If you have a small "bricks and mortar" local business, you absolutely NEED a website.
We live in a world dominated by the internet — a digital world of websites and webpages. Having a website for your business is not inherently new, but you'd be surprised how many still don't.
A properly built website is the first (and most foundational) piece of a successful local seo campaign.
You can bet your competitors have ones — why give them any advantage?
You're probably wondering... "What is the point of having a website? How does it help my business?"
If you can boil it down to one thing it's this: nobody uses telephone directories to find businesses anymore. In fact, by 2011 only 30% of Americans still used them. Imagine what that statistic is now.
Everything is now done online.
If you want your business to be found, you must have a website on the internet.
Without one, you'll struggle to keep up with your competitors.
You might think you can throw together a cheap website and think that's going to cut it just because you have been annoyed into oblivion by all those Wix ads.
Or those "one page website" ads that Russel Brunson so clickbait-ily pioneered to drive more people into his funnel software touting that you only need a SINGLE page website.
In fact I've even seen people saying you don't need a website at all.
Well guess what, they are all wrong.
If you have a legitimate local business (where you see customers at your location or you go to your customers) you need a website. And if you want it to bring you new customers everyday who want your services, for free, from organic traffic - it needs to be structured properly for local SEO.
Your website is something that needs special attention.
You need a website that:
Before we get into how to create your website, we need to define some goals.
Define Goals. Work Towards Goals. Accomplish Goals.
It's that simple... Well, it might also require a montage.
You need to always remember WHY you're making this website.
What is the purpose of your website? What is your service, or services? Do you sell anything online? Whatever your business offers, keep this in mind when creating your website.
If you're a landscaping business, your website's purpose is to inform and sell your service, with readily-available contact details.
If you sell candles, your website might be used to sell them online, to a wider market.
It's also important that you keep the customer in mind.
Who are they, why do they buy your product/service? How does my website look to them?
If you can define these goals, then you're ready to begin.
To build any website, you'll need 3 essential items.
The first thing you'll need for your website, is a domain name.
A domain name is the unique part of your website address — the "google" in google.com, for example.
The domain name technically also includes the ".com" part as well. This is because "google.com" is not the same as "google.net" or "google.uk." They are entirely separate domains.
FYI - The ".com" part of a website address is called the top-level domain.
There are a few things you need to know when it comes to your domain name:
Buying a domain name is usually bundled in when you buy website hosting (this will be covered shortly.)
We have tried them all, and recommend:
You CAN buy a domain name separately, but it's really not necessary. Better to just buy it with hosting.
Your domain name is really an extension of your business name.
There are 3 primary types of domain names for local/service based businesses:
A Branded domain is a domain name that is simply the name of your actual brand/business/company.
This is called a "Branded" domain name.
Note that serp.com, serp.net, serp.org are also branded domain names - we are only referring to the root domain when we talk about names, not the "TLD".
The 'root' domain is the part before the dot.
The part after the dot is called the "TLD", or Top Level Domain, and is the ".com", ".net", ".org", ".co", etc. that you are used to seeing.
Many local businesses will serve one primary area, and maybe only 1 or a few services. For example, a landscaping company in Los Angeles, CA.
It it quite common to see the business buy a domain name like "losangeleslandscapers.com"
This is called Keyword domain. Or an "Exact Match Domain" (EMD) because the domain name exactly matches the main keyword they want to rank for to get more customers.
This is OKAY to do if your ACTUAL brand name is, in fact, "Los Angeles Landscapers". This would be a "Branded EMD".
However, if your brand name was something like James & John Home Services., and you really wanted landscaping customers from los angeles, so you made a domain "losangeleslandscapers.com" then this is quite clearly an attempt to game the system, the system being Google, by tapping into one of the primary google ranking factors which is domain name.
Having a Keyword domain, when your actual brand name is something different, will lead to all sorts of technical seo problems for you down the road if you don't realllllly know what you are doing, so we do not recommend this course of action.
A hybrid domain name is just a blend of the Branded & Keyword domain.
Continuing with our landscaper example above it would be something like jamesandjohnlandscapers.com
In this example, the Brand name was James & John Home Services, but they wanted more landscaping customers so they put the keyword "landscapers" in the root of the domain.
It can work, but should be handled with care. If you are thinking of doing something like this, just contact us for and we will give you our 2 cents.
Sidenote: The TLD is also an important choice, but not nearly as important as the 'root' domain. More commonplace TLDs like ".com", ".net", ".org", ".co" tend to be seen as more authentic, and trustworthy. This is generally going to lead to a higher click-through rate.
