Optimizing Your Site for Local Search
What is local search and why is it important?
If you are a business that depends on local customers, such as a flower shop, an auto body shop or a restaurant, what could be better than coming up right at the top of the search engine results page for a keyword search including your geographic location?
If part of your website's intent is to be relevant to local searchers, then optimizing your site for local search is a must!
Because local search results are now being placed very highly in the search engine results pages, the competition is steep and it's important to make sure your site is well optimized for local search.
A local search scenario: Russ owns an auto repair shop in Atlanta, Georgia that specializes in European vehicles. In general, all of Russ's customers are going to come from in and around Atlanta. The shop is not going to be providing services to people in London or Cairo! So it is important for Russ's website to reach searchers in and around Atlanta looking for the services he provides.
How are local search results displayed?
A local search is a query that involves a keyword along with a geographic location. You probably do local searches all the time when looking for a business in your area. Looking back at Russ's auto repair shop in Atlanta, Georgia a local search would be just that, "atlanta, georgia auto repair", or something similar.
You will see displayed in the graphic, next to the map, auto repair shops right in Atlanta.
It will just take a short amount of time to optimize your site for local search, and it is well worth it. Here are eight ways to get started:
1. Give your pages geo-specific, descriptive meta tags (title, description, keywords) including your zip/postal code. This means that your meta tags should include the main keyword for your page as well as your location. Examples of a geo-targeted title tags would be:
Auto Repair - Atlanta, Georgia 30301
European Auto Mechanic - Atlanta, Georgia 30301
What are meta tags, you ask? Click here for more info.
2. Make sure you have contact information, including your physical address and phone number, in text on every page of your site. Remember, search engines read text, not graphics. An easy way to do this is to add a footer to each page of your site.
3. Add your location to your image alt text. If you have an image of your storefront on your site, you could give it the image alt text "Russ's European Auto Repair, Atlanta, Georgia".
4. Submit your site to Google's Business Center. Here is a link to how to do this at Google.
5. Submit your site to Yahoo Local Listings. Here is a link with more information for Yahoo Local Listings.
6. Submit your site to local directories. Examples include Yellowpages.com, SuperPages.com, InfoSpace.com, InsiderPages.com, Local.com.
7. Send an email to local establishments. For example, contact your Chamber of Commerce or another local business that complements yours (a complementary local business for an auto repair shop might be an auto parts store, a car wash, a dealership, etc), and request a link to your website from theirs, or to do a link exchange.
8. Look for blogs and forums that focus on your topic. Making comments on blogs written by people in your area (good comments, not spam comments) is an excellent way to improve visibility. Most of the time you can post a link back to your site with your name.
These techniques for promoting your site locally are also good for your overall SEO! Please keep in mind that competition for local search is high, so just because you perform these techniques doesn't mean your site will automatically receive high placement for localized searches, but it will surely help!