Local SEO: A Challenge and an Edge for Small Business

Local business SEO can be a challenge. A single-location electronics store, for example, can’t hope to compete with national big box stores on terms like “LCD television”. Fortunately, they don’t have to. A study released by Chitika near the end of 2012 revealed that customers are tailoring their searches to local markets.

The study indicated that 24.24% of Google searches and 25.28% of Yahoo! searches were locally targeted. The local focus for Bing searches was slightly higher, at 28.81%. In August, Google revealed that it’s answering about 100 billion search queries per month. If even 1% of those searches are for products and services, that means Google alone sees about 250,000,000 local product and service searches each month.

Google makes it easy to target that local traffic. A business with a robust Google+ Local page will have more opportunities to be seen by customers searching locally. Local listings gets special placement on the page, pushing down sites that used to appear on the first page of results. Those listings also integrate with Google Maps and Google+, giving customers more places to find the site. And, of course, those with well-developed Local pages will be better positioned to draw attention (and clicks) when they appear in search. Google+ Local also provides an opportunity for customer reviews and for specific recommendations in Google+.

Of course, local business SEO isn’t limited to those local listings and directories. The tried and true SEO techniques still apply, just with a local twist. A few of the most important include:

Fresh, quality content: While content updates have always played an important role in search engine optimization, Google’s algorithm update in late 2011 put a new premium on fresh content. But Google’s Matt Cutts is quick to warn against updates that just move content around or change a few words to appear fresh-the quality of content is still key. And what’s considered “fresh” for home page content will differ from what’s considered fresh for news items or other time-sensitive information.

Local keywords: Knowing that about a quarter of searches will specifically target a location and that most local businesses can’t compete on a national level (and don’t want traffic from across the country, anyway), local businesses must focus their optimization on local terms. Not only is it easier to rank for those narrower terms, but the traffic generated will be much more targeted.

Bonus when optimizing for local terms: When a company optimizes for “Des Moines washing machines”, every incidence of that term also includes the more general term “washing machines” So, a business has nothing to lose by focusing on local terms.

Title and description tags: Title and description tags have a relatively small direct influence on SEO today, but they have a significant impact on click-throughs. Not only does that mean site traffic, but those clicks help boost ranking. Solid optimization requires incorporating keywords into tags, but writing them for the user, not the search engine.

The growing emphasis on local search makes local business SEO more manageable than it was just a few years ago and helps local businesses stay more competitive.

 

Sources:

http://chitika.com/insights/2012/local-search-study/ (Chitika study) *Note: Content No Longer Exists

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4hH4ZQ_19k (Matt Cutts webmaster help video)

http://searchengineland.com/google-search-press-129925 (Report on August Google Press Search Breakfast)

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