Local Search Optimization 101: Get Found
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:
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.
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:
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
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:
Take that link, copy it and paste it into the nice, handy form on TinyURL.com. That will turn something like this:
into this: http://tinyurl.com/35s8hq
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 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.
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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More