Free Local SEO Tools that Belong in Your Kit
Posted by MiriamEllis
Today I’m popping open my personal tool kit to share a list of my favorite free local SEO tools. The creators of these tools range from one-person shops to the United States government, and I’m grateful for the effort that went into developing these resources that make the life of any hard-working local SEO just a little bit easier and more effective.
Here we go. Open Sesame!
This best of all free local tools shows you where business listings exist for your company on key local platforms and where they don’t. It helps you to determine exactly where you need to list your business next. Over the years, I’ve used this tool for local SEO more than any other. It surfaces five important pieces of data about your business:
First, the tool shows you where you have missing listings. These are places your business should be profiled. Simply click the “create listing” button to be connected to the different platforms and begin rounding out your citations.
Here, the tool has found an unclaimed listing and gives you the ability to claim it via the “claim listing” button. In the yellow box, you’ll note that GetListed.org has surfaced a possible duplicate listing. This randomly chosen local business appears to be having NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency issues, due to a hotel and restaurant sharing an address and phone number but having different names. These types of issues can cause major ranking problems, so it’s great that the tool provides a heads-up, alerting you to the fact that you’ve got some clean-up work ahead.
Here, the tool shows you the listings it has found. You should take a look at each of the surfaced listings to be certain that your NAP is consistent and accurate. If not, you can edit the listings.
The “reviews” tab pulls your reviews from a variety of platforms, helping you to get a sense of how frequently and how widely your business is being reviewed. While there isn’t anything to do here, per se, it can be helpful to local SEOs trying to quickly gauge whether an incoming client is being actively reviewed.
I think the “To Do” feature of this tool is terrific. For each listing, you are given a set of tasks you can accomplish in order to improve the status of the listing, such as adding categories, photos or earning reviews.
GetListed.org is my go-to tool when business owners phone me out of the blue. I quickly find the zip code of the business, pop it into the tool along with the name, and seconds later I have a ton of information at my fingertips. As a first point of appraisal and analysis, there is no other free tool like it, and it makes it so easy for solo business owners to see where they are at, citation-wise, and where they need to go next.
Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 cites correct categorization of your business in the Google Places for Business Dashboard as the number one factor! Type your service, product, and business model keywords into this Mike Blumenthal tool, and it generates a list of best-match pre-set categories from Google’s category taxonomy. Really helpful for when you are creating Google+ Local pages for your clients.
As you can see in the above screenshot, an attorney can type in a broad term and be shown all of the available, more refined categories that exactly describe his business. You can also type in partial words, with as few as three letter in them, if you’re note sure how to categorize your business. For example, a dentist could type in “dent” to see variations like “dentist,” “dental clinic,” or “cosmetic dentist” appear. This tool does just one task, but it does it to perfection.
Enter your basic business information and this great little tool from 51 Blocks gives you a treasure trove of data about the optimization of your Google+ Local listing, the consistency of your NAP (name, address, phone number) as published on your website, a head count of your citations and links, and the ability to analyze your competitors’ stats, too. Provides more rich data for local SEOs than almost any other free tool I’ve found!
As a local SEO, I find this to be another great resource for getting an at-a-glance picture of where an incoming client is with their local search marketing. If the owner of this randomly-chosen business called me, I would be able to see, for example, that they don’t have Schema markup on their website or basic keywords in the title tag of their Places landing page (good indicators that there is room for improvement in their on-page SEO). I can also compare them to other local businesses using the tool and see results like this:
This overview can be step one in your competitive analysis. You will, of course, be digging deeper than this for any business you promote, but this is a great, free place to jump-start your appraisal and begin forming a to-do list for your marketing plan.
Also from 51 Blocks. Entering your basic business info into this tool generates HCard, Schema, KML Location Code and GeoTags.
Explicit structuring of your business data on your website and elsewhere means you are making every effort to help the bots understand who you are, where you are, and what you do.
While Google no longer supports Geo Sitemaps, this tool will give you the code you need to format your on-page NAP in either Schema or hCard (your choice) and to upload a KML file to your website’s root directory. This tool is very speedy and easy to use.
Helpful for both PPC and on-page local SEO, this tool from 5MinuteSite.com lets you enter keywords and geographic data for the purpose of generating a list of terms you should consider targeting.
The radius feature of the tool will be helpful to local search marketers working with service area businesses (SABs) that serve a variety of cities.
If you do PPC, you now have an idea of tons of keyword permutations you might want to evaluate for targeting in your campaigns in your client’s service radius. Another use for the output of this tool would be to give it as a list to your client as potential subjects to blog about in an effort to increase their organic visibility alongside their local results for their city of location.
This nifty free tool from Whitespark enables you to enter your business data and create a PDF handout that can be given to customers at the time of service with the goal of encouraging them to review you online. Even lets you upload your business logo to totally customize the appearance of the handout. If you’re having trouble launching a review acquisition campaign, this handy little printout can help your whole staff make an easy start.
