3rd Edition of Free Guide to Effective Local SEO

It’s been 3 years since I released the 2nd edition of my free guide to local SEO.

Much has changed in Google and in the rest of the local-search “ecosystem” since then.  Edition 2 still can help you, but it’s developed a casu marzu -like crust.

I’ve finally come out with the 3rd edition.  It’s the clearest guide to local-search success you can get.  It will help you whether you’re new to local SEO or have done it for years.

Whereas the 2nd edition was an evolution from the 1st (from 2011), the 3rd edition is a different beast.  Some differences:

  • It’s one page.  Down from 58 pages.  (There is also a page of notes – optional.)  It’s even easier to get through and to act on.  You’ll know right away where your local SEO effort is dragging.
  • I don’t make you slog through any detail you don’t need or want. The steps should be clear to you right on that single page, but I don’t know which steps you’ll need more vs. less help on.  That’s why I often refer to blog posts that provide detail on a specific step.  (I wrote 154 posts between the 2nd and 3rd editions.  You probably don’t want to read all of those.)
  • You get the resources my helpers and I use to help clients: my comprehensive site audit checklist, our citation-building worksheet, a list of doable link opportunities, and more.
  • My advice is 100% up-to-date. It takes into account Google updates like Pigeon (2014) and Possum (2016), the local citation sources that matter today, the review sites that matter today, and much more.
  • I plan to keep the free guide updated real-time. There may not be a 4th edition as such, but rather continual tune-ups to this edition, as local search continues to evolve.

Enough throat-clearing.  You can access the free guide right here:

(If you’re reading this on mobile, you’re probably wondering where my opt-in form is.  Long story.  Just scroll down and click the link in the footer.)

Let me know how you like it!

Announcing the Definitive List of Local Review Sites

Photo used w/ permission of Danny Nicholson of whiteboardblog.co.uk

How complete is your collection of reviews?

To know that, you’ll need to know of all the sites where customers can (and should) review your business.

I’ve found 398 local review sites so far.  Some you already know about – and may even have reviews on – but others are overlooked opportunities.

I’ve put together a handy spreadsheet for you.  It’s not in this blog post: I made a page for it because it’s a little easier for me to keep the list up-to-date that way.

Go there to sit through my preamble, to get your hands on the spreadsheet, and to read my liner notes.

See the list of review sites

By the way, right here is the place to leave comments or questions.  Don’t hold back, now.

Hiring Another Gun at Local Visibility System

It’s busy around here.

Lots of projects for clients old and new.  Then there’s blogging, LocalSpark, the time I spend running and lifting, and the need for a little time left over to be a halfway decent husband and to kinda sorta have a life.

Much of what clients pay me for is work that only I should do (for one reason or another).  Also, I’ve long had a helper who handles the heavy lifting on citations.  Those two facts have made it a great setup for a long time, partly because I’ve never wanted to become an agency.  “Boutique consultancy” has been my bite-sized description of Local Visibility System.

But I want to free up more time, and to have someone who can move things along while I’m sleeping (often past noon 🙂 ).

That’s where you – or someone you know – might come in.  I’m hiring a part-time helper.

Here’s the rundown:


  • You’ll mostly help me with hands-on client work.  I might also want help with research for blog posts from time to time.
  • Work on an as-needed basis – probably a few hours a week, at least at first.  This is not full-time employment.  I’ll send you a 1099.  The upshot is that I assume you’ve got a day job, so of course I’m fine with that taking precedence.
  • I’ll pay you hourly or per-project.  It depends partly on what type of project you’re working on for me, and how good you are at it already.  Well-developed skills are something you had to invest in.  On the other hand, if I need to help you develop a skill, I’m making an investment.  All very relevant to pay.  We’ll talk about this more.

Typical tasks:

  • Make changes to clients’ sites.
  • Research link opportunities.
  • Perhaps get on the phone with Google support occasionally.
  • Help me do research for blog posts.
  • Let me bounce ideas off you.

