Local Search Optimization

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Ian Lurie Jan 20 2009

This is part 5 of a series of articles on universal search. If you don’t know what universal search is, read this article first. If you just want to catch up, read the previous posts about image and video search optimization, product feed optimization and news search optimization.

Local search dominates the results on every major search engine. If you start any search with a city or region name, you’ll see something like this:
local-search-result-yahoo.gif
The top web search results are buried by three local search results. If you’re a local business, and you want to get traffic, you’d better get placement in that ‘three box’ (or in some cases, ‘ten box’) that shows local results.
On the bright side, this version of universal search gives you yet another way to hop, skip and jump right past all the other web search results. All you need to know is how to best position your site for a local search listing.

How Local Search Works

You generally trigger local search if you enter a city or regional name. Search for ‘flowers’ and you may not see anything. If you search for ‘Seattle flowers’, on the other hand, you’ll get that local search box.
The search engines rank local results based on several sources you might not consider:

  1. Your claimed business address in each search engine.
  2. Your business listing on related yellow pages and business listings sites, like InfoUSA. For a pretty complete list, see Bruce Clay’s local search engine relationship chart.
  3. Relevant keywords on your site, such as your city and address.
  4. Number of reviews of your business on various web sites, including the search engines.
  5. Proximity of your address to the center of the city or region.
  6. MAYBE geolocation metadata.

How to Optimize for Local Search

I wrote a post on local search optimization back in March. Much of it’s still true. You can refer to that post for additional information for the first four tips:

  1. Register your site with each search engine.
  2. Edit your local business listing.
  3. Recruit customers to review your business. Quantity and detail seems more important than the rating you get. That’s logical – the search engines are probably happier ranking businesses that have lots of reviews, even if some are bad, than businesses that are a mystery.
  4. Be sure you’re listing in all the major directories. Again, look at Bruce Clay’s local search engine relationship chart for more information.
  5. On all of those directories, make sure your company is in the right category. That definitely impacts where the search engines place you.
  6. Do some plain old search engine optimization for your region. Make sure your city or region is in relevant places like your title tag and body copy.
  7. Put your address on every page of your site. You should do that, anyway, so this is a good reason.
  8. If you don’t have an address in the city in question, consider getting a PO box. That won’t help if you’re nowhere near by, but I’ve seen it make a difference for businesses that are out in the suburbs but want to be listed as in the city.
  9. Consider using geolocation metadata. I can’t vouch, but since we added GeoTag, GeoURL and Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names metadata. You can read Problogger’s post about geotagging your site for the details.

The Most Important Component of Universal Search

If you run a business with a storefront, or any kind of services business that has local appeal, local search is by far the most important universal search component. Ignore every other article I wrote. Just don’t ignore this one.
One other excellent resource: David Mihm’s local search ranking factors report. Yours truly is in it.

Remember, this is part of a series. Here are the other articles:

  1. Universal Search, Lesson 1
  2. Image and Video Search: How to optimize (as best you can)
  3. Product Search: The pain and agony, and why you need to suck it up.
  4. News Search: Why it’s hopeless (unless you’re a news outlet).
  5. Local Search: How to optimize.
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3 Comments

  1. Ian, this is a great writeup. Thanks for the mention of the LSRF & thanks for taking part!

  2. Question: If you’re optimizing a site for local search, would you optimize for keyword phrases that are generally searched without any geographic component? (ie: tax accountant vs. tax accountant new jersey)

  3. Ian

    You want to optimize for both. You need to be relevant for the term, and for the geographic region.

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