There are 2 associated costs when buying a domain:
Typically it costs about $10-$12 USD to buy a domain name, and around the same to keep it for a year.
So the first year it'll cost $20-$24 USD, and $10-$12 every year after that.
As you have to continually renew your domain each year, it will be an on-going, small expense.
To have a live website, you not only need a domain name, but hosting.
Hosting is basically access to a server that allows your website to be "online." I could write out a long technical answer for what a server is, but it would be a waste of time. All you need to know is this:
Hosting = server = allows your website to be seen online by all.
There are hundreds of popular hosting services, but to be honest most of them suck. Why? Well one reason is because they are all owned by the same giant conglomerate called Endurance International Group.
Look them up if you want, but we will save you the time and just let you know that you have been warned.
Frankly, the most popular hosting solutions are really the worst. This include GoDaddy, HostGator, etc.
Prices can run from $50/year to as much as $1000+/year, depending on how much space & speed you need (it's slightly more complex than that but this article is about website structure so who cares.)
For a local small business, you'd want to go for something that's affordable. At this point you don't really need a massive server size with world-class security.
When we got started we used SiteGround, and are moving a lot of our websites now to a private hosting company that we trust, called IONBLADE.
If you need help hosting your website PLEASE contact us before marking a decision so we can help you. It can be a nightmare if you do it wrong, and overall it's gonna be a lot of technical mumbo jumbo for you to sift through if you don't speak the language of "interwebs".
Whoever you decide to go with, make sure you do good research.
You've got your domain name, and your hosting — there's one essential left: a CMS.
A CMS (content management system) is basically a website builder platform. It's a way for you to control and manage all the files and elements of your website, for all of us who don't see the matrix.
A good CMS will allow you to create your actual website, and optimize it for SEO.
Here is a list of the most popular Content Management Systems:
Although there are various choices, WordPress is by far the most popular (35% of the internet uses it.) We use it. We recommend it.
What features does your local business require for its website? What purpose does your website serve? Is it a place to get information, or is it somewhere people can buy things online?
Regardless of what your local business is, you will need a blog.
Blogging, sometimes called "content marketing", is a universal feature for every business website on the internet. It's the prime way to draw in large amounts of organic traffic from search engines.
Your website needs to be "found" and creating content (blogging) is one way to do it.
If you sell stuff online, you will need ecommerce functionality (called a shopping cart) and all the requirements that come with it. WordPress plugins make all of this easy.
One of the most important questions you must ask is "who will build my website?" This is something that takes time, effort and money. Are you able to do this yourself? Do you have the free time to do it? Or do you need to hire someone?
If you can't do it yourself, then you have a few "out-sourcing" options.
Whatever outsourcing route you go, you need to make sure they know how to create a website. Do they understand website structure and its influence on SEO? Do they know how to optimize branding and design to maximize user experience?
Even after your website is created, it needs to be constantly managed. You have to ask yourself, "who will run the website?"
There are multiple aspects of your website that need constant "maintenance." Some of these include:
The question you need to be asking: "who will do these tasks?" Are you able to do them? Do you have the time, or do you need to hire someone? Is that someone already an employee of yours, or is it an agency/outsource?
KEY POINT — Websites are not static - they must be managed, maintained, and over time, grown.
Before you even attempt to make your website, you need to outline a plan, a sitemap, and an idea of the website design you want.
We'll start by going over all the pages your website needs.
If you didn't know, a website is basically just a bunch of pages stuck together, under one domain. So it makes sense that we cover each page that you need, one by one.
Every website has got a homepage — it's the most essential page.
A homepage should act as a 30,000 foot view of your business - a dashboard in a sense. It should give a little bit of everything you do to allow a user to get a broad, but semi-complete, picture of your brand.
Your homepage should feature:
Your About Page should give visitors a clear view of your brand -the people, values, mission, and what makes you different.
Your contact page should provide an easy way for website visitors to get in touch with you.
This sounds easy, but it is critical. If someone gets all the way to your contact page and can't easily contact you, you are going to miss out on a huge amount of revenue.
Trouble contacting someone through a "Contact Page" ... sounds ridiculous right? It is, but you'd be surprised how often this happens.
Your blog page will be a hub where all your content/posts are found.
Each time you create a new blog post, it will automatically show up here - typically with a featured image, the author name, author profile picture, a date, a text snippet, etc.
Your services page should list all of the services you offer, with links to each individual The "Services" page is a critical page on your website for 3 reasons:
If you have multiple locations you will want a page on your website dedicated to summarizing those locations.
A Locations Page will also act as a link hub.
An SEO sitemap is basically just a visual representation of how your website structure looks, page-by-page.
