If you’re a small business owner, there’s a chance you may have noticed a significant drop in web traffic and, by extension,online leads starting back in June, 2014. In June, Google rolled out their Pigeon update, an update to their local search rankings algorithm. Unfortunately for business owners and SEOs, since Google doesn’t release the details behind their updates, we’re left guessing.

Fortunately for us, Moz’s search master, David Mihm, recently released his annual in-depth Local Search Ranking Factorsreport. This report lays out, in order of importance, many of the factors that could be affecting your business’ local rankings. Taking some of the information from that report and plenty of first-hand information we’ve compiled since the update, we have created a handy to-do list to ensure your business gets the local visibility it deserves.

List Yourself

The first step is the most apparent one, yet can also be the most time consuming.

In order to show up in local searches, it’s a good idea to claim your business’ local listings on every business listing directory out there – the most important of them being Google+. After all, Google is who you’re trying to impress. Your Google+ page is a place where you can display all of your business’ pertinent information – including the address, hours of operation, specials, etc.

Don’t just stop with Google, however. Make sure your business is also listed on both Yahoo Local as well as Bing Local and also sites like Yelp, Foursquare, MerchantCircle, and YellowPages. Most of these business listing directories require validation in some form, whether through email or by conventional mail.

Consistency Is Key

When it comes to improving your local rankings, one of the biggest mistakes a business can make is having inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone number) profiles across the internet. When listing your business in directories, ensure that every little detail about your location is exactly the same on every single directory. Know whether you’re in a suite, apartment, or unit and make sure it’s listed consistently. If you spell out “Avenue” on your website, make sure you spell it out the same way when listing it on directories.

Maintaining this consistency helps validate your business in the eyes of search engines and greatly helps improve your local rankings. Furthermore, it also looks good to your future customers. As I am sure we can all attest to, there are few things more frustrating than searching for a business on your smartphone and having multiple locations show up.

Optimize, Optimize, Optimize

Just as with generic organic search, on-page optimization is critical in improving your local rankings. It may seem obvious, but your website should contain all of the information about your business possible, both in the content and behind the scenes. Many businesses often fail to highlight their city and state when they get a chance. Meta titles, H1 tags, meta descriptions, alt text on images – all of these should have your city and state mentioned in them. So, too, should your content reference your area as much as organically possible.

No Spam

“Wait, but didn’t you just say that I should include my city and state name as much as possible in the last section?”

Yes. However, as any SEO professional will tell you, spamming keywords is a surefire way to get a nice, hefty organic search penalty from Google. The same is true for local search. Instead of packing in 50-100 useless city names with no meaning, focus on creating useful content for the user. Don’t throw a clunky list of nearby cities at the bottom of your homepage, but instead include some content on area neighborhoods and attractions.

For one, you’re decreasing the chances of landing a penalty. Further, creating content that is useful and enjoyable for the user will help keep them on your site and will increase the chances of a conversion. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Get People Talking

One of the more underrated tools in increasing your local rankings are reviews from customers. Having positive reviews helps in two ways: it shows future customers that your business is worth their patronage and it also helps validate your website in the eyes of search engines. After all, Google is going to trust what your customers have to say about your business more than what you have to say about it.

Sites like Yelp, CitySearch and Foursquare are all fantastic sites that offer customers a chance to review your business. Although Yelp’s links are nofollow – meaning they don’t pass any valuable “link juice” – they still are valuable citations that help direct traffic to your site. Same goes for other popular review sites. As time goes on and the algorithms continue to get updated, we may see Google place even more emphasis on positive reviews.