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)


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.


WordPress SEO For Photographers: How To Optimize Your Images, Citations, And WordPress Website For Higher Google Map Rankings

WordPress SEO For Photographers

If you’re a photographer, have a WordPress site, and you want to use local SEO to rank higher in Google Maps + localized results for photography-related keywords, this tutorial is for you.

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local search ranking factors to improve rankings by optimizing your Google My Business Page, citations, photos, and how to use Yoast’s SEO plugin for content optimization. No matter what kind of photography you do, it’s actually easy to do WordPress SEO for photographers (local SEO is usually much easier than national SEO). It can take 3-6 weeks to see results (Google takes time to update) but you can use Google Search Console’s search analytics to track your rankings, clicks, and overall traffic from SEO.

SEO For Photographers

Now let’s jump into it…


Understanding Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re doing local SEO these are the ranking factors associated with Google. They are taken from Moz who does a survey of Google’s ranking factors every 2 years. This tells us which core ranking factors we should be focusing on.



These are from 2015’s local search ranking factors, but most of them have not changed…


I go over these in my tutorial (drop me a comment if you need clarification on anything), but here is a translation with more practical tips:

  • Complete Your Google My Business Page (complete and verify your profile)
  • Sign up for generic citations (Yelp), local (COC), and photography directories
  • Get reviews on your Google My Business Page, Yelp, others
  • Use a mobile responsive and SEO-friendly WordPress photography theme
  • Use your primary keyword on your homepage (using Yoast’s SEO Plugin)
  • Get links from customers, directories, local websites, relevant photography websites
  • Complete your social media profiles, get followers, post updates


Complete Your Google My Business Page

This is the easiest way to improve your Google Maps rankings. In fact you HAVE to have a Google My Business Page to even show up in Google Maps. Make your profile 100% complete.

Add your website, hours, and list “photographers” as the category. If you’re a wedding photographer, list this as your primary category then list “photographer” as the secondary category. Now write a thorough introduction, verify your page, and complete your profile. If you already have a Google My Business page, do not create a duplicate listing.

Google My Business Page


Improve Directory Listings With Moz Local

Moz Local Dashboard

Run your website and zip code through Moz Local to get a report on your directories. You will get a score and recommendations to improve some of the most important directories…

Moz Local

Click on the different tabs, view the red notifications to see what items need fixing, then use the “update listing” links to improve those directories. Notice how consistency of information (business name, address, phone, categories) and not having duplicates are important. If you don’t want to do this, you can pay Moz $84/year. However, it’s usually a matter of adding photos and making sure your profile is consistent and 100% complete.

Moz Local Incomplete Listings


Build More Directories With Whitespark

Now that you have your core directories down, let’s build more. This will further improve your rankings so please don’t think this is a waste of time – it most certainly is not. These are the kind of extra steps that will help you outrank competitors. Notice “citation volume” is a direct ranking factor in the local SEO pie chart (yellow section) – so the more the merrier.

Top Online Directories

Do It Yourselfuse Whitespark’s list of top 50 directories
Hire Whitesparkpay Whitespark one-time fee of $4-5 per directory (worth it)


Ask Customers For Reviews

Online Reviews On Google My Business

Google My Business and Yelp are most important. Simply follow-up with customers after the work and ask for a review (leave them instructions with a link to your Google My Business and Yelp page). Make this a priority since reviews are good for both branding and SEO. Sometimes legitimate Yelp reviews get filtered out, so read this post to learn how to avoid it.


Use An SEO-Friendly Photography Theme

Let’s talk about optimizing your website – which starts with your WordPress theme. You want a theme that is SEO-friendly, responsive, secure, and loads fast. At the same time your theme should be built by a reliable developer so it won’t crap out on you down the road.

Djazz WordPress Photographer Theme

My list of photography themes is a good place to start. They all have the SEO-friendly features listed above, and they’re all built in the Genesis Framework which is recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and the founder of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg. If you don’t know what Genesis is then you can read about it on StudioPress’ website. But it is the best way to build a WordPress photography website that is SEO-friendly.


Learn Your Keywords

If you haven’t learned your photography-related keywords, here’s how to do that…

Photography SEO Keywords

Just go to google.com and type in your keywords using this format. Google Autocomplete will fill-in-the-blank with the most common phrases people are searching, with higher phrases having more searches than the lower ones. Just be sure the last character you type is an underscore “_” so Google will fill-in-the-blank. You can try other combinations too.

Keep in mind your 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) should be targeted on the homepage. If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) you will need to create a new page for each of those for better keyword-targeting.

This leads me to the next step…


Target Keywords Using Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast WordPress SEOf Plugin

You will use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to target keyword(s) on your website. This is where a lot of photographers get overwhelmed. Don’t though, because I made this very easy.

Step 1 – Configure The Yoast Settings
Once you install Yoast, go ahead and download this zip file below which includes the Yoast settings I use. Upload this to your WordPress site using the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard. You will go to Tools –> Import And Export –> Import. Upload the zip file.


