Guide To Local Search SEO

Local search, meaning geographically defined searching, provides a wealth of cheap and effective marketing opportunities. Not only is it possible to segment audiences by location, the SEO competition in geographically constrained areas is lower than in generic searches. If you have a service or product with a strong local component, then adopting a local SEO strategy can pay off handsomely.

Whilst local search has been slow to catch on, things are changing quickly, especially with the advent of "location aware" devices, such as iPhones, and the new marketing opportunities they present.

In this document, we'll take a look at local SEO, and provide you with specific, geographic strategies to help enhance your visibility on a local level.

The Growing Importance Of Maps

In 2005, Google introduced a free local mapping service called "Google Maps". Yahoo also has a map product, as does MSN. Whilst there are numerous map providers, these online services took mapping one step further by integrating data in order to make maps more useful. No longer was a map a static page, it was now a personal, interactive navigation tool that can plot how you get from place to place, show you where the local restaurants are, tell what people thought of them, and more.

These interactive maps provide valuable opportunities for online marketing in the local space.

Firstly, these maps services provide businesses with the opportunity to claim a space on a map, and it is free to do so.

Secondly, Google is starting to integrate maps into the search result listings. It is now possible to be featured at the top of Google without even having a site. You simply have to list with the mapping services, and chances are you'll be featured in local search result listings.

For example, let's take a look for "hairdressers near Beverly Hills, CA"

The first two results are local directory pages. The third is a Google Map. The sites listed alongside the eye-catching map occupy lucrative screen real estate, and all they did to get there was claim their place.

In order to claim your place on a map, follow these steps:

Google Maps

1.Go to the Google Local Business Center and sign up
2. Fill out the forms
3. Validate your listing by phone, SMS, or mail.

Yahoo Local

1. Go to the Yahoo Local sign-in page.
2. Fill out the form.
3. Wait :)

These services also allow reviews, so ask your friends and colleges to write a review on you.

You can also use Getlisted.org to check your local visibility. This service will tell you if you're listed in various local search services, and prompt you to register for those services in which your site doesn't currently appear.

Local Strategies

Local SEO strategies are much the same as general SEO strategies, the obvious difference being the local component. You still need to cover the bases - produce on-topic content, be crawlable and well linked. Simply add some local flavor, and you will show up in local searches, too.

Local Business Listings, Hub, Chamber of Commerce

Make a list of all relevant local business hubs, chambers of commerce, and other organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a business federation representing millions of businesses, both large and small, and you can find your local branch by searching this site.

Look for members directories. For example, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce has a directory located here. Often, you only need be a signed-up member in order to qualify for a listing.

Yellow Page, CitySearch, SuperPages & Local Directories

Get listings in local business directories.

These types of sites usually have sufficient levels of authority to rank new pages quickly, meaning any listing you have on such a site will get you near-instant visibility in the search results. Some of these sites will will also pass link juice to your site. Ensure you submit in the local-specific categories, as opposed to the general categories.

A word of warning: unless you have sufficient link authority, the directory pages might outrank your own site, so if outranking your directory entries is a priority for you, it is a good idea to build up your own link authority first.

Local Identifiers

Include local identification data on your site, such as local phone numbers, addresses, and zip codes. Use standard nomenclature.

If possible, try to include this information in the footer of every page of your site. This will ensure each page you create has at least some local keywords, which will help catch local searches.

Ask Customers, Suppliers & Partners For Links

Customers, suppliers and partners can be a great source of links. It's even better if they have a local presence.

Appear In Local Media

Do you have a story with a local angle? Small, regional papers and websites are often short of local material, so will jump at stories handed to them on a plate. Make sure you ask for a link.

Also issue locally focused press releases using services, such as PRWeb. Use local keywords in your press release title, and spread liberally through your copy. Link back to your site.

Adwords For Local Searches Are Cheap

Google Adwords and other PPC services allow local targeting i.e. the ads only appear if the searcher is in the local region.

Google allows you to target by:

  • Any zip code, metropolitan area, state, or country
  • A radius near your business
  • A radius near a point on a Google Map
  • The defined coordinates of any polygon you enter
  • Any combination of the above

Google also offers a Local Ad Preview tool to show what ads will appear on search results in different areas.

You can also use it to get an idea of the size of your local market. Run a test campaign for a week or so and determine the number of local searches against a range of keyword terms. This information can flow through into your SEO campaign when you choose which keyword terms to focus on.

