Local is the new global: any business, no matter how large, planning their search strategies needs to think very carefully about local search coverage too.
One of the reasons for this is the importance of Google Maps. Google Maps aren't just maps and images; Google Maps also contain a massive selection of local business information around which many other applications and services operate.
Consequently local and mobile search, influenced by the location of the person doing the searching, is of vital importance to Google: over 20% of Google's search queries has a localised purpose.
It is not just about Google of course, though it sometimes feels that way; Bing and Yahoo are worth thinking about too and they've been investing in maps and local search in a big way.
Bing is on the record as saying local search is now one of their main strategies going forward. So how do you make sure you're visible in your own neighbourhood? For starters, make sure you stick to these five rules:
1. Fill Out and Maintain Your Google Place Page
Google have their own free service (Google Places) that allows you to verify your business, your business location, the address and contract information of that business and your website details (as well as lots of other bits and bobs).
Keeping this updated is crucial to your local search success.
If your business is lucky enough to have more than one outlet you can also upload multiple locations in one go.
2. Fill Out and Maintain Your Business Profile on Other Important Local Search Sites
Google wont just check your details on its own Google Places Service it will also check every other site that has your business details too, to make sure there are no discrepancies. Thanks to all you sneaky SEO marketers out there, Google is suspicious of anyone trying to game their local search, so make sure you've got the same details logged into Bing, Yahoo, Qype, Foursquare, Yelp or any other Local Search sites you can think of.
3. Make Sure You Have Crawl-Ready Contact Information
Most webmasters and site owners are aware of the importance of having the business address and phone number in a prominent position on the site, but this information might be displayed within a flash file or image which the search engine spiders cant recognise.
Ensure all business contact details are set out clearly in good old fashioned HTML.
4. Create A KML File
A KML file is a Keyhole Markup Language file and it is what Google Earth runs on.
In the same way you would normally submit XML sitemaps to Google listing all of your websites pages, you can also submit a KML file that holds all of the physical locations of your business. For the technically un-savvy there is a site, GeoSiteMapGenerator.com, which will handle all of that for you.
5. Maintain Your Offline Business Records
Sneaky old Google is rumoured to also be looking offline (you know, in the real world) to check tax records, licensing applications and other forms for verification.
If you want to be certain of getting the most out of local search, the lesson is to make sure you use the same details in every single form, online and offline, that you fill out on behalf of your business.
- Optmising For Google Places - 7 Great Tips (Wayne Barker)
- How To Find Websites to Fuel Your Local SEO Efforts (Mike Wilton)
- Local SEO Best Practices for Ranking in Google Places (David Mihm)