How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing

pikes place market seattle

If you have a local business or one that targets audiences in a specific geo-location, then you will want to move beyond general guides for search and social optimization. This post will take you through several marketing strategies for local search and social media marketing.

Keyword Research for Local Search

Before you can optimize your website, social media profiles or anchor text for link building, you have to know what keywords you want to use. When it comes to local search marketing, you are not only targeting industry-specific terms but geo-specific terms as well.

Let’s look at an example of a local plumbing business that might have several locations in Washington. When planning their optimization strategy, the first thing they might do is take a look at some geo-specific keywords + plumbing to see how many times they are searched, using Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

While the numbers may not be exact, you can rest assured that, given the above data, “seattle plumbing” is searched more than “tacoma plumbing,” but “tacoma plumbing” is searched more than “everett” and “edmonds plumbing” combined. When you start with terms like that, you will also get additional suggestions plus the approximate number of times those phrases are searched monthly.

Want to try some other ways to get keyword ideas? Try typing in your keyword ideas in Google search, then scroll down to the bottom to see the related searches.

You can also look at your top competitor’s website (the one that ranks the highest for your main targeted keyword phrase) to see what keywords it ranks for, using SEMrush. A free account will show you 10 keywords.

Using a combination of these tools and researching other local competitors in your industry should help you develop the right keywords to use for the local search optimization of your business.

On-Site Optimization for Local Search

Once you have your keyword set, the next thing you will want to do is optimize your own website for local search. Let search engines know what locations you are targeting by including geo-specific information, keywords and phrases in the specific places on your website as described below.

Title and Meta Descriptions

When it comes to search results, people are going to see your website’s SEO title tag and meta description, or other related snippet from your website, first.

Note that when searching for air conditioning repair seattle, people will see those keywords bolded in both the title and snippet about the website. Make these two areas count for local search by doing the following:

  • Locally Optimized Title Tags - The SEO title tag is still one of the most important elements for on-site optimization even if Google sometimes chooses alternate titles for search results. Regardless, you should still assume that Google might choose your specified title tag to link to your website in search results. Hence, you will want to make sure it not only includes your primary keywords, but your location as well within 70 characters.
  • Locally Optimized Meta Descriptions - Again, Google might choose a snippet of text from your website instead, but it never hurts to have an optimized meta description. Make sure it includes your primary keywords, areas your business serves and phone number, if possible, within 165 characters.

Local Address & Phone Number on All Pages

Another good signal to search engines is a local street address and phone number on all pages. Most businesses will place this information in their website’s footer. Be sure that it is actually in the text and not in an image. This is good for search engine bots and for people on their mobile phones as your phone number will be clickable!

Location-Specific Pages

Have more than one location but only one website? That’s not a problem. Just create a page on your website specific to each physical location. This way, anyone searching for your business in a particular region, city, state or country should be directed to the appropriate page.

Embed a Map

If you enter an address on Google Maps, you can get an HTML embed code to add the map to your website. Just click on the link icon to get the code.

You can also click on the “customize” link to choose sizing and other features for your map before embedding it on your website.

This is a great way to help visitors to your website find your location easily, and, who knows, it might tell a Google search bot more about your location.

Create a Geo Sitemap

Want to make absolutely sure Google knows where you are? Then create a geo sitemap and a KML file for your website. Geo Sitemap Generator makes it easy. Just fill in your company details, download the files and upload them to your website’s root folder.

Then go to Google Webmaster Tools, add your website (if you haven’t already), verify it using your Google Analytics code (other options available), and then add your geo sitemap’s URL under Site Configuration > Sitemaps. Instead of waiting for Google to find out where you are, tell it where you are!

Local Search Directories

Once you have optimized your site for local search, you should begin some off-site optimization. The first places to look at are applicable local search directories.

The above graphic shows the current landscape of local search directories and how they feed into each other.

The following are seven of the top local search directories.

Google Places

The ultimate goal is to have the best Google Places listing. For local businesses, it could mean having your business show up on the first page above some of the organic search results.

To get started, add or claim your business on Google Places. When you create your profile, be sure to fill out as much information as possible and add up to ten supplementary photos. You can even link five videos from YouTube about your business.

Also note that you can hide your address on your listing by selecting “Yes, this business serves customers at their locations.” This is a great option for home businesses that target local clients. When you select that option, you will get a check box to not show your address.

Once you have completed your profile and hit “submit”, you will need to choose a way to verify your business. Some will have the option to verify by phone immediately – others will have to wait two to three weeks for a postcard by mail to the business address.

