The Art and Science of Local Search Engine Optimization

by Deborah Ager on April 13, 2010

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

Image: anokarina’s Flickrstream, Creative Commons

Do you want to be the business that pops up in search queries near your business base? If you own a business that depends upon local customers – such as a hair salon, dental practice, accounting office, law office – then this post will outline the first steps you need to take to show up in local search.

Do Keyword Research

As written in a previous article on SEO, take the time to find search queries related to your business. I’ve heard individuals boast that they show up number one for “Maryland XYZ.” That may impress people who don’t know better.

Never be impressed until you know the competition for that key phrase, what the SEO did to get there, and the actual targeted traffic that key phrase brings in to the website.

What you should be asking is: does that key phrase convert? As much as we like to say we’re number one, we need the visitors to our websites to turn into clients (preferably long-lasting clients).

Use Local Search Phrases on Your Website

One way you can increase conversions to your website is to use the local search phrases. Use the search phrases you found in step one in your website copy, title tags, blog tags, categories, and meta data in a natural way.

As you can see at my search engine optimization website, I am using local search phrases in a WordPress website. This decision reflects a recent change in my business strategy to focus on local businesses. With just a few edits to my website, I ranked at position #29 overnight. That isn’t a very good spot in the long term. For overnight? It’s amazing. I have much more work to complete in the coming months to attain a top ranking. That brings me to point number three.

Know Your Competition

If you are a seasoned entrepreneur, then you’ll recognize this as Business 101. Take the time to learn what your competition is doing. If you don’t, they probably will. You can move ahead of the pack – for SEO specifically and for business development generally — if you take this one step.

Place Your Local Address on the Website

The number of businesses that don’t use an address on their site surprises me. An address lends credibility to the human visitor and helps your robot visitors know where you should show up in local search – in Indiana or Maryland?

Help your friendly robot out by including your address on your website.

Use Key Phrases in Your URLs

If you can, use key phrases in your URLs.

Instead of separating words with underscores, separate them with dashes. Dashes help the robots to “read” the words in your URL, and that helps them determined the importance and relevance of your site.

Stay tuned for more local SEO tips in this two-part series. Have questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


Regular contributor Deborah Ager is principal at ClickWisdom, LLC. She helps organizations attract and keep their ideal customers using tailored marketing strategies. ClickWisdom specializes in the use of paid search, social media, search engine optimization, and email marketing. Read a Maryland search engine optimization success story and sign up for free internet marketing tips; you can also connect with her on Twitter.

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