Local SEO Strategies — Drive local customers to your website.

[dropcap type=”v2″]T[/dropcap]argeting the right demographic is one of the most important aspects for many local business websites. Since the internet is global, its sometimes hard to know what to do when it comes to optimizing your site for a particular area. This is important for a business so it can improve its visibility for local customers. Luckily search engines are evolving to meet demands like these; enter the world of Local SEO.

Local Search Helping Small Businesses

Sites optimized for local search can vastly improve its search engine rankings. Say you’re a Googler trying to find a local coffee shop or transportation service around you. If a site has been properly optimized for local search, Google will display a map and other relevent information to the searcher for businesses they’re looking for. This helps click-through rates and makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Local search get’s divided into two groups, Implicit Location Search and Explicit Location Search. The reason for this is because, local search information can be triggered intentionally or otherwise.

A Look at Implicit Location Search

Google is smart enough to distinguish local search queries from the others. For instance, when you search for coffee shop or limo service, chances are you’re looking for a coffee shop or limo service near you. These are implicit location search queries because you didn’t specify a city. Even though a city wasn’t specified, Google will show you the local results. Take a look at the right column and you’ll see a map with local businesses. Once you click on the map, you’ll be able to see these locations of Google Maps.

Austin Limo Map

So how does Google know? Well, there’s a couple of different ways. First, you can enter it manually in your location search settings (Search Settings > Location, its the cog-wheel in the top right corner). Something to note is you can only specify a location within the country of your current Google domain. For example, a French address on google.fr. Detecting your location based on your IP address is the second way Google can take a pretty good guess about where you’re at.

A Look at Explicit Location Search

Explicit Location Search is exactly what it sounds like; you can get location-specific search results intentionally by specifying a location. Let’s take the limo service example above. If instead you searched for limo services Austin or Austin limo services, Google will return a list of limo service companies in Austin, Texas. Adding Austin triggered the explicit location search.

Can your site benefit from Local SEO?

If your business has a physical location or even multiple locations that would be useful to your customers, then your site should be optimized. Regardless the business type or size, whether it be a small company or a national one, it doesn’t matter.

Local Search Engine Optimization Strategies

Let’s jump into it! I’ll take you through some simple strategies to help optimize your site for local search.

Local SEO Strategy Tip 1: Google+ Local

In the past, Google Places was used to connect your business with local customers. However, because of Google’s focus on Google+, this service has been embedded into the company’s social media channel.

Once your site is optimized for Google+ Local, your site’s listing in search engine results (shown below) will include your business name, address, phone number, images, and the location along with a handy Google Map. It will even show Zagat reviews.

Austin Limousines Result

Local SEO Strategy Tip 2: Pick the Correct Domain Extension

It’s important to pick the correct domain extension with optimizing your site for Local SEO. There’s two types of domain extensions you can choose from.

Country-Specific Domain Extension

Country-specific domain extensions are a important indicator for search engines to associate a site with a particular geographic location. Websites with the domain extension .de for example, targets users in Germany.

Neutral Domain Extension

Neutral domain extensions like .com, .org, and .net can also be linked to a geographic region. To associate your neutral domain extension with a region, you can use Google Webmaster Tools. Log in to your account and go to Configuration > Settings. On this page you can choose the geographic target of your site.

Local SEO Strategy Tip 3: Website Content

Be sure make your business address is visible in plain text on one or more pages. If you’re able to place it on every page, like in the footer, that would be even better. Using this, search engines can more effectively list your site to local users. It’s also helpful to place the business address in the footer since that’s where many user’s will go to try to contact or find your business location.

You can give more clues to search engines about your business location using the same technique you would for optimizing a page for a certain keyword. Try to use your location in the URL, page title and content. For example, Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo uses its location in the URL, title and meta description. See below:

Local SEO: Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo Google Listing

Local SEO Strategy Tip 4: Use Structured Data

Structured data is very useful to search engines when directing local users to your site. It’s used to generate rich snippets, which can improve the CTR of your pages in the SERPs. These rich snippets can be used to identify various parts of your site like the business address.

Microdata, microformats, or RFDa can be used to structure the data on your website. Take the example below, let’s say we have the following address on a website:

Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo

815 A Brazos St.

Austin, TX 78701

Using structured data, we can tell the search engines that this is the address of the business:

</pre>
<div itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo
<div itemprop="address" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">815 A Brazos St.
 Dallas, TX</div>
</div>
<pre>

Google also provides a handy tool to test your markup, the Structured Data Testing Tool.

Local SEO Strategy Tip 5: Backlinks, Backlinks, Backlinks

Backlinks are one of the most important factors in SEO. It can also be one of the hardest to accomplish… the right way. But that’s another discussion we won’t get into here. Backlinks affect local SEO, because Google uses location information from other websites. Building links to your site with an anchor text that includes a location will improve your local ranking.

Building links to your site with an anchor text that includes a location will improve your local SEO listing.

Local website directories like the Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. can also serve as a source for location information. Getting listed on these pages can help you conquer some SERP real estate.

Local SEO Strategy Tip 5: Make a KML File

Another great source Google and other search engines use to get a site’s location information is a KML file. There kind of files can be used to determine the exact location of a business via it’s latitude and longitude. Google has been indexing these types of files since 2007.

Arjan Snaterse wrote a tool called the Geo Sitemap and KML Generator. It can help developers create valid KML files. Geo Sitemaps have become redundant because Google has stopped supporting them since the beginning of last year. Simply add the URL of your KML file to your existing sitemap without specific tags.

Take a look at the content of the KML file below:

<!--?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?-->

Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo
Travel in and around Austin, TX in style for as much as it costs to get a taxi. Book your next trip with Austin Choice Executive Sedan & Limo online today!

51.105691,4.640157,0

There’s three things here that need to be changed:

  1. The name of the business
  2. A short description of the business
  3. The longitude and latitude of the business

You can also optionally add the altitude. To find your business’s coordinates, use Google Maps. Just right-click on a location and select What’s Here?. Once you have, the longitude and latitude will pop up in the search bar.

Local SEO Strategy Tip 5: Managing Multiple Locations

Have multiple locations? Not a problem. Matt Cutts from Google wrote a blog post on how to handle multiple locations. In his blog post, he says it’s best to create a unique URL for every location. For example, austinchoicelimo.com/locations/austin and austinchoicelimo.com/locations/houston. You can then list the business address for each location on it’s coorsponding page. If you’ve created seperate pages for multiple locations, it’s important to add unique content to these pages to prevent duplicate content issues.

One big mistake some sites make is hiding the store locations behind a search form. This makes it very difficult (if not impossible) for search engines to find them. This is easily solved by creating a HTML sitemap for it to crawl those location pages you’ve created.

What about if the business location moves?

But what happens if your business recently moved to a new location? Unfortunately, local search information isn’t updated automatically. There are several actions that need to be taken to make the data reflect the current situation. David Mihm wrote a great article that explains everything into detail.

In Conclusion

There’s many techniques that can help improve your search engine rankings for location-specific search queries. Optimizing your pages, formatting your code as structured data, uploading a KML file, creating a Google+ Local page, and doing some link building can make a huge impact to help raise your site’s local rankings. Businesses with multiple locations can also optimize their site for local search by creating unique URLs and page content for each location.

Do you have some SEO strategies to share? I’d love to hear them. Comment below with how you’ve optimized your site.

Author: Ben Marshall

Red Bull Addict, Self-Proclaimed Grill Master, Entrepreneur, Workaholic, Front End Engineer, SEO/SM Strategist, Web Developer, Blogger

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