20 Reasons Your WordPress Site Isn’t Ranking High In Google

It’s the #1 question I get…

Why isn’t my WordPress site ranker higher in Google?

The most common reasons WordPress sites don’t rank high in Google are: keywords are too competitive, lack of in-depth content, bad on-page SEO, click-through rates, or little to no links.

Whether you’re nowhere on the map, have a Google penalty, or wondering why competitors outrank you, this tutorial will help you identify what’s going on. These are the 20 most common reasons based on my last 5 years doing SEO consulting and writing these tutorials.

Go through the list and be sure to leave a comment if you found the problem or you need help. I’m glad to help anyone who takes the time to read my tutorials. Here are the main reasons why YOUR WordPress site isn’t ranking high in Google and exactly what you can do to fix it.


1. Lack Of Comprehensive Content

Beefing up articles to 3,000+ words is the #1 reason my blog grew to 3,000 visitors/day. Google your keyword, analyze top results, and include every important topic you can find. Use Answer The Public to find “questions keywords” and answer as many as you can. Backlinko suggests 3,000 words in many of his articles, especially if it’s cornerstone content. I beefed up my Yoast tutorial from 500 to 4,000 words and it went from 10 to 100 visitors/day in 1 week.

I don’t write 3 mediocre tutorials a week. I write 1 killer tutorial every 2 weeks.

Aim for 3,000+ words, especially if it’s a competitive keyword:

WordPress Word Count

You can get penalized for content with low word count (shallow pages), content that isn’t useful with bad bounce rates, affiliate content offering no value, and duplicate content. But even if you don’t have a penalty for thin content, that doesn’t mean some of your content doesn’t have low word count and is preventing you from ranking high.

Step 1: Identify Low Performing Content
In Google Analytics, head to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages. Look for pages with low average time on page + high bounce rates. Low average time on page likely means people aren’t finding the content useful. High bounce rates are a bit more complex and can be from poor design, load times, navigation, pop-ups/advertising, and bad (or no) internal linking.

Landing Pages – Google Analytics

Step 2: Add A Table Of Contents
table of contents helps people navigate long posts, but also encourages you to write long content (and gives you a better chance of being awarded jump-to links using named anchors).

Table of contents HTML looks like this…
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-one">Item One</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-two">Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-three">Item Three</a></li>

Each subheading’s HTML looks like this…
<h3 id="item-one">Item One</h3>
<h3 id="item-two">Item Two</h3>
<h3 id="item-three">Item Three</h3>

Step 3: Beef Up Content
Now that you’ve added a TOC with a good amount of topics, write your paragraphs. Your job is really not to just make it longer, but to make your content more valuable. That usually means adding more helpful graphics, videos, or infographics. Not just spewing out text to fill the page.

Step 4: Answer Question Keywords
Answer The Public lets you search any keyword and generates a visual map (and list) of the most popular questions people are searching about that keyword. It pulls keywords from Google Autocomplete, and the greener the circles are, the more searches those keyword have.

Yoast Keywords – AnswerThePublic


2. Keywords Are Too Competitive

Websites with low domain authority should not compete for broad, competitive keywords. As you build domain authority (by creating great content that gets links) you can start targeting keywords with more searches. But if you struggle to get on page 1, consider going longer-tail.

Long-Tail Keywords

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer (or another tool).


Step 2: Use this chart from Orbit Media. I mostly target 3-word phrases, but I spend a LOT of time on content. More competitive keywords = more time you should invest in your content. The chart is more of a rule of thumb and doesn’t have to be taken literally, but it’s a reminder that websites with high domain authority can (in general) target more competitive keywords.

Keyword Research Shortcut

Step 3: Download MozBar and Keywords Everywhere. These let you Google any keyword and see a keyword’s competition: monthly searches, each search results’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority), etc. Of course, the most important step is clicking on top results and checking how “good” the content is, and make sure you can write better content than theirs.


A keyword is more competitive if:

  • It’s broad
  • It has a high DA + PA in MozBar
  • The keyword is obviously profitable
  • Strong content ranks in the top results
  • Authority websites rank in the top results
  • The keyword has a high number of monthly searches

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for

  • Instead of SEO Consultant, target WordPress SEO Consultant
  • Instead of Chicago Web Designer, target Chicago WordPress Designer
  • Instead of Get Out Of Debt, target Get Out Of Debt Without Bankruptcy
  • Instead of SiteGround Reviews, target SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review


3. Too Much Focus On 1 Single Keyword

Many businesses get obsessed with ranking for 1 keyword, when this is actually a horrible strategy. I rank for thousands of keywords, and even though I rank #1 for keywords like “WordPress SEO Consultant,” I get way more inquiries through my blog than my service pages.

If you’re a photographer in Chicago, here are some ideas:



4. Too Much Focus On Yoast Green Lights

Obsessing over Yoast’s green lights can lead to keyword stuffing and make pages look spammy. Stop thinking SEO is so much about “keyword usage” and start thinking about keeping people engaged with your site through videos, tutorials, and things that people actually would actually want to learn/share/link to. The only time I think about keywords is when I do keyword research, write a keyword-rich (but nice sounding) headline, and craft an enticing meta description so people click my link. I rely on my kick-ass content to do the rest.

What’s Yoast’s SEO Analysis should say:

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy. Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTR? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, URL, SEO title, and meta description (the most important places)… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… add a table of contents to organize longer posts, use videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beef up thin content to make it better (more detailed) than the top search results.


5. You’re Using Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords, not SEO! The competition is for AdWords, and I have personally found the keywords don’t reflect what people are actually searching. Google Autocomplete, or any keyword tool that pulls from Google Autocomplete, is more accurate.



6. Slow Load Times

My WordPress speed guide shows you how I got <1s load times with 100% scores in GTmetrix, but I listed the most important factors below. You probably know Google rewards fast sites.

This video should help (timestamps are in the video description):

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

2019 Hosting Poll


Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation











WP Friendly Hosting Poll


Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png










Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

My GTmetrix report


My Pingdom report



7. Low Click-Through Rates

Everyone knows click-through rates are important (and are used as a ranking factor), but how do you get people clicking on your link? Below are 4 easy ways to increase click-through rates.


Step 1: Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions
Yoast’s bulk editor lets you edit your SEO titles + meta description in bulk so you don’t have to go through each individual page/post. Rewriting these to sound nicer (and of course, include your keyword) is an easy way to increase CTR. Just remember the bulk editor doesn’t detect keywords or character length, so be sure you’re keeping these in mind (length is around 55 characters for SEO titles, 155 characters for meta descriptions). Everyone is going to include the keyword in their snippet – why would anyone click on your link? Your tutorial is current, you have a video tutorial, infographic? Tell them why! Try using numbers and clever adjectives.


Step 2: Add Rich Snippets
I use the WP Review Pro plugin by MyThemeShop (see a demo or a page I use it on). I was using WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned his plugin, and All In One Schema looks way too plain with virtually no customization options. I’ve been happy with WP Review Pro.

