Monday, September 28, 2009




Local Site SEO/SEM:

Think Small. Win BIG.

Of course GE has a huge website and Microsoft’s digital space is the size of a couple of football fields – everything from download patches to sales to rights-free clip art. A web site, for any well-known business, is a must. So is a HUGE web presence. That’s why these global conglomerates have SEO professionals on staff. It’s also why these sites rank so highly on Google. They’re enormous and optimized to the nth degree.

But what about your little boutique on Main Street, Anytown, USA. Or your car dealership out on Route 81? Can you compete with the big guys and if so, how? Here’s a quick primer on SEO for local businesses looking for traffic within a 40 mile radius of the business’ brick-and-mortar storefront or office building.

You don’t need a big budget and you don’t have to be an SEO to rank highly on local searches. But you do have to design your site for local search and optimize the site skin for the highest conversion ratios. So, here’s how to put your little hometown business on the web map – and actually drive traffic.

Google Webmaster

Google Webmaster Central is a treasure trove of Google-based tools designed to provide data and tips on improving your site’s page rank (PR) on Google’s search engine results pages or SERPs.

Google provides tools to improve local site traffic with its Keyword Generator, its Diagnostics that identify problems encountered during the last Googlebot visit – everything from an old home page still on your server to broken links. If bots have a problem, you have a problem.

This site also provides analytics: what does your site look like to a Googlebot (remember bots never see the site skin, just the HTML code under the site), there’s a Site Status Wizard to determine how many pages of your site are actually indexed in Google’s database of over 100 billion web pages. Google Analytics provides a breakdown of visitor traffic – who, what where, when and sometimes even why – all in one place.

Google Gadgets

Free stuff and especially useful for two purposes: (1) site stickiness and (2) local search. These doo-dads and gizmos keep visitors coming back and customers walking through your front doors. So what can you get from the Google Gadget goodie bag? Local weather, calendars and local time, all perfect for local search for local businesses. These Google gadgets enhance the visitor’s perception that you really are local and that’s a very good thing.

Google Gadgets also includes an online to-do list function. Ideal for local search. TO DO: go to dry cleaners – your dry cleaners. You can also pick up complete mapping functions – another must have for site localization. How do people get to your outlet?

Google’s To-Do List

Using Google maps, you can provide written directions and even a printable map. And all of these features are free when you open a Google account – which you should do ASAP.

“Hey, we’re right at the intersection of Maple and Main!”

Local SEO

You don’t want business 400 miles away from your shop. You want people who live in your area to stop by to make a purchase (unless you want to go global and get into drop shipping, which is another topic altogether). Adding gadgets like maps and local weather help convert visitors and lower your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) by delivering highly-qualified local buyers – web users who have located your store or office through a local search.

To improve the likelihood of being found locally, here are some tips to ensure that Googlebots and other crawlers get it right. Oh, and btw, if you don’t think this is critical to the long-term success of your business, check out these stats:

Seven out of 10 web users employ local search, aka 70% of potential prospects!

68% of surfers call the telephone number provided by a local business to ask questions about product availability, directions, questions when “Some assembly required” and so on. People like searching globally but they love buying locally. It’s so much more personal.

One-half of search engine users add a geographic modifier to their query words, aka, certified public account dallas texas. It’s easy to understand why. There are some things (like a tax audit) that you want to deal with face-to-face so you call a local CPA – or at least 50% of web users do.

So, in no particular order of effectiveness (do them all) here are some suggestions for upping local traffic through local search:

  • Add the name of your community to HTML tags – keyword tag, title tag, description tag and other HTML code. Remember, this is what spiders spider – not the site skin – so SEO is all about optimizing your code, NOT the site skin. However, you should also add local contact information on the site itself. This text synchs up with tag content, adding validity to the site’s code. (No funny stuff goin’ on.)

  • Make your URL visible within the local community. If your business advertises in the local newspaper, make sure the site URL is prominently displayed. Think of your web site as an opportunity to tell local buyers why they should by locally and, more germane, why they should buy from you.

  • List your business with Google Maps. When visitors access mapping from Google, Google Earth or MapQuest, your little business shows up as a push-pin online and in a printable format.

  • Develop a list of long-tail keywords that would be used by local search engine users. If you go with the top-used keywords, you’ll get buried in Google’s SERPs. How well will “Bonnie’s Art Supplies” stand out against Dick Blick and the hundreds of other mega-crafts stores that sell art supplies? Bonnie will be lucky if her site ever sees the light of day using the most popular keywords.

  • Instead, create a list of long-tail keywords – keyword phrases that locals would use, e.g., restaurants boothbay harbor maine or tourist information boothbay harbor maine. This narrows the number of search engine users who actually employ these long-tails, but moves your site to page one of the SERPs when a user does employ one of your localized, long-tail keywords. Make sure these keywords are topic-city specific.

  • In your site text (which will be part of the site’s code and, therefore, spidered) use words that describe your service region. Words like “near,” “around,” and “vicinity of” can be used to expand or contract your service area.

  • Some SEO experts claim that people don’t search by zip code. I do. And it doesn’t hurt to have your zip in your body text a bunch of times.

  • When creating long-tail, region-specific keywords, spell out the name of the state and avoid abbreviations, e.g. Boothbay Harbor Maine, not Boothbay Harbor ME.

  • Link to other businesses maintaining websites within your service community. This includes community sites, tourism sites and local business directory sites. Also, privately-owned sites specifically targeted at a local community are popping up like weeds. They provide local news, weather, some local reporting and links to local businesses – hey, like yours!

  • Post informational content on local blogs. Many communities maintain blogs – places where people can sell an old couch or ask for volunteers for the upcoming May Fest. These “local spots” are fast turning into the web log-on page – the place to get the local news and download a coupon for a free pizza when you buy eight. (Good deal.)

  • Don’t fool with Google. You can try multi-listing under different names when you register with Google Maps, but if you get caught employing this gray-hat tactic, your site can be sanctioned – sent to the back of the line – or banned altogether.

Local search is here to stay and more and more web users are employing the local search options now offered by the big search engines. Locals don’t want their eyes tested by someone 3,000 miles away. They want your eyeglass emporium. The want to make an appointment by telephone, print out a map to your specs store, and they want the personalized service they only get locally.

Optimize your site for local search and the local community. Who knows? If you supply enough good, local information, your home page may become the log-on for hundreds, even thousands of local prospects.

And you know that’s going to be good for business.

Localized search delivers powerful results in a short time - and it's growing more popular every day. Drop me a line. Your next customer is right down the street. No, really.

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