Local Search Engine Optimization Basics – Part 1

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Although local SEO isn’t anything new and revolutionary, it certainly seems to be a very hot trend these days, especially as we breeze through 2008. Many small businesses are realizing the amount of extra business they could have, if only their sites were optimized and showing up in local search results. SEO companies around the world are taking notice, and many are selling special “Local SEO” plans and gaining thousands of new clients by doing so.

Having said that – what about your average Mom and Pop pizza joint that operates on an extremely tight budget, and often relies on family or friends for all of their technology needs? These types of businesses (and there are tens of thousands of them), definitely do not have the resources to hire SEO firms to run a local SEO campaign for their websites that were designed by their grandchild that got a degree in graphic arts. With the exorbitant cost of gas, supplies, advertising, and everything else these days, SEO just doesn’t seem to fall on the list of top priorities – although it should.

Mom And Pop Store

Photo Courtesy Of Atelier Teee

So to ease the pain, and make things easier, we’ll talk about easy ways that the small business owner can optimize their website for local search results. Truth be told, it’s not all that difficult, and anyone with access to change and/or add information on their site can get it done relatively easily.

Let’s start today with a few simple things that you can do to your website that’s so easy, it seems almost silly. There are obvious things that you can change or modify, that you may not have thought were important. But trust me, they are!

Okay, a lot folks learn and understand better by visuals, so take a look at the image below. I simply did a search for “landscaping service Indianapolis”, and the results in the image tell us a few things right off the bat.

Local SEO Results

First of all, besides the number one listing (who probably got their through more advanced means, which we’ll talk about later), notice the first couple of listings and what they have in common?

Well, if you can’t notice it, I’ll tell you. Remember how I typed in “landscaping service Indianapolis”? Notice the 2nd and 3rd results are the only ones that actually contain the keyword “landscaping service”. Why is that interesting? Well, it works in sort of the same way a regular yellow pages ad would work. You want to specifically list what your business does. Google is smart, don’t get me wrong, but they often look to the obvious things to determine and return the most relevant results for a search. The businesses that used the keyword “landscaping service” were picked to be near the top simply because they used that search term (which is a typical keyword that someone would type in when searching for this kind of business, with the geographical reference in front of it).

So in other words, somewhere on each individual’s site, they list exactly what they do. While most business owners would say “well, duh” to this – you would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t list everything they should on their websites. But, this isn’t the only place that Google will determine what your business offers. As a matter of fact, Google often turns to local search outlets, such as YellowPages.Com, Yahoo Local, and many others. You want to make very sure that each of those kinds of sites that list your business info has the exact information you want people to find you by. If you’re a 24 hour dry cleaner service, you want to make sure people find you by typing in “24 hour dry cleaner service”, right? In other words, if you want people to find you by that term (because a lot of people search for specific terms like that), you wouldn’t want Yellowpages.com listing your site as “ABC Cleaners”. Because even if ABC cleaners offers 24 hour dry cleaning services, if it doesn’t boldly state that in the title, then you can count on zero local results for it, and we don’t want that to happen.

So, you need to check up on and probably modify your listing in all of the big local search websites. Trust me, its well worth your time!

If you’re curious as to which local search outlets have your business listed, you can usually find out just by typing in your business name in Google. Typically, the local search outlets will be the ones ranking towards the top, but just take a few hours, go through each listing, and modify it to what you want people to find you by. Most, if not all of those types of sites allow you to register for free and “claim” your business listing, so that you can modify it to your liking. Of course, the change in the search results won’t happen overnight (nothing does in the SEO world), but it’s better to start now instead of letting it sit. Once you optimize everything to your liking on the local search sites and your own site, you may be pleasantly surprised after a couple months go by at the new boost in customers and traffic.


One last thing that I’d like to point out in the image above is the customer reviews. I can’t confirm how much this helps your actual rankings, but I’m sure it plays some part, even if it’s a tiny one. I know the picture is cut off towards the right, but the listing at the top is the only one with customer reviews. Coincidence? Who knows, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have customers leave reviews about your business. Think about this though, even if the amount of reviews didn’t affect your local search rankings at all, if you were a consumer looking for a business, and you had a choice of 10 businesses, and only one had customer reviews, which one would you probably check out first? Exactly, the one with reviews. Consumers like to find out everything they can about the business before they spend their money with them. It’s the same thing that made Amazon a pioneer in selling products – they allowed customers to leave reviews for everything they ordered. I know I’ve personally bought many items simply because I was able to find out what other people thought about it. It makes perfect sense, and plays a huge psychological role in the consumers buying mindset. Don’t ever coerce your customers to leave a review simply to look good, but it may be very smart on your end to approach your best customers, and kindly let them know that they have the option of leaving a review of your services for others to read. This alone may make a significant impact on the amount of business you receive. Afterall, nearly 70% of online activity is related to local content. And with hundreds of millions using the internet each day, that’s a lot of business.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Local Search Engine Optimization Basics to learn more about optimizing your website for local search results.

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