Google also offers the AdWords Local Plus Box. The Local PlusBox is a feature that displays more geographical information for a local business ad that appears in the top position above Google search results. When users see the Local PlusBox and click on it, the ad expands to include a map, address, driving instructions, and phone number, in addition to the location name that appears beneath the last line of ad.

By running both SEO and PPC campaigns side by side, you occupy more screen real estate, and have a higher likelihood of receiving a click.

Mix Keyword Text With Location Information

Include local keywords in your body copy, headings and title tags. Use the Google keyword tool to give you ideas as to what keywords Google associates with certain regions.

For example, if I type in Wisconsin into the Google Keyword Research Tool , and scroll down to "Additional keywords to consider", I get a list of related keyword terms sorted by relevance. Incorporate as many of these associated keywords as applicable. Google is likely to associate these terms with each other, so the more of these terms and variations that appear on your page, the more relevant you're likely to become in the eyes of Google.

Google Coupons

Google coupon feeds enable businesses to provide coupon listings that will be included in Google search results. You can create a Google coupon feed here.

These coupons will show alongside Google Map listings, and they are free. At the time of writing, the take-up of Google Coupons is quite low, possibly because it isn't well known yet, so grab this opportunity while it lasts.

Syndicate Your Content

Are there any local blogs or sites that may host your articles? Offer to make guest postings. Search Google for your chosen local keyword terms and see what sites come up. If you can get your content on to any of the top sites, you will get both the traffic and a highly desirable link.

In return, the well ranked site gets free, unique content. Win-win.

Linked In & Social Media

Get listed with LinkedIn and other business contacts services. It is free, and LinkedIn pages often rank well in the results listings. Leverage your contacts, engage with people, and ask them for links. Personal networking is a much more affective way to get links than anonymous approaches via email.

Also get a profile in FaceBook and any other social media site where your customers might hang out.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia use a no-follow tag, so is unlikely to pass link juice, however Wikipedia pages do rank highly, which provides an easy opportunity to get seen.

Navigate to local pages and, if appropriate, add your link. You can even add body text if your business or service is relevant to the topic of the page.

A word of warning: Wikipedia users can be hostile to marketing and advertising. Given that anyone can change the content of Wikipedia, blatant marketing pitches won't last very long. Try a factual, informational angle instead. For example, write an article on local history or points of interest.

Email Signatures

Ensure your email signature and forum tag lines contain local address and contact data. Sometimes forum and blog posts will pass link juice, and that link will appear alongside local keywords.

Sponsor Local Events And Sites

Are there local events you could sponsor? How about local school sports teams or clubs? Often, small local events don't cost a lot to support, and the link value alone could be considerable.

Try To Include Specifics In Your Business Name

If you haven't decided on a business name, try and include a service description in the name itself. For example, a photography business called Elite could name themselves "Elite Wedding Photography" for the purposes of directory listings. If you can get the keyword in the link text, you increase your chances of ranking for that term.

Also, small businesses often don't have the brand recognition, so explicitly describing what you do can make your offering clearer to potential customers.

Optimizing for Multiple Locations

If you cover a number of regions, it can be a good idea to dedicate a section to each region, rather than trying to cover a multitude of regions on one page. Each page should be optimized for one, specific local query.

What are your most important referrals? Perhaps people who search on your local town end up becoming customers, where those who search on a state do not.

Try to figure out which group of searches result in the most business. Assign a value to the traffic, either by monitoring conversion rates, or counting the volume. Then focus your site on those visitors.

If you site was going broad - say, targeting a big region like California - you might want to hone in on your town instead, especially town search traffic turns out to be the most valuable. For example, a real estate agent who lives and works in San Clemente is probably better off focusing on keywords relating to San Clemente, as opposed to the whole of California, which she can't possibly service. It's also a lot easier to do in terms of SEO. A few links, some on-topic copy and a Google Map entry might be all that's required in order to get rankings and drive traffic.

Your home page is usually the most likely to rank, so ensure the title, content and tags target the specific local traffic that gives you the most bang for your buck. Move your most valuable content, in terms of visitor value, as close to the home page as possible - one click away, if possible.

If you target multiple areas, you could create a series of subdomains i.e by State, and each subdomain only contains information pertaining to that state.

Resources & Further Reading

Published: March 18, 2009 by A Reader in

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