Structured Data Review Stars

Step 3: Add Post Modified Date To Search Results
Make time-sensitive content look fresh. First, enable “date in snippet preview” in Yoast’s settings. Next, add “post modified date” to the top of blog posts (this is in a different location for everybody, but for me it’s in the Genesis Simple Edits plugin). Now, whenever you update a post, the date will refresh in search results. You can use the Republish Old Posts plugin to refresh all posts to current day, but it’s a little cheap since you actually didn’t update the posts.

Publish Date


Step 4: Get In Google’s Featured Snippets

  • Create an HTML table of contents (if targeting lists)
  • Make each item in the TOC concise and actionable to solving the problem
  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Featured Snippets



8. Not Optimizing For Social Sharing

Customize how your content looks when shared on Facebook/Twitter…


In Yoast go to SEO → Social, then enable meta data under the Facebook/Twitter tab. While you’re here, don’t forget to verify your site with Pinterest and add your Google+ page to Yoast.


Now edit a page/post, scroll down to the Yoast section, click the share link (shown below) and you will be able to upload images to Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). Yes, this means you need to create 2 graphics for each piece of content if you want it to look nice.



There is no perfect number, but I usually have 50+ links in my 3,000 word tutorials.

Internal links – a natural way to build links to your own website, keep people on your site longer, and reduce bounce rates by getting people clicking on other stuff you’ve written.

External Links – these are like citing sources to Google. Linking to credible, useful content that your readers would find helpful (not just Wikipedia) develops trust with Google.


10. Lack Of Cornerstone Content

Here’s a tip… instead of blogging just to blog how about writing “the ultimate guide” on a key topic your audience wants to learn about? Yoast and WP Rocket are 2 of mine… people aren’t going to link to my WordPress SEO Consulting page, but by attracting links through my tutorials… the “link juice” will benefit my entire site by increasing my domain authority. So if you run your site through Link Explorer and don’t have many links, write some ultimate guides.



11. Not Using SSL

I added SSL in 2018 and surprisingly, my rankings went up (and so did my affiliate sales). Google is further penalizing websites that don’t use SSL (and that insecure padlock doesn’t look good either), so don’t be scared – just do it. Here’s a guide on adding SSL to WordPress.



12. Bad Bounce Rate + Time On Site

Bounce rates (the % of people who leave your site without clicking anywhere) and average time on site are metrics used by Google to determine the value of each page and it’s rankings (you can find these out in Google Analytics). So if your web design, mobile design, lack of internal links, call to actions… and other parts of your website don’t encourage people to click around… this will hurt your rankings. Making your website “sticky” is what SEO is all about.

Bounce Rate


Every time you change a permalink (even if you setup a 301 redirect) you will lose MOST your rankings temporarily, and only some of your rankings long-term. It’s been said about 1-10% of link juice is lost when you setup a 301 redirect. Bottom line… I would avoid changing these all together unless your permalinks use the ugly ?p=123 format. This includes during a redesign.


14. Terrible “About Me” Page

I never knew how important this was until I wrote an awesome about page.

I instantly had people emailing me… relating to my story and sharing their own story. It was really cool, opening myself up and watching that grow into relationships/opportunities. From an SEO perspective, it’s one of my most viewed pages and keeps people on my site longer.

About Me Page


15. Citations Errors (Local SEO)

If you’re targeting local keywords (especially where Google Maps appear), you need citations. They’re about 10% of local SEO. My 3-step process of Google My Business > Moz Local > Whitespark gets awesome results and is the same process I used to get multiple clients #1 rankings in Google Maps. Everything is free besides Whitespark’s citation building service ($4-5/citation). The more competitive your keywords are, the more citations you should order.

Moz Local Citation Score

How To Create Citations

How To Check For Duplicate Citations

  • Run your site through Moz Local and fix items in the duplicates tab
  • Search “Your Business Name Google+” and look for duplicate GMB pages


16. Google Search Console Errors

Most people don’t use Google Search Console as much as they should. I use it 10x more than Google Analytics for finding crawl errors, mobile errors, AMP errors, sitemap errors, security issues, manual actions, HTML improvements, and many others. I recommend you do the same.

Mobile Usability Errors Google Search Console

I also use the Performance Report religiously to measure my keywords, CTRs, rankings, and most popular pages. For me, this is much better at measuring SEO than Google Analytics.

Google Search Console Queries

View My Google Search Console Tutorial


17. Duplicate Content + Search/Replace Pages

Use Siteliner to check for duplicate content…

Siteliner Duplicate Content

Search and replace pages are probably the most common form of duplicate content (where you duplicate the same page over and over but only swap out a few words on each page). You see this a lot in local SEO when businesses create geo-targeted landing pages for multiple locations… but this doesn’t work. Each page should ideally have unique content about each location like photos, reviews, team members, etc. Rand Fishkin made a nice video about this:


18. Discouraging Search Engines From Indexing Site

Make sure “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is NOT selected in your dashboard under Settings > Reading. This makes your site completely disappear in Google.

Discourage Search Engine From Indexing This Site


19. Affiliate Website Mistakes

Affiliate sites are prone to Google penalties. This can either be a penalty in your manual actions report in Google Search Console, or it can be an algorithmic penalty (in which case you have to compare the time your traffic dropped and look at Google’s algorithm changes).

Trust me, you don’t want an affiliate penalty…

Affiliate Link Google Penalty

Tips For Affiliate Sites:

  • Don’t stuff posts with affiliate links
  • Add value! I spend a ton of time making sure my tutorials are helpful
  • Don’t always list affiliate products first (Google knows what you’re doing)
  • Consider writing review pages for affiliate products, and linking to those instead
  • Always nofollow affiliate links


20. You Have A Google Penalty

Go to your manual actions report in Search Console to check for penalties. There are many types (thin content, keyword stuffing, spam content), but unnatural links is the most common.

Unnatural Links To Your Site – early on, I hired a link builder and got a Google penalty for unnatural links which took 1 full year to recover. My rankings plummeted, and so did my client inquiries and income. It was dark times for me. Think twice before hiring a link builder on Fiver, Upwork, or any of those freelancer sites… unless you really, really know what you’re doing.

How To Clean Up Bad Links

  • Check to see if you have one in the manual actions tab
  • Go to the links to your site section of Search Console
  • Write down all spammy, irrelevant, and suspicious links
  • Reach out to these websites and ask them to take it down
  • Be persistent… Google wants to see you have made an effort
  • For any links you can’t get taken down, use the disavow tool
  • Submit a reconsideration request with all proper information
  • Fire your link builder and never hire a sketchy link builder again

Unnatural Links To Your Site - Google Search Console


Still Not Sure If These Are The Reason?

Kiss Metrics has an awesome article on 50 Reasons Your Website Deserves to Be Penalized By Google, but I think I covered the main reasons here. If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below and I’ll be glad to answer your question. Otherwise, good luck with your SEO!


Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do I rank my WordPress website higher in Google?

The easiest way to rank a WordPress website on Google is to find specific, long-tail keywords which aren't too competitive, then write in-depth content about each topic. Engagement, click-through rates, and on-page SEO all help improve Google rankings.

✅ Are my keywords are too competitive?

New websites or those with low authority (backlinks) should always target long-tail, specific keywords. It's hugely important to Google each keyword and analyze the search results to make sure you're not competing with strong content and authority websites.

✅ How can I check for SEO errors on my site?

Google Search Console tells you if you have mobile, security, and indexing errors. It also tell you structured content errors on FAQs and reviews. However, you should really get an SEO audit if you want to learn exactly what's going on with your SEO.

✅ Will getting green lights in Yoast help rankings?

Not exactly. Yoast only does a good job at detecting keyword usage and there's much more to on-page SEO than this. Try adding FAQ rich snippets, adding an HTML table of contents to long posts, and creating in-depth content with videos. Optimize click-through rates!

✅ Is my Yoast plugin configured correctly?

Check my Yoast configuration tutorial to make sure your Yoast is setup correctly, especially the Search Appearance tab. Don't forget to setup Google Search Console.

See Also: How I Optimized My Site To Load In <1s With 100% GTmetrix Reports

Or: my WordPress SEO Guide is even more helpful than this and includes 101 actionable tips.


Local SEO For WordPress: How To Optimize Your Website (And Citations) To Rank Higher In Google Maps & Local Search Results

Ready to rank higher in Google Maps and local search results?

We’ll follow Google’s local search ranking factors which Moz reports every 2 years. I broke these down into factors on and off your WordPress site. Citations (online directories like Yelp, Superpages, and Axciom) are about 11% of local SEO, so it wouldn’t be fair to leave these out.

This guide assumes you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin. If you don’t have Yoast, I suggest installing it then configuring my recommended Yoast settings. It also assumes you have a physical address in your targeted city which is not mandatory, but is the #1 factor in Maps.


1. Local Search Ranking Factors

Here are Google’s 2018 local ranking factors. The main factors are Google My Business, citations (directories), reviews, geo-targeted pages, mobile optimization, and of course – links.

2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

Top 50 factors for local pack and localized organic…

Top 50 Local SEO Factors

Google your primary local keywords and see which results you want to target…



2. Localized Keywords

Google Autocomplete
I have a separate tutorial on choosing Yoast focus keywords + green light optimization but I’ll go over this briefly. Go to google.com and use the underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase to have Google fill-in-the-blank and learn keywords people are searching in your city…


To find even more keywords, try using different variations of the keyword, like plurals


Use different word ordering to get even more ideas…

Word Ordering Keywords

Target Specific Services – if “Chicago Wedding Photographer” is your primary keyword, try also targeting Indian and Gay Wedding Photographer. Same thing with web design… you can target both Chicago Web Design and Chicago WordPress Design which both show up in Autocomplete. For dentists, you may have Chicago Dentist, Chicago Dental Implants, Chicago Emergency Dentist, etc. Relying on 1 single keyword for ALL your traffic is never a good idea. You need to research Google Autocomplete for all your services, then create a page for each.

Moz Keyword Explorer
Next, use Moz Keyword Explorer to make sure you’re not missing keywords. This is similar to Google Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords), plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the exact same ones.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Once it runs, click keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions. You should see a nice list of keywords and the volume (monthly searches). Note phrases you DIDN’T find in Autocomplete.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Estimating Local Keyword Competition
More Autocomplete results + broad phrases = more competitive…

Less Autocomplete results + specific phrases = less competitive…

You can also use the MozBar Chrome Extension to Google any keyword and learn it’s competition. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the higher the competition and the more effort needed to rank for it. Try to stay within your own DA range.

Mozbar Keyword Competition


3. Blog Post Keywords

Blog posts usually attract the most links to your site (a huge ranking factor) since people naturally link to USEFUL content (not promotional service pages) which benefit the rankings of your entire WordPress site. Just like we researched keywords for pages, find as many informational, non-promotional blog keywords as you can, then write a post for each topic.

Local SEO Keywords
Local SEO Keywords


4. Geo-Targeted Pages

Create a page for each keyword – target your primary keyword on your homepage, then create a separate page for Chicago Indian Wedding Photographer and other specific services. Average Cost Of Wedding Photographer In Chicago would be a good article on your blog.

Optimize content with Yoast – you can get green lights all you want, but designing a nice (ideally lengthy) page with awesome photos, testimonials, video and other useful content – is the heart of content optimization. Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so if you use “Wedding Photographer in Chicago” instead of “Chicago Wedding Photographer” in your content… that counts as a keyword. So even if that specific light isn’t green (eg. keyword density), you can ignore it as long as a variation is present. Synonyms are actually encouraged.

Yoast Content Analysis

Presence of NAP – each location page should have your business name, address, and phone somewhere on the page. If you only have 1 location you can add this in a footer widget or your copyright area at the very bottom of your website (like I do) so it’s present on every page. For multiple locations you’ll usually want to add it somewhere in the actual content body.

Short Permalinks  – use short permalinks with your keyword in it.

Keyword Density – include your keyword in the first couple sentences and a few times in your content body (naturally). Sprinkle LSI keywords (synonyms) in your content instead of using the same keyword over and over. These can be secondary keywords you want to rank for.

Alt Text – label your images before uploading them to WordPress since the visual editor automatically uses the image file name as the alt text. This should simply describe the image – don’t stuff keywords. Images in widgets and page builders may not do this so check the HTML:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/chicago-wedding-photographer.jpg” alt=”Chicago Wedding Photographer” width=”680” height=”380” />

Internal / External Links – Google follows links on your page to learn what your content is about. The important thing is linking to useful content your visitors will actually find helpful (like a blog tutorial). Interlinking blog articles/pages is also a natural way to build links to your own website but outbound links are good too since it’s kind of like citing sources to Google. Finally, always use descriptive link text (called anchor text)… never use words like “click here.”

SEO Title – use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on your link in search results… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis” is a good example. Also make sure your SEO title has a decent length (the bars in Yoast should be green).

Meta Description – the main purpose of the meta description to entice people to click on your link. This and the SEO title are the first thing people see in search results so spend time writing these. It should include your Yoast focus keyword, plus a secondary keyword if you have one.

Post Long Content – Google measures “average time on page” which is why videos and other engaging content is key. Long, organized content generally ranks higher than short content.

Social Media Optimization – this ensures your page will display a properly formatted image when shared on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “share” link in Yoast and upload custom images where it tells you to. If you don’t see the tabs, check your Yoast social settings to enable Facebook and Twitter meta data. Yes, this means you need to design 2 separate images for Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). I leave the other fields blank which let you write a custom headline and description when it’s shared on Facebook/Twitter.


