Local search engine optimization can be just as time consuming and competitive as “regular” SEO. The same rules apply — you need to have good content and quality links. However, the tactics are slightly different in specific areas.
Local search is essential to small businesses. In 2010, Google revealed that the proportion of Google result pages that show a map is one in 13. A few months later, Google changed from its Local Business centre (LBC) to Google Places, which enables businesses to communicate with customers as well as supplement their Google profile information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons and product offerings. We assume Google is serving maps more than 1 billion times a month.
With all of this in mind, here’s what you need to know to successfully tap into local markets.
List your business in Google Places -- it's free. Watch a number of training videos and explore the features, including tools like tracking of actions (meaning how many times users showed interest in your business listing), clicks for more information on maps, driving directions or direct clicks, as well as impressions (how many times users saw your business listing as a local search result). As you'll see, it will be important to get ratings and references, too.
While much focus is placed on Google Places, don't forget to also register at:
When registering, make sure to assign your business to the listed categories that best describe it. You can add up to five categories. Once you start typing, Google Places will display related categories.
Continue to add as much information as possible, including hours, payment types, e-mail address, phone number, URL/web address, photos, videos and coupons. Fill out each field, if appropriate.
When you're done, make videos, upload them to YouTube and link them back into your local profile on Google Places. If you install and use tools like JingProject.com, it'll be free and easy to make an informational, useful video. Screen cam your PowerPoint presentations. You can include up to 10 pictures and five videos.
Obtaining citations from local business directories like Yelp and Merchant Circle can be a powerful tool to get exposure and drive traffic. (See the following list of directories in the Local SEO resources sections.) Make sure that all your information is correct, and keep the same formatting across all locations.
Don't be afraid to ask customers for reviews. Offer special incentives and discounts for return visits to your office. You can also add a postcard or business card into your office invoice mailings asking your customers to review the visit and talk about the experience.
However, don't unwittingly spam this system by asking all your friends to review you in a week. You should also get references from the Better Business Bureau, your local chamber of commerce and the top local directories.
* Step-by-step help for Google Places
* Glossary of local search terms and other definitions
* Local search engine ranking factors study from search marketing expert David Mihm
* Andrew Shotland's local search engines made simple
* Local search expert Mike Blumenthal's Blog
* Local search resources at SearchEngineLand
* Small Business Search Marketing at Search Engine Watch
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