Did you know that more than 20 percent of searches on Google are related to location? From Google HotPot to Places, it seems like every day there is something new going on in local search. Or someone getting arrested. It’s all I can do to keep track of it – but keep track of it I do, with my endless collection of bookmarks, notes, and annotations.
Allow me to extend the benefit of this relentless research to you with these key Top 10 Tips for Local Search Optimization. This will probably be missing some grand-new something by next week, but it’s a great starting point nonetheless.
1. Claim – and OPTIMIZE – your Google Places Account.
Claiming your Google Places account is just the beginning. There are so many wonderful ways to really engage visitors once they land on this page too. From including great photos to making sure you’re listed in the correct categories (super important!), there are many nuances to optimizing your Places Page.
Oh, and for God’s sake – please list your hours. (A small local search pet peeve of mine when I can’t tell if you’re open or not – especially if it’s a Sunday.)
2. Try out Google Tags for only $25/month
Google Tags make your Places Page pop in natural search listings. They look just like a little yellow tag next to your listing, and they can be about anything you want: a special message, a coupon, reservations, photos, events notice, sales, video and more. For the small monthly cost (much cheaper than a Yellow Pages listing!), it’s definitely worth the added oomph it can give your Places Page.
3. Use Google Location Extensions with your AdWords PPC.
Google Location Extensions are a great paid advertising tool for local businesses. They allow you to add all kinds of helpful information to encourage users to connect with you, such as your address, phone number (including with Click-To-Call), and even hyper-local mobile extensions about how close your location is to them. Imagine someone doing a search on their mobile phone, and picking your restaurant because you are nearest to them.
4. For that matter, you need to get aligned with Mobile Advertising NOW.
Google’s compelling case study from Roy’s Restaurants should give you all the incentive you need. 800% ROI? Impressive. Mobile is the new frontier of local search – and land is cheap right now.
5. Engage on Facebook – in a REAL and meaningful way.
I am (pathetically) active on Facebook, and nothing is more interesting to me than to see which local vendors do a good job connecting with the community here in Traverse City – and which ones don’t. You know who you are. You’re the ones with 10 people who just recently checked into your location (a lot for our sleepy little town), but you haven’t logged into your page in a week. Shame!!
Yes – there are a million ways to pimp your Facebook page, but above all, what it really takes is a business owner who cares and writes real stuff that’s fun to follow and comment on.
For those of you who are on Facebook – check out their Open Graph Protocol. It’s a great way to optimize to get found in Facebook’s own search results. Also considering offering a deal to your customers!
6. Embrace and align with your entire local footprint
It’s amusing but actually no joke that “other” is the third-largest local search engine. A user may find your through Google Places – or they may find you through the myriad of other local search verticals that exist out there, whether it’s a local directory from your newspaper or a review on Yelp.
Research which local profiles are relevant to you, and make sure they are updated with your latest information and links to your website. Reviews are also a critical component of local SEO. Google just released some helpful guidelines about how and where reviews get incorporated into your Places Page. Andrew Shotland also has a nice write-up here about some of the top reviews sites used in Google Places search.
7. Clean up your data
Are you sure that your business name, address, and phone number is 100% up-to-date and accurate across the interweb? Submitting to data aggregators such as Express Update USA and Universal Business Listing can help update and consolidate your business information.
8. Optimize for Bing and Yahoo SERPs too
Similar to Google Places, you’ll also want to claim and optimize your local profiles on Yahoo and Bing Local. Enhance them with as much information as you can and ensure you are associated with the right categories.
It’s also well worth the extra $9.95 / month for an Enhanced Yahoo Local Listing, as this can make you stand out against other competitors. Bing is also becoming an interesting player in the local search arena, including a recent host of updates they made in December 2010.
9. Build a professional, user-friendly, search-friendly website.
Your opportunity to get found in local search doesn’t only revolve around Places or Maps listings – your website itself can also rank well in regular search results, if optimized correctly. Your website may only need to be five pages, but should include the following:
- Professional design to reinforce your brand and encourage trust.
- Search-friendly navigation and indexable text.
- List your address and phone number in the footer of every page.
- Create a directions page with a map and written directions to your location.
- Give each page a unique title tag and meta description tag optimized for keywords around your location – yet also enticing for users to read and click through to your site from SERPs.
- Verify your site with Bing and Google Webmaster Tools, and submit and XML sitemap.
- Link to your social media profiles – and vice versa.
- Link to your site from other online profiles (local directories, Chamber of Commerce, Google Places, Yelp, Judy’s Book, etc.)
- Hm… I could have written a completely separate blog post about this topic.
10. Leverage Microformats and Rich Snippets
Did you know there is all kinds of nifty code you can add to your website pages to help engines understand more about your address, geographic location, and more. Google now supports many different types of microformats and rich snippets with information about your business address and location, reviews, in-stock products, events and more. You could even consider Geo-Tags which convey precise geocoordinates about your location.
Written by Sarah Mackenzie.