What are the first steps to take in local SEO for a new small business?

Hey there, new business owner! Are you ready to step into the SEO spotlight with your brand-spanking-new venture? Let’s ensure your digital debut lays down a red carpet that leads local searchers straight to your door. The right first steps in local SEO aren’t just important; they’re the foundation of your online success story!

What are the first steps to take in local SEO for a new small business?

Create a Google Business Profile

Creating a Google Business Profile involves a series of steps to ensure your business is properly listed on Google and can be found by potential customers. Here's a condensed guide to help you set it up:

  1. Create a Google Account for Your Business: If you don't already have one, create a new Google account to associate with your business profile​.
  2. Find or Add Your Business Name: Check if your business is already listed on Google and add it if not. Be careful to select the correct business name, especially if it's similar to others​1​.
  3. Add Your Business Address: This ensures your business shows up in local search results and connects to Google Maps​.
  4. Add Your Service Area: If you're a service-based business that serves customers outside your location, specify your service area​​.
  5. Choose Your Business Category: Select a category that accurately represents your business to improve the relevance in search results​.
  6. Add Your Business Contact Details: Provide a phone number and website URL so customers can easily get in touch or learn more about your services​​.
  7. Verify Your Google My Business Account: Complete the process by verifying your account through mail, phone, email, or instant verification (if available for your type of business)​.

Following these steps will help your business appear in relevant local searches, making it easier for customers to find and engage with you.

Keyword Research and Selection

Keyword research and selection for local SEO can significantly impact your business's online visibility. Here's a comprehensive approach:

  1. Identify Seed Keywords: Think about general terms related to your business, specific products or services offered, and customer pain points. For instance, an auto repair shop might consider terms like "auto repair," "tire repair," and "steering problems"​.
  2. Utilize Keyword Research Tools: Use tools like Semrush's Keyword Magic Tool to find terms and phrases that people are searching for, along with key data like monthly search volumes. Remember to include location modifiers to your keywords, such as "near me" or specific place names like "Minneapolis" or "St. Paul" to target local searchers​.
  3. Check Local Metrics: Prioritize your keywords based on local metrics. This means focusing on 'low-hanging fruit' keywords that you have a better chance of ranking for in your specific location. Tools like the Keyword Overview can help you understand the difficulty level of ranking for each keyword in your location​.
  4. Analyze Competitors' Rankings: By analyzing your competitors' rankings, you can identify gaps in your keyword strategy and discover additional keywords that might be valuable. You can use tools like Semrush's Domain Overview or Google searches with local modifiers to find out who your competitors are and what keywords they rank for​​.

By following these steps, you can build a robust keyword strategy that targets the right local audience and helps improve your business's local search rankings.

Fill Out Your Google Business Profile Completely

Let's circle back to your Google Business Profile. Half-filling your profile is like leaving the house with only one earring on—it's a fashion no-no. Dive into every nook and cranny of that profile. Categories? Check. Services? Listed. Hours of operation? You bet they're accurate. SEMrush underlines the importance of a complete profile because it helps Google match your business with the right searches. 

To completely fill out your Google Business Profile, you should take the following steps:

  1. Provide Comprehensive Information: Add as much detail as possible to your profile, including your business name, address, phone number, website, service area, hours of operation, and the date your business was established. Make sure this information is accurate and complete​.
  2. Add High-Quality Photos: Upload various photos that represent your business, such as exterior and interior shots, products, and staff at work. Google recommends a minimum of three photos for each category and that photos be at least 720 pixels square in JPG or PNG format​.
  3. Include Videos: Although not mandatory, you can enhance your profile by adding videos that are 30 seconds or shorter, under 100 MB in size, and at least 720p in resolution. Videos can make your listing stand out and provide a dynamic view of your business​.
  4. Respond to Reviews: Engage with customers by responding to their reviews. This interaction not only shows appreciation but also encourages more reviews and can make your business appear more trustworthy and customer-friendly​.

Building Local Citations

Finally, let's gather some local fame with citations. A citation is any online mention of your business's name, address, and phone number, and it's like the buzz that gets people talking about you in the neighborhood. 

Building local citations is a key component of local SEO, and there are some strategic ways to approach this:

  1. Understand Citations: Citations are online references that mention your business's name, address, and phone number (NAP). They come in two types: structured citations from directories like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp, and unstructured citations from mentions in local news, blog posts, etc​.
  2. Prioritize High-Quality Citations: Focus on building citations that are accurate and placed on reputable sites. The quality of the citation is often more important than the quantity​.
  3. Maintain Consistency in NAP Information: Ensure your business's NAP is consistent across all citations. Discrepancies can confuse search engines and potential customers​.
  4. Automate When Possible: Use tools to automate the process of citation creation and management. This can save time and help maintain consistency​.
  5. Reverse Engineer Competitors' Citations: Analyze where your competitors are cited and target those sources as well​.
  6. Be Thorough and Regularly Audit: Regularly check your citations to ensure they are accurate and comprehensive. Use citation audit services when needed to find and fix any issues​.
  7. Utilize Local Opportunities: Look for citation opportunities in local business initiatives, industry-specific lists, and by sponsoring local events or charities​.

Combining these strategies can improve your business’s visibility and ranking in local search results.


Revving up your local SEO from day one sets you on a path sparkling with potential. By taking these initial steps seriously—creating a Google Business Profile, nailing down your keyword research, fleshing out every detail of your profile, and building up local citations—you're not just starting strong; you're laying a foundation that's designed to last. So, throw on your CEO hat, and let’s get your small business shining bright on the local stage. Your future customers are already searching for you; let's make sure they find you, love at first sight, every time

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