One of the top trends in web marketing today is local search.
The days of ranking well for a keyword everywhere from New York to New Zealand just because you did your SEO homework are over. Google now knows where searchers are located and gives a degree of priority to local results, especially when the keyword includes a place name.
For example, if you want to rank for “Dentist in Buffalo NY,” it’s not enough to stick to traditional SEO tactics for winning this keyword. You need to focus on local SEO.
The good news is that you can see great results from some simple local search optimization, which can in fact be faster and easier to do than regular SEO.
6 Tips for Local Search Marketing
- First up, Have a NAP: NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, Phone Number. It is essential that your NAP be the same across all listings, on your own site and in your various profiles. It should be exactly the same. It shouldn’t be “Dr. Smile’s Dental” in one listing, “Doctor Smile’s Dental” in another, and “Dr. Smile’s Dental Clinic LLC Inc.” in yet another. This will confuse the search engines and impact your local search rankings. Pick a name and stick to it. If your address and phone number ever change, then you must update it across all listings.
- Claim your Search Listings: Create your listings in the big search engine’s local directories, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook and whatever other search engine is popular in your country. Categorize your business correctly and then fill up your listing with as much useful information as possible, including NAP, business hours, photos, coupons, etc. Try get some customers to write reviews.
- List in Major Directories: Identify the bigger directories that are popular in your country and claim a listing there. For example, Yelp, Yellow Pages, CitySearch, etc. These sites are also important for traffic and reviews, especially Yelp.
- List in Local Portals: Every region, city and community has it’s leading online directory, community and news sites, and it is often free or almost free to list in their business directory.
- Create Citations on Other Sites: Citations are to local SEO, what links are to regular SEO. Citations are basically your NAP info on other sites, though they don’t have to have links. It’s just a way of showing search engines that your listings are correct throughout all listings. Having a Wikipedia page, for example, and it has your address there, is considered a citation.
- Optimize your Content: Create content on your site that targets local keywords, such as the names of the neighborhoods surrounding your location, the zip codes, main roads, and any other place names and landmarks associated with your location. This is a key step in local search optimization.
Remember: whenever you’re creating listings, citations or content, always stick to a consistent NAP. If your business has several branches, repeat all five steps for each location.
How to Find Local Directories
Here’s a tip I learned from SeoMoz: An easy way to find a list of directories that can help your local search efforts is simply to investigate your competitors, that are already ranking higher than you in local search results. Search in Google for pieces of your competitor’s NAP plus their domain and this will give you results for all the places they are listed.
For example, if you want to find out how Professor Smile’s Dental is ranking so highly locally, try this search: “Professor Smile’s Dental (11919 Main Street)-site:profsmile.com” Then you can go and claim your own listings on all those directories too (plus a few more, to give your rankings an extra boost).
Basic local SEO and listings in the popular local directories is one of the fastest ways to boost your search engine traffic. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, then obviously local SEO is do-or-die!
Should Online Businesses Do Local SEO?
Since many web businesses that don’t have a physical location, they ignore local SEO. But this could be a big mistake. Just because someone is being served local search results, it doesn’t mean that they won’t consider shopping online. When you optimize for local, you can fairly easily gain search traffic coming from your region. And if you live in a big city, this can mean significantly more targeted customers visiting your site.
Every business with an online presence needs to give some thought to Local Search. How can you maximize local search to boost your flow of customers?