In recent times, Google has made it extra difficult for customers to leave a Google-based review. The user must have an account and this handout walks them through the process of both signing up and leaving a review. While not all customers will make the effort, there may be some who would be glad to, but who just don’t “get” how to do it. This handout should make it simple for any interested party and, hopefully, grow your Google-based reviews. Remember that no business needs to get a ton of reviews at once. A slow, steady rate of acquisition is actually ideal.
Empower your phone staff to collect “how did you hear about us?” data and enter it into this form during phone calls. The data is then saved in a database so that you can view and analyze your statistics. The tool also fires the data over to Google Analytics using UTM tracking parameters, so that the data is tracked in Analytics as well. High marks for Whitespark for the creativity of this tool!
Implementing simple best practices in the office, like asking how a customer found your business, can make such a difference in your ability to understand your market, your position in your community and the areas in which you need to grow your outreach in order to appeal to new customers. Approach this task in a really organized manor with this neat free tool.
Employ best practices in your on-page local SEO by utilizing Schema markup to make your basic business data as clear as possible. This tool does just one thing: generates correct Schema markup. Local businesses should choose the “organization” link from the left-hand menu. My only peeve with this tool is that it doesn’t provide a field for your phone number, a key component of your core business NAP (name, address, phone) which you’ll be embedding into your website.
A topic that I’ve been discussing recently with colleagues is the use of industry-specific Schema markup vs. general local business Schema markup when possible. At the bottom of this page you will find a list of specific businesses for which unique markup is available. Given that the main function of utilizing markup is to make data more explicit, it makes good sense to go with the most specific formatting you can. In other words, if you run a recycling center, you’ll see that there is specific markup for this that will make your business data just a little bit clearer than it would be if you simply used the generic “organization” code.
Right from the horse’s mouth, this nifty little Google widget generates code you can embed into your website so that your visitors can get customized driving directions to your place of business. A boon for any brick-and-mortar business model.
You can customize the display of the widget, including making adjustments to size, color, and language. It is currently available in nineteen countries.
Look up ZIP codes with this tool from the USPS. It’s so important to be sure that your business is publishing a ZIP code identical to the one the post office officially assigns to your business. ExpressUpdate/Infogroup draws location date from the USPS an, in turn, feeds it to a host of other websites.
I’ve seen confusion arising in the Google and Your Business Forum over zip code discrepancies, particularly in areas where town names or borders are fuzzy. Inconsistencies in address data are the root cause of so many Google ranking problems. Thanks to this tool, you can be totally secure that you’re publishing your correct, official zip code. In the example above, the business has gotten it right.
Especially helpful when listing your business at ExpressUpdate, this tool lets you enter keywords to determine under which official category your business falls. Recommended reading on this topic: Latest Local SEO Labyrinth – The New ExpressUpdate USA by Phil Rozek.
If you don’t know your Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) number, which must be entered into the tool along with your keyword, you can find a list of numbers here.
Need to know more about the population and economics of a client’s city in the USA? The government knows all and you can find a ton of useful statistical information from the census to help you fine tune your campaigns. Here’s a screenshot from an XLS file, just packed with data:
I haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to the amount of potentially useful statistics compiled by the census. The data you can dig up playing around with this resource could guide you in so many areas, including content development, SEO and PPC.
Want to be sure your local competitors aren’t swiping your content? Simply cut and paste your copy into this tool from Small SEO Tools and it will surface usage of your text from around the web. I use this tool almost every day in my YouMoz editing work, and it’s great for local businesses, too.
The tool highlights in red any instances of potential plagiarism and these instances link to the search engine results where the matching text was found. In addition to being a good tool for helping you make sure that no one is stealing your content, it can be used to ensure that no one is offering you previously published text. Over the years, I’ve run into a number of scenarios in which a large web design company which builds industry-specific local business websites is publishing identical service or product descriptions across multiple client sites. This tool will help any business owner discover if that is the case with their provider. Also good if you allow guest blogging; be sure the submissions you’re considering are truly fresh content.
While not exactly a tool, this freebie from Local Visibility System will save you so much back-and-forth with your local SEO clients that I just had to include it. You can shoot this over to incoming clients in PDF format, have them fill it out and then know you’ve asked all of the right questions to surface problems and ensure consistent data.
If you’re somewhat new to Local SEO, I highly recommend using this questionnaire. All of the topics highlighted in the questions are almost guaranteed to come up in the course of planning and carrying out your tasks. If you have all of the answers ready-to-hand in one place, you can move forward with confidence and speed.
I hope you’ve found a few new gadgets to add to your tool chest here. Isn’t free stuff great?
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Source: Moz Blog