SEO is so overlooked, under-appreciated and misunderstood by local business owners.

That’s been quite evident to me lately, as I’ve been sitting in on some local BNI meetings. If you don’t know, BNI is basically a non-competing referral network. Local business owners gather once a week to pitch their services, get/give referrals and help each other out.

For the 4-5 meetings I’ve attended as a visitor, I’m given 30 seconds to “pitch” my business. I decided to instead ask questions, listen and teach.

A show of hands told me that out of 58 local business owners;

  • only one person knew what “personalized search” is (and he was a web-designer)
  • everyone still gets emails from “SEOs” “guaranteeing #1 rankings in Google”
  • yet only a few people knew it was not possible to guarantee a #1 ranking

But there is an eagerness to learn among many of the members. They WANT to know more! But all they know is the noise of misinformation and spam emails they’ve received over the years.

That leads me to the meat of this post…

Case Study. How I Judge Local SEO Opportunity For a Local Business

One business owner asked me at the end of the last meeting if I could take a quick look at his site to see if there’s room for improvement. I figured, I’d answer this for him in a blog post. The more info about local SEO for small business owners out there the better.

This video shows how I, in about 10 minutes, can quickly answer this business owners’ question. “Can my site do better?”  It quickly shows a few simple tools I use. Pretty much every SEO on the planet should know how to do this. But its not too far out of the reach of a local business owner.


So if you’re an SEO who can’t take on a local mom and pop store, but get asked this sort of question – share this post with local business. There’s a few takeaways that may help all business owners. Maybe there’s a few takeaways for you too.

And if you ARE a local business owner looking for more information on SEO, check out the video. As an SEO, this is how I check to see if you have opportunity to do better in local search.  I break my thinking down a little bit more below, as well as provide links to some of the tools and services I use.


Judging Local SEO Opportunity Tutorial – Part One


Step 1) How Does My Site Look?

Step back and check out the site from the perspective of a potential customer. Is it attractive? Does it answer questions I might have about your services? Does it give a clear “call to action” and easily direct me as to how to contact you?

Step 2) Does My Company Name Rank In Google?

Go to Google and type in your company name. Ideally, if you’re searching from the city your company is located, your website should be the top result.

Step 3) Does My Main Keyword/Location Rank?

Think of what your main keyword should be. In this case “garbage collector” was a good bet, and search for “keywords city, state”. Do you show up?

Step 4) Get Ranking Data for Dozens More Searches

Now you want to know, how do I rank for a broad variety of keywords?  You want to get a general idea of your overall visibility on the web. This gets a little more advanced, but if you want to get rankings for more keywords.

1. Compile a list of a few dozen searches you might want to be found for. You can either just think of some, or use a tool like mergewords to help come up with a list.

2. Using SEOBook’s rank-checker (a plugin for firefox) plug in your words and website and see how you rank.


Judging Local SEO Opportunity Tutorial – Part Two


Step 5) What Are The Most Important Words To Rank For?

At this point, you have not prioritized any of these keywords. In order to do this, you might ask “which of these keywords get searched for more often?” To answer this, you can head over to the Google AdWords tool and paste in all your keywords. Set to exact match and see if you’re getting any volume.  Choose any keywords that have volume, that’s a nice short list. You’d want to prioritize ranking for those since they receive more searches.

Step 6) How Hard Would It Be To Rank?

The tool I use in this step is a paid SEO tool from SEOmoz. This may be where your abilities and resources drop off. No worries though. If you’ve determined you could be ranking better for high priority keywords that’s great! You’ve figured out that there IS room for improvement, and you should consider getting someone to help.

Step 7) Am I Present In Local Listings?

Are you listed in Google Maps, Bing Local, Yelp, SuperPages etc?  Head over to those sites and take a look. Its actually good news if you’re not, or if the listings are thin because that means there’s lots of room for improvement.  Look to see if you’ve claimed your listings, if there are any reviews and if there’s information like photos, categories, descriptions etc.


What Next?

Now what? If you’re an SEO, share this post with local business owners. We often can’t take on small businesses. But we shouldn’t deprive them of valuable information, let them continue to be bombarded with bad seo-advise and perpetuate the mis-information.