Your sitemap will give you a blueprint visual to the website you are creating. It will show you all the pages you need, and how they link together.
Remember: A website is simply a bunch of text files, organized inside a folder. Many times it will be folders within folders - much like you would create on your computer. Organization is critical for us humans to remember where our stuff is, and is also critical for search engine crawlers to more easily understand where things are on your website.
Either draw your sitemap on a whiteboard/blackboard, or make a document online. Keep the sitemap visible at all times.
Website structure is basically how all the different pages on your website are connected together. This image should help you get an idea of what I'm talking about.
The structure of your website starts with the homepages, and internal links connect it to category pages. From there the pages get more and more specific — this is the basic idea of website structure.
When you boil it right down, there's only really 2 reasons why website structure is important.
Good website structure makes it easy for both search engines and search users to navigate your website.
The website structures that appear to perform best, are ones that are "shallow."
A shallow website structure means that you can get anywhere on the website in 3 clicks or less.
For a local business website, we most definitely want a shallow website structure.
We can breakdown a shallow website structure into 4 basic levels.
The first level of your shallow website structure is the homepage. It is the ground floor, where visitors enter.
A homepage acts as the central hub — the directory with signposts to all places on your website.
The homepage of a website should be linking to 2 types of pages.
A homepage will start off the structure of a website by linking to category pages.
Category pages are the second level of a shallow website structure — we'll cover it shortly.
Please don't get confused by the word "category" here. We are not referring to blog categories. We are simply saying that you need to organize your website's pages into different categories of page types.
You also want to link important pages, to prioritize the flow of link juice from the backlinks you acquire. For us, we link to our individual service pages, and to our blog posts, and to our SERP University posts.
Try not to overdo it with the links from your homepage.
Once again, do not confuse this with blog post categories. We are not talking about blog categories or tags.
We are talking about the different categories of pages on your website - like your "Service Pages", or "Local Landers", etc.
The second level of a shallow website structure are the category pages.
These are the key pages featured on your header and footer menus. Examples for a local business might include:
These pages divide the main "categories" or content of your website. Unless you are Amazon or an e-commerce site, you probably wont have more than a few. Most small local businesses will fall between 5-6.
Each individual page will be different, depending on what type of page it is. Your about page might not further link deeper, but your services page absolutely should.
As an example, SERP Co's services page leads to individual pages for each service they offer.
Page types for local businesses will be covered below.
IMPORTANT: These type of category pages are different from e-commerce category pages. Ecommerce website structure will be covered later.
The third level, subcategory pages, may or may not exist, depending on your website. Some websites go straight from the category pages to the content, with no need for "subcategories."
A good example of a subcategory page is SERP University splitting into "Content" and "SEO" modules.
Each subcategory page houses all the individual posts/blog posts, which is the fourth level of website structure. The reason is that each of these Primary Topics are HUGE, and need to be broken down further.
As you can see above, subcategories may or may not be part of your shallow website structure. It really just depends on the nature of your business and website.
Content makes up the fourth, and final level of a shallow website structure. By content I am referring to the individual posts/blog posts of your website.
At this level, you are effectively at the end of your website — there are no more levels beyond this.
The purpose of a websites content is to generate large amount of organic traffic from search engines. This is typically done targeting long-tail keywords, discovered through effective keyword research.
Now, website structure for a local business is not going to differ that dramatically from general website structure. There are however, some strategies we should talk about — ones specific to local businesses.
If you run a small business, your website absolutely needs individual pages for every service you offer.
Why should you?
Because Google (and other search engines) rank your pages based on the content on it. It's easier to rank for "Newport lawn mowing service" if you have a page solely dedicated to it. You're more likely to rank for a keyword if your meta tags, and page content are targeting it.
This is an approach SERP Co uses — each of the 7 main services have their own dedicated pages.
The pages are extremely detailed, with images, persuasive copy and even testimonials.
The strategy is both superior for SEO and user experience.
This is opposed to having one services page for all the services that you offer. With this strategy you're hurting your ranking potential, for each individual service.
It's an inaccurate shotgun, versus a highly-targeted sniper rifle.
Now, with individual services pages, you're going to rank well. But that's not the only thing we can do to improve those pages' rankings.
You need around 1-3 high-quality blog posts based around each service that you offer.
The key is you want these blog posts to link back to the specific service page they relate to, using a keyword variation.
So, for example, lets say you created a service page for gutter cleaning services, and created a blog titled "how to clean your gutters." You would simply place a link from the blog post, to the service page, making sure you use a keyword variation. A keyword variation example would be, "gutter cleaning services in [location].
There are some other more, "miscellaneous" items of website structure we should detail.