Rich Snippets – make your snippets stand out in search results by adding rich snippets to your content. You can do this with events, reviews, recipes, articles, products, organizations, restaurants, and videos. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin which supports all rich snippet types except for events (use All In One Schema.org) and videos (use Schema plugin. However if you’re doing any other type of rich snippets, WP Rich Snippets looks way better and has more options, plus they have awesome add-ons. Here’s my WP Rich Snippets review which is definitely worth the money if you have content on your site that can be marked up.

Rich Snippets

Example Geo-Targeted Landing Page…

Localized Landing Page


5. Google My Business

Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

*Google is increasingly taking into consideration activate business owners who: post on Google Posts, respond to reviews, keep special hours updated, answer questions, make it convenient for customers to take direct actions on GMB using business URLs.

Google My Business Logo


6. Moz Local

Since citations are 11% of local SEO, this step will help you create and fix your top 15 citations. Just like you did with Google My Business you will make sure profiles are 100% complete, duplicates are deleted, and ensure consistent information is present. Run your website + zip code through Moz Local and look under “choose the most accurate listing.” Go through each one and see their recommendations. Yes, you will need each profile’s login info.

Moz Local Profiles

Correct Incomplete, Inconsistent, Duplicate Citations
Once you click your listing you will see incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate tabs. Go through each one and fix all items. Incomplete profiles are often fixed by uploading more photos or adding categories. Inconsistencies can be as easy as correcting the www website version or using “st” instead of “street” in the address. Duplicates are fixed by deleting them. Moz Local includes links to your profiles which makes it easy to fix, delete, and report profiles.

Sometimes you will only have 1-2 categories (eg. photographer + wedding photographer) so it’s not always possible to get your profiles 100% complete. Just do everything you can.

Moz Loca


7. Whitespark

To conquer those #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors in Google Maps (citation consistency, quantity, and quality), we need to build even more citations. The more competitive your keywords are (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) the more citations you should build.


Whitespark has lists of top citations by city, country, and category, or use their citation building service for $4-5 per citation which saves a LOT of time. Google ‘Whitespark Canada‘ and you’ll see they have over 120 reviews with a 4.9 star rating. I’ve invested over $2,000 in their citation building service and have jumped from #8 to #3 in Google Maps. Read my Whitespark citation building review to learn the process, but you basically fill out an intake then wait 2-3 weeks for them to send a report of the new citation URLs and 1 universal login.

Free citations can cause spam emails and sometimes spammy phone calls. They improve rankings, but it’s a tradeoff. Here’s a response I got from Darren Shaw, owner of Whitespark:


8. Mobile Responsiveness

The best way to check for mobile errors is to setup Google Search Console and use the mobile usability section. This checks for ALL errors on your WordPress site (instead of just 1 page) which is only what Google’s mobile testing tool does. Even if you’re using a responsive WordPress theme you can still have mobile errors! So it’s definitely a good idea to check.



9. Mobile Speed Optimization

Most businesses doing local SEO have a good amount of mobile visitors (you can check in Google Analytics under Audience –> Mobile –> Overview). If you haven’t read my W3 Total Cache tutorial which shows you how to configure the performance tabs, Cloudflare, and MaxCDN, I would start with that. Then you can optimize images and make other optimizations from my WordPress speed guide. This helps you fix items in your GTmetrix report (the speed testing tool I recommend using) and improves page load times for both desktop and mobile.

To make your WordPress site load faster specifically on mobile, you can use AMP pages (accelerated mobile pages) using the AMP plugin and Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP. You can read Yoast’s AMP tutorial but this will basically add an “AMP” sign to your mobile search results…


I use SiteGround and have 200ms response times with 100% GTmetrix scores and .4s Pingdom load times. Do a hosting check, run your own tests, or click through my pages to see how fast they load. They were rated the #1 host in 26 Facebook polls and are worlds better than EIG (Bluehost, HostGator), Godaddy, and bad hosts who pack too many people on the same server. They’re recommended by WordPress, do free migrations, and I use their semi-dedicated plan.

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

2019 Hosting Poll


Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation











WP Friendly Hosting Poll


Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png










Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll


10. Reviews

You’ve heard this before so I’m not going to state the obvious. But you should know that Google My Business is usually the best place to get reviews since these appear directly in search results, and you need about 5 of them for the review stars to start showing up…

Google Reviews For SEO

Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter – Yelp reviews can get filtered even if they’re legitimate. You can avoid this by doing a Google search of “business name Yelp” and sending them that link. If you send them the direct link to your Yelp profile, Yelp will know and could filter it. Ideally you would ask existing Yelpers since they are more likely to get their review posted (another factor is if their profile is filled out and Facebook is connected). You should friend your reviewers too.


You know links are super important for your rankings, and it doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass. But yes, you WILL need to reach out to people to get these links. Here are some tips…

  • Ask partners to link to you
  • Ask sponsors to link to you
  • Ask suppliers to link to you
  • Get published by local newspapers
  • Get included in list articles (eg. best pizza in Chicago)
  • Make sure these articles include a link to your site
  • Find business directories and organizations who promote green businesses
  • Turn your business relationships into links, that’s what it’s all about


12. Targeting Multiple Locations

Create Multiple Location Pages On Your Site – sometimes you should create 1 page per city (if only 1 keyword is being search in that city), or multiple pages per city (if multiple keywords are being searched). It depends on how many keywords people search and whether you need content about different services (miami dentist vs. miami dental implants is a separate page).

Add Location-Specific Content To These Pages – your Chicago page might have photos of your Chicago office. Or testimonials from your Chicago customers. Or a Google Map showcasing your Chicago location. Avoid creating ‘search and replace’ pages (identical pages only you simply change the city name) since these are duplicate content and will not rank.

If you want to check out a great example of localized landing pages, check out Seda Dental.


Create Citations For Each Location – each location should have it’s own Google My Business page, Yelp, Facebook, and other citation profiles you can use Moz Local and Whitespark to create (see steps 4, 5, and 6). Whitespark’s citation building service will save you a LOT of time. If you do this yourself, list the specific location page (website.com/locations/chicago) when listing your website. Photos and business information should be unique to that location.


13. Measure Keyword Rankings

Google Search Console’s Search Analytics – see keywords (queries) you rank for. This ONLY measures Google’s organic rankings, not Google Maps or other search engines. So if Google Maps appear when you search your keywords, you need to measure those too (see below). You can still get very helpful data in Search Analytics using filters: click-through rates, impressions, top pages, devices used, countries, and compare your rankings to the last 28 previous days.


Whitespark Local Rank Tracker – track rankings in Google Maps, Bing pack, Google organic, Bing organic, etc. Sort by city names across multiple locations. User-friendly design and starts at $20/month for measuring up to 100 local keywords. Easiest way to measure local keywords.