Once your Google Places profile is live, be sure to encourage your customers to review your business. Be sure to also monitor your business reviews. You can respond to good or bad reviews as the owner. This is a great way to demonstrate your customer service skills publicly!

You can even use your responses as a way to advertise your friendliness to potential customers as the above business has done. And don’t worry if customers review you on other sites as many of them feed into Google Places.

The only unfortunate part of off-site reviews is that they won’t count towards the number of reviews and stars shown in Google search results.

While Google Places one of the most important places to get listed on, you have to also create profiles on other sites to build citations for local SEO. The more consistent listings you have on additional local search directories, the better your local rankings will be.

Yahoo Local

Yahoo Local should be next on your local search listings and citations quest. You can add or claim a basic listing for free which includes all the vital information: contact information, link to your website, hours, payment options, email address, products, and services.

Or you can choose the enhanced listing for $9.95 per month, which allows you to add photos, coupons, a 3,000-character company description and a-150 character company tagline. You can also run a report to see the number of impressions and clicks you have received with an enhanced listing. The nice part about Yahoo Local compared to Google Places is that verification is done on Yahoo’s end and takes a couple of days to go live.

Bing Local

Bing Local allows you to add or claim a free listing with up to nine photos for your business. Its submission system (the Bing Business Portal) is currently in beta and not the most user-friendly compared to Google or Yahoo. Verification is done by mail and can take two to three weeks. One nice thing about Bing’s local pages is that it pulls in reviews from a variety of other local search sites, and, unlike on Google, the total number of ratings and stars from all sites are listed in Bing’s local search results.

Yelp

Yelp is one of the most well-known local search directories. You can add or claim your business listing for free and add photos and lots of additional details beyond just your contact information. Business owners can respond to reviews on their page, which is a plus for demonstrating customer service skills. Yelp also offers pay-per-click advertising within their network, so you can get your business listing in front of more people.

Merchant Circle

Merchant Circle is another popular local directory that allows businesses to add or claim free listings with extended descriptions, profile pictures and links to their websites. It also offers free basic statistics about your listing such as what keywords drive traffic to your listing. It also shows you the number of visitors your listing has received in the last thirty days compared to an average business and the top business in your category on Merchant Circle. You can click on the “who is this?” link to find out who the leader in your category is to learn more about your competitor’s local marketing strategy.

Superpages

Superpages allows businesses to add or claim free listings that include an extended description of their business, multiple categories, a listing of products and services, one related business image and a link to their website. You can add or claim your business listing here.

Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages allows businesses to add or claim free listings that include an extended description of their business, multiple categories and a link. You can also add additional photos for the business listing.

Additional Local Directories

Looking for more? You can use tools like Whitespark Local Citation Finder, which will help you find the best local directories for your business. You can also search for the names of your main competitors to see what sites they are listed on and make sure you get listed there as well.

Why It Is Important to Claim Your Listings

If a business has been around long enough, there is a good chance that the business is already listed with its address and phone number. With that in mind, is it important to claim your business listing? Absolutely! Many local directories do not have any verification method to prove that someone editing a listing actually belongs to the business.

If you take the initiative to claim your listings on major local directories and networks, it prevents other people from modifying (or even completely removing) your listing.

Getting Local Reviews

Once you’ve claimed your business profiles on local search directories, the most important thing you can do to boost your visibility is get reviews. Having a positive rating can help you elevate your business in search results, especially on sites that allow visitors to sort businesses by the number of positive ratings.

Here are some tips for getting great social local search reviews.

  • Add Buttons/Badges to Your Website - Let your website visitors know they can rate your business on directories like Yelp by adding links to your business listing on your website.
  • Encourage Reviews in Your Store - If you have a store or restaurant, encourage local reviews by simply putting a mention or link to your Yelp or other business listing on receipts.
  • Encourage Reviews via Emails - Does your business have an online ordering system? Do you encourage people who buy from your website to sign up for your mailing list? If so, email people after they have received their purchases and ask them to rate their experience with your business on the business listing of your choice.
  • Simply Ask - If you interact with people on a daily basis in your business, simply ask people to add a review on your business listing. Most people will be happy to oblige.

No matter how great your business is, you still might encounter a bad review. As I mentioned previously, many sites like Google Places and Yelp allow business owners to respond to their reviews individually. Be sure to monitor your reviews regularly and respond to them as necessary. Leaving bad reviews unanswered does not make them go away. It just makes visitors to your profile wonder what, if any, resolution your unsatisfied customers received.

By responding to your bad reviews, you show potential new customers that your goal is to make sure everyone is happy, no matter what.

