At the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose, I attended the Local Search Marketing Tactics session. Patricia Hursh, Justin Sanger, and Matt Van Wagner made great presentations on the latest in local search and provided some excellent tips on helping businesses improve their local search results.
They shared some concrete steps to improve organic local search results. I'll summarize some of them here:
- Make sure that you have a crawler friendly web site
- Include your business address twice on the page
- Check out your business listing on the major search engines
- Get your business rated
- Solicit local links
- Check out your competition
- Verify directory information
- Create separate web pages for different cities/regions
The first step in improving your business performance in local search engines is to make sure that the search engines can easily crawl your site, and identify your business keywords. Minimize the use of tables, and avoid deeply nested tables. Make sure that your business name and address are featured prominently on the page as text, and not hidden from the crawlers in an image file. Your page title should include your business name, address and key words. Place an "H1" header near the top of the page that also has your business name, address, and key words.
In addition to placing your business address prominently on the page, also include it in the footer. Abbreviate the business state in one of the addresses, and spell it out in the second. Abbreviated states are sometimes misinterpreted by the crawlers. For example, MD represents both a state and a doctor.
For each business listing, make sure that your information is correct, your business description is complete, and that it uses the same keywords that you are using on your web site. Make sure that your description has all the information that your potential customers will need to contact you, since people often will not click through to your web site from the local business listing. Include the county in addition to the city on your business listing. Finally, check out any photos of your business on the business directories, and provide better photos where appropriate.
Ask your satisfied customers to write reviews and rate your business at Google, Yahoo, and MSN. If possible, ask them to use the same keywords that you use in the business description and on your web site as part of their review. Don't add too many reviews over a short period of time, and make sure that the reviews are unique.
Find the web directories that are local to your area, and ask them to link to your web site. Contact your local chambers of commerce and ask them to link to your business from their web site.
Do a local search for your business keywords (i.e. Porsche, San Francisco, CA) and see who your competition is. Find out who is linking to your competitors and investigate whether you can get the same sites to link to your business. The links can be determined by going to Yahoo and typing "linkdomain:" and then your competitor's web site (i.e. linkdomain:www.yourcompetitorssite.com). Click on "inlinks" in the results page.
Check inlinks for your site as well, and see who is linking to you. Make sure that the information on those sites is correct, and contact them if it isn't.
Check out your business listing on your local phone company site and other local phone directory sites. Make sure that your business information and description are what you want. Also, make sure that your information is correct at InfoUSA, Amacai, and Acxiom, which are major sources of local business data licensed by many directories.
If your business serves multiple cities or regions, consider creating separate web pages for the different locals. To avoid duplicate content issues, be sure to have unique, relevant content on each of the local specific pages. Be sure to include the county in addition to the city in describing your business. Also adding directional descriptors such as central, western, southern, etc. is helpful.
Of course, there is much more that you can do, much of it shared during the session, but these 8 steps are a great start to improving your local search ranking.
Jim Parent is a principal search analyst with Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy with offices in Boston and California.
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