You will need to navigate through the Yoast settings and change a few things…

  • General –> Company Info (fill this out with your info, and upload a default logo which should be at least 200 x 200 pixels)
  • General –> Webmaster Tools (see video below)
  • Social Settings –> fill this out with your own social media links
  • Advanced –> Breadcrumbs –> use your own company name


Step 2 – Target Keyword(s) On Your Website
As I mentioned earlier, you want to target your 1 primary keyword on your homepage. To do this, go to Yoast’s SEO tab on the left of your dashboard –> Titles & Metas –> Homepage. You should be able to fill out your SEO title and meta description here (this is the text that appears in Google’s search results), or click the link to view the page where you can edit this.

Targeting Keywords With Yoast

Use the same format in the photo. Write a unique meta description summarizing what you offer while including your keyword in a way that sounds natural. This is very important as it’s the forefront of your SEO. Also make sure you don’t go over the character limit of 156.

This might be all you need to do. You can’t include the keyword in the URL (this applies to any website’s homepage) so that’s OK. Most photographers prefer to have no text on the homepage (in the photo the article heading and content is red with “no”). I understand most photographers prefer let the photos do the talking, but it WILL benefit your SEO if you include text on your homepage. Otherwise Google will only have your photos to go by.

I suggest adding “Chicago Wedding Photographer” (or whatever your primary keyword is) as your title. Then include a short paragraph of what you want to tell your audience, while also including the keyword here. With all the different typography and layouts, you should be able to make this look nice. Here’s a good example of a website that uses text in the design.

How To Target Multiple Keywords
If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) then target the main keyword (eg. Chicago Photographer) on your homepage. Now create a new page for each different type of photography. This gives you a better chance of ranking high for those specific types of photography since searchers will find THAT page in Google – not your homepage. Make sure each page contains unique content since duplicate content is an SEO no-no.

To optimize those pages for their keywords, use the same strategies described above only set “Chicago Baby Photographer” (or whatever type of photography it is) as your focus keyword. Then optimize that page using Yoast’s SEO Plugin. If you need help using Yoast to optimize your content for green lights, here’s a video…


Optimize Images For Keywords

Before uploading an image to your WordPress site, make sure it has a descriptive file name. Instead of using “DSC27272” a better file name would be “willow trees blowing in the wind.”

Willow trees blowing in the wind


Optimize Images To Load Faster

A common issue with photography websites is that the images are so large, they take forever to load. Since website speed is a ranking factor in Google, you don’t want this.

Luckily there are a few ways to prevent this…

Serve Scaled Images
If a featured image calls for 150 x 150 dimensions but you use an image that is 300 x 300, you are not using the correct featured image dimensions. This will cause slower like times by 200%. To solve this, learn the correct dimensions of your featured images (or even images in your slider) and resize them in the media section with the correct dimensions.

Another example of not serving scaled images, is when you drag to resize an image in the visual editor. This resizes the displayed image but not the actual image file (this is what “serve scaled images” means). The correct way to resize images is in the media library:

Serve Scaled Images

Optimize Images
Install the WP Smush.it plugin and go to Media –> Bulk Smush.it –> Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now (screenshot below). That’s it! You can automatically smush images once uploaded under Settings –> Media. I like to also run EWWW Image Optimizer which can catch images missed by WP Smush.it.

Bulk Image Smushit

If you don’t want to mess with images or you just want more tips on making your site load faster, see my WordPress speed optimization guide. There’s tons of good tips there.


Use Your Business Name, Address, And Phone # In Your Footer

I know, I love easy tips too… and this one doesn’t get easier. This helps with the whole consistency of information thing that Google looks for. In WordPress, you usually find this under Theme Options (look for the copyright area) or in the Editor –> Footer.

Here’s how I list mine:
Online Media Masters | 1324 West Byron Street, Chicago IL 60613 | 847-271-2422


Get Links To Your Website

Looking good so far! You’ve got your directories in place, your website optimized for your keyword(s), and you’ve make some other optimizations to improve your photography SEO. But let’s not forget about links to your website since they are essential! When people link to you, it’s a strong signal that tells Google your website is important and to rank it higher.

So how do you get links?

  • Asking customers to link to you
  • Asking partners to link to you (eg. you’re someone’s preferred photographer)
  • Local directories like the ones from Moz Local and Whitespark
  • Chamber Of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Getting published in articles (eg. in the Huffington Post)
  • Creating useful content on your blog (videos are good for this)
  • Making sure you have a nice website design
  • Sharing your photography on social media
  • Sharing your photography through an email list
  • Add social media sharing buttons to your website
  • Other publicity/marketing to get your website “out there”


Kick Your Social Media Into Gear

You know that awesome picture you took the other week? Did you post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram account? You SHOULD! Spend some time creating nice social media profiles and cover images. Add your pictures, write an introduction, and so forth. Now keep updating those profiles with new photos. Then you’re golden.


Ongoing SEO Maintenance

The main “maintenance” involves asking more customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business and Yelp page. It can also mean creating more directories, adding useful content to your blog, and posting on social media. But once you’re setup with all the WordPress SEO tools and tweaks, local SEO should be pretty low maintenance.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share :) or if you have a question about your photography’s WordPress SEO, drop me a line in the comments. 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