Link Building for Local Keywords

Once you’ve built your local business listings up, the next thing you should start doing is building links to your website. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo things as Google is hard at work on an over-optimization penalty as we speak. That said, there are many great ways to acquire links.

Since I’ve already discussed 10 hard-hitting link building tactics and leveraging link blending to maximize rankings, I won’t go into any more general link building strategies here. Instead, let’s look at some local linking options including the following:

  • Related Local Businesses - Look for businesses that are in the same industry, but are not competitors. See if those websites have resource pages that link out to other businesses similar to yours. Then see if you can strike up a dialogue with the business owner and convince them why they need to have your link listed as a valuable resource to their visitors.
  • Local Bloggers - Find bloggers that are in your region whose audience might be interested in your business. See if you can arrange to do a guest post for them or get them to sample your products or services in exchange for a review on their blog.
  • General Local Resource Pages - Search for local business resources that may not have come up in your local directories search and find out if you can get your site listed.
  • Competitor Backlinks - Using tools like Open Site Explorer, find out what backlinks your local competitors’ websites have to see if you can get yourself listed on them as well.
  • Local Events - Be on the lookout for events in your area such as industry conferences, expos or shows. Check the event’s website to see if they link to their exhibitors and sponsors. If they do, invest as an exhibitor or sponsor of the event to get your link on their site as well.
  • Local Charities - Give back to your community by sponsoring and donating to local charities. Many will have websites that thank their local sponsors and donors, linking back to the sponsors’ and donors’ websites.

Now that we’ve covered most of the local search marketing bases, let’s take a look at some local social marketing strategies.

Local Marketing on Facebook

With 845 million monthly active users, you’re bound to find some of your target audience on Facebook. Here are some ways to make sure your business gets found by Facebook users in your area.

Optimizing Your Facebook Page for Local

The best way to optimize your Facebook page for a local audience is to make sure it is set up as a Local Business. If you haven’t created your Facebook page, make sure to create your page as a Local Business.

If you have already created it, you may be able to change the category, depending on your number of fans. To check to see what category your page is listed as, go to Admin Panel > Manage > Edit Page and then Basic Information. Here, you will see a category and sub-category for your business.

Once your Facebook page is set up as a local business, be sure to enter all of your local details including your street address, local phone number and business hours. If you don’t want to list your exact street address, you can just enter the city, state and zip code to give users an approximation of your location.

One thing to mention in regards to the new Facebook pages design is the About information for your business. It will generally show your business category, location, phone number and business hours.

You can make the area show your website by removing your phone number and business hours from your page’s details. You just have to decide which is more important for your visitors – seeing your phone number on your Facebook page or having the ability to click through to your website. If you do want your local business information to stay intact, you can also add a status update with a link to your Facebook page, then pin the status update to the top of the page so it shows in the top left column.

Connecting with a Local Audience on Facebook

Once your Facebook page is locally optimized, you will want to get your page in front of a local audience. Here are some simple ways to do this:

  • Invite Your Friends - Go to the Admin Panel > Build Audience area and use the Invite Email Contacts option to invite your email contacts to become a fan of your business page. Then use the Invite Friends option to invite friends on your personal profile to become a fan as well. Be sure to invite contacts in your region to get the most targeted audience for your page.
  • Become a Fan of Local Business Pages - Again, you will want to avoid competitors, but become a fan of related local business pages by using Facebook as your page and liking the page. Once you become a fan, you will be able to interact with the local business page through commenting on its updates. Your comments will show up as authored by your page. This will get your business exposure to your target audience and will hopefully lead to new local fans of your page.
  • Target Status Updates by Location - Send status updates only to people in specific locations by changing the dropdown for your status update from Public to targeted by Location/Language. There, you can specify an audience within a particular country, state, and/or city.
  • Use Facebook Ads - Facebook Ads are a relatively inexpensive way to target Facebook members in your region. Select your Facebook page as the Destination for your ad, and then use the local targeting option to show the ad to people only in a specified country, state, province, city, or zip code.

Local Marketing on Twitter

While Twitter may not have as large of an audience, it does have 100 million active users. It is also much easier to gain followers since you can interact with people without them even following you. Here are some ways to make sure your business gets found by Twitter users in your area.

Optimizing Your Twitter Profile for Local

With Twitter profiles, you don’t have to worry about properly categorizing them from the start to make them local-friendly. All you have to do is a few minor edits to your Twitter profile. Be sure to include a specific location in your Twitter information as well as a local keyword phrase in your Twitter bio.

This will help anyone searching specifically for local businesses on Twitter to find yours easily.

