already has a strong brand anchor text. If they don’t you need to build brand links first. If you have minimal access to PBNs use 2.0s and citations to do this.

      2) Brand links. Tumblr, Wordpress, Storify etc. FB, Twitter and G+ are citation style links.

      3) Majority should be brand. Add some misc.

      4) No more then 3-5% in an ideal world (EM). 10% (PM).

      This is very GENERAL. Be as conservative as you can be, but still rank.

      Glad you liked the article.

  48. Buddy Bakhuijsen

    Awesome timing this article!

    What you mean with the 7-pack?

    Btw, hope you don’t delete my comment again ;-)

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Google how Wordpress comment moderation works.

      The 7 pack is the pack of local results that display on local searches

  49. Stephen

    As of now, I am working for a shopfitting company based in Croydon and which offers services throughout UK.

    Is it enough if I create pages only for services, industries that we served, portfolio and extra pages like contact us, about us etc?

    How can I get ranking for keywords like shopfitting london, shopfitting manchester?

    Any suggestions for content strategy, URL and navigation structure?

    Thanks in advance,
    Stephen Oliver

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Hey Stephen,

      Interesting niche, never heard of it had to google it!

      Follow the URL structure I suggested. Have a services page which explains what you do. In it link to specific pages “/shopfitting-london”, “/shopfitting-manchester” etc. The URL structure isn’t an exact science, but do use the term “shopfitting+location”

      I have no idea how competitive those terms are, but you’ll likely need to link build as well to rank.

      Content strategy is an interesting one. My belief for local businesses is either go all out OR don’t blog at all. Most companies will land somewhere in the middle chewing up time but providing no real results.

      Nav structure, keep it about converting. Keep it simple, include only the necessities and figure out what action you want visitors to take.

  50. Carl Ashfield

    Hey bro..

    What’s the best way to contact you email or are you on Skype?

  51. Michael Greenwood

    Another great read Matthew. Local SEO is an area that I’ve worked in for many years and you’ve summed up a sound approach to achieving great positions in the local SERPs.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Much easier than big SEO :)

  52. JOHN

    Step 5
    Never build another citation again.

    Can you please explain why?

    Thank you

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Because someone else is doing them for you

  53. Jim

    Amazing ideas here.

    Can citation have any good impact on a niche site too?

    Can one a good citation gig on fiverr?

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      I would avoid citations for niche sites.

  54. Dave Madnani

    Hey Matt, nice post :)

    Would have been even better if you went a little further and added what can be done if this isn’t enough to get you in the 7-box.

    Just kind of curious who the author is because you’re referred to in the 3rd person several times and it says nothing about who wrote the post?

    Just curious. Second time I’m seeing that in your posts. Lemme’ know if I’m missing something!

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:51 am

      Ooops it was Daniel I put the wrong name on it :)

  55. John Grabowski

    I am still learning about affiliate marketing so it is no wonder that this article is over my head.

    What are citations, web 2.0s, and PBNs?

    BTW Matthew, I got a lot out of your panel presentation at Affiliate Summit West last month.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Hey John,

      Have a google around and do some reading you’ll learn :)

      Thanks for the feedback for the panel =D

      • John Grabowski
        February 21st, 2015 at 12:34 pm

        Your reply reminded me of my response to a potential customer. A gentleman called me several years ago to replace a simple light in his basement. He was located near my house and I tried to be neighborly. After he described what needed to be done, I thought that I would try to save him some money by telling him how to do it himself over the phone. He thanked me for the advice.

        Several weeks later I bumped into another electrician that I knew at the supply house. He started busting my chops how he was breaking into my territory. I was confused until he told me that he took care of the gentleman who needed a simple light fixture changed in his basement. Not only did he do that, but he got additional work from the man and as far as I know my competitor still does work for one of my neighbors in my town.

        I will “Google around” until I find my answers, however I already did that prior to posting the question and the search results were taking me to other online marketing sites.

        • Matthew Woodward
          February 23rd, 2015 at 8:27 am

          Hi John,

          However the difference here is you already knew what a fuse was. I’m also happy to send traffic to other online marketing sites and regularly link out.

          With affiliate marketing/SEO there are so many ways to skin the cat you should take as broad of a view of things as you can to build your complete understanding of the bigger picture and how it all fits together.

          Even I am constantly reading, learning, testing and growing from what I learn on other sites. I encourage you to do the same!

  56. Philip

    Hey Matt,

    Great nugget again. I just launched my local webdesign/ seo freelancer homepage today (German market).

    This will help a lot, thanks!

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:12 am

      I wish you luck in 2015!

  57. MixerDJ

    Awesome matthew.after long time wanted give you +1 for these tips


    • Matthew Woodward
      February 20th, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Glad you enjoyed them

  58. Buddy Bakhuijsen

    Timing couldn’t be better!

    What is the so called 7-pack?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:52 am

      The pack of local results that show

      • Buddy Bakhuijsen
        March 9th, 2015 at 8:30 am

        Thanks! Of course! :-)

  59. Paschalis Iliopoulos

    You inspire me with your posts man, I’ve built my music production blog following many of yours guides and I love it.

    Whenever I am about to purchase something I’ve learnt from you, even if I’ve cleaned my cookies I am looking out for your aff links to click, cause you deserve every single cent.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:53 am

      That is awfully kind of you thank you very much!

