[Easy Guide] SEO for Local Businesses

Lesson 3: On-Page Optimization - How to Make Your Website Become SEO Friendly

SEO friendly & responsive web design

On-page optimization refers to a process to change your website content & structure to make it SEO friendly.

This is the fundamental step (part of SEO Training) to show that your website content is high quality and relevant to the search query from Google.

I will try to go with strategies that NOT involved too much technical skill or SEO tools to keep thing easy-to-apply and straightforward for everyone. And these steps still contribute the 70-80% of the on-page ranking factor, which is more than enough to rank a website for local business.

Also, this guide is created specifically for WordPress CMS website. I believe 70-80% of the local businesses are build using WordPress CMS by most web design companies in Malaysia. If you are not sure, check out with your web designer.

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#1 - Domain Name Selection

The domain name does contribute a significant ranking factor. If you already own a domain & website, you may skip this section as it is still fine to use your existing website.

choosing a domain name

There are 3 types of domain names:

Exact Match Domain name (Called EMD)

EMD use all main target keywords as the domain name.  For example doorrepaircontractor.com, interiordesingerkualalumpur.com, autogatekualalumpur.com, bestvacuumcleanermalaysia.com

These type of domain names present a strong relation to the keyword topic. Especially it is a single keyword domain like investing.com and hotels.com. Google will give significant advantages when evaluating these sites.

hotels.com screenshot

However, you still need to put the quality content and present your company background well on the website. This is because these domain names have been heavily spammed and used by foreign countries. Google has a set algorithm (formula) to filter the EMD website.

In Malaysia & Singapore, we can still see many EMD domain name ranking well. I usually don’t recommend to use this type of domain name because it doesn’t carry the branding of your company. It is hard to remember and usually very long.

I only recommend it if you are already ranking well with your brand website and would like to get more spots on page 1 search result. In this case, you can build some EMD site to push your competitor out of page 1.

And no one knows exactly how Google filter EMD domain name. The best way quickly creates a few EMD domain name website with decent content length to test it the water for 30-60 days. You will notice each EMD domains will rank differently. Choose those get the best initial ranking and continue to optimize and rank it.

Partial Match Domain Name (PMD)

PMD use parts of the keywords and your brand name as the domain name. For example: bhaircon.com, billydesigner.com, summertouragency.com, searchengineland.com, healthline.com.

healthline.com screenshot

The PMD domain name indicates some relevancies to the business but also present the brand name. It will get little advantages from Google but usually take a longer time to rank well compare to the EMD.

The good thing is visitor can remember your brand easier and can immediately know the type of your business. I usually recommend local businesses to use this type of domain name.

Branded Domain Name

This type of domain name doesn’t contain any keywords. It can be a brand name which doesn’t mean anything. For example, yahoo.com, trello.com, zoom.us, thestar.com.my.

thestar.com.my screenshot

These domains don’t get any advantages from Google. The content of the site will be the main source to tell Google about them. Unlike other types of domain, the website topics can be broader and not limit to its domain name. For example, an EMD like interiordesingerkualalumpur.com will be only able to cover content about interior design in Kuala Lumpur only. A PMD like summertouragency.com can share anything about travel & tour and not limit to any location.

A brand domain name like thestar.com.my can cover almost any content & topics.

The branded domain also takes the longest time to rank well compared to the EMD & PMD. But once it is rank, it will turn to a big authority site that can drive massive free traffic from Google.

Which type of domain should you choose?

If you just started to create your first website, I will suggest choosing a PMD or branded domain.

EMD can rank faster but doesn’t carry good branding. It’s also often getting lower trust and conversion rate compared to a PMD and branded domain.

#2 – The 3 Most Important On-Page Optimization

These 3 factors may impact 70-80% of your web ranking: meta title, heading 1 & page URL.

Factor 1: Website Meta Title

The first rule that must be followed in on-page optimization is to put a valid website meta title tag.

The Meta Title tag defines as <title> tag in a website. Most website is build using WordPress content management system (CMS), which let you set it easily when editing your page. Please check the commonly used plugins section at the bottom of this article. Some other CMS platform like WIX also let end-user easily set the meta title.

meta tag code

There are many Malaysian companies make the biggest mistake to put in their company name as the title tag on their website homepage. E.g. “Welcome to Larry Trading Sdn Bhd”, “Home” or “Welcome to LarryTrading.com”.

Search engine weights heavily on the meta title and heading (more on this later), content to find a relevant website based on the user’s query. If you never use any related keywords, the search engine will never be able to find your website that matches the user’s query.