Breadcrumbs are the small text paths you see at the top of pages. They look like this.
Basically a line of hyperlink texts that tells you how far/many pages you are from the homepage.
They make it easy for both users and search engines to navigate your website.
There are technically multiple types of breadcrumbs.
There are ones that show how far you are from the homepage (like the example above.)
E-commerce ones that detail all the category attributes you have added to your store search.
And ones that show your recent history on the website.
They all have their place regarding website structure. Just make sure your website has breadcrumbs — it's an easy way to boost website structure.
When it comes to website navigation, there are 2 almost universal features you must have.
A header menu is the menu at the top of a website. It looks like this.
Almost every website made today has one — this is because they make navigation easy.
I'd recommend making sure that it scrolls down the page with you. There will be a setting for that in your CMS.
The footer menu is the menu at the very bottom of a page.
This is also fairly standard practice. It seems to help navigation, while not being intrusive.
Make sure your local business website has these two menus.
Another aspect of website structure, is the URL slugs of each page.
Each page has its own unique URL slug — from the category pages, to the subcategories and the posts. Technically the homepage has no slug I guess... It's the homepage — it needs no slug.
URL slugs can be simple like the example above, or more complex — indicating you are further down a website.
Having clean, easy to understand URL slugs helps both search engines and users navigate the depths of your website.
Try to keep it short, use hyphens to separate words, and use a keyword if it contextually makes sense.
Call to actions (CTA) are buttons on a website that typically lead to a landing page, or something of importance.
It's important to note that opt-in forms and CTAs are not exactly the same thing. The call to action is the button ON an opt-in form.
A CTA can be used in many different ways/contexts. Examples include:
Regarding good website structure, call to actions act as a way to lead users to important pages/places.
Make sure you try to make them "un-intrusive." If you are using a pop-up with a CTA for example, use an exit-intent one.
Using a bright, contrasting button color can help grab attention, leading to more clicks.
You can also attach a "lead magnet" to your call to actions. A lead magnet is something of value, like an eBook, report, or cheat-sheet.
With structure out of the way, the last element to your local business website is branding and design.
Before we get into things, we should define what website branding and design are.
Website design is the visual appearance of your website — it's the tone and feel it creates. This includes everything from your website color scheme, logo and page layout.
As a local business, you need a website that makes a strong, professional, yet unique impression. It needs to be appropriate based on your industry and country of business. This is all crucial to building consumer trust and confidence.
There are a number of different branding & design strategies you need to implement.
NOTE: most of these things come with website templates automatically. It does help to actually know why you need them however.
This is, the, most important website design strategy — one you MUST implement.
A responsive design is basically a function that allows your website to change its size/proportions, based on the device used.
Regardless of what device someone has, they can use your website. Mobile, laptop, desktop, tablet... It doesn't matter. Your website adapts.
In a world of smartphones dominating internet usage, this is absolutely vital.
Your CMS should come with responsive design function for your website — it's a standard feature these days. Pretty much all WordPress themes come with it.
Each and every page of your website needs to have a consistent design and color scheme. Look at how every SERP Co page has the same color and font.
Each page is going to have its own unique page layout — this depends on page type (homepage/about/services/contact etc.)
Make sure that each and every page on your website has the same font and color scheme. This will make your website look professional, and your business authentic.
This was covered in website structure, but it's also a design element, so I'll rehash here.
Header and footer menus are universal design features that all websites have.
You can add these menus to your website with your CMS platform.
Your business logo should feature on your top header bar — the top corner, adjacent your header menu works well.
This can be done through your CMS platform.
As a local business, you'll want your phone number on your top header bar, along with your business logo and header menu.
This makes it easy for your website visitors to contact you.
Also done through your CMS.
Even if you're not selling anything online, you still should have a SSL certificate.
A SSL certificate is basically an extra-level of security for your website — this is never a bad thing.
But why we really want it, is because Google ranks websites with it, better. It also instills trust and comfort in people who visit your website.
NOTE: If you are an ecommerce website, then a SSL certificate is a MUST.
You need to make sure your website is littered with "social proof."
Social proof is basically things that suggest, show or imply your social status. It's a way to show your credentials, competency and success. It influences what people say, do or think.
There are many ways we can use social proof for a local business website. Some methods include:
Here's an example of some customer testimonials — complete with pictures and quotes.
And here's a "who we've worked with" panel variation.
As a local small business, you need to persuade potential customers that you are the best choice. Littering your website with lots of social proof is key.
Even after creating your website, your job is not done. When it comes to websites, the job is never done. You need to be consistently monitoring the performance of your domain. Below I will show you what you need to monitor, and how.
There are 4 main aspects of performance we will address.
