One of the challenges facing small, local business websites is being found amongst the myriad of competitors both locally and nationally when visitors search for them using the search engines. Local search may be the answer to the small businesses problem.
If you haven’t noticed, “Google Local” lists three companies BEFORE the number one organic listing when surfers are querying for a keyword and a city. For example, “Denver realtor” or “Omaha hardware stores”. That kind of search engine real estate is becoming more and more valuable and profitable as small businesses want to be seen on the search engine results and justify their investment in their website.
If your small business website appears in at least the first page of the local listings this could have significant benefits for you and your profits. Small businesses needs to do some tweaking of their website and in their search engine optimization strategies to get in the local listings and gain a top position there. Here’s what Google looks for beyond just registering your website on Google Local:
Your physical address and local keywords listed on your site and pages
Your address and keywords listed on other sites in your relevant market community
Your address and keywords listed in local directories (Better Business Bureau, Yellow Pages, Local Restaurant Association, etc.)
Your address in your domain name (not always possible) and/or Title tag
Customer reviews of your business (These are important to gain top local search positions)
From the above, you can see that you will need to do a few things to become noticeable in the search engine’s local results. First, be sure to sign-up for Google and Yahoo! Local. This is an easy first step to take and well worth the time. The same goes for local business organizations. Most have websites with directory pages where you can place links to your website and a description of your business. Make your description enticing to potential visitors.
You should always have your town or city name in the title of your homepage and somewhere else on your homepage. You should have an “About Us” page with all the specifics of your business location. Use the “vCard” format if possible to list these location specifics.
Local search is as much about using traditional search engine optimization to optimize your pages and make them search engine friendly as it is with any website that is targeting the global market. It’s just that you have to think more locally. This means that your city and address now have to become part of your keyword strategy. It’s unfortunate that Google gives preference to businesses located near to the center of any given city. But here’s where traditional SEO helps.
If you’ve checked out Google Local, you may have noticed that they place high relevance on reviews. And so do your potential visitors and customers. It is imperative that you seek reviews to your business. Ask your favorite customers to post a review your business at Yahoo! Local. This will not only gain you some PR but will also gain Google’s attention.
If your business is doing something special, be sure to write a press release or an article about what you’re doing to promote your business and get them published online. You can have them published in your local newspaper to do this as they most likely have an online site as well as the traditional newspaper. Be sure to place your website URL in the news release or article.
Local search is simply an intensification of your traditional search engine optimization efforts. For the small business that only deals locally, it’s a must if you have a website. Going locally on the internet is well worth the time and expense. It’s free advertising that will gain you a great return on your advertising dollar.