In the past five years, we’ve hit a turning point: more people today turn to the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing in order to find a local business than turn to the Yellow Pages – or any other method. This can be a frightening reality for some businesses that have long relied on print ads and similar legacy media. The times have changed, and successful businesses need to change with them.
That means making sure your business has a web presence, and that it’s recognized by the search engines. Even more than that, it means placing well in search results for your business type in your local area. Fortunately, the search engines are giving more and more weight to geographic terms, so if you can manage to optimize your site for local search terms, you can dominate the local search market.
Here are some techniques that will help push your site toward the top in local search results:
- Identify the Right Long-Tail Keywords. This is as much a process of trial and error as it is anything else. You need to figure out what search terms people are using to find businesses like yours in your area. There are a number of keyword research tools on the market, but ultimately it’s a matter of figuring out which terms actually work. For example, if you run a salon in Phoenix, your SEO efforts might revolve around “haircut Phoenix” or even “salon downtown Phoenix,” depending on where you’re actually located and the type of clientele you’re hoping to attract.
- Do Some Competitor Research. If you’re going to beat out the competition, you need to know where they’re at. Do some relevant keyword searching and see what competitors come up. Consider investing in software that will analyze a competitor’s site, and tell you which keywords they’re ranking in. It will also give you an idea of how competitive it’s going to be to try to rank for those keywords.
- Garner Inbound Links from Other Local Sites. One of the quickest ways to advance your local search engine rankings is to get inbound links from other sites that score well in your geographic region. Depending on where you live, this could include local Chamber of Commerce sites, a Visitor’s Bureau, and even other local businesses. One way to get additional links while giving back to the community is to offer sponsorship to various local charity groups, and then ask them to reference your sponsorship on their website.
- Get Plenty of Reviews. There are several different types of review sites on which you should focus your energies. Encourage your customers to visit those sites, and to describe their experience with your business. In addition, encouraging customers to review you in Google search results can greatly impact your rankings, as well.
- Set up Your Google Place Page. If you have a business address, chances are pretty good there’s already a Google page out there for your business. It’s up to you to claim that page, and then provide all of the important relevant information about your business. For example, businesses that provide hours and a link to the website are around three times more likely to receive a click-through than a business whose name and address only are listed.
- Provide Fresh, Updated, Local Content. A blog is one wonderful way for a business to reach out to customers. It’s also an opportunity to improve your local SEO. For example, writing a blog post about a community event that your company attended, or even posting an article about something going on in the local news can all help increase your rankings. (Incidentally, this type of content can also help to generate inbound links, giving you a double benefit from this technique.)
- Work with a Local SEO Expert. For businesses in larger metropolitan areas, local search markets can be very competitive. You may need to consider relying on the services of an SEO company to help you increase your rankings. Just make sure you choose a vendor that has proven results not only with getting customers into the search engines, but into local search results in your region.
Local searches are quickly becoming the primary way customers connect with businesses. If you want to encourage those connections and grow your business, you need to devote some time and resources to conquering the local search market. These techniques will get you started on that path.