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SEO

7 Ways to Score with Local Search Optimization

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 pages 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


Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. She's written about digital marketing for publications as varied as IBM, OptinMonster, CrazyEgg, Jilt, Search Engine People, and Unbounce. In her previous life Sharon was also a journalist and university lecturer (teaching journalism, of course!) You can learn more about Sharon at sharonhh.com.

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