If you’re a local business owner, and want to DIY, check out these resources;

SEO for local search – by Ted Ives

Local search ranking factors – by David Mihm

SEOmoz Blog, Local Search Blog Posts – by SEOmoz

Contact Me – I’d be happy to point you in the right direction!!



About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • January 2, 2012 Reply

    Tof Salcedo

    Thanks Dan for this.

    Really, it has always been a challenge for me to introduce and educate business owners about SEO and the right practices. I am with you in generating and spreading as much as correct information about SEO in internet, making them available for business owners for them to see the opportunities and value that SEO can bring into their businesses.

    Moreover, like being here in the Philippines, where we are just getting started adopting the new trends and technologies including SEO, it’s all the more challenging but I truly believe can be very fulfilling in the long run.

    Again, thanks for this, it will surely help a lot.

    • January 2, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Tof

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, I’m sure its challenge for you there as well, I’d love to hear more about the situations you face in the Philippines. Here, it is still so surprising (to me anyway, being so involved with SEO every day) that the general public doesn’t have the right information.

      The most interesting thing to me was, that the first few BNI meetings I went to, people seemed skeptical (only having 30 seconds to talk is tough too) but after the 3rd and 4th meetings, people were definitely coming around and interested. I think many of them (unfortunately) have just written off SEO. But I found with some patience, listening and teaching they can come around. Once they began to see that it was something that could really help they want to know more.


      • January 2, 2012 Reply

        Tof Salcedo

        Thanks Dan for your response.

        I almost have the same situation here, the key is really to talk about it as much as possible and they will be interested. However, getting the deal is another story. 🙂

        Maybe the best thing here in the Philippines is that a lot of businesses/professional don’t have websites yet so it’s a pretty good starting point for me and can do the upsells later. Selling them websites is a bit less education and introduction intensive not like SEO.

        One thing that I wanted to add, which truly breaks my heart, but I must admit, that there is a lot of SEO practitioners here that are misinformed believing that what they do is the right thing; so how can we expect a well informed business owners/professionals to really know what is SEO if we ourselves don’t know it in the first place. On top of that, the support and acceptance of the whole SEO community is maybe there but it seems that there is already a prejudice counting out SEOs from third world countries like the Philippines because they said we only are for producing ‘third world quality links’. 🙁 (I don’t know, but that’s my observation and what I feel, correct me if I am wrong) I hope you guys should realize that we need your help even more because of the current state of SEO here in the Philippines.

        But yeah, having colleagues that are misinformed is really one of the major problems.

        But like you said and I sincerely believe that with patience, listening, and teaching all these will change for the better.

        I hope you can now see and realize how it feels like being an SEO here in my country. 🙂

        Thanks again and I hope you can do some more like this for educating not just the businesses but the SEOs as well how to do things the right way. Cheers!

        • January 4, 2012 Reply

          Dan Shure

          Hey thanks for adding some more info Tof! Its very important to have different perspectives, and I appreciate knowing a bit more about SEO in the Philippines. I think any *good* SEO or *smart* businessperson here knows that there are quality SEOs in the Philippines or anywhere, you just have to look. 🙂

          Thanks again!

  • January 3, 2012 Reply


    Great post. Useful info for SEOs and for mom & pops. And thanks for sharing mergewords. I love that tool!

    • January 4, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Sure thing Mike, yah Mergewords is quite a time-saver (and fun!).

  • February 23, 2013 Reply

    Louis-Philippe Dea

    Hi Dan! Your introduction is so true! I’m a part of BNI organisation as well in Quebec (Canada). (By the way, if you fly in Montreal, give me a call and I’ll invite you in a meeting 😉 ). The part about “But all they know is the noise of misinformation and spam emails they’ve received over the years.” is the reality. There’s so much education to do!

    Thanks for the tips and strategies you mention in your article! Great video 🙂

    • February 25, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay in approving it 😉

      Ha! I’ve been to both Montreal and Quebec as a little kid. I remember both being lovely. There’s a big mall in Quebec with an ice rink in it, isn’t there?

  • May 6, 2013 Reply

    Jim Mickelson

    When I was starting local SEO, my mistake was to not double check the information going onto all the different local listings. Not only is it important to be on lots of listings, but also that the information is consistent. We had an old address posted on some sites conflicting with the correct one. When we finally looked around and corrected everything, it made a huge difference.

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