Don't get too comfortable with what you already know about local SEO (define).
A new form of local SEO is being thrust into the mainstream. It requires different methods and tactics -- no Web site required.
The strategy involves:
Properly implemented, a local business becomes easier to find in local search queries, and is able to convert more visitors into customers.
Last time, I introduced the idea of user-generated content in local search. Today, we'll dig deeper into the user-generated content that helps shape the local search marketplace.
Control Core Business Data Accuracy
Core business data accuracy and distribution is critical to local SEO.
InfoUSA, Acxiom, and other authoritative business data aggregators license core business data to local search engines to feed and backfill local search results. Business owners must ensure their business records are accurate within these databases. The onus is on the business, or its local search optimizer, to obtain the status of current records to clean and enrich data with complete and current business information.
Making changes to this data isn't as difficult as it used to be. Companies all along the local search supply chain are interested in obtaining more accurate data about local businesses. They provide a means for business owners to contribute directly.
If you submit or update your business data to Google Local, Google sends activation numbers through the physical mail to verify addresses. Other local search engines and data aggregators will accept a phone call to update business information. Others enable online business record changes.
Business owners who conduct routine business-vanity searches can identify new opportunities to submit, clean, or enrich their business data. Utilizing industry keyword searches further enables optimizers to identify business content aggregators and directories to propagate consistent data.
The status and accuracy of core business data are the heart of any local SEO effort.
Distribute Profiles With Optimized Meta Content
Rich business profiles serve users, businesses, and search engines. For local search users, business profiles provide access to structured and qualitative business details that assist in comparative local buying decisions.
For the local search engines, they help enable relevant results for pure local search queries while providing additional on-site utility. And for local businesses, business profiles represent an opportunity to disseminate rich business information to more potential customers.
Today, all major local search utilities enable businesses to publish profiles or to enrich business data with qualitative content, mainly for free.
Local search optimization concentrates on the proactive population of local business profiles with accurate business data and optimized meta content. This meta content includes business contact data, maps, descriptions, logos, products/services, operation hours, coupons, awards and certifications, payment methods, and many other data points.
Business profiles are crawled and indexed. Traditional search engines even crawl and index local search results pages from competing local search providers. Yahoo Local and SuperPages business listings are being distributed on Google SERPs (define), for example.
Business profile optimization should employ basic keyword analysis and on-page techniques. Take advantage of all content population opportunities available in a profile.
Distributing profiles with optimized meta content is like creating unique, freestanding Web pages for a business. These pages contain accurate, structured business information that places businesses in a unique position to capture and convert more local search prospects, often more effectively than a typical small business Web site.
Monitor Reviews and Offer Incentives
Businesses must pay attention to the opinions published about them. User-generated reviews and ratings are subjective. They can directly affect a business's reputation, status, and even rank within local search engines.
Realize you can affect your own local search reputation. You can even control and shape that reputation.
Local search optimizers can work with local businesses to energize their base to influence their business reputation online. Savvy businesses will put forth strategies to compel customers to provide quality reviews and ratings. They'll also strategically police and proactively clean their business' reputations.
The key to review and rating optimization is to offer incentives. Tactics such as providing a discount or coupon in exchange for a quality review can be effective. Proactively soliciting user-generated content from trusted sources can improve a local business' reputation, rank, and content quality within local search engines.
Maybe bringing small businesses online isn't as difficult as we thought. True, starting a Web site design conversation with a small business is like opening Pandora's box. But it's much easier and more effective to talk to businesses about structured, distributed business data.
Millions of local businesses are already in local search indexes. All we have to do is show, clean, enrich, and distribute them.
It's a new form of local SEO. And it's coming soon to a business near you.
Meet Justin at Search Engine Strategies August 8-11 in San Jose, CA.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
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