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SEO Local Search: What Is It and Why It’s Important

Gaining high rankings in the search engine listings is important; the basic principle is that the higher your rank the more traffic to your website you will enjoy and more traffic means more conversions and more sales revenue.  

The typical pattern for online users looking to buy is to use the internet in three steps;

  1. Generic searches (or research searches) are conducted which will look like [widgets] – from this the surfer will find out what widgets are, what they do, performance, options, how they satisfy the user’s needs and so on;
  2. A Local Search is conducted which will look something like [widget]+[TheirTown] – at this point they are looking for likely sources to provide widgets and are closer to making a buying decision; and
  3. The Purchase is made either online or offline with the supplier of their choice.

Changing Surfer Habits: Creative Searches and the Mobile Internet

How internet surfers have been using search engines has changed dramatically; no longer are users simply searching for “widgets” and buying from a site based on such a basic search.  This may have applied a few years ago but times have moved on. Instead, surfers are getting creative with how they use search engines and increasing the level of search term sophistication.  Searches such as, [widget]+[color options]…[green credentials]…[open at midnight]…[allows pets]…[competitors] or similar, are being used to elicit the information they are looking for.

It is a powerful buying signal when a surfer makes a search – [widget]+[location] – because now they have decided the “widget” they are interested in and are now looking for a supplier where they are situated.  The reason they do this is simple – they are looking to buy very soon.

 How surfers search is not the only factor – the Apple iPhone, Googlephone, Blackberry and other smart phones are with us and users are accessing the mobile internet “on the go” to source products and services.

Picture the scene; a couple meet up after work and are looking for somewhere to go, using their iPhone she searches for somewhere to eat while he pulls out his Blackberry and looks for somewhere with great music and dancing – the need is now, the location is “here”, and the time to making a purchase is as long as it takes to get there. 

Online buyers are not using the internet to simply buy from Amazon or the big online brand names – they are looking for suppliers in their immediate locality i.e. where they are at the moment whether that is their hometown, somewhere they are passing through, or while away on business or vacation.  Generic searches are of no use under such circumstances but, because your business has a physical location you can use this to capture your share of the local search business on a far more level playing field.  For instance, Blackwell Bookshop in Billerica MA, will have a far better chance competing for business against Amazon when [bookstore]+[Billerica] is the search term being used as opposed to [bookstore].

What Can You Do To Benefit From Local Search?

Local search represents a major opportunity to increase your sales from your website because generic search terms have far less significance. You can leverage your local presence to increase your local search rankings which is something companies aiming at national coverage find more difficult to do.  You also don’t need to spend huge sums of money which is a prerequisite if you are competing directly with big online names.

What can you do to maximize your local search rankings?

There are a number of local search SEO techniques available and here are just a few to consider:

Use Your Contact Information

Make sure you include your physical business address on every web page – this is good selling advice too as after all, you want customers to be able to find you quickly.  Using the html  <address> tag to enclose your address (and telephone number) will help ensure your location is known to the search engines when they crawl your site. 

Having the address on the site also helps establish what is termed, “trust ranking” compared to a site that has no mailing or location address.

Adding a footer such as: “Widget Business : Billerica’s Widget Source: Based in Billerica, MA”, makes it very clear to search engines where you are located.

Register with Local Search Engines

Google and Yahoo! are both serious players in developing local search – more sales for local businesses means more business for them, so take the time to register with local search engines and communities. 

Here are the links for Google Local Business Center and Yahoo! Local Merchant

You can also set your location using Google Webmaster Tools

CitySearch and Local City Searches

You can register with CitySearch which provides users with local information depending on the city they are in.  More importantly, CitySearch is a major source of local business information for sites such as Expedia and Ticketmaster amongst many others.

Register With Internet Directories

Sites such as Yelp, CitySquares and MojoPages provide good “indirect” traffic i.e. when a surfer makes a local search and it is their entry which has a high ranking, but you are listed within it. They also provide you with back links, which improves your “authority” ranking for that location, i.e. you will rank higher for that location no matter what business you have.

Food For Thought

Obviously, we’re just scratching the surface with Local Search and the techniques available to gain high local search rankings.  What’s important to take away is that Local Search is where the money is at when it comes to increasing sales revenues online – surfers are using and accessing search engines in a more sophisticated way, but more importantly, when they do using Local Search, they are very close to making a buying decision and your physical proximity is more important than having a huge, online presence. 

Since 2007 we've helped thousands of business earn higher ranks in Google, Yahoo and Bing. "If you don't rank, you don't pay!"
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