7 Ways to Score with Local Search Optimization

by 20 05/16/2013

Local search optimization is hot. Where once web users wanted global information, increasingly they want more personal results that literally get them right where they live.

Google Local Search results

Consider these facts:

  • A 2011 Search Engine Land report showed that 59% of consumers look for local businesses each month and 54% of searchers use zip codes and city and town names to localize results.
  • Another study cited in SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO showed that 79% of searchers are looking for local information.

That’s why it’s no longer a question of whether to optimize your business website for local search, but how soon you can do it. And to help, let’s look at some tips to help you get started with local search optimization.

1. Identify Local Search Terms

If you’re going to optimize your site, you have to know what people are looking for. To find this out:

  • Use the Google AdWords keyword tool or something similar to find local keywords in your niche that are attracting search traffic.
  • Check out your web analytics to see what local terms visitors have used to find your site.

Local search terms are usually a combination of the town or city where your business is located and the type of service you offer.

Finally, think about what services you offer locally that you want people to find on your site — is it optimized so that can happen? If not, the next step will address that.

Helpful resourceKeyword Research Tools For Local Markets (Search Engine People)

2. Optimize Existing Pages

Optimize existing pages for Google local search

If you have a business website, you already have pages that describe the services you offer, so your first step is to make it clear that you target a particular local market. You can do this by:

  • including your town or city in page titles and descriptions, along with the name of the service you offer. Remember to keep page titles to 70 characters or less and descriptions to 156 characters or less.
  • adding local contact details (business name, address and phone number) on appropriate pages.
  • add a map to your site (don’t forget to write out location details in text too, so search engines can index the information).

You can also optimize page and post content by including local terms (without keyword stuffing, of course).

Helpful resource: Maximizing WordPress Local SEO with Yoast – Part 1 (MVestor Media)

3. Localize Your Content

If your business has multiple locations, then there are other options. These include:

  • creating landing pages for each location (a combo of Unbounce for landing pages and Crazy Egg for analytics is one way to do this well). Use these pages to group your local service offerings, but be careful to avoid duplicate content.
  • using a software solution to localize your content, like the Yoast Local SEO search plugin, Rio SEO or similar products.

These solutions will help improve your website’s local search engine ranking.

Helpful resource: 7 Ways to Optimize a National Site for Local Search (Geekless Tech)

4. List It So They’ll Love It

After optimizing and localizing your content, the next step is to get listed in local directories.

In addition to the obvious information (business name, address, phone number and other contact details), make sure you write a great description that includes your key local search term. Depending on the directory, you may also be able to add photos and tags. Aim for consistency, so wherever people find you, they see the same information.

It’s a good idea to use Google Webmaster Tools to ensure that your site is shown to target your chosen geographical area. In addition, Tuts+ recommends the use of structured data as another way to share local information.

Helpful resource: Local Search Optimization, It’s All About Timing (Search Engine Journal)

5. Remember Mobile Users

Mobile users are increasingly using their devices and apps to search for relevant information, as this eMarketer data shows. In the 8 months prior to December 2012, there was a 21% increase in the number of mobile searches and a 25% increase in the number of mobile users searching for local information.

A 2012 study by Localeze supports this finding. Recent developments such as the launch of Google Now show that businesses must also be ready for mobile local search.

Helpful resource: Keys to an Effective Mobile Local Search Strategy (SearchEngineWatch)

6. Get Social

Are you in the top 3 for local search?

Speaking of mobile, listing your business in Foursquare and letting users check-in is a good way to leverage the power of local search and build interaction via special incentives and discounts. Optimizing your Facebook business page to take advantage of Graph Search is also useful, as is  Google+ Local.

Helpful resource: Facebook Graph Search Optimization: 3 Tips for Small Businesses (ReachLocal)

7. Ask Your Customers

The last piece of the local search ranking puzzle is recommendations, reviews and general feedback from your customers. It doesn’t much matter if there are a few negative or neutral reviews — as long as customers are talking about you, you’ll be considered more relevant in local search. If you do get great reviews, use them on local search pages on your site to make both search engines and users even happier.

