Local search engine optimization will be important to your business if your target market is in close geographic proximity to your place of business, or if you only service customers in a specific city. If you've ever needed to find a plumber, restaurant or even a barber and you search for those services be pre-pending or appending your city name to your search query you'll notice that the first several results are specific to companies nearest to the location you included in your query. Said differently, a search for "Buffalo NY plumber" will yield results first that include plumbers servicing customers within the area of Buffalo, New York.
Factors that determine your local search ranking have not changed that much over the past couple of years. Ensure that you have the following for your website:
- A Google+ Local account, with accurate and up-to-date information about your company.
- Be consistently asking your customers to review your business on your Google+ Local page.
- A physical address in the city that you wish to be found for.
- Authoritative citations from relevant sources.
- Ensure that the physical address found on the contact page and other pages of your website is the same address as displayed on the authoritative sources that cite your business information.
- Use the name of your city and State/Province in the title tags of relevant pages on your website.
- Display the address and phone number for your business on every page of your website. If you have multiple locations create a separate page for each location that you would like to be found for and optimize each of those pages for the corresponding location, then only use your head office location on your home page and provide a link to a page with a bulleted list of other locations linking to those location pages.
- Wrap Microformat tags around relevant lines of source code containing your company name, address and phone number on every page of your website.
- Even if you offer a toll free telephone number you should also display your local number with the area code.
- If you have multiple location pages use the name of the city and State/Province as a keyword within the URL or file name of that those location pages.
- Create and upload a KML file to your website. Although not always necessary and not widely adopted a KML file can assist Google in pinpointing the exact location of your company.
- Increase the number of inbound links to your website.
- Citations which use the name of your location, i.e. city and even your complete address, in the anchor text of inbound links pointing to your website can influence your local search rankings.
Primary Providers of Data in Local Search
Inside of the United States there are three primary data providers for all of the major search engines: Localeze, Infogroup and Acxiom. Inside of Canada the YellowPages Group is the primary provider of information for business listings on the web. You must make sure that your business is included in the database of these primary data providers otherwise won't rank very well in local search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Who Else Provides Data to the Search Engines?
There a handful of secondary local search portals that can offer value for the traffic that they will drive to your site. Most of these secondary portals aren't really data providers at all as they get their data from the three primary sources mentioned above. You should make sure your company information is listed correctly with these secondary local search portals though as the major search engines do spider these secondary portals regularly. Some of the secondary local search portals include:
Dominating Local Results Through Citations
All other factors being equal, a website with more high quality and relevant citations from authoritative sources will rank higher in local search results than websites with less of those types of links. Remember also that a citation does not necessarily come in the format of a link to your website, it may simply display your company name, address, telephone number and possibly your website address either hyperlinked or not hyperlinked. The challenge that most business owners have when faced with a competitor that is outranking them in the local search results is in finding authoritative places that they can request additional citations from. Fortunately there are tools that you can use to find out all of the citation sources that are helping your competitors to outrank you. One such service that I really find handy is the Local Citation Finder by Whitespark based in Edmonton, Alberta. With Whitespark you can see a list of all sources that cite your own company information and your competitors. You can search by keyphrase or by telephone number. I could go on about how useful they are but instead I will let their website speak for itself. The point is that more quality citations for your website than your competitors website means a big win for your business in the local search results.
Driving CTR With Customer Reviews
A higher number of positive customer reviews for your business will improve the click through ratio (CTR) for your listing. More reviews can also influence your position within local search results too. Obviously no business wants to receive negative reviews. Fortunately the sentiment whether negative or positive will not at the present time influence your position up or down in the local search results. Too many negative reviews will of course decrease your CTR. So quantity is just as important as quality of reviews.
Here are a handful of places where reviews are considered important: