“This article originally appeared on the OPEN App Center. Visit www.theopenappcenter.com for more information and resources for streamlining and growing your business.”
Increasingly, when folks turn to a search engine, they aren’t looking for something around the world, they’re looking for something around the block. The good news for local businesses is they aren’t just looking; they’re jumping in the car, going out and buying what they find when they search.
Make it a priority to improve search results for your business, because this new way of finding and buying locally means that your business better show up in the top results when people turn to a search engine to shop locally.
Below are five local search engine optimization and search engine marketing plays that you can do today to improve your chances of coming up big in the local search game.
Be Geographically Complete.
Search engines want to return the best local search results, so make sure you have lots of local markers on your pages and pointing to your pages. Things like addresses, city names, suburb names, neighborhood names, zip codes, area codes, maps and directions are all markers that say your business is local. Sprinkle this kind of data liberally throughout your site and make sure you use city names in high priority text such as internal links and headlines.
You should also have geographic links pointing to your business. You can do this by adding local links and descriptions that point to your site in social media profiles and exchanging links with other local businesses and strategic partners.
Lastly, make sure the location data in the primary directory and data service providers is accurate and complete. Two of the best ways to accomplish this little technical piece is to visit GetListed.org or use the annual listing service of UBL.org
Be a Community Resource.
Another powerful way to improve local search results and amplify your local search opportunities is to create content that is related to your community, regardless of whether it directly relates to your products or services.
A great example of this might include coverage of local sporting events or festivals. A B2B example might include maintaining a calendar of networking events or business related seminars.
Using a little RSS magic and a bookmarking tool like Delicious, you could even automate the aggregation of news and other related content for neighborhoods with very little work.
The net effect is that you’ll improve local search results by creating content that offers value to local readers and this is just the kind of information the search engines value the most.
Create Neighborhood Pages.
If you serve a number of communities in a large metropolitan area, it’s probably a good idea to add suburb- or neighborhood-specific pages with extra information personalized to that part of town.
Some of your information on these pages might be identical, but try to make them as unique as you can so that the search engines see them as different pages or you won’t get them seen. You should add unique images with local descriptions, unique geographic terms and neighborhood descriptions or news.
You can also use these pages as landing pages for offline ads as well. If you want to promote your business in a suburban newspaper, for example, you can send readers to the unique page you’ve created for that suburb and create a more personalized experience.
Encourage Ratings and Reviews.
The local search directories created by Google, Bing and Yahoo play a large role in the local search results. If Google, for example, is convinced someone has a local intent in their search, either based on physical location or a geographic term in the actual search, they will return results of local Google Places pages.
It’s critical that your business claims and enhances its Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local pages, but you must also start to proactively build reviews from happy customers on these pages as these reviews are a key contributor to a business showing up high in the local results.
Simply asking for reviews and pointing people to your Google Places page is a good way to start the review ball rolling
Take Advantage of Local Real Estate.
The final local search suggestion involves placing videos, images, and slides in a number of sharing sites such as YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare or Flickr. These free sites allow you upload videos and other assets. You can use these sites to host and stream your videos on your own site, but you can also use the fact that many people search these sites to draw local search traffic.
When you upload your files to these sites make sure you give the file local names, tag them with local terms and describe the content of the file with rich local descriptions. Most of these sites also allow you to geotag where the video or image was shot.
The various tactics to improve search results described above may seem like little things taken individually, but collectively they can add up to big results in the increasingly competitive local search engine game.