Local SEO and Local Search are becoming more and more important to most businesses. Most search engines have focused on improving how it handles local queries as opposed to just full internet queries and national level blanket search. In fact there are even conferences available to showcase some of the new technologies and techniques regarding local SEO and local search.
Local search is still fairly segmented in a variety of ways. From different search engines, different formats and methods of improving SERP (search engine results page) results to the array of sites for reviews and social media it can all be rather confusing to try and create a homogeneous local presence. In addition we need to identify which websites are the authorities for this information.
Keep in mind there are three distinct groups where local information resides. The major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. There are local search engines which are a derivative of those above, and lastly you have yellow page and other related sites. Of course there are a large number of local sites which also qualify some information but aren’t as important as those listed above.
One point I want to clarify is that SEO or search engine optimization does not necessarily imply local search optimization. You can optimize your website and your local pages to come up in search engines combined together, under the results pages. This is extremely power.
In my example to the left you can see my search for Madison WI dentist. The local aspect are the pinpoints in the maps. You can see First Choice Dental comes up in the first spot in the local listing and the results page, a little further down. Nice! Also you can see the reviews which Google has accumulated.
It is important to show your customers that yes you do indeed reside in that city. How many times have you clicked off of national level competitors which may or may not have a true presence in your locality? I want someone who understands the situations that are unique to where I reside.
That being said consider the next scenarios of not having a streamlined, consolidated web presence.
Scenario 1: Optimized web page without an optimized local presence. Yes you may show up in the first page of results however the search engine will not recognize that you are local to the search term and not place you on the map. This is a hit to your credibility especially if your competitors are listed and showing up.
Scenario 2: Optimized for local but not on your website. What happens here is that your business shows up in some of the local listings but only for very specific geographical searches. You are only gathering a portion of the traffic you could normally with this approach. Additionally you may miss out on additional lists. For example you might show up in the local listing and then in the number #1 spot on the regular listing; double the exposure!
Makes sure when you are performing SEO work you consider the local impacts of all your actions.
One tip we give regarding local search is to have your address everywhere on your website and the directories you’ve submitted to. If you have a single location then make sure that address is on every page on your website. If you have two or more location make sure you have a separate and distinct URL for each of those pages. I’m not necessarily talking about a domain name however consider this example.
Let’s say that my buddy owns a stereo repair store and he has three locations. North, South, and East. We would structure the website like this:
Make sure on each of those pages you have the address, phone number, and all pertinent contact information for that particular store; perhaps put your ‘corporate’ or main address on your main page. It just depends on your situation. By separating those up you create a web ‘citation’ for your locations. This reinforces the fact that you indeed have three stores and that they are important enough to have their own web page. Additionally this creates a reference (citation) on your domain to each of the stores about the address and phone number.
What do I mean when I refer to a citation? In this context any time you use your phone number, address, and name of your business in a similar context it creates an instance of credibility. Depending on the source of this instance it determines how important the citation is to Google and other local search providers. This is a new concept that is being used at various different levels both in local and national search. Some of the bugs and questions haven’t been worked out such as the best format and the best way to communicate this information.
Consider the following when searching for other places to list your business which will help to reinforce the citations you’ve created above.
Typically I’m not a fan of anything related to Yellow Pages (here is an article as to why the Yellow Pages are dead) they can create great citations for your addresses and phone numbers. You can look up YP or look for some other resources like a local or regional phone company. By finding some of these authority sites which are built on providing contact information you reinforce your own companies contact information.
Make sure you try and lock in a couple of those especially if they are cheap or free. However most of the time you may have to pay an annual fee in order to have your link and citation. If you need the extra local power or your competition is doing this then sometimes it is necessary. However you may be able to pull first page rankings without paying anything extra.
Consider sponsoring an event or charity. By being a featured contributor or donar you’ll often get a link or other citations which are important to local search. Continue to build this over time and insist that your information stays on the page as long as possible; hopefully it is a blog type situation so that it’ll continue to be present for the life of the site. Make sure to ask them to put up as much information as possible about your company and website, especially for that link, address, and phone number!