Important tips for Meta Title:

  • Always include your target keywords.
  • Add some numbers. It can be a date or “X things to…”
  • Add some emotional or power words
  • Most important keyword should be on the left-hand side.
  • Maximum 60 characters for desktop view and 70 characters for mobile view. I recommend always keep it below 60 characters.

Example good meta title tag:

  • Dentist KL – TOP Dental Clinic in Kuala Lumpur Since 2009
  • Kitchen Cabinet Malaysia – BEST Modern Design in 2020
  • KL Weight Loss Treatment – Lose Up to 6 Kgs in 3 months

You shall notice the crucial keywords are on the left side, include secondary keywords, power word & numbers to make it stand out and easy to read.

Factor 2: Heading 1 – H1 Tag

Heading in the website is just like Heading style setting in a word document. It is used to structure your document into the main topic, sub-topic, etc.

Heading tag in HTML are refer to special code, <h1>, <h2> to <h6> tags are designed to define headings. <h1> defines the biggest heading text and <h6> refers to the smallest heading text. You can find out more about heading text at https://www.w3schools.com/TAGS/tag_hn.asp

heading 1 code

Why are heading tags important for Search Engine?

Heading tags are used by search engines to identify words which are more important than the rest of the page text. The theory is that headings will sum up the topic of the page, so they are counted as important keywords.

Multiple heading sizes used to create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through your document too.

When you come to optimize the content of your page, you will need to use heading to define your content title and subtitle. I recommended using heading from H1-H4. Here is an example of how to layout your heading tag:

  • Malaysia online boutique – LarryFashion (H1)
  • Offer cheap online shopping on clothes and fashion product in Malaysia (H2)
  • Body content goes here…Shop online and get free delivery (H3)
  • subtitle content goes here…October Promotions (H3)
  • subtitle content goes here…

Important Tips for heading:

  • Always include your target keywords in your H1 heading.
  • Try to include the partial keywords and secondary keywords in other heading tags.
  • Only use one H1 heading in each page. H2 onwards can be used multiple times.

However, the heading tag needs to be used wisely. There are things you should not do:

  • Placing text in heading tags that wouldn’t help define the structure of the page
  • Using heading tags where other tags like <em> and <strong> may be more appropriate
  • Overuse of heading tags throughout the entire page
  • Putting most of the page’s text into a heading tag
  • Erratically moving from one heading tag size to another.
A good heading structure:
  • H1
    • H2
      • H3
      • H3
    • H2
      • H3
    • H2

A bad heading structure:

  • H1
    • H3
      • H2
      • H4
    • H2
      • H4

Note: You may find that the default styles aren’t exactly what you need. In particular, the default sizes can be quite large. You might like to define your heading styles using CSS.

Factor 3: Page URL

Page URL also carries important relevancy signal to Google.

If you are ranking your homepage, the domain name will be the URL. If there is a keyword in your domain name, it will send a strong relevancy signal to Google about the topic of the content.

adam-seo.com express guide screenshot

So, you should always try to include the primary keywords in URL.

Important tips:

  • Keep the URL short (usually max 3-4 words) and do not overstuff every keyword in the URL
  • Never repeat the same keywords in the URL

For example, a dentist in KL with a domain name, wileydental.com.

The page URL structure will be:

  • https://www.wileydental.com
  • https://www.wileydental.com/root-canals/
  • https://www.wileydental.com/teeth-whitening/
  • https://www.wileydental.com/tooth-extraction/
  • https://www.wileydental.com/cosmetic-dentistry/

Example bad URL:

  • http://www.roofrepaircontractor.com /professional-roof-leak-repair-specialist-malaysia/
  • http://www.professionallocksmith.com/lockout-car-keys-locksmith-services-in-shah-alam/

You should try to put your target keywords as part of your URL. Keyword within a URL or domain name sends a strong relevancy signal to Google about the topic of the content.

Important: If your page already indexes by Google and ranking well, I don’t recommend to change the URL as you may lose the ranking.

#3 - Meta Description

Google mentioned that the content in the description tag is not part of the ranking factor. However, it is still important and will impact the ranking indirectly. We should optimize the description to be catchy, trigger the curiosity and encourage searchers to click on your website to find out more.

Take a look at the example below. Which result will get the most clicks?

description tag trigger clicks

Obviously, the second result pops up and will trigger more clicks compared to others even though it is not in #1.

  • The title consists of a catchy title with power words, numbers and main keywords.
  • The description will trigger searchers to find click in and find out more the best offers.

Find out more on how to use meta tag here: https://www.searchenginewatch.com/2012/05/01/how-to-use-html-meta-tags/

#4 - Content Optimization

Content is another important factor to rank well. Google is getting better in understanding the quality of the content. Nevertheless, it will be even better if quality content is optimized with keywords rich and search engine friendly.

