Last year, Google announced that 20 percent of searches done on the site were “related to location” and began populating the organic results with businesses listed in Google Places. For small business owners that serve specific geographic areas, the importance of getting found among those results cannot be overstated.
There are a number of ways local businesses can target customers in their local markets. They include participation in social media like Twitter, Facebook and other location-based online services like Gowalla, Foursquare and Groupon, as well as local online directories and Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs). These are all valuable tools, but optimizing your Website for local search should be your primary focus.
Include the Right Content
Although search engines have become extremely “smart” when it comes to identifying a searcher’s intent and determining the appropriate results to deliver, you still need to tell them your site is appropriate by including geographical content.
Add the names of towns or areas you serve in the titles, Meta descriptions and body copy. Adding a map and physical address or addresses of your facilities also helps.
Localize Your Links
Search engines place a great deal of importance on the anchor text of internal and external links. Be sure the anchor text used for these links includes the names of the areas you serve. Having plenty of internal links between the pages on your Website also helps ensure that your site gets fully indexed.
Focus on Your Community – Not Just Your Business
Another great way to ensure your site has local credibility is by adding content that specifically relates to your service area. You might consider adding a community calendar to highlight activities of interest to customers in your local area. You might even partner with a local group, for instance the local school district, animal shelter or a community theater, to populate the calendar with events that will be of interest to your customers.
Google uses structured markup to help it more precisely understand the information on a Website, including locations. For example, if a site owner references “Portland” in her content, using rich snippets allows Google to know she is referring to Portland, Oregon and not Portland, Maine without her having to include the word “Oregon” in the copy. You can also use rich snippets to help Google find reviews of your products and services as well as information about your employees.
Once your Website is optimized for local search, be sure to update your Google Places and Yahoo and Bing Local listings and ask your customers to review your business on these and other directory sites.