Requirements and preferences:

  • You must be an un-lazy communicator. Don’t send me a five-word, no-period email after I send you a new project and Paypal you.  Ask questions when you have them.  Be willing to get on the phone every now and then in the afternoon.  Remember what turnarounds we agree on, and let me know when you’re running late.
  • You need at least 2 years of hands-on experience doing local SEO (I’ll ask for detail.)
  • You’ll need to let me know if any conflicts of interest – like if one of my clients is a competitor to a client of yours.
  • I’d love if you’re a longtime reader of mine (or became so familiar with my posts that you fool me). I want you to know my general approach and philosophy.  Also, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t want to re-explain things I may have written about last year.
  • I’d love if you’re experienced at other online-marketing activities besides local SEO. (Ideally it’s something I’m not good at.)
  • If you email me about working together, you must tell me the name of our cat.  (Not as tricky as it sounds.)  That will tell me – among other things – that you actually read this.  I’m channeling my inner David Lee Roth.

What’s in it for me:

  • You’ll save me some time.
  • You may have some skills I don’t, and I might learn from you.

What’s in it for you:

  • Good money for the time you put in.
  • Flexible schedule.
  • You’ll learn my processes – which can help you in the rest of your local SEO / online-marketing career.
  • If I get leads for projects I wouldn’t be good at but you’d be good at, I can just refer those people to you (especially if you’re a freelancer).
  • You’ll gain a buddy and a reference.

Interested?  Zap me an email.  Please don’t send a resume – just a solid pitch.  Detail and specifics are good.  (No need for quite as much detail if I know you already.)  Some time after that, I’ll send you a quick “test” task.

Local U Boot Camp in NYC: New Local SEO Event

The Local U crew is putting on a new event for business owners and marketers who want to learn the ropes of local-search marketing.

It’s called the Local U Boot Camp.  It’s a one-day event in New York City on September 29, 2014 – the day before SMX East.  In fact, it’s one of the SMX workshops.

If you want super-practical advice on getting visible in the Google Places results and elsewhere, consider going.

When co-founders David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal told me about the new Boot Camp recently, I had a few questions.  David more than answered them.

Is the Local Boot Camp geared more toward business owners or toward local-search geeks? How do you make sure people learn plenty, but don’t get lost?

David:  We’ve designed this event to be right in between our typical four-hour small business and full-day advanced events.

It’s geared towards people with a good background (although not necessarily expert-level understanding) in traditional SEO, but who are comparatively new to Local.  Perfect for solo consultants who are getting an increasing number of locally-focused clients, entry- and mid-level agency employees who are looking to add some Local expertise to their arsenal, and in-house folks who perhaps traditionally haven’t had the bandwidth to tackle their local search presence.


Why should a business owner make the trek to the Boot Camp when there’s so much good free info online?

David:  Two primary reasons, in my opinion.  Number one is the level of personal interaction you get with people with a deep background in the field.  You basically get to look over the experts’ shoulders as they perform their SERP analyses and learn a very structured process you can just take back to your team (or your clients) and implement immediately.

And two, at least for me, there’s only so much information I can actually internalize online.  I learned a lot of my own background in SEO and online marketing from reading the Moz blog, SEO Book, and participating in a number of fora back in the mid-2000’s.  But for me, there’s something about the level of curation that happened at events analogous to ours (although I think we’re really the first to do this in Local) that really took my grasp of what was happening to another level.  It’s the difference between learning and absorbing, if that makes sense.

Oh–and speaking only for myself–I actually never put my presentations on Slideshare or similar sites.  So if you wanna see all my best slides, “must be present to win.” 😉


What made you want to offer the Boot Camp now? (And why not earlier?)

David:  Well, we’d already done an Advanced event in Philadelphia earlier this year and wanted to continue our partnership with the SMX brand.  We figured that many East Coast folks might have already attended the Advanced event, so wanted to target our content at a little bit different level.  Additionally, the East audience traditionally has been a little more beginner (not surprisingly) than the Advanced crowd in Seattle, so we though targeting our content more to that level might help us attract a few more attendees.


