SEO Tips for Local Businesses

The last column in this series focused on the importance of SEO (define) for local/regional firms and outlined a basic three-step local SEO program:

  1. Proactively manage business profile data.
  2. Optimize Web pages for local queries.
  3. Increase local Web site popularity.

Today, I’ll cover implementation tips for each action.

Manage Business Profile Data

A business profile is the foundation of any sound search marketing program. A profile contains such basic business data as business name, address, phone number, and description. Also included might be business category, a list of products or services offered, areas served, payment options, and other operational information such as hours of service.

Why is a profile so important? It’s the basic data that appears when you search for a local business on a major search engine, a local search or mapping site, a city guide, or an Internet yellow page (IYP) site.

Local marketers should review, and enhance or correct profile data on the following sites:

  • National data providers, such as infoUSA, Amacai, and Acxiom.
  • Local search engines, such as Google Maps, Yahoo Local, MSN Local, Local,, and TrueLocal. These local engines receive core data from the providers listed above, but most also allow marketers to submit data directly to supplement or enhance a basic listing.
  • IYPs, such as Idearc Media’s (formerly of Verizon), Switchboard, and, as well as city guides such as Citysearch. These sites also depend on the national data providers but allow marketers to submit information directly as well.

It can be difficult to find exactly where and how to verify and update your business profile on all these sites. Stacy Williams of Prominent Placement recently posted a five-part blog series that’s very helpful in this regard, as it provides links to the specific pages.

All this is a lot of work! Luckily, there are services that allow marketers to manage and submit data in a consolidated fashion. LocalLaunch’s RegisterLocal, for example, enables a business to create one master profile that’s distributed to the major engines, IYPs, local directories, and local search engines. These types of services also work well when managing multiple profiles for chains, franchises, or dealerships with many locations.

Optimize for Local Search Queries

As with any SEO effort, basic optimization principles apply to local sites. Local marketers must engage in keyword research; develop relevant local content; write unique, compelling page titles and meta tags; implement search-friendly navigation; and build link popularity (to name just a few critical tasks).

But for local Web sites, two of the most important optimization steps a marketer can take are incorporating local search phrases across Web pages and properly utilizing contact information throughout the site.

Incorporate Local Search Phrases

Local keyword research is often less precise than a standard SEO effort. This is primarily due to language idiosyncrasies and local colloquiums. For example, if you own and operate a local shoe store, it’s important to know if searchers in your part of the country use the term “sneakers” or “tennis shoes” more often. If you run a bed-and-breakfast in Philadelphia, do people most often search for “Philly PA” or “Philadelphia”? People search for Minneapolis and St. Paul, but they also search for “twin cities.” They search for “downtown Chicago” and “the loop.” Make sure your Web site utilizes local speak and reflects the way your customers actually talk and search.

Once you’ve researched and identified target keyword phrases, use these local terms and phrases in page text, page titles, meta tags, link text, and other key places throughout the site.

Utilize Contact Information

A business’ address and phone number are instrumental for conducting business locally. But this contact information also provides a critical clue to search engines that a business is local in nature.

How to utilize contact information effectively:

  • Display your full address with Zip Code on all appropriate Web pages.
  • Include a local phone number, even when a toll-free number is available.
  • Give your address and phone number extra prominence on the “Contact Us” page.
  • If appropriate, provide information on areas served.
  • Provide driving directions and a local map (perhaps on a page called “Directions/Location”).
  • Consider placing contact information in the footer of every page.

Nationwide retailers, dealers, and franchises can create individual dealer locator pages optimized for local search queries and display each dealer’s local address as recommended above.

Increase Local Site Popularity

In-bound site links are critically important to improve local search visibility and results. As with any SEO effort, these links are more about quality than quantity.

If you belong to a chamber of commerce, local business association, or professional organization, request a link to your site. These organizations tend to have authoritative and popular Web sites and will typically link to you at no cost or for a nominal fee. If possible, provide suggested text associated with the link and include your target keyword phrases.

Check to see if there are local/vertical online directories or portals that are relevant to your business, such as FindLaw, a portal that provides legal information and helps people find appropriate lawyers in their area.

Dominate Search Results

Engaging in this simple three-step program may enable a small business to literally dominate a search results page. A local business now can show up in three separate places — all on the first page, and all above the fold:

  • The main search results page.
  • A local result inserted by Google or Yahoo at the top of the organic results (Google calls these One Box results and Yahoo calls them Shortcuts). According to MarketingSherpa’s recent eyetracking study, searchers pay more attention to the Google One Box listings than almost anything else on the page.
  • A local PPC (define) ad.

Wow! That’s a lot of page real estate, and something a national firm can’t achieve. A well-optimized Web site provides a great way for local companies to increase visibility, build credibility, and generate business.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

Related reading

Website landing page vector graphic
Hand holding smartphone with city map and store location on screen and store icon.