14. Bonus Tips

Google Search Console – I mentioned this a couple times in this WordPress local SEO guide, but you really should take advantage of this tool. My video and Google Search Console tutorial show you how to set it up, submit your Yoast XML sitemap to Google, fix crawl errors (broken URLs), and quite a few other site optimizations. You can use it to test AMP pages, rich snippets, and find indexing, mobile, and security issues. Once signed you will need to wait around 1 week for the data to populate. But definitely revisit it and take advantage of it’s features.

Mobile Click-To-Call Button – if you’re running a website where many people call you (eg. a pizza business), adding a mobile click-to-call plugin can improve conversions but is also a ranking factor if you look at “Behavior/Mobile Signals” in Google’s local ranking factors.

Security – run your site through Sucuri security checker and the security section of Google Search Console to make sure you have no errors. Either way the best 2 things you can do is change the generic “Admin” username in the your WordPress login, then install WordFence.

Sucuri Security Scan

Social Media – just make sure you’re active on social media, it’s 2.8% of local SEO.


Time To Get To Work

Hopefully this WordPress local SEO guide gives you some ideas! Just remember it’s not all about optimizing your WordPress site – there are many off-page factors that are just as important like Google My Business, citations, and reviews. Start cranking some of this out and within a couple months hopefully your organic searches go up (let me know in the comments)!

SEO Google Analytics

Need help? Drop me a line. Looking to hire someone who actually knows what they’re doing? Check out my WordPress SEO consulting services. I love when people read my tutorials so if you have a question about regarding WordPress and local SEO, I’m glad clarify your questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What are Google's local search ranking factors?

Moz reports Google's local search ranking factors every 2 years. They emphasize geo-targeted pages, directories (citations), links, and reviews.

✅ How do you optimize websites for local SEO?

Research local keywords using tools like Google Autocomplete, create geo-targeted content around those keywords, make your mobile site load fast, get relevant links, and show NAP on localized pages.

✅ What is NAP and why is it important?

NAP stands for business name, address, and phone number. This should be consistent throughout your website and citations. Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking factor.

✅ Where should I build more directories (citations)?

Moz Local analyzes 15 top citations and shows you which ones are incomplete, inconsistent, or duplicates. Whitespark also has lists of top citations for different industries and locations. Google My Busienss, Yelp, and Facebook are some of the most important, but you should built more using Moz Local or Whitespark.

✅ How do I optimize my GMB Page?

Fill out everything including including NAP, categories, descriptions, photos, categories, attributes, hours, menu, services, etc. Verify your page and answer customer questions + respond to reviews. Get a custom URL and post updates on your GMB page.

See Also:
How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In .2s (100% GTmetrix/Pingdom Scores)


7 Local SEO Strategies To Rank Higher In Google Maps And Localized Results (Based On Google’s Local Ranking Factors)


Want to use local seo to get more geographic-specific customers?

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local SEO ranking factors to optimize your website and online presence to rank higher in Google Maps and localized organic listings (the blue results under Google Maps). I’ll cover Google My Business, reviews, directories (also called citations in local SEO), creating location-specific landing pages, and other local SEO strategies. I will also show you how to optimize for 1 location as well as how to optimize for multiple locations.

These are the CORE factors needed to rank higher in Google Maps and while there are plenty of other factors, most people don’t get the fundamentals down. I recommend taking some time to get these down first, then use my full local seo guide to optimize for the other factors like speed optimization, fixing errors in Google Search Console, and adding AMP Pages. That guide shows you how to do everything and while it’s specific to WordPress, most items are universal no matter what you run your website on (since the local ranking factors always stay the same).

Table Of Contents

  1. Make Your Google My Business Page 100% Complete
  2. Create Profiles On Other Directories
  3. Ask Customers For Reviews
  4. Submit Business Information to Top Data Aggregators
  5. Create Location-Specific Pages
  6. Kick Your Social Media Into Gear
  7. Get Links From Blogging, Customers, Partners, Publicity


1. Make Your Google My Business Page 100% Complete

Claim your Google My Business Page and fill it out to be 100% complete. If you don’t have a Page already, create one, but you should only have 1 per location with NO duplicates. List all relevant categories, upload professional photos including a logo, and do everything they prompt you to do. Don’t forget to verify your page and set a custom URL (should be your business name). There’s an “edit info” and “photos” tab which should both be 100%. If it makes sense for your business, you can also get a virtual tour from a Google preferred vendor.


Your My Business page is what shows up in Google Maps and when people Google your business name (on the right side of search results). It’s the heart of local SEO so make it legit!

Google My Business Local SEO

I want to emphasize that if you already have a Google My Business Page you do NOT want to create a duplicate or it will compete with your main page – and potentially penalize it’s rankings. To check if you already have a Google My Business Page, run your business through Moz Local or search your business on Google Map Maker. If you find a duplicate page, delete it by logging into Google My Business and select the Page you want to manage. Go to the tab on the top left menu and click “Settings” then scroll all the way down until you see “delete page.”


2. Create Profiles On Other Directories

Online directories (also called citations in local SEO) are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factor in Google Maps. Overall it’s about 25% of how you rank. Creating 100% complete profiles on top directory websites can be tedious but is EXTREMELY important for your localized rankings.

You can either do this yourself using my list of top online directories or use Whitespark’s resources page which has top citation lists by city, country, and category. Alternatively you can outsource it using Whitespark’s citation submission service which is $4-5 per citation. This is what I use for ALL my local SEO clients and has helped many of them rank #1 in Google Maps.

Whitespark has a 4.9/5 star review on Google with over 120 reviews and is a one-time fee compared to companies like Yext who charge ongoing fees. You basically fill out an intake, Whitespark will create the citations in about 3 weeks, then they will send you a follow-up report with your new citations URLs and 1 universal login. It’s very easy and you should see an improvement in your rankings within 2-3 months once the citations get indexed and Google updates they’re local search results. Finally, don’t forget to use Moz Local to correct issues with your top 15 citations. I would do Google My Business, then Moz Local, then Whitespark.

Just to review, you’ll want to use Moz Local to fix your top 15 directories (citations)…

Moz Local

Then use Whitespark to build additional citations since they’re about 25% of local SEO. You can either use their resources page to build these yourself, or outsource to Whitespark for $4-5 per citation. Just fill out then intake and let they will complete the job in about 2-3 weeks.



3. Ask Customers For Reviews

Reviews are about 10% of Google Map rankings but are the single most important part of local SEO for obvious reasons. People see reviews when they search your business name, and they also show up for non-branded localized keywords like “Chicago Wedding Photographer.”

You need about 5 reviews on your Google My Business page for the stars to show up in Google, but the more the better. If you Google your primary keyword and you see the top ranked competitor has 20 reviews, you should have at least 21. Once you have more reviews than competitors on Google My Business, move onto Yelp and niche directories like WeddingWire or UrbanSpoon. I know reviews can be a pain but for local SEO this is the main way you’re going to build a solid online reputation while ranking higher in Google Maps.