Helpful resource: The Most Important Element In Local SEO: Reviews And Recommendations (Business2Community)

Have you optimized your site for local and mobile search yet? What issues have you found most challenging? Additional help is available from:

Image credits (Flickr): Danny Sullivan/ Bob Massa/ Mint Social

About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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20 COMMENTS

Missy

I wonder how the tips above differ when it comes to a local city blog as opposed to a local business?

Thanks for the tools, resources and info though. Have placed it in my Pocket app.

May 16, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    I’m sure many of the same tips apply, Missy – after all, it’s still about local search. Think of each blog post as a page of local information and you’ll be on the right track.

    May 16, 2013 Reply

      Missy

      Thanks, Sharon. When I write a post on my blog I do tend to use local terms and highlight the city quite abit to get that search traffic. However I dont think I have done anything with Google Maps – how would a blogger go about using this tool in a blog post – for traffic?

      May 16, 2013 Reply

        Sharon Hurley Hall

        There are two options, Missy. If you are dealing with a single local area, you could include a map in the blog footer or sidebar. The second option is to embed a map right into your post. There’s a Google Maps Embed plugin I’ve used before and there are other tools as well. Be sure to include the address/location that you are mapping in text form too – that way people who search can find the text, your map and your blog post.

        May 16, 2013 Reply

Vincent Armstead

In seo if you are not targeting your local search its just a waste. Use social media which will boost up your business also add your business to local listings which will surely help.

May 22, 2013 Reply

Seoraj

I agree with Vincent, Social media will be the next generation SEO statergy. it can surely boost traffic and popularity.

June 11, 2013 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Good point, Seoraj and Vincent. These days, it’s almost impossible to connect with people if you don’t have a social strategy. Thanks for commenting!

    June 11, 2013 Reply

Sean Elstins

I always recomend listing in relvant niche directories and all of the major ones, Be social with deals promtoions and updates, and optimize the site for USER EXPERIENCE. Play by the search engines rules but the most important factor is user experience.

June 20, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Absolutely, Sean – if the users aren’t happy then you’re wasting your time.

    June 21, 2013 Reply

Johannes

I wonder how some Sites manage to return exactly the City thats searched for in their results – any city! seems they substitute the city with some plugin ? do you know any of these that is doing it the right way ? is Yoast doing that ?

November 2, 2013 Reply

Budi

Nice post, very helpful. What is the best way to get reviews from your customer?

January 26, 2014 Reply

Malik Adnan

nice information

February 6, 2014 Reply

Michelle Hummel

Thanks Sharon for the useful set of tips. it really comprehensive & truly concise. This will be useful for those small businesses like to promote their products or services locally and increase local visibility. As far as i think the most important part of local search optimization is reviews and recommendations. This sets any local business apart in the eyes of search engines.

April 15, 2014 Reply

Ranjana Sharma

Very impressive information for increasing local business.. Thanks for sharing

August 20, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Ranjana, glad we could help. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

    August 20, 2014 Reply

David Dennis

Wow. I have just (like moments before I read this) sent an email to someone who had asked about local optimisation. This is what I said about what we do:

Make sure the clients site is optimised for Mobile

Google Plus page creation, local optimisation, incorporating verification of address

Assist in the creation of Business descriptions and consistent details across all media; Name, Address, Phone for instance (NAP)

Ensure good SEO of the clients site and make sure local elements such as town/suburb/city are included where possible on every page (ensuring consistency of NAP). Embed a local map. Ensure schema and opengraph markup with NAP. Where relevant create location specific landing pages. Ensure meta tags are location specific and do keyword research for location and subject specific keywords/phrase. Ensure onsite content incorporates relevant local keywords.

Local Business citation, particularly in directories and sites with high PR/Domain Authority

Initiate customer review processes, so encourage businesses/clients to ask their clients for reviews on their google + local page and often, to formalise a process for that to occur.

Where customers have a blog and/or social media presence encourage the creation of location specific content and again ensure consistent NAP. Where there is no blog/social media look at creation of this.

Encourage membership of and links from local associations and groups. Solicit blog posts/mentions in local blogs/sites.

August 26, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Sounds like we’re all on the same wavelength! Way to go, David.

    August 26, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    David, Glad the article could validate a lot of the things you already do :)

    August 27, 2014 Reply


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