How fast the pages of your website load is vitally important. Did you know bounce rate skyrockets when page speed increases? It's common sense, but take a look at this.
Research from Google — a page taking an extra 5 seconds to load increases bounce rate by 106%.
FYI — for those of you who don't know, bounce rate is people leaving you website... So it's not good. At all.
So how can we address, and optimize the speed of our website?
Follow these best practices and strategies.
First thing we need to do is to discover whether our website is actually slow or not.
We'll do this with Google PageSpeed Insights.
Google Pagespeed Insights is a performance test of your website — it's completely free to use. The test can be run for both desktop and mobile versions of a website.
After entering your websites URL, you'll get an analysis of your website page speed. Most of it is overly technical — focus on the rating at the top.
A 57/100 rating is mediocre — this means we can improve.
BONUS: There is a suggestions panel of things you can do to boost page speed.
With this analysis, you should have a clear idea about the speed of your website.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a type of network that utilizes geographical location to effectively connect a user to a webpage. It basically just reduces the distance between the two.
What's important is that a CDN can decrease page loading times.
Take this case study for example — UK based company Venture Harbour improved website speed by 30.2%.
Here's a "before photo" speed test.
And here's after.
They said this only took 20 minutes to achieve this result. Talk about bang for your buck.
Caching is a function that allows visitors to temporarily "remember" aspects of a website. There is a temporary memory storage that allows the website to be loaded faster when revisited.
Caching is an easy way to decrease page loading times for your repeat visitors.
The easiest way to add caching to your website is with a WordPress plugin. W3 Total Cache is the most popular choice.
Compressing your images is when you convert an image to a more optimal format — one with a smaller file size.
The result is easier-to-load images, making page speed faster.
It doesn't change the visual appearance of an image either.
You can use TinyPNG to compress your images.
This might not seem like it'd do much, but consider how many images you have on your website.
We briefly touched on mobile optimization in website design, but we'll go more in-depth here. I'll explain why you need need it, and how to check everything is running smoothly.
FYI — mobile optimization is easily achieved by using a responsive web design. Refer to "Part 4: Branding & Design."
The need for mobile optimization came into play with the advent of the smartphone — around the start of the 2010's.
With the smartphone being the dominant "system" it's only natural that majority of internet usage is done through it. We even have statistics to prove this.
We live in a mobile-dominated internet age. Google even switched its search index to "mobile-first."
So that's why you need mobile optimization.
Performance-wise, we can use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see where we stand.
It should give you a clear idea about whether your page is properly optimized for smartphones.
Individually run through and test every page on your website — if it's good for Google, it's good enough.
Ideally you want all pages of your website crawled by search engines, particularly important ones. This doesn't always happen — in these instances, a XML sitemap can be valuable.
A XML Sitemap is basically a map that tells Google (and others) the location of important pages on your website. It's your way of communicating, making sure your best pages are crawled. It can also be used for images, videos and other files besides webpages.
Here's how it looks — it's text file with lots of code.
Looks overly technical but they are easy to make — we'll cover it in a second.
You're probably wondering if you actually need a XML sitemap... According to Google, if your website is:
Then you should have one.
The easiest way to create a XML sitemap is to use the WordPress SEO plugin Yoast.
To find the XML sitemap function, you'll want to go SEO > General
Click on the "Features" panel — you'll see the option for XML sitemaps below.
When activated, you can press the little question mark and see your XML sitemap live.
Google can find your XML sitemap on its own, but why not just give it to them? Google Search Console allows you to do this.
There should be a "Sitemaps" option on the sidebar.
Add your XML sitemap URL to both boxes.
The first one (site property) only needs the tail of your URL. The other one (domain property) will need your entire URL, domain included.
Having some form of analytics is crucial for addressing website performance.
FYI — Analytics is basically the analysis of statistics, to forecast future outcomes. It gives us insight to what's working, what's not, and necessary changes needed to be made.
There are many options for analytics — we'll be using Google Analytics
Setting up Google Analytics for your website is easy — go to the signup page and enter in your details.
If you already have a Google account, you'll just log in with that.
You'll then be asked to give your website information.
Once that's done you'll then have to accept their terms and service, and your Google Analytics account will be created.
Google Analytics gives you 5 different types of analytical reports, each with unique statistics. These 5 reports are:
As a small local business you should focus on organic traffic, which is a measure of how many website visitors you get on your website/pages. You can find this under the "Audience" report/tab, clicking on overview and adding a new segment.
In this post we covered everything you need to know to create your local business website.
A website is an essential component to running any sort of business, especially a local one. Without one, you risk giving your competition the upper hand.
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