Google Reviews For SEO


4. Submit Business Information to Top Data Aggregators

There are 3 major data aggregators that send your local business information to million of other websites. You should sign up and create a nice profile on each of these websites…


5. Create Location-Specific Pages

The first step to building geo-targeted pages is learning what phrases people are searching. Use Google Autocomplete to have Google “fill in the blank” using the underscore character to get keyword suggestions. You can also use Moz Keyword Explorer to get additional keyword ideas, but make sure you write down ALL the difference services people are searching…

Photography SEO Keywords

If you only have 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Newborn Photographer) then you should target that on your homepage using the strategies listed in the screenshot below.

If you have multiple keywords (Chicago Newborn Photographer, Chicago Portrait Photographer…) then create a separate page for each one to better target each keyword. If you have multiple locations you will also need to create a new page (sometimes multiple pages) for each location depending on how many keywords are being searched in that city. The general rule of thumb is that each page can only target 1 keyword (service) in 1 location.

Once you know your keywords, create your geo-targeted landing pages…


Notice the content is unique to it’s location (Boynton Beach). The keyword “Boynton Beach Dentist” is also present in the page title, URL, title tag, meta description, etc. Also, the slider photos are unique to that location and so are the testimonials and other content. Each page should have completely unique content and you should avoid using “search and replace pages” where you duplicate pages then swap out a few words. This is not a good strategy and only pages with well-designed, unique content written about a specific keyword will rank high.


6. Kick Your Social Media Into Gear


Most successful business at least have some presence on the main social networks, and Google is looking for this. Make sure your social media profiles are filled out completely and that you’re posting on them somewhat regularly. Even 1 post/week is better than nothing.


Links to your website are about 20%, but many people are confused on how to get them. First make sure your website is well-designed and has content (eg. useful blog articles) that people actually WANT to link to. These articles should be optimized for a non-promotional keyword found in Google Autocomplete (eg. average cost of wedding photographer in Chicago). As you accumulate blog articles and more content on your website, you can start referencing other pages/posts you’ve written within your content. These are called internal links and are a natural way to build links to your website organically. You will need a good amount of content!

You can also reach out to other website owners who you think you could get a link from. Think about other local businesses in your area, business partners, friends, or customers and vendors. Maybe some businesses have a partner or testimonial page you can get a link on. The key is turning your business relationships into mentions on a website – in the form of a link.

See Also: Local SEO Guide For WordPress

I hope you found these local SEO strategies helpful so you can use them with your own keywords! If you have any questions leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to help you out. Otherwise if you enjoyed my article, please share it with others who would like it too.


Whitespark Citation Building Review – This Is One Of The Easiest Ways To Rank Higher In Google Maps And Localized Search Results

Citations are similar to online directories and are about 25% of local SEO.

I use Moz Local to build my top 15 citations (Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook…). Then I pay Whitespark around $400 to build 100 new profiles at $4-5 each so I never had to worry about citations again. This is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to rank clients in the top results for local keywords if you view my SEO work. It’s also one of the few things you can confidently outsource in local SEO since Whitespark has a 4.9/5 star rating with 125+ reviews.

While companies like Yext charge $500/year for 47 listings, you can pay Whitespark the same amount only it’s a one-time fee and you own your listings permantly. Whitespark also includes a follow-up report with 1 universal login if you need to update profiles in the future.

You can see how important citations are by looking at Google’s local search ranking factors


They are especially important for ranking higher in Google Maps (called the local stack / snack pack results) since citations are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors…


I have already ordered $2,081.21 worth of citations for both myself and clients…


This has helped them rank in the top results for local keywords. In this review, I will walk you through the process of ordering citations through Whitespark, then show you what to expect as far as pricing, time frame, and an improvement in your Google Map and localized rankings.

Noho SEO


Noho Local SEO

KC SEO Work 2


Table Of Contents

  1. What Are Citations?
  2. Fill Out Whitespark’s Citation Intake
  3. Purchase Generic + Local/Niche Citations
  4. What Happens After You Purchase Citations
  5. Prevent Spam (Only Con To Citation Building)
  6. Integrate Citation Building Into Your SEO Services
  7. Don’t Forget About Moz Local (Top 15 Core Citations)


1. What Are Citations?

Citations are mentions of your business name (often in the form of directories) and are 25% of Google’s local search ranking factors. Citations are especially important in Google Maps (local stack / snack pack) where they’re the #2, #5, and #14 factor. They make you rank higher for multiple localized keywords are are one of the few things you can outsource in local SEO.

Top Online Directories

Can I Build These Myself?
Yes, Whitespark even has lists of the best citations by categorycity, and country. But it takes time and many people do this incorrectly. Finding the right citations, filling out profiles 100% complete, and making sure they’re consistent (eg. business name, address, phone) is very important. I just find it much easier to leave this to the experts and save your time, as it’s only $4-5 per citation and they keep everything organized with a follow-up report and 1 login.


2. Fill Out Whitespark’s Citation Intake

The first step is to download Whitespark’s citation building intake and fill everything out as best you can. Read Whitespark’s notes on the right of the spreadsheet for more instructions.


Bulk Submit Worksheet
If you want Whitespark to build citations for multiple locations (since each location needs to have their own profiles), scroll down to the ‘Bulk Submit Worksheet’ option at the bottom…



3. Purchase Generic + Local/Niche Citations

Once you fill out the intake, select your country and do a blend of generic and local/niche citations (there’s no perfect number but I think local/niche citations are more valuable). And obviously the more citations you order, the higher you’re likely to rank in local search results.

Upload your intake to Whitespark’s checkout page, then under the ‘additional options and features’ option in step 4 you will see the option to order follow-up reports, rush orders, and bulk orders (for multiple locations). Follow-up reports are NOT necessary as Whitespark will send you a report upon completion. It’s only if you want multiple reports as listings go live.



4. What Happens After You Purchase Citations

Whitespark will send you a receipt. Then you will wait 3 weeks for them to build the citations. Once completed they will send you an email with a report which includes 1 universal login to access your new citation profiles, along with the URLs where you can find those new profiles.

It can take 1-2 months for Google to update their results with your new rankings. You can use Whitespark’s local rank tracker to measure rankings, or Search Console’s search analytics.



5. Preventing Spam (The Only Con To Citation Building)

The only complaint I have with citations (not just Whitespark) is the potential spam you may get through your contact form or phone.

