"All things being equal ", goes the old adage, people like to do business with people they like. But, the caveat is, they've got to find you first. So, if you're finding yourself competing with a growing number of businesses for customers in and out of your local market, let's take a quick look at a few simple things you can do to boost your presence in search.
I think you'll find my suggestions surprisingly simple, hardly time-consuming, and enlightening in the sense that by doing them, you'll actually grow to understand your marketplace infinitely better than you would if you did not optimize your site for local search.
Here are my top four methods for optimizing your business website for local search:
- Google *everything*
- Metadata and Backlinks
Own Your Market: Create Locally Spun Content Prospects Love To Read
Blogging for better search engine ranking has, no doubt, been beaten to death. But that's only because it's true, it works, and so many businesses still don't get it. The ones who do, are winning at local search.
So, let's say you're a business with locations in three different cities, one way to start boosting your local SEO efforts is to simply inject your blog writing with things happening locally. This can be events that cater to your business audience, things you're business is supporting or working on, or even commentary about what's happening around the office. One business I know in Seattle maintains a blog that frequently references what its staffers have done around the city (favorite coffee joints, humanitarian work, etc.) they also stick this sort of thing in the bios of employees, further adding to the content's local value.
Essentially, in a nutshell, think of every way possible to include the location of your city in the content of your website. Search engines still love "real" content "real" sentences, that tell a real story. Marketing-speak often doesn't make the cut, while a conversational tone does, and that's where once again, a blog wins. THINK about where you live, what you do there, and write about it. Even if you do it in passing, it serves to help you. Here's an example you could write: "Last week at our downtown Seattle office, we held a content creation seminar for clients in the legal industry." See what's happening here? We could have easily said, "Last week at our office, we held a seminar." In doing so, however, we would have lost three superior search phrases that would help us win positioning in the search engines. If I lived in Seattle and wanted to find a company that offered a free content creation seminar in downtown Seattle, chances are high, this phrase would pop in my results. So please blog. You might hate every minute of it, but your bottom line will thank you. Heck, hire someone like me to do it for you if you don't have the time!
Google is still the King when it comes to search, and since it is always looking for new ways to put more money in the company coffers, they keep creating products directly tied to bringing in more business for its advertisers as well - that's you! Read up on what's new at Google as often as you can, and at the very least, watch the Google Local and Google Business space for all sorts of valuable updates that can win you traffic. Also, it goes without saying that some of the best resources on how to win at Google search, are, well within Google's own help sections, so spend some time kicking the tires over there, and learn, learn, learn. Oh, and don't forget YouTube LOTS of local search opportunities going on there!
Love it or hate it, Twitter, scores big-time in search. Tweet about your business, what you're doing locally, and watch your results in search improve. Sometimes overnight. Be sure to mention your city of business in your Twitter profile as well. This helps other users find you, list you and follow you, so it's key. Of course, don't forget to link to your site as well. Don't forget to link to content on your site / blog.
Metadata and Backlinks
Ah, metadata, how we chastise thee hooey. I still love metadata, even though it's often in and out of vogue. One day you need to put this tag in there, the next day you don't. Who can keep track of it all!? My rule of thumb is if Matt Cutts doesn't say it will "hurt" you, then keep putting as much local metadata as you can squeeze in don't forget the most important: The Title tag. I cannot tell you how many websites I see with no title tag whatsoever. This is sinful, really. If you want to really spruce up your local search wins, be sure to put the city you want to highlight somewhere in this tag as well. Oh, and don't forget you can change that title tag for each page of your site, and if you're really fancy, you can even work in some dynamic title tag content as well!
Backlinks? These are simple, really, and my key advice to clients I write for is be sure to have the link "say" what someone using a search engine would "ask"? So, for example, if you're a custom cabinet maker in Indianapolis, create links that use the phrase "custom cabinet maker in Indianapolis" as you write. A full sentence might look like this: If you're looking for a "custom cabinet maker in Indianapolis" (quotes indicate where the link is), then look no further than John J. Carpenter who has been crafting fine cabinetry for the Indianapolis area for 15 years. Also take note of the two uses of Indianapolis. Don't be afraid to get specific with your writing, and avoid pronouns like the plague!
And that's it! Do these things regularly, and you'll be a local superstar in no time, and like I mentioned, just thinking about each one of these items will have you understanding your market, how to appeal to it, and how to close business in it, more than ever before.
Doc Kane is the founder of Roscommon, a communications and research firm that helps companies tell their story online and in print by creating high-value custom content. Doc is also an archival film researcher, and recently wrapped research for the History Channel's six hour "Vietnam in HD" film.
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One thought on “Go Roman! To Win At Local Search, Do What’s Natural: Act Like A Local”
Nice article, Doc.
However, I’d like to take a step further and say that:
1) I don’t think putting one’s eggs in the same basket is good, especially when talking about something so unstable as organic search.
2) I think besides Twitter, Google+ will be getting very important for the small business in 2012. Probably as important as Google Places is now.
3) I believe the biggest frustration of a small business owner is how to get genuine links with good anchor text. That’s why I expect (or at least hope…) that the search engines will devalue the importance of anchor text.
Just some personal thoughts 🙂
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