If your business is interested in capitalizing on local efforts, be sure you not only have your strategy all worked out offline, but online as well. There are a few simple things you could be doing that could revolutionize your business, locally speaking. In a world where mobile phones and local searches are so prevalent (for some perspective, 5.1 Billion people own cell phones, while only 4.2 Billion own a toothbrush! (Source: Mobile Marketing Association Asia)), search engines have adapted for this trend and where you are located has a big impact on the search engine results nowadays.
Here are some steps you could be taking to improve your local visibility, capitalizing on those searchers who could be choosing your competitors over you.
These days, you are able to merge your Google+ page for Business with local categories with Google Place pages. The consumer-facing side is known as Google+ Local. It enables users to discover and share places, and even integrates Zagat’s 30 point scoring system to help users make their decisions. Gaining user reviews here is especially important as well, as it has an affect on your local ranking result for this profile. Visit Google Support for more information around Google+ Local.
Citations are basically listings of your company’s name and address across the web. What you want to do is make sure all the citations are accurate, categorized correctly, and consistent. After you’ve done that, be sure you are proactively creating new citations. Citations are increasingly becoming more important in determining local ranking results, so be sure to take part in this effort. Some examples where you can get listed are Yelp.com, MerchantCircle.com, and AngiesList.com. Interested in more? Here you go!
To help the engines better understand your content, be sure to tag your specialized content with schema tagging. Examples are things like events, videos, reviews and location information. This will tell Google exactly what that content is and what it’s about, and displays it so searchers can have more information about your company. More info can be found for specific mark-up capabilities on schema.org Here are a few examples:
If your business has more than one location, be sure you have a page devoted to each location. Many companies with a high volume of locations provide their locations via dynamically generated coding, but this makes it difficult to get each location ranked when appropriate.
Figure out what your top priorities are for search in terms of keywords, and be sure the engines know that’s what people can find on your site. Relevancy is key for the engine rankings, so be sure you offer the information your potential customers are looking for. Key places to edit are the title tag and meta description tag, as well as where appropriate in your body copy. If you are using WordPress, the All-In-One SEO Pack plug-in is especially helpful, making it pretty easy to make these edits.
If you haven’t already, set up both a Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools account and verify your site in each. This will give you insight into crawl errors, site speed issues, as well as other data that you can benefit from.
Now that you have your Webmaster Tools (WMT) accounts set up and ready to go, work on creating an XML Sitemap (try GSiteCrawler) and then submit it in both of your WMT accounts. An XML Sitemap is essentially a table of contents for the engines, alerting them to all the pages you’d like them to crawl and index on your site. Anytime you edit or update your URLs or add new pages, such as static pages for each of your locations, you should update your XML Sitemap and resubmit to the engines so they know there are new pages they should crawl and index.
With the increasing importance of showing up in localized search results, start implementing some of these tactics and monitor your traffic and performance in your analytics account (you do have an analytics account don’t you? If not, see Google Analytics for free tracking).