Local Search Optimization 101: Get Found

local search result Featured

Ian Lurie Mar 7 2008

All 3 major search engines now have local search results, and they mix them right into the normal ranking pages. That’s wreaked havoc with many businesses that previously had the top spot for something like ‘seattle internet marketing’ (ahem) but suddenly found themselves buried underneath a map and a list of local companies:
c'mon, google, gimme a break...
In this example, my years of hard work getting Portent the top organic ranking for ‘seattle internet marketing’ just got pushed down the page by a map. Even worse, since my company is south of Seattle’s downtown core (see the letter D all alone on that map?), it’s going to be difficult to move up.
Clearly, the top spot isn’t all it used to be.

When does a search engine show a local result? Typically, Google, Yahoo! and Live will show a local result if a region name is in a keyword search, like ‘seattle pet salons’, and if it’s clearly a locally-focused business. Lisa points out the search engines check your IP address, as well. But the search engines won’t say for sure.

What Now?!

Are we doomed? Nope. I took a few simple steps in the last 2 weeks, and immediately boosted Portent to the #4 spot in the local listing, as well as the #1 spot in the keyword search listing:
woo hoo - a better local search result
It took some doing, but it’s not impossible. Here’s what I did:

1. Register with the search engine

Google, Yahoo and Live all have webmaster logins. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to register with each one first. If you do, skip to step 2.
On Google, go to Google.com/Accounts.
On Yahoo, go to Yahoo.com and set up a ‘my Yahoo’ account. Sorry, I don’t have a better way there. Maybe some clever reader out there can enlighten me.
On Live, go to Webmaster.Live.Com
Fill out all the required information. That gets you an account so that you can add or edit local listings. It’ll also get you access to numerous other cool tools that I can talk about another time.

2. Add/edit your listing

On Google, go to Google.com/local/add.
On Yahoo, go to listings.local.yahoo.com/account.
On Live, go to llc.local.live.com.
Follow the instructions there. Make sure your address is correct!

3. Get reviews.

All three search engines include reviews in their local listings. More reviews definitely equals a higher ranking.
So, go to your listing on each search engine and find the ‘write a review’ link:
local listing review link
Take that link, copy it and paste it into the nice, handy form on TinyURL.com. That will turn something like this:

http://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&q=portent+interactive&asdfaq039842asnfalsdf

into this: http://tinyurl.com/35s8hq
Much better.
Then send that to all of your clients, and ask them politely to leave a brief review.

This is not a bad thing. If your business is like mine, it runs on referrals. Reviews are referrals that everyone can read. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my clients happily went and gave us glowing reviews.

4. Hit the directories

Here’s the more subtle part: You need to get your site listed and categorized in the third-party directories the major search engines use to inform their local search rankings.
Those directories include Yelp.com, SuperPages, YellowPages.com, and a host of others.
Rather than list them all here, I’ll link to a great list someone else created: Click Here for the full list.
I started with the free ones, like Yelp, and then hit a few of the majors, like SuperPages. I only spent about $200, total, on paid listings. If you’re in a competitive space, of course, you may need to spend a lot more.

6. Don’t forget plain old optimization.

It’s still a search engine! Make sure your address appears in at least a few places on your site, as crawlable text. Also make sure your city name shows up in key places like title tags and headings here and there, and that you’ve got a good, crawlable contact us page with all your information on it.

7. Be Patient

I got fast results, mostly because my site’s old, has a good reputation and is otherwise highly relevant for ‘internet marketing’. If you’ve got a newer site or tougher competition, you may face a longer battle.
Keep at it. Keep gaining reviews, too.

There’s More

There’s always more, isn’t there? You can submit feeds if you have many local offices, use microformats (which are starting to see some adoption, I suspect) and try dozens of fancy little tricks to tweak your local listing.
This article was local search 101. If you want more, let me know below.
Related posts:
3 Ways to Commit SEO Suicide
SEO Myth Smackdown: Link Trading
An SEO Case Study

tags : conversation marketing

13 Comments

  1. Jill

    I’m confused…both screen shots look the same to me, both show #4 (“D”) on the map and #1 in the organic rankings…I thought it was supposed to be a “before” and “after” screen shot? Going to go clean my glasses and look again…
    J

  2. Ian

    Hi Jill,
    That’s totally my bad – I didn’t get a screen capture of our poor local ranking last week, so I used the same screen cap twice.
    Last week, our local rank was ‘J’ or lower. This week, it’s the ‘D’ you see there.
    Ian

  3. Jill

    Ah, thanks that explains it :-)
    That is a fabulous jump up!
    I noticed that the number of reviews isn’t showing up on the right…do you think this is just a glitch, or something that takes a while to update.

  4. Ian

    I’m not sure. Google of course will tell you it’s in beta :)

  5. John

    Hi,
    I like the link to the list of local directories/search engines..etc.
    I work with someone who provides laser hair removal in 10 spas in the Philadelphia area. I there anyway to get her service listed in the local search for google yahoo and msn since she doesn’t hold a physical address for each?

  6. Ian

    If I remember Google and/or Yahoo! suggested getting PO boxes…

  7. eCopt

    Ian,
    Great resource on local search and directory listings. You spell it out simply and clearly for your readers to understand, I like that. The steps and headings make it easier to follow along.
    Thanks so much for linking to our local listing guide and for offering it as a resource to your readers. Love what you’ve done with your blog, especially the theme, keep it up.

  8. Ian

    No problem, it’s a fantastic list.
    Glad you like the blog!

  9. 6 months ago when my husband left for activity duty overseas, we were jamming with natural search. He recently came back and I had to get our family business going again. This local stuff is great, but its killing us right now not to be listed in Yahoo and Google local (up top) I am greatful that you shared this info. Hope it works for us! Thanks.

  10. Kiwi

    We always talk about the value of “Timeless information” to our clients. While things might change in the local search scene, the fact that I’m reading this post over a year later and finding it useful fits it into that category. It has been immensely helpful to us as a teaching aid and a resource.
    Thank you!

  11. Bryan

    Ok so I done what you said on here. Yes I am new to this. I posted on google and a few other places I am still on page 10 if you look for computer repair. what can I do to get on the first page?? Thanks for your help

  12. joe

    I’d love to hear some more on local search. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling.
    Have you noticed any love from getting incoming links from other local businesses? Does it look like the SERPs are showing trust/authority to a site that is getting links from a Seattle car dealer if they are a Seattle physical therapist?
    Any more trust/authority by getting links to local government agencies, schools, etc.?
    Any ingenious things you are doing with things like Google alerts, social media, press release that have a local SEO twist?
    Thanks for the help,
    Joe

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