4 SEO Tips for Local Search Optimization
Local Search Engine Optimization
Local search is an important part of any optimization plan, but it’s a portion of marketing that often gets either forgotten altogether or short-changed. People shouldn’t underestimate the power of this tool, though—its standalone benefits or how it contributes to overall search rankings.
What Is Local Search?
Image courtesy of SearchEngineLand.com.
You might have heard this term lumped in with generic search optimization, but local search is actually its own entity with its own processes and rules.
Rather than dealing with Google, it involves specific search engines that allow people to submit geographically constrained searches. These search engines pull results from structured directories of local businesses.
Local Tactics You Should Be Using
To help your site see success in the local rankings, use the following optimization techniques.
NAP is an acronym for name, address, phone number.
Why Does It Matter?
NAP is an essential part of local search. If you want to rank in the local search engines, filling out this information and associating it with your site is essential. Beyond local search engines, it also directs Google about what results to display for its geo-targeted search results.
In a more practical sense, it’s also how your customers can get in touch with you. Filling out your NAP gives your customers several direct avenues of contact to you.
What to Remember
When it comes to NAP, the most important things are accuracy and consistency. Be extra careful about inputting this data both on your site and in any other directory it might show up. You never know where a potential customer is going to find your information, and if it’s incorrect or out of date on any given site, that could mean a lost sale before you even get a chance to interact.
A citation is any mention of your site name on another site. (This differs from backlinks in that the mention need not include a link to be considered a “citation.”)
Why Do They Matter?
Citations can lead directly to better rankings. Google is simply more likely to view a site with more citations as more trustworthy and authoritative than a site with less.
What to Remember
- Each citation should include an accurate NAP.
- Submit to the most well-established, well-regarded portals possible. These have more weight with Google and will help the search engine algorithm place faith in your business that you are who and what you are claiming to be.
- Citations are one of the easiest ways to validate that you’re a legitimate business. It is, after all, much more difficult for a fraudulent company to gain recognition from a local chamber of commerce or county business index.
Some Places to List Yourself
While this isn’t a comprehensive list (and you should certainly look into even more localized avenues in your city), consider submitting your site to the following outlets:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- Your local chamber of commerce
Optimize Your Site with Local Indicators
The site itself should alert Google to your local status. One simple way to accomplish this step is to include city and state in your:
- Title tag.
- H1 heading.
- Alt text for images.
- (One important note regarding any URL change: if you already have a URL and are looking to change it with an eye toward local optimization, establish 301 redirects to permanently direct the old address to the new.)
Local Link Building
Image courtesy of GirardBrewer.com.
Local link building, like any link campaign, is generally a marathon—not a sprint. It’s about building internal links and quality external links over time without creating unusual link acquisition patterns that might alert Google to unethical or questionable tactics.
Consider some or all of the following tactics to promote your local links:
- Participate in local charity events. This will create goodwill around your brand.
- Participate in local clubs or associations connected to your industry.
- Interview a prominent local figure in your industry to feature on your blog and/or site.
- Write an honest review or testimonial for each local business you interact with.
Positioning your site in good graces with local industries can earn you links through their “Sites We Like” or “Make Sure to Check Out” sections. It’s not always quick, but the links are more likely to be quality (and be viewed as such by Google).
If you’ve done your outreach and still haven’t seen any links, don’t be afraid to ask! At that point, you’ll have developed the relationship and can do this without seeming spammy.
Are Local Links for Everyone?
If your site or business has any potential for local customers, local links are worth the effort to pursue. However, if your business or service is not in any way influenced by your geography, it might not be worth the extra effort to pursue this avenue.
That being said, it all depends on your industry and the projected return on investment (ROI). If you feel the boost in local (and general) search engines is going to yield adequate returns, go for it!
Don’t Lose Sight of What’s Important…
People dedicate hours upon hours to small tactics and techniques to help them rank in Google, and yes, dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s is important. Should you remember to accurately list your NAP in local search directories? Absolutely. Just don’t lose sight of the big picture.
So, what is the big picture? It’s quality. All these updates Google releases (Pigeon, Panda, the much-anticipated Penguin 4.0 update), they are all with the aim of getting and keeping high-quality, authoritative sites on the first page.
Do your homework. Do your due diligence. Do all the little things, but put the bulk of your effort, sweat, and hard work into making your site as amazing as possible. Don’t think about how to “trick” Google into placing you on the first page. Stand out from your competitors by offering what they don’t. Make the user experience of your site and brand something worthy coming back to, and everything else will fall into place.
Local search is a large (but often overlooked) part of any full optimization campaign. To ensure your potential customers can find you and to rank as well in the search engines as possible, don’t ignore the vast potential behind optimizing your local efforts!