This is tricky because NAP (business name, phone, address) MUST be consistent across citations, but this also means you must list your business phone number where anyone can call/email you. Here’s an example of a spam email you might get after the citation building:


Prevent Spam On Your Contact Form:

  • Use Google captcha on your contact form
  • Configure an anti-spam plugin for WordPress
  • Tighten up your WordPress discussion settings


6. Add Citation Building To Your SEO Services

  • Become An Affiliate – if qualified, they will let you become an affiliate.
  • Upsell Whitespark Citations – you can easily charge clients $10 per citation and pay $4-5 per citation to Whitespark which can turn a quick profit of $300 depending on the order. Just show clients Google’s local search ranking factors and explain the importance of citations. Then as you order more from Whitespark you can get up to a 20% discount. There is little work on your end (plus the citation intake and follow-up reports aren’t branded to Whitespark) making it very easy to integrate into your SEO services. Just don’t forget to help clients with spam prevention and measuring results using Whitespark’s local rank tracker or Google Search Console’s search analytics.
  • List Top Citations In SEO Audits – if you’re doing a local SEO audit where the client wants to rank higher in Google Maps, provide them with a list of top citations using Whitespark’s resources page and give them the option to build these themselves, or use Whitespark’s citation building service. Because if you’re like me you try to provide as much value as you can in your SEO audits and a ‘top 30 citation’ list is a nice addition.


7. Don’t Forget About Moz Local (Top 15 Core Citations)

Moz Local will help you fix your top 15 citation profiles including Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and others. I would try to get your Moz Local score up before building new citations with Whitespark. You do this by running your site through Moz Local then clicking through the tabs to make these citation profiles 100% complete, consistent, then delete any duplicates.

Moz Local

Under each tab Moz Local will tell you what needs to be fixed and includes an “update listing” link that goes directly to your profiles. It’s usually as easy as uploading more images, listing more categories, fixing inconsistencies with you business information, or deleting a duplicate.

Moz Local Citations



Here’s my citation building process:

  1. Create a 100% complete Google My Business Page
  2. Use Moz Local to fix your top 15 citation profiles
  3. Build additional citations for $4-5 each with Whitespark

I hope you liked my Whitespark citation building review! It’s a powerful service you can use for yourself, and for clients who are specifically looking to rank higher in Google Maps (local stack / snack pack results). Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions. Darren and his team at Whitespark are great with communication if you have questions. They also have a list of citation building FAQs if you want to learn more about their citation building service.


How To Delete a Duplicate Google My Business Page (So You Can Prevent It From Penalizing Your Main GMB Page)

Duplicate Google My Business Listing

If you have a duplicate Google My Business Page it could be hurting your rankings.

Duplicates are never good in SEO and Google My Business is 13.7% of your local rankings according to Moz. You should have 1 per location, the rest should be deleted or reported.

You can delete a page if you have the login, you can only report it if you don’t. The best way to delete a page is to login to Google My Business with the email used to create the page. If you don’t have the login, verify your main page and report duplicates in Google Map Maker.


1. Find Duplicate Google My Business Pages

Google Map Maker – search the business phone number in Google Map Maker. There should only be 1 Google My Business Page per location. If there have been other phone numbers associated with the business, search those in Google Map Maker as well.

Moz Local – run your business name and zip code through Moz Local. Go through each profile link and check the “duplicates” tab (fixing errors with all listings is recommended).

Search It In Google – search “Your Company Name Google+”. An example (for me) would be “Online Media Masters Google+”. View Google’s search results and scan for duplicate pages.


2. Delete a Google My Business Page (You Have The Login)

  • Login to Google My Business and choose the profile you want deleted
  • Click the menu tab (top left)
  • Click “Settings”
  • Scroll all the way down until you see “delete page”
  • Check all 4 boxes and “yes, I want to delete my account”
  • This will delete the business page, not your personal account

Delete Duplicate Google My Business Page


3. Report a Google My Business Page (Don’t Have The Login)

  • Verify your primary Google My Business Page (the non-duplicate)
  • Go to Google Map Maker
  • Search the business phone number listed on the duplicate page
  • Under the duplicate page, click edit –> report this
  • Select “duplicate exists”
  • In the remarks field, enter the URL of the main page
  • Report it
  • Monitor results as it may take several weeks
  • Contact Google My Business support if needed

Duplicate Google My Business Page

If you have other duplicate citations you should delete those as well, they can also penalize your rankings. Use Moz Local to fix incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings. Creating new ones is also advised since “citation volume” is a key ranking factor in Google’s local search ranking factors. Comment if you have questions and I’ll be glad to help you out.


Tom Signature

How Positive Reviews Improve Local SEO For Businesses (Hint: They’re 8.9% Of SEO But Show In A TON Of Places)

There’s no doubt reviews are a huge part of local SEO. They show up in Google Maps, when people search your business name, and they’re 8.9% of Google’s local search ranking factors.


I’m not here to share statistics on how important reviews are since I’m sure already know that. But which profiles are most important? Have you ran your business through Moz Local and created complete, consistent profiles on the top listing websites? How do you avoid the Yelp review filter, and how do you respond to negative reviews while thanking people for the good ones? This is the kind of (actually useful) stuff I’ll be going over. So let’s get right into it…

Table Of Contents

  1. Reviews Are 8.4% Of Local Search Ranking Factors
  2. Google My Business Is (Usually) The Most Important Profile
  3. Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter
  4. Respond To Reviews
  5. Where Reviews Appear Online
  6. Websites To Get Listed On
  7. Add User Reviews To Your Website


1. Reviews Are 8.4% Of Local Search Ranking Factors

Reviews are 8.4% of Google’s local search ranking factors and even though that may seem small, you know about 90% of people use reviews to decide who they’re doing business with.


Review Ranking Factors

  • Quantity of native Google Maps reviews (with text)
  • Quantity of third-party traditional reviews
  • Overall velocity of reviews (native + third-party)
  • Product/service keywords in reviews
  • Quantity of reviews by authority reviewers
  • Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present
  • Velocity of native Google Maps reviews
  • Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present


2. Google My Business Is (Usually) The Most Important Profile

Reviews on your Google My Business Page appear in Google Maps and on the right side of search results when people search your business name. You need about 5 reviews on Google My Business for the stars to show up. If Google Maps are the main listings you’re targeting, you should ideally have more reviews than all competitors. If you Google “Chicago Wedding Photographer” you’ll see one business has 49 reviews with a 5 star rating. This is a competitive keyword so these businesses will have a lot of reviews, but ideally you would have more. This alone can make or break your business since these reviews are often the first thing people see.

Google My Business SEO


3. Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter

Unlike Google, Yelp has a review filter which can make legitimate reviews not get published. Thankfully there are many ways around this to make sure those reviews don’t get filtered out.


Don’t send people a link to your Yelp page – when people follow a direct link to your Yelp page, Yelp knows you are soliciting them and the review will probably not get published. Instead, Google your business name and send people to that link (see an example here).

Ask people who already have a Yelp account – new Yelpers won’t have their profile filled out, their Facebook account won’t be connected, and they won’t have Yelp friends or existing reviews. You’re best off asking people who already have a Yelp account and are active on it.

Encourage descriptive reviews – short reviews aren’t useful and will probably get filtered.

Respond and interact with the reviewer – respond to their review (eg. saying thanks), add them as a friend, and send them a message. You can even vote their review as useful. By engaging with reviewers you are sending a signal to Yelp saying the review is legitimate.