Don’t overthink about this. Just make sure you have unique content (not copy from somewhere else) and put relevant keywords once at the beginning of the paragraph without compromising the readability of your content. Then, if you have long-form content, add few more keywords evenly across the article. 

But do not over-optimized your content with all keywords. Google may penalize as keyword stuffing. Here are some few tips on how you can achieve the goal.

What is the word count should be?

surferseo screen showing content length for top result
  • Check your what is the page length that ranking well in your competition? If the top 5 of the competitors are having 1200-1500 words, you should have similar words count.
  • In general, articles with word count<500 is known as “thin” content (contact us page are excluded). Google may penalize your site if the percentage of thin content is high over your total articles. It won’t hurt if you only have a few of them.
  • But there is an exception for a certain type of website. E.g. For an eCommerce website, it doesn’t make sense to have 2000 words to describe a fashion shirt. In this case, you may just need 200-300 words and more images to fit the requirement from Google.
  • The trick is always to check who is ranking well. Then, reverse engineer what’s working.

And do remember to add a new line for every 2-3 sentence to make it more readable. Don’t put a wall of text in front of your audience as it is hardly readable, especially read from a mobile phone.

And always try to use simple words and short sentence.

Trust Factor Content

hand turning trust meter

Beside content about your product or services, it is also important to include trust factor content to increase the trustworthy in front of Google. Here are what you can do.

  • A comprehensive about us page to share your company journey, key team members, mission, etc
  • Contact us page that includes address, phone number.
  • Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions, Disclaimer page. This can be easily generated using some plugins like “WP Auto Terms”
  • If you have an eCommerce site, you should add shipping, return & refund page as well.

#5 - Images Optimization

Technically, images don’t contribute much to the ranking factor directly. I often see many website ranking well without being SEO optimized.

group of images for optimization

But it is still important to add images to your page because it gives better user experience and better conversion. Images make your content more readable. Most users don’t like to read “wall of text” content. Also, don’t forget “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Here are the few important tips when adding images:

  • Try to use your own original photo. Google like the unique photo. It also gives more trust to your customer.
  • Make sure you resize your photo to smaller size and dimension. I suggest using https://bulkresizephotos.com/en to resize your photo to jpeg format. If you use photos taken from the mobile phone, the size will be huge, and it will slow down your website speed.
  • Rename the filename with your keywords. Don’t overdo it. You can include partial of the keywords. Never upload images with a filename like img0001.jpg, img0002.jpg, etc.
  • Add ALT tag into your images. It specifies the text that should be displayed if the picture is not displayed. It is designed to help visually impaired people surfing the internet.

    The ALT tag is essential to a search engine because they assume that your picture has something to do with the content of your page.

    But like the visually impaired people, they actually can’t see the picture. So they will look at the ALT text as well. Make sure you include your keyword at least one in your ALT text. Again, don’t overdo it.

These are the simple tricks to optimize your images. If you wish to optimize further on images, check out my other detail post about images optimization.

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#6 - Schema Markup

According to searchenginejournal.com, “Schema markup, found at Schema.org, is a form of microdata. Once added to a webpage, schema markup creates an enhanced description (commonly known as a rich snippet), which appears in search results.”

And “Schema markup is especially important in the age of Hummingbird and RankBrain. How a search engine interprets the context of a query will determine the quality of a search result.”

In more layman terms, it is some standard-setting to tell search engine like Google more specifically about your website & content.

schema markup generator local business

The typical schema type includes Business and organizations, People, Events, Articles, Products, Recipes, Video & Reviews. You can either set this setting using microdata or JSON-LD format (JSON-LD is the recommended way).

You can add the schema through 2 methods:

Add Schema Using WordPress plugin

Search on “schema markup” in the WordPress plugin will return a bunch of option. Most of them provide a similar function to let your set the setting on the screen. This method is easy to use for a non-technical person. But it will make your site slightly “heavy” or slower since you turn on more plugins in your WordPress system.

I have been using “Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org” and “AIO Schema.org Rich Snippets“ for years and so far working well for most of my client sites.

schema markup wordpress plugin configuration

Add Schema Manually

I like to use this method as it is more controllable and lightweight. You can go to https://technicalseo.com/tools/schema-markup-generator/ to select the type of schema you want. Fill in all the required information to get the JSON-LD output code.

Simply copy it back to your page at the bottom of the content (make sure your copy in the code editor of WordPress, not Visual editor)

What type of schema to add?

“Organization” or “Local Business” schemas are the underlying schema you should add to your homepage, about us and contact us page.

For blog content, you can add “Article” schema. If you have product pages, you can add “Product” schema as well.

