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Local Search: Snagging The New Top Search Positions

October 29th, 2008 | | Basic SEO Tips

SEO is all about getting top positions in search results to make your website more visible to searchers and potential customers. But, the top results don’t look like they used to anymore—paid search results right up top, immediately followed by a list of natural search results.

Now we’re seeing local search results front-and-center, right below the paid search listings where the natural search results used to show top positions. We’ve all seen them and it’s hard to remember when they started showing up, but what exactly are these local search results?

Local search is really just a broad reference to searches with a specific geographic indicator like an address, zip code, city name or even state name, included in the search terms. For example, if you’re looking to send your mother flowers for Mother’s Day, your not likely to do a search query for “flowers,” your going to Google “flowers Bloomington” or “flower delivery in Chicago.” Local search listings started appearing prominently in search results because search engines were paying attention to how internet users were searching and what they were searching for. A few years back, research revealed that 70 percent of U.S. households were using the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services and three out of four Internet users are performing searches for information within their local communities. Search engines really are trying to make search results as relevant as possible for users, and in this case, make life a whole lot easier for local businesses that never thought they could compete in the world of SEO.

By optimizing for local search, small businesses that never dreamed of appearing on the first page of natural search results because of big-budget, national and international competitors now have the chance to get top billing for the most qualified and purchase-ready audience. And, you can start optimizing for local search quickly and easily—with little to no investment required!

Here are a couple quick tips to get you started:

Take advantage of local search listings.

First, make sure your business gets the visibility for geo-targeted keywords that users are searching to find local businesses in your area. The first step, and the one that gets you prime positions in local search results, is to create a business listing that will appear in local search results on the major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. There are actually two simple ways to do this—and doing both will get better results, faster.

First, add your directory listing to one of the information aggregators that distributes information to the major search engines like Google and Yahoo!, as well as supplying business and residential listings to internet directories like Yellowpages.com, InternetYellowPages.com, and YP.com. InfoUSA.com supplies information to Google, Yahoo!, AOL and MSN, as well as major internet directory sites and is a great place to get started with you listings. Be sure to include accurate, up-to-date information with as much detail and description as you can.

You can also go directly to the source. Make sure your business appears in Google’s local search results by going to Google Local Business Center and creating your listing from there.  You can get a basic listing free and upgraded listings with more content are available for just a small fee. Do the same with Yahoo! by visiting account page. Here you can get a basic listing or upgrade to include photos, company logos, descriptions and even premium placement in listings.

Use local search terms on your website.

Just like traditional SEO, you need to use your keywords in the copy on your website. For local search, these keywords are your street name, city, address, zip code, county, and even your phone number. Start by making sure your contact information appears in html text on every page. Also, add a contact page if you don’t already have one and make sure to add descriptions of your location that include the county name, nearby roads and highways, landmarks, or any other terms you think your customers might use to find a local business. Finally, incorporate local keywords throughout your site, as appropriate. If you’re the only pizzeria in the town, say it—and be sure to use the name of the city or town. If you have multiple locations, mention that in the copy of your website as well. With local search you just need to be specific and the search engines will reward you.

As with all SEO, these things will need to be updated and revised as your clientele and business evolves. Business descriptions on local directories, mapping sites and vertical directories will need to be revised to account for changing products or services, address and phone number changes, and shifts in local search terminology. If you regularly review and maintain these items, updates should never be too time consuming.

Optimizing for local search offers local businesses visibility in search results right where they need it—qualified, purchase-ready searchers, right in your neighborhood. See what top search positions can do to help you grow your business, increase sales and make you a household name in your community.

For more information about local search tools, strategies and resources, check out the Local Search Guide

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