Mike Hanbery March 29, 2011

Online Marketing: Optimizing for Local Search

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Google’s local and organic search results are now combined. This elevates the importance of local SEO for location-based businesses that depend on local business.

The Fundamentals Haven’t Changed.
Effective online marketing remains anchored by your Website, which should be designed for conversion and optimized, structurally and content-wise, around a Keyword Strategy. The importance and coherence of your efforts outside of your site are increasingly important. As usual, we look at content and architecture.

Content: Clear Market Positioning with Information Consistency
Use consistent information and copy across all Web assets: Exact business name, specific street address, phone number with local area code that connects directly to the business, email address on company domain, keyword-optimized description and relevant categories. If it is relevant to the business and consistent with the overall Web presence, put the product/service keyword and/or the name of the locality in the business title.

A word about the business address: You’ll find people who have successfully manipulated the algorithm by using a P.O. box located close to the city center. Google says that this is contrary to the intent of the searcher and they will penalize this practice. You choose where to cast your lot.

Another: If you are still deciding where to locate your business, what to call it and what your Web domain should be, weigh this information heavily. The closer your business address is to the “centroid,” or population density center, the better optimized it is for local search. Denver, Colorado’s “centroid” is Capitol Hill. Learn more about local search engine marketing.

Architecture: Pursue quality links.
“Backlinks” are links from other Websites that point to yours. More is good, quality is better, ongoing pursuit of both is best. The most impactful links for your local business can be broken into two categories: Citations and Local Listings.

Citations (aka Web references) and Local Listings
Citations are defined as “mentions” of your business name and address on other webpages, even if there is no link to your Website. Citations improve your business’s overall quality score. Priority should be given to the links revealed when reverse-engineering competitor sites for the Link Building strategy. These are not limited to but include especially:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Business Directories and Professional Membership sites
  • City Government / Municipal sites
  • Social Media

Local Listings

The most obvious manifestation of the shift is in some search results. Where we used to see a clearly-delineated “trinity” of paid, organic and local results, we now see, with increasing frequency, the local and organic results merged together. Here’s where to start, in order of importance.

  • Google Places
  • Yahoo Local
  • Bing Local
  • Review Sites, e.g. Yelp, CitySearch
  • Other Listings, e.g. Merchant Circle, Where.com

Ancillary Tactics to Increase Conversion
These tactics will have little or no impact on search rank but can increase clicks and conversion rates.

  • Photos
  • Custom Attributes
  • Google Tags – For $25 per month, Tags add more information to a Google Places listing when it appears in search results.
  • Google Boost – Pay Per Click for Google Places listing

The Business Opportunity
As the local optimization picture becomes clearer, the importance of refining and strengthening your online presence grows.

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