Local search is an area of SEO that is becoming very important to the small business segment that wants to appear prominently in search for a particular geographic area. If you want to get your client's business found, you need to understand this burgeoning facet of SEO.
First of all, major search engines such as Google and Bing are working local search into their algorithms. If you have done a search lately you may have noticed that many of the top results are companies based near where you live. A search for “web design” in Chicago won’t bring up the same results as in Los Angeles or Dallas. These search engines default to the local area unless the user specifies otherwise.
Second, eye tracking studies performed by Mirametrix have overwhelmingly shown that listings with localities included garnered the most focus from users. Because they looked at eye tracking rather than click maps or mouse movement patterns, the information is all the more accurate and convincing.
If your client's business caters to a local crowd, optimizing with locality based content and meta-tags will help them get to the top of the list. If they are a national or international business, they will want to optimize for the major geographic areas where there are potential customers, say by targeting major cities or specific states or provinces.
Search Engine Watch has made some recommendations as to the strategy for optimizing for local search by using localized content. It involves determining the content segments unique to each locality and highlighting them at various geographic levels such as state, city, or “micro” localities by creating dedicated pages to those specific geographical areas.
Items to highlight to optimize for local search include:
- Warranty repair locations
- Shipping rates
- Dealer locations
- Climate based product uses
SearchEngineWatch points out that the best response will come from highly relevant content that is specific to the user’s geographical location. And it will improve not only organic search engine rankings; it could positively influence conversion rates. The key is effective, valuable content on a geo-centric page.
For local search to work, you also need to create link connectivity to both the geo-centric pages and the root domain from sites relevant to the locality your clients are interested in. Some of the sites to consider are:
- Local bloggers business websites
- Local versions of Yahoo!
- Local business directories
A caveat to directories – some directories will not list a sub-page or may require your clients to have a physical address in the region you are submitting for. Some may even limit you to one listing per business… just something to keep in mind.
A couple of helpful sites are Google Places and Bing Local as well as sites like Yelp, Superpages, and Hotfrog. And don’t forget to include industry and location specific directories as well. After submitting their root domain to a general directory like those above, your clients will also want to find link opportunities on a per-city or per-region basis.
Again, the geo-specific pages should avoid “spamminess” and contain valuable content. Getting creative about identifying the content segments to use on these pages could be key to your client's competitive advantage.
Local search campaigns are meant to show search engines that your client's business is one of the 10 best resources for searchers in those areas (remember, search engine result pages generally have 10 listings per page). Done well, locality based content provides better value to potential customers with highly targeted content and higher search engine rankings. This is an area of SEO well worth your client's time and attention.