How much hands-on / one-on-one attention do I get if I attend?

David:  There are tons of “formal” (there’s nothing formal about Local U 😉 ) opportunities to have your questions answered throughout the day–over two hours, in fact–and if there are still more questions that the sessions don’t answer for you, you’re definitely encouraged to grab one or more of the faculty members for a private conversation in the hall during the sessions.


Let’s say I’ve been to a couple Local U events before, and loved them. I’m practically a groupie. How much brand-new info can I expect at the Boot Camp?

David:  I’d say there will be about 50% new content at this one relative to our earlier events.  We’ve basically added three more training modules, with the goal of giving you a complete Local Search Manual of sorts at the end. And obviously a lot of our content will be updated, with the latest Pigeon algorithmic shake-up.


How much opportunity will I have just to yak with some of the Local U speakers?

David:  See above.  Even though Professor Maps won’t be able to make this event, the rest of us are more than capable of filling his yakkin’ shoes 🙂  We LOVE talking all things local and the interactions with our attendees are among the primary reasons we even do these events in the first place.

Sounds like a pretty good boot camp to me.  I think you’ll even come away with some razzle-dazzle.


What do you think?  Any questions for David?

Here’s the link if you’re considering the Local U Boot Camp:


By the way, if you plan on going to SMX East the next day, be sure to stop by the “Super Therapy Session for Advanced Local Marketers” session on October 1.  Several of the Local U crew – plus This Recruit – will be speaking there.  Say howdy!

Great Book: “Five Stars: Putting Online Reviews to Work for Your Business”

If you give a hoot about your business’s online reviews, you’ll want to pick up a copy of a great book that just came out today.  As the name suggests, Five Stars is all about reviews – particularly “local” reviews (Google+, Yelp, etc.).

Five Stars was written by Gradiva Couzin and Jennifer Grappone – the two super-sharp gals who wrote SEO: An Hour a Day.  They’re well-known SEOs and experienced marketers…and easy-to-follow writers.

It’s published by Wiley/Sybex – the same crew that brought you heavyweights like Avinash Kaushik’s books on Google Analytics and Brad Geddes’s Advanced Google AdWords.  Like those, Five Stars is a definitive field guide.

I can say from first-hand experience that Gradiva and Jen nailed the approach you need to take if you want more and better reviews: I was the technical editor for the book.  You might find a Phil fingerprint or two.

If you want actionable, doable suggestions for how to get more and better reviews, local visibility, and customers, this is the best few bucks you’ll invest all year:


Do let me know how you like Five Stars (and how you like your reviews).

By the way, feel free to ask me any questions you might have, or to offer a suggestion on the book.  Just leave a comment!

2nd Edition of Free 7-Step Guide to Local Search Visibility

Note – 10/31/16: I’ve released the 3rd edition. You can get it here. If you’re on my email list and didn’t get the link to the 3rd edition, email me.

About time, huh?

For roughly the past 18 months I’ve wanted to write a 2nd edition of my free guide.  Like everything else on this site, the guide is meant to be a resource for business owners with a DIY streak who want to get more visible to customers in the local search results.

I’m proud of the old one, and it helped many business owners.  Reading over it recently, I was surprised at how many of the basic principles still hold water.

It’s just that 2 1/2 years is a while.  Especially because any info about Google and the rest of “local” doesn’t exactly have the shelf life of a Slim Jim.

Anyway, after way too long – and enough typing to make my local chapter of the Typing Fingers Union go on a violent strike – the 2nd edition is done.

You can get the guide right now:

(I only ask for you to double-opt-in by email because I want to make sure you’re a real person, and because if you like the guide you’ll also like the free info I’ll send you in an occasional email.)

I’d love your feedback on it.


New Tool for Customer Reviews: Whitespark’s Review Handout Generator

About a year ago, Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca and I had an idea:

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a free and easy way to make a single page of instructions that walks your customers through how to post a review on your Google+Local page?