Figure out which websites are authority sites in your geographical area. If you are a plumber then search for directories which list plumbers in your specific city or zip code. Do what you can to get listed for free; some of these may have requirements like a reciprocal link, a onetime fee, or a monthly / annual fee. Again, I would spend a bit of time to search and find those which do not have payment requirements but keep a list of the pay sites, it might give you the power you need to dominate locally.
Join a chamber of commerce. These are often authority sites and provide great back linking opportunities. Find some other organizations that are influential in the area. Perhaps do a presentation or create an event which is featured in a local magazine or news paper. By creating a little bit of press you can acquire links which solidify your presence locally, quickly.
Another great avenue to pursue are local blogs. While these typically won’t be as important as a yahoo local or Yellow Pages listing it will still provide you valuable geographical links and reputation. Start off by generating your list of relevant local sites. I typically recommend starting with five. Again if you are a plumber you’ll do a search for <local city> real estate blog, <local city> contractor blog, and etc. Find those blogs which you could find potential clients or people which you can support / work with. You aren’t doing this to blast them with advertisements; that is probably the last thing that you should do. You are there to help. More on that in a moment.
First you want to start posting on these blogs and expanding your network. This will give you two advantages. First you and your company will start to be recognized locally and online. Second you will build some links back to your website. Most blogs allow a website URL as part of the reply. Great.
Next after you start to post a little more regularly, generating that name recognition, you are able to approach the blog owner and offer him or her potential business propositions. If you have a blog you should start to cross post (create a dialog with another blogger which you reference or reply to posts they’ve created and visa versa) or guest post (where you are featured on a bloggers website to provide an article or content for that blog in exchange for links to your website). Check out this article, Why Blog, for information as to why you should be blogging.
Offer unique and original content in exchange for links to your website and or bio. Get creative. Create a video or some other fascinating content. You can also use this content to try and garner additional traffic from YouTube and other websites. Here is a great article on why video SEO is effective.
Keep on developing and becoming a presence on these local social sites. As you become that authority you will be the go to person. It takes time but is one of the most effective methods to developing your online reputation and relationships.
Building strong relationships is extremely important to any business. It is equally as important to search engine optimization. I always recommend that my clients establish strong ties to influential people and influential websites. These could take the form of blogs, directories, magazines, news sites / papers, local groups, or anything else with direct local ties.
By working with these folks and being a local business you start to establish yourself as a responsible local based business owner. Besides the obvious Google advantages that we’ve covered above you are creating ties to folks who can have a positive (or negative) impact on your business in the long term.
Nourish these new relationships and be genuinely interested in the people involved. Most people can tell if someone is just playing a game to try and get an advantage or simply burns out in a couple of weeks / months. Keep this in mind and stay in touch. Don’t be a bother but stay in the forefront of their mind. When possible do these folks favors and try to find mutually beneficial arrangements.
Not only will you see direct benefits of taking these actions but the indirect benefits can be significant. Perhaps the most significant one would be positive reviews (or mitigating negative ones). Local business reviews are starting to really take hold in the market place. There are hundreds of local review sites with the two most popular being Yelp or Google Places. It’s important to have a positive listing of five or more reviews on these sites as it will often come up in the top 10 results for web searches for keywords.
I would never directly ask people for positive reviews but reward them for taking the time to simply review your site. Of course you are going to ask your most satisfied customers to do so but even if you do have some negative ones, people are starting to expect to see positive and negate reviews for any business.
As you can see above there are a number of ways that you can improve your local search rankings. From creating valuable citations for your company address, and phone number to link building to developing a positive and interactive reputation for your business. It all plays a factor into search.
Get started today and become a significant presence in your market. Online tools enable us to be more effective and be in more places at once. Don’t wait for for it to become mandatory before you get started. You know, early bird and all that. As always if you need help with local search, don’t hesitate to contact Get Known SEO, its included in our small business SEO plans!
Get. Known. Now.