#7 - Table of Contents

For long-form content, you should always add a table of content to let user easily navigate through your content. Google may show the navigation heading in the search result, which may trigger more clicks.

add table of content with wordpress plugin

I recommend using the “Table of Contents Plus” plugin as it is easy to use. Once you installed the plugin, simply add “” to the content, and it will automatically show the table of contents base on your heading structure.

make sure content has heading

#8 - Mobile Friendly

Mobile phone usage is increasing day by day. More than 50% of the users use mobile to search instead of using the desktop in Malaysia. For emergency services like locksmith, plumber & repair services, mobile searches are more than 80%.

Thus, you go to make sure your website is mobile-friendly and look good in mobile devices.

Google is pushing the mobile-first index, which means the mobile content/view will become the primary source instead of the desktop view.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, it may impact the ranking for both mobile searches and desktop searches.

In short, test everything on your mobile phone to make it easy to use and look good.

#9 – Website Speed Optimization

Website speed is another essential aspect.

 A faster website means a better experience for your users, more page views and more sales.
page load time impact conversion rate

Check out the stats on page load vs conversion here.

Our favourite tools to test the page load time are https://tools.pingdom.com/ and https://gtmetrix.com/. Do not worry too much on the score in Google PageSpeed Insights but focus on the page loading time.

page speed insights showing 98 score

Generally, page load less than 3 seconds is good to go.

To reduce the loading time, I suggest you add cache plugin such as “WP Fastest Cache”, “W3 Total Cache” and “WP Super Cache”.

I am using “WP Rokect”, a paid premium plugin which often helps me to archive fast loading page and good Google PageSpeed score.

pingdoom speed test result for adam-seo.com

#10 - Setup Google Search Console

Configuring Google Search Console (GSC – not the Cinema GSC) an important step for local business, especially for those who are not using .my domain name.

For your information, Google will associate a .my domain as a country specific domain name. It will give advantages or ranking priority to these websites if the users are searching for a local answer.

If you are using generic domain .com, .net or .biz domain name, you will not be able to take this advantage without applying the international targeting setting in GSC.

Firstly, you need to register your site with GSC at https://www.google.com/webmasters/.

Sign in with your Google account and proceed to add your website. Make sure you add the full URL like https://www.example.com.

There are a few ways for you to verify your domain. The simplest way is uploading a file provided by Google to your hosting. Alternately, you can add a meta tag to verify your domain name.

Next, head over to “Legacy tools and reports” - > “International targeting”.

GSC showing international targeting menu

Click on Country tab. Make sure you change it to set to target Malaysia as below.

GSC set target country

It might take a few days or week to see the impact.

Next, you should also add the XML sitemap at “Index” -> “Sitemaps”.

This will ensure google know where to find all your pages and articles.

GSC adding Sitemap

It depends on what type of sitemap plugin you use in WordPress; the sitemap URL might be slightly different.

They are many other setting and information you can monitor to make sure your site is healthy. We will not go in detail about GSC as it might be another 2000-3000 words long article.

Commonly used WordPress Plugins

To keep your life easier, here is the list of WordPress Plugins & tools I use to almost each of our clients to improve their website ranking.

  • Yoast SEO or All-in-One SEO -  SEO plugins for meta tag, sitemap & indexing.
  • W3 Total Cache (Free) or WP Rokect (Paid) for website speed optimization.
  • WP Auto Terms to generate privacy, terms & condition page automatically.
  • Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org or AIO Schema.org Rich Snippets for Schema Markup settings.
  • Table of Contents Plus to autogenerate table of contents
  • WP-Sweep – Clean up unused or duplicate data in your WordPress to speed up the performance

That’s it!

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Key Takeaways - Prioritize Your On-Page Optimization Task

I tried to keep it short & simple but still end up with 3500++ words. I suggest you to work on the high priority tasks as below so that you can see a faster result.

High Priority Task

  • Optimize Meta Title, Description & Heading
  • Set Schema Markup
  • Setup Google Search Console

Medium Priority Task

  • Content Optimization
  • Image Optimization
  • Add Table of Contents
  • Mobile-Friendly Optimization
  • Website Speed Optimization

Now, it is your turn to apply these changes to your website!

Lesson 4: How to Get More Links to for Local Business Website


Do I need to have a .my country-specific domain name to rank well in Malaysia?

No. A generic .com still can rank well as long as you set the international targeting setting in Google Search Console to Malaysia.

What are the most important factors that impact the website’s ranking?

Meta Title, Heading (H1) and URL are few of the most important factors affecting your website’s ranking.

I am a non-technical person; how can I improve my website ranking by myself?

As long as your website is built with WordPress Content Management system, you can easily follow and apply the changes according to this guide and improve your website’s ranking. If you can’t do it, simply pass this guide to your web designer.

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