Darren had created the superb Local Citation Finder.  He was the “local SEO tools guy.”

I had already created simple, easy-to-follow Google+Local review “handouts” for my clients and other business owners.  I was the “reviews guy.”

Darren had bought my Google review handout for a client and really liked it.  I’d used and benefited from the Local Citation Finder since the day it came out.

So…our idea was that the Whitespark crew would build a free tool that instantly creates “how to write a review” handouts based on my tried-and-true design.

That tool is finally here.  Darren unveiled it in his SearchFest presentation today, and I’m unveiling it here now.

You can use it whether you’re a business owner or a local SEO.  You can use it whether you manage one business location or 100.

Go ahead – try the new review-handout generator at:


By the way, in case you’re wondering, there are only three differences between the documents you can make with the new Whitespark tool and the custom-made review handouts I’ve long offered on this site:

(1)  I can easily add custom features to your handout (e.g. QR code, extra graphics, annotations, etc.).

(2)  It’s easy for me to embed links in the PDF for you, so that if you email the doc to your customers, they can just click the steps to complete them.

(3)  I offer review handouts for other sites.

How do you like the Google+Local review-handout generator?  Any questions or suggestions?

How about a great big “Thanks, Darren!”

The 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors – out Today

Local Search Ranking Factors 2012 - READ THEM!

Of all that’s been written and said about local search, there’s one single-most important piece: It’s David Mihm’s annual “Local Search Ranking Factors” study.

The first one came out 4 years ago (at almost exactly the time I got started in local search).  It’s the Rosetta Stone for all local search specialists and for many more business owners all over the world.

This year I had the honor of being one of the 41 contributors.  Answering the questions put everything I’ve learned so far through the wringer, but it was a lot of fun, very eye-opening, and more than worth it.

Even if you do nothing else for your local-search visibility today, first read David’s extremely helpful recap.

Then give the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors themselves a read-through.

You’ll definitely have to pull up a chair, but you’ll be glad you did.

A huge thanks to David for masterminding the whole thing and bringing it to life – as always – and to my fellow contributors for their superb insights and dedication to the local-search community.

By the way, if you have a question about any of the ranking factors, my two cents on them, etc., just leave a comment!

Happy 1st Birthday (to This Blog)!

I created this blog exactly one year ago.  A lot has happened in the world of local search since my first post.

Although LocalVisibilitySystem was born in ’09, today also marks one year since I went live with the site in its current form.  It’s the site I always wanted to have.  If you’re one of my “old-timers,” you may recall that things used to look wayyy different (just a couple of really long pages and no blog posts).

The site’s coming along, but it’s just the beginning.  Every day I learn something new from my clients, fellow local-searchers, and other great people.  All I’m doing is dipping my cup into a river of fresh, useful ideas on local search.

So, in order to keep the good stuff coming, I’ve got to know: what would you like me to write about next?  Or do a video on?  In other words, what would you find useful in your ongoing push for more local visibility to customers?  Just leave a comment!

It doesn’t even have to be an idea for a post: I’d really appreciate any suggestions for what you think would be a good addition to this site.

I know the next year will be every bit as crazy as the last one.  The recent merging of Google Places and Google Plus has already made for a wild ride.  But my purpose is still the same: to help make sense of it all and to help you get or stay visible to local customers.

Thanks for tuning in so far, and stay tuned for more!

More great info on local visibility – on the way

If you’re reading this, you’ve found my blog at just the right time–when I’ve written nothing on it, and all the good stuff is yet to come.

It’s part of a completely new layout for LocalVisibilitySystem.com. As before, my mission is to provide info that helps you get your business visible to local customers in Google Places.

I realize my blog area is kind of bare for the immediate time being, but you can still get some great info right now by downloading my free 7-step guide to local visibility.  That alone should be enough to get you more visible to customers.

Other than that, I’d love it if you’d contact me with whatever questions you have. I’m going to get an RSS feed up here ASAP, but in the meantime, do check back from time to time, if you have a business that you’d like to get visible.