Training

SEO 101: Local Search Optimization

Getting found in local search results.
Getting found for local search queries takes more than having a web site with your address on it.

If there is any part of SEO that is currently ripe with opportunity it’s Local Search. A huge portion of search is for information local to the searcher (Palm Springs movies, Houston pizza, etc.), but a ton of local mom & pop businesses simply don’t know that there is such a thing as “local” search. Many folks think that search is, well, search!

So, now is the time to take advantage of this lack of understanding about local search and get your business in there! It takes more than just a web site targeted to a local audience. Rather, you need to know about about how local search works.

For instance, searchers are basically lazy and tend to search for a city name rather than narrowing down to a neighborhood or zip code, so instead of “pizza 92262” they’ll start their search with the city as in “palm springs pizza” as the query.

Also, take a look at what you get in a local search result:

Google local search exampleNotice that Google now provides ten results (with web site URLs and phone numbers) and a map with locations of the listings. You’ll also see the number of reviews that each business has received. Other search engines will give similar results, though, as of this writing, with a varying number of results mapped and listed. Also notice that the organic results show up below the local results – another reason to be in there if you can.

So, let’s jump into some tips to help you with your local search optimization.

1. Include your physical address. Make sure it is on every page on your web site. if you think slapping a postal address into the HTML address meta tag will help you get found in local search, think again.

2. Be central. Unfortunately, the search engines tend to focus on the city center, meaning that the first results that come up for a search like Boston bars will be those in center city. If you’re lucky enough to be centrally located, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. If not, you could try getting a mailing address that is centrally located, but the search engines will definitely frown on that. All it takes is one disgruntled person going to that location and finding a mailbox to report you. And, businesses without street addresses can’t get listed in Google local listings.

3. Optimize your web site. Regular SEO can have an influence. Be sure to use the name of your city in your content (our Palm Springs office, not just our office). Use your city name in your image ALT attributes and anchor text. See my S E O 101 series for general optimization tips. Make sure your classic SEO is location specific.

4. Optimize your local listing. In Google, go to Local Business Center. For Yahoo!, go to Yahoo! Local. For MSN (or Live or whatever they call themselves today), go to Windows Live Local Listing Center. Fill out the forms with all relevant information. Provide links, web pages, photos and coupons if available.

5. Get reviews. Reviews can have an effect on how you rank in the results. Lots of good reviews can only help you. Enlist friends, customers, relatives, business partners or whoever you can to write good reviews to get you started, but don’t spam. You’ll get caught.

6. Get listed in trusted sources. The search engines pull some reviews and listings from what they consider trusted sources like Superpages, Yellow Pages, Info USA, Localeze and Yelp. Some are free, some are for a fee, but listings in these can help. In Yahoo, del.icio.us rankings might also have some influence.

7. Make sure your data and category are accurate in #4 & #6 above.

8. A keyword-rich domain name can’t hurt.

9. Do local videos. These tend to have great click-through rates and can come up in Google blended results.

10. Cross link with maps on a trusted site like Mapquest.

11. Create a local listing for all locations. If you have more than one, don’t just create a local listing for the main one. Get them all in there!

As always, this barely scratches the surface of local SEO and is intended to get you started in the right direction. I go into more detail in my SEO workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

This article will be updated periodically.

See my related S E O 101 posts .

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