By now most online business owners have heard of SEO. In this day and age, hearing about website optimization is like the 80’s Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial: We called it the 10x10x10 rule…you told two friends, and they told two friends and so on, and so on!
It’s seems like every time you think you know something about a subject, though, the Internet Marketing community wants to throw something new at you. Okay, so local SEO isn’t exactly new, but many optimizers have been pushing it lately. This is largely due to the changes in the SERPs – and since local SEO is highly recommended, we’re filling in this particular content gap.
So, what’s this local SEO stuff? Is that anything like putting your zipcode on your website? What good does it really do, and what can you do to capitalize on this?
A whole 10 people for every small business…
Every time there’s a recession, statistics show a jump in small business ownership. According to the Office of Advocacy [PDF], there were 27.3 million small businesses in 2008. It’s probably around 30 million by now. That sounds like a lot of competition, but consider that there are over 300 million people in the U.S. (population density by state [PDF]). That’s an average of 10 people per small business.
Now, consider that not all 30 million small businesses live close to you, and that most can only handle a small area. Suddenly, things start looking a lot easier, don’t they?
Well, they are… and they aren’t; you still have to advertise. You still have to get the word out about your business. Conceivably, you could hand out thousands of business cards, pay a TV station or two, and put out radio ads, but these kinds of traditional advertising generally take more than the small business owner can afford.
A website, on the other hand, gives you a relatively inexpensive way to become known to your target market; namely, those in your area (and, who doesn’t want more than ten customers?). That is, if you practice local SEO.
Why would I need local SEO?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know over 80% of the U.S.is either using Twitter, using Facebook or on their mobile phone somewhere. You should also know that most (somewhere in the 90 percentile) of America is online. If you aren’t searching, it’s because you’re being searched.
Local SEO thins the herd of SERP results. Some searches only bring back 20,000 results or so; some bring back even less. However, it’s common to see over 1 million, or as many as 240 million pages for any given search term. This is especially true if the term is about a product or service in high demand, like SEO (service) or statistics software (product).
If you have no location attached to your site – if you could be anywhere in the world -, there’s no way for the search engines to consider your site relevant for a local search (i.e. SEO in Mississippi). This is where local SEO comes in very, very handy.
Local SEO Fun Factors
As much goes in to local SEO as goes into SEO in general. The difference is focus – your focus – and where you put your efforts. If you have a physical store on top of your online presence, you’d better take some time management classes; you’ll need them to get your own local SEO done… like some of the important key factors below:
No, this doesn’t mean go get some sleep on a regular base. NAP stands for (N)ame, (A)ddress, and (P)hone number. If you’re a local company, your site needs to have all three pieces of information on it, especially on the contact page.
- Provide a local number, even if you have a toll free number, too.
- Don’t use an image for this information. Make sure it’s all searchable text.
- Use full names with no abbreviations (i.e. avenue, instead of ave).
- Include zip code, city and state information.
- Be consistent. Wherever your company and URL are, make sure your NAP is exactly the same.
There are many sites out there where you can add your business profile information. All of them require a few top pointers, such as:
- Choose the most relevant categories – Categories shouldn’t be chosen based on keywords. Instead, choose what most closely matches what your business is.
- Use your local number, not 1-800 or tracking number.
- Ensure your website URL is exactly what you want it to be – in other words, if you have a www site, don’t leave off the www (and vice versa).
- Leave no field left unfilled out of laziness – don’t get lazy with your listings. If there is a place for a description, as an example, fill it in!
- Point out that visitors can review your business on these profiles
Search Engine Profiles
Local profiles are a pretty big thing in local SEO, and where better to have one for search engines than on the search engines themselves? Google, Yahoo and Big all have their own versions:
Good Starting Places
- Guide to Google Places and Local Listings by Anthony Verre @ Milwaukee SEO
- Complete Guide to Bing’s New Local Business Portal by Matt McGee @ Small Business SEM
- How To: The Newbie Guide to Submitting a Business to Yahoo! Local byTracy @ Wisnet
Google Places is even more important now, thanks to the company’s new City Portals. Only a few city pages are up, but why wait until your city is on the map and then scramble madly to get things taken care of? Take a second and look at what a Google Place page can do!
Top Local Directories
Although many people think of directories as nothing but spam, local directories have a lot of major pull. Think about it – how often have you put in a local search only to find directory listings all over your SERPs? Here are a few good, busy places to get you started:
Before submitting your business, first search and make sure it’s not already listed. If you don’t show up, then list away!
Are you a part of the Chamber of Commerce? How about a member of the local Business Association? Perhaps you’re a member of the Better Business Bureau. These things may not seem like part of your online presence, but they can be. Think of the memberships you’ve taken part in, and consider which ones you might be able to ask for a link.
Hey, even small business owners can benefit from a blog. Having a blog gives you the opportunity to write posts specifically targeting your neighborhood or city. Do you sell candles? How about an article about the upcoming Halloween festivities, and your favorite, decorated homes?
Not only does this give your visitors something interesting to read, but you can also let the homeowners know you gave them kudos in a blog post. Very few people really have a problem with being made famous.
Local SEO Is All About Location
The above are just a few of the things you can work on to increase your local visibility. We’ve left out tons, such as making sure your website address is on all your physical assets, as well. Remember the key term for “local SEO” is “location”.
Places for further reading:
As a small business, we understand there’s going to be competition. We also understand that you don’t have a lot of time. Therefore, you have to be smart about the time you do spend building your online presence. Gather as much information as possible before digging in, and then build your local community. After all, that’s where you’ll see the most ROI!
Our question to you: What tips have helped you the most with your local SEO efforts?