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Local SEO: Four steps to the top of local search.

By on Oct 15, 2007 in Search Engine Optimization & Marketing

Local search engine marketing (local SEO) is different than normal (“global”?) SEM, and it requires different techniques to get your local site to the top, whether you have a single local presence or many local presences. Luckily, with a little work, you do three things to make sure your customers can find you.

Step One: Optimize your site for search engines

For the majority of local businesses, this is not much different than basic SEO. An important addition is to make sure to put your address on every page, ideally using the hcard microformat.

If you have multiple locations, however, there are a number of other things to do:

  • Make sure each location has its own individual page. Rather than directing links to the site’s homepage, we’ll be directing organic and paid links to the location pages.
  • Make sure individual pages have friendly URLs. Although this is covered under basic SEO, the importance of this for local search can’t be understated. You want your customers linking to www.mycompany.com/san_francisco, not www.mycompany.com/locations.jsp?id=0091. Better yet, give them their own subdomain: sanfrancisco.mycompany.com.
  • Make sure that individual location pages are linked from the homepage (either directly, or via a site map).

Step Two: Get locally listed

When the Internet was very young, if you wanted your site to be found, you had to list it in a bunch of different directories. You had to apply to be listed in Yahoo, submit it to Infoseek, Excite and a dozen others.

Although we no longer worry about that for global search (the main search engines – Google, Yahoo and MSN Live – are fast and efficient at finding new sites quickly), local listings are not there yet.

There are a few places to deal with listings:

There are a number of services that offer one-stop shop services for a fee. One such service is Register Local. For more information on local listings, read Patricia Hursh’s article on Four Steps Every Business Can Take to Improve Local Search Results.

Step Three: Get locally reviewed.

It’s sometimes easy for business owners to dismiss local reviews as not credible, but consumers disagree. According to Deloitte & Touche, in ‚ÄúConsumer Survey: Market Transparency,” 99% of Internet consumers find consumer-generated online reviews to be credible.

Double check your listings on Yelp and CitySearch. Make sure the information listed is correct and complete (your address, hours and other info) and encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews.

Stay on top of them! If someone posts a negative review, engage them courteously and apologetically. If someone posts an incorrect review, address it. (Of course, always do so positively and ethically.)

Finally, encourage your happy customers to post reviews on Yelp and other websites. Some negative reviews are inevitable, but if you can counter them with a lot of positive reviews, you can mitigate their impact.

Step Four: Paid Local Listings

Finally, run paid search campaigns on Google, Yahoo and MSN Live. All three of these services allow you to target your ads geographically.

As with any paid link campaign, you should identify a number of keywords and phrases before you begin the campaign, and I strongly recommend developing promotions and related landing pages to ensure the campaign’s success.

Though these four steps won’t immediately catapult you to the top of every list, they should set you on your way, and in time you’ll be there.

Hey! This wasn't written by a herd of yaks! It was written by , who does awesome work at Loud Dog, a digital branding firm in San Francisco that helps businesses express themselves authentically via identities, websites, and marketing collateral.

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