You get a call from your brother in law's second cousin who happens to be a local taxidermist in your area. He wants to know why he isn't ranking for "taxidermy in Takota" and you have an hour to talk to him about his website. What do you talk about? What kind of friendly SEO advice would you give?

The good news is that ranking locally is infinitely easier than ranking regionally or nationally.

It all starts with understanding how to optimize your website....aka on page optimization.

Keep On Page Optimization (And Design) Simple

It's not voodoo science. And it isn't even that hard, really. Basic SEO is 1 part knowledge and 2 parts common sense Buffer. As the search engines continue to get smarter about intent, it makes it easier for the local merchant to focus on intent of their prospective customers rather than what search is going to do with the information.

Make Sure The Pages Are Readable By Search Engines & Scannable For Visitors

Ultimately, you create content for your prospective customer, not for search engines. Some  forget about the former. The former is what will ultimately be your business.

Still, using fancy flash and JavaScript, no matter how "cool" it looks, is a no-no. Most websites still use HTML as the standard. Stick to the standard.

Title Tag (The Title Of Your Page) Has Your Main Keyword In It.

Don't over think the room here. Most businesses know enough about their business to create content that suits their business. In most cases, when I am doing an audit, the content is fine....it's the small things that need to be optimized.

Case in point- The Title tag

You can support 1-2 keywords for each page. So, using my brother in-law's cousin as an example, the home page's title tag would be "westuffanything.com" and if you hope to rank for "taxidermy in Takota", somewhere in the copy you could put a tagline like "best got-dang taxidermist in Takota".

Use it once, somewhere close to the beginning of the page...not two dozen times in the footer.

Use Navigation Sparingly; Keep Architecture As Flat As Possible

There is a simple rule that you should be able to reach the home page with no more than 2 "clicks" of a mouse.

In most cases, with a local business, you will likely need no more than 5 navigation buttons.

Determine what your visitor is most likely to want, and make these items site wide with navigation buttons.

Know What Your Visitors Look For: Give It To Them On The 1st Page Buffer

Most local businesses want you to do one of two things- Fill out a form OR call them. In some cases, visitors are looking for directions. All of those are practical things to fill the front page with.

If you are a restaurant, you may want to highlight a couple reviews (with a link to other reviews on your website) and have a link to your menu.

Place Important Meta Data So That Phone Numbers And Addresses Are Readable From Google Search

In many cases, a visitor may never reach your website and still accomplish what you want them to do. For instance, if you are a hair salon, a customer may find you via search and simply call the phone number from the rankings.

In Links- Use Them When It Makes Sense

Once upon a time, keyword heavy anchor text was the way to rank quickly. These days, search is becoming increasingly smarter about these things. Use anchor text (in links) links when it makes sense and make the text something that is designed to help the visitor understand what they are about to click. For instance, a link that says taxidermy photos would make sense when it leads the visitor to....you guessed it...taxidermy photos.

An example would be if you were a hair salon that happens  to also do massages. You have a pricing schedule which lists how much you charge for each of your services. If one of your services is a massage pricing table on a separate page, you could link to it using something like "massage pricing schedule". The bots will index the link and your visitors will know what to expect should they click the link.

Incidentally, if you were promoting massage on your first page, you could create content (or a graphic) that says or shows how you were nominated as one of the best massage parlors in Houston with a link that says something to the effect of click here to view the pricing schedule right after it. It makes sense to the visitor and the search bots will understand the context of the text surrounding the link.

These are the on-page optimization tips I would give to a local business if they wanted to rank in search. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg because localized rankings rely more on off page optimization than on page optimization. The general rule here is to understand what the search engines need and give it to them...but not at the expense of your prospective customers