For businesses with a physical location, one of the best tools available to you in terms of increasing your local reputation and customer base is local search engine marketing. It is estimated that between 30 and 40% of all internet searches are done with the intent of finding a local result, so no matter how small your business, making good use of local search SEO is a cost-effective way to raise your profile.
What is local search?
The simplest explanation of local search is anything that you would look up in the Yellow Pages, for example “restaurant in Brooklyn” or “car hire in Alabama”. These searches may be conducted by people living and working in the local area, or they may be conducted by people who plan to visit the local area in the future. Searches conducted from elsewhere are likely to be the case for hotels, B&Bs, car hire and other tourist services, whereas more community based businesses such as cafes, dry cleaners and hairdressers tend to come from locals.
How does local search work?
Much of local search does not result in an online transaction – consumers are likely to look for information about services offered, pricing, location and consumer reviews with the intention to complete a transaction offline. Local search is not necessarily carried out on the major search engines such as Google, with many sites such as the online Yellow Pages, Craigslist, city search and others offering searches specific to geographic location.
Getting Started With Local Search Engine Marketing
Local search SEO can seem confusing to newcomers, however there are some simple steps even the least internet-savvy business owner can take to improve their performance in the local search rankings.
1. Ensure your (local) address is present on your website, and use a phone number with a local area code
If your address and phone number point to the same area, search engines will detect this and return your site among their local results.
2. Optimize your website for local search
Ensure the title of your site or location page reflects your town or city, and use the meta-tags on the page to expand this to include neighboring areas from which people might reasonably travel. If your business has more than one location, create a separate, locally optimized page for each location.
3. Make sure you claim your Google Places page
If your business has an online presence, it is likely you already have a page in Google Places, however you should check this out to make sure you are happy with the content, and claim your page. Google will ask you to verify who you are, and once the process is complete, your business will enjoy higher local search rankings.
4. List your business in online directories
There are many online directories that list local businesses, some charge for their services and some are free. The paid-for directories can be costly, however online directories are key to local search engine marketing and the cost is often more than offset by the results.
5. Offer incentives for online reviews
User-generated content ranks high among local search SEO success factors, however customers are unlikely to complete this without prompting unless they have had a very negative experience. Offering free or discounted services as an incentive for customers to review your business can greatly improve your search engine rankings, especially if you guarantee their experience was a pleasant one!