As I previously mentioned, I was lucky enough to spend last week attending PubCon Las Vegas with some extremely smart search marketers. One of the sessions that really stood out for me was the Local Search and Mobile Optimization panel. During the presentation, one of the speakers, William Leake, identified four important areas for local search that I thought may be worth sharing. Together they make up the four corners of local search.
What are they?
Just because you’re trying to rank locally, doesn’t make the SEO basics any less important. If you want to be seen as relevant and authoritative in your area, you still have to go through the steps to tell Google who you are and what your site is about. That means using your City and State in your Title tag. It means using your physical address on page to help localize content. It means using tools like WordTracker and Google’s Keyword research tool to find out which terms searchers are using to find sites like yours, and then using them on page, in your internal linking structure, in headings, in Titles, in your alt text, etc.
A lot of this sounds like common sense, but too often we forget. During the panel, fellow speaker Michael Dorausch joked about someone who once wanted to rank for [san diego chiropractor] but who NEVER included the phrase anywhere on his site. The mystery person ended up being David Klein – another one of the speakers on the panel. [He now ranks first for the query.] You don’t want to be that guy. [Um, no offense, David. ]
Citations have become increasingly important over the past 6-8 months. So much so that you can’t even talk about local search without giving them proper credit. Citations are any mention of your business name and address on a Web page, regardless if a link is present. It’s generally thought that, with all things being equal, a site with more Web citations will rank higher than a site with fewer citations. The search engines use them to validate information that they may have about a business. You want to look to get local citations from directories, your local chamber of commerce, other Web sites in your city, local organizations, the Better Business Bureau, etc. An easy way to find directories focused on your area is to do a search for [your city + directory]. These kinds of citations will go a long way to help the search engines understand where your business is located.
Links are obviously an important part to ranking, whether you’re trying to do it locally or on a national level. Longtime SEO veteran Bruce Clay spoke about local SEO myths during a video interview with WebProNews and talked about the importance of getting localized links – that is, links from people in your area. It’s just another way to show the search engines that you are an expert in your little corner of the world and that they should rank you for localized queries. That may mean getting a link from your Chamber of Commerce, links from other businesses in the area, from local organizations, schools, etc. Speaker Darrin Clement really underscored the importance of creating your “neighborhood” whether that’s ID’d by radius, postal zip codes, points of interest or even socially based.
Reviews are another area that’s really growing in importance – not just for SEO, but for every local business. As of right now, it doesn’t seem to matter whether all your reviews are positive and glowing or if you have some negatives ones in there (for ranking, anyway. For branding, get on those!). You just have to have them – lots of them. The search engines want to see lots of reviews from lots of difference sources as a way to legitimize your business. That means you should be actively soliciting reviews from happy customers. William suggested giving push cards to customers are they’re leaving in order to ask for a Yelp review, cherry picking positive customer reviews and managing the customer reviews that you do get. This is one area that you don’t want to leave to chance. You don’t just have to get reviews from customers, either. Consider asking partners and vendors to leave reviews about your business, as well. Anyone who has worked with your business.
I thought this session did a great job breaking down four very important areas of local search. Anything not included or do you have a different four?