Don’t offer financial incentives – this can cause your Yelp page to get a consumer alert if they catch you which can completely ruin your business. You’re better off not taking the chance and simply asking people who have had an awesome experience with your business.


4. Respond To Reviews

Most websites give you the option to respond to reviews which you should be doing for ALL them (both positive and negative). People like to see you’re trying to make it right. Responding to positive reviews encourage conversion and can get you even MORE reviews (just like you would respond to a comment on your blog, only this is even more important).



5. Where Reviews Appear Online

When People Search Your Business Name – if that doesn’t help your branding, I don’t know what does. All you need is a Google My Business page, fill out your profile completely, then get about 5 reviews. Notice these reviews can show up twice in search results, once on the right side of the page and once under your website. If you get enough reviews on the other review websites, those stars should also appear in your search results (like Yelp does in this photo).

Google Reviews

When People Search Local Keywords – if Google Maps appear for most of your keywords, reviews should be a key part of your local SEO strategy (especially on Google My Business). This will be the first impression of your business for a LOT of people. Can’t stress this enough.


When People Search Yelp – Yelp even has a “Highest Rated” and “Most Reviewed” filter:

Yelp Filters

When People Search Groupon – If you’re running a Groupon, reviews from different websites can show up when people view your Groupon listing. These websites can be different for each industry, for example, UrbanSpoon will likely show up for restaurants. Research where your competitors are (or see these top citations by category) and get reviews on those profiles.

Groupon Reviews

On Mobile – even when people use their phone, reviews are one of the first things they see.



6. Websites To Get Listed On

Citations (fancy name for your online profiles) are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors in Google Maps (see local stack factors below). Quantity, quality, consistency, and profile completeness are essential, plus you should delete duplicates that can penalize your other profiles. Here are the resources you need to correct existing profiles, and to build new ones.


Google My Businessenhance your Google My Business Page by verifying your profile, getting a custom URL, adding photos, and using consistent NAP (business name, address, phone) as listed on your website. Follow that link for tips on optimizing Google My Business.

Moz LocalMoz Local analyzes your top 15 citations and tells you how to fix them. This alone can SIGNIFICANTLY improve rankings and I highly recommended spending an hour gathering logins and doing this. You will be signing up for new profiles, making existing profiles more complete, correcting inconsistent listings, and deleting duplicates. This is a must for local SEO.

Moz Local

Moz Local Citations

Whitespark Citation Lists – browse top citations by category, country, and city. These lists are from Whitespark who is the industry leader in citations. Since citations are so important you ideally want a LOT of these (like, hundreds). I know it sounds ridiculous but this is exactly why businesses with 37 reviews are able to outrank businesses with 49 reviews in Google Maps.

Whitespark Citation Building Service – if you don’t have time to create listings, Whitespark has a citation building service for $4-5 per citation. They have 120+ reviews on their Google page – so you know they’re legit. I’ve invested over $2,000 in their citation building to help my clients rank in the top position of Google’s local results. These are manual submissions and one-time fees whereas Yext is automated (not good) and has a recurring free (also not good). With Whitespark you fill out an intake with your business information and they will complete the job in 1-3 weeks. You will be sent a report with the new citation URLs and one universal login to all the profiles. Here’s my review of Whitespark’s citation building if you’re interested.


7. Add User Reviews To Your Website

If you have courses or services you want people to review on your website, this can make you stand out by adding review stars to your snippets. These are called rich snippets and is done through schema markup (often through a plugin, like WP Rich Snippets as explained my tutorial). It sounds technical but it’s really not – just make sure you have a separate page for whatever you want people to review, add the plugin, then follow their instructions for marking up the page (just fill out the fields they ask you). It’s an easy way to generate more SEO traffic.



See also: WordPress Local SEO: How To Rank Higher In Google Maps + Organic Results

If you have any questions or feedback just leave me a comment below. And if you found my article helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend. I would really appreciate that.


Tom Signature



20 Top Online Directories For Local Business SEO (And How To Use Whitespark Citation Resources To Build Even More)


Online directories (called citations) are about 25% of Google’s local search ranking factors.

Google My Business is 14.7% by itself but ideally you want to list your business on hundreds of directories especially if you’re targeting Google Maps. I know it sounds ridiculous, however if you look at this pie chart under the “top local stack / snack pack factors” (aka Google Maps), you can see online directories / citations are both the #2, #5, and #14 local ranking factors…



Top 20 Online Directories

1. Google My Business
2. Yahoo Local
3. Bing Places
4. Yelp
5. Foursquare
6. Express Update
7. Neustar
8. Acxiom
9. Chamber of Commerce
10. CitySearch
11. Factual
12. Yellowpages
13. Merchant Circle
14. Manta
15. BBB
16. Kudzu
17. Superpages
18. Mapquest
18. Yellowbot
20. Yellowbook
Top Directories For Industries, Countries, Cities – my list includes the top 20 online directories for United States. If you are in a different country (or you just want to see the most extensive lists available online), see Whitespark’s top citations by category, city, and country.

NAP Consistency – NAP stands for business name, address, phone. Keeping this consistent across your directories (and website) is the #2 ranking factor in Google Maps.

Google Maps Optimization – my process for ranking here is: Google My Business → Moz Local → Whitespark → Reviews. This works VERY well and is the same process I used to rank clients #1 for “Chicago Graphic Design Classes” and other competitive keywords on my work page. I provided tips below and you can also see my local SEO guide (specific to WordPress but most recommendations are universal) for tips on finding local keywords, creating geo-targeted pages, mobile speed optimization, and other items from Google’s local search ranking factors.

Google My Business – your most important directory. Fill this out 100%, upload photos and the “photos” tab, verify your page, set a custom URL, and list ALL relevant categories with your primary category listed first. Get a 360° tour from a Googled preferred vendor if applicable.


Moz Local – run your business through Moz Local to fix errors on top directories. You will see 4 tabs which will help you fix incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings.

Moz Local Citations

Whitespark – hire Whitespark to build more directories since these are so important for Google Maps. Whitespark’s citation building service is $4-5 per directory. You basically fill out an intake with your business information, order around $300 worth of directories, and in around 2-3 months you should see an improvement in your Map rankings (they will send you a report once it’s complete). Whitespark has 4.9/5 reviews stars on Google with 120+ reviews and I’ve invested over $2,000 for both myself and clients. Whitespark does manual submissions + one-time fees unlike Yext which is automated, has recurring fees, and is terrible.


Reviews – Google My Business is usually the most important place to get reviews on (you need about 5 to get those stars showing up). You can avoid the Yelp review filter by asking customers who already have a Yelp account and engaging with people who left a review (adding them as a friend, voting their review as useful, etc).  This will avoid the Yelp filter.


If you found this helpful, please give it a share. I would appreciate that!


Tom Signature e1367146208251