  60. Stefan

    Great article Matt.

    A couple of questions:

    1. What could you realistically charge a local business for ongoing SEO in the UK. For example a local building firm, wedding photographer or other one man band?

    2. If a client leaves, its easy enough to remove PBN links but they will still benefit from the 7 pack work done, right?


    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:53 am


      1) Prices at my own agency start from $2,000 per month but we are more tailored towards competitive niches rather than local https://www.searchlogistics.com/

      2) Yes

  61. vij

    Matt, need help

    I am the owner of Google business page for a client that is in Edmonton, Canada. I am the owner for the page whereas the client is manager for the page. I am from India btw.

    My question is will me(from India) owning the business page affect rankings for my client(in Canada).

    I unwittingly claimed the custom vanity url too which means I cannot transfer ownership anymore I think.

    Its brand new page – so should I delete the page and start over (or) do you think its ok for an Indian to be the owner of the business page of a business thats located in Edmonton, Canada.

    Pl advice

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 20th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Let me confirm. You own the page but it’s details are listed in Edmonton? Drop me a line with the Google + page in question and I can help you out. If I understand the question correctly it won’t matter.

  62. Jacob Maslow

    I recently switched from SEO to local and have optometrist clients that i handle for an agency.
    I am also starting to get my own clients who are international so the citation building services are useless.

    This article is a tremendous help. It annoys me to no end SEOs who have been stating for years that links don’t matter. Your quote hits the nail on the Head.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 21st, 2015 at 7:54 am

      Well I believe we will reach a point where links don’t matter, but we aren’t there yet – they certainly matter less than they used to but are equally still a key signal.

  63. Surface Bright

    I was looking at the whitespark website and i didn’t see the $20 per month.

    • Mike
      May 28th, 2015 at 2:21 am

      Whitespark is a waste of time this article says its a good 1 month free service but our of 245 places for citations it only will show 4 the rest are all greyed out making you buy in

      just saying

      • Matthew Woodward
        June 6th, 2015 at 11:03 am

        Well one thing is true in life, you get what you pay for.

  64. Roxana

    Finally had some time to comment here. :)
    I’m currently experimenting with social platforms to help build local rankings (Google+, GoogleMaps & Places, Foursquare, Facebook / Bing, Twitter location, Instagram location etc).

    I hope to have something in 3months time to show. But I might give the local seo guide a spin, nonetheless. Great tips and results, from what all the numbers tell me.

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 22nd, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Hey Roxana,

      Thanks for stopping by & glad you liked the article. I did an experiment with social platforms + PBNs in the past and had minimal results.

      Would love to hear what you’re up to, and give you a little bit more insight on exactly what I did. E-mail me at dwthompson010 at gmail[dot]com if you want to chat about local SEO.


  65. Corey Ellis

    Great Article Matthew, I have been following you for a few months. Thanks for the great content.

    Question (or your thoughts) on geo optimizing images & videos. Do you feel this is needed, or just on-page and link building properly is all that you recommend or see that is required.


    • Daniel Thompson
      February 22nd, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article Corey.

      On page and link building is the bare minimum. It can only help!


  66. John Shea

    Great article here, I’ve been working with a few local clients and have also tried all kinds of different services.

    I tried out PosiRank which is normally $1000 to join and $300 a month after that, found it to be a bit on the expensive side but they offered PA/DA 20~ articles for cheap $$ I threw at citation sites as opposed directly to my clients domain.

    In regards to PBN’s I’ve heard throwing them at citations can work better and it’s less risky.

    I also tried out Fatjoe.co for guest post services thanks to the recommendation on this blog.

    For citations I tried oDesk which was decent and PosiRank seemed to do a good job with them. There are tons of services that offer citation services.

    Brightlocal is also really helpful for tracking, reporting and citations. The Hoth has some clean up services and citation building as well.

    I think an article on acquiring clients would be good, that is where I struggle most. I even found a company to white label services and they do a great job for reasonable prices. Getting clients has been the challenge!

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 22nd, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Hey John,

      I’m testing various funnels on FB & Linkedin. If I have success, maybe I’ll see if Matt will let me do another Guest Post.

      We’ve had a ton of luck dropping off personalized flyers. Our success rate on that front has been remarkable but it’s a bit intimidating for sure. I know a lot of us get into SEO because sales isn’t our jam.

      As for the PBNs to citations (like FB, Pinterest etc.) I was never able to get traction with that method. I honestly don’t believe (can’t remember his name) that guy uses that method, my two cents.

      I was trying to rank a tanning salon in a small city, there was zero competition and the citation method didnt do jack.

  67. Rudy Labordus

    Odesk has a minimum $3 per hour on all their job posts now. No more $2 opportunities I’m afraid.

    • Daniel Thompson
      February 22nd, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Ah, thanks for the heads up Rudy. I’ve been using a fixed contract with a gal to build X citations for sometime now. Creating a fixed contract solves that problem.

      I’ve always liked hourly contracts when testing people out.

  68. Azzam

    Comes at a brilliant time whilst I am working on recreating the citations for a National brand in the UK.

    The already rank well for multiple branded keywords i.e. brand name + keyword or brand name + keyword + city/town, but not for keyword + town. This would be the next step by creating more targeted urls.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 17th, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Hope it helps

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