Connecting with a Local Audience on Twitter

As previously mentioned, remember that on Twitter you can interact with anyone, regardless of whether that person is following you by simply mentioning his or her @username in a status update. Here’s how you can grow a local audience on Twitter:

  • Connect with Local Twitter Users - There are several ways to find local people on Twitter, thanks to Twitter lists and directories. You can start with TwitterCounterTwitter Grader, and Wefollow to find the top users in your area. Or you can use Twitter directories like Twellow and Follower Wonk to search for users in specific locations by keyword.
  • Check out Followers for Local Businesses - Look for local businesses on Twitter in your industry (including competitors) and take a peek at their followers. Chances are, they might be interested in your business as well.
  • Follow Local Discussions - Use Twitter Advanced Search to monitor conversations based on specified keywords from users near a particular place, which can be specified by name or zip code.
  • Try Twitter Maps App on Bing - Bing offers several apps to enhance the functionality of their maps, including a Twitter app. To access this app, go to explore map apps and select Twitter Maps. Zoom into your location on the map and see tweets that were sent in your region.

Once you find some people that fit your targeted, local demographic, be sure to follow them on Twitter. Don’t just click the “follow” button though. Be sure to actually follow their updates and interact with them. The second part is key if you expect to get any local followers to your Twitter profile in return.

Local Marketing on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the top social network for professionals; therefore, it’s the perfect network for business professionals. Below are suggestions on how you can grow a local audience on LinkedIn.

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile for Local

To ensure that your profile comes up for anyone searching for professionals in your area, make sure you have entered your correct location in your profile’s basic information settings. Then, for keyword optimization, include your location in your profile’s headline. Also be sure to list locations in your current and past job experiences.

Connecting with a Local Audience on LinkedIn

LinkedIn only wants you to connect with people in real life as opposed to networks like Twitter, where you are encouraged to follow anyone you are simply interested in. To get more local connections on LinkedIn, be sure to do the following:

  • Invite Email Connections - The best way to start building your LinkedIn connections is by importing your email connections into LinkedIn. LinkedIn will then allow you to invite anyone who is on LinkedIn to your network.
  • Connect with Colleagues & Alumni - After you have connected with everyone in your address book, you can then connect with current and past colleagues as well as alumni from the college you attended.
  • Open Networkers Groups - LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs) are people who want to connect openly with as many people as possible on LinkedIn. Search for open networkers in LinkedIn groups, join a few LION groups, and then start perusing the members’ list. You will be able to use the group through “how you know the person” on the LinkedIn connect form. Then just include a private message explaining why you want to connect with him or her, e.g., you are trying to make more local connections on LinkedIn.
  • Local Networking Groups - When searching groups, be sure to also search for local networking groups. After you have spent some time engaging with the local groups, you can start connecting with other members.
  • Email Your Local Contacts - Remember that LinkedIn contacts are not meant to be spammed. That said, you can go to your connections and filter them by location. Then you can select people in a specific location to email, one or more at a time. You should probably email everyone individually and in a personalized manner, if possible. If not, this could be a good way to get an important message to lots of local contacts simultaneously.

Local Marketing on Google+

Although Google+ doesn’t have nearly the number of users as Facebook or Twitter do, it does corner the market in influencing search results. There are lots of reasons you should use Google+ such as the fact that businesses that might not normally show up on the first page of results will, thanks to having the right Google+ connections.

Google has even incorporated Google+ people and pages above Google AdWords ads for some searches.

If you want to reap the search and social benefits of Google+, here is what you need to do:

Optimize Your Google+ Profile for Local

If you want your Google+ profile to appear in search recommendations for local searches, be sure to include your current location in your Google+ profile in your Places Lived section. Also, be sure to add locally optimized keyword phrases to your profile’s headline, introduction, and occupation.

This should help people find you both on Google’s main search and Google+’s internal search.

Optimize Your Google+ Page for Local

For Google+ pages, be sure to set up your page as a local business from the start. You can even use your Google Places information to populate your page’s data.

This is especially important now that Google mixes people and pages in its main search results and within Google+’s internal search.

Connect with a Local Audience on Google+

Google+ is similar to Twitter in that you can follow anyone you choose, assuming that those people share public updates. If they do share public updates and allow anyone to comment on them, you can comment on them without having to wait for them to follow you! Here’s how you can grow a local audience on Google+.

  • Make Sure Your Google+ Profile is Publicly Visible - Click on your profile’s Edit Profile button and make sure that each section of your Google+ profile is publicly visible. If your profile is not set to public, it will not show up in search results.
  • Add Local Google+ Users to Circles - Use the Google+ internal search to find local Google+ users that might be interested in your business and connect with them by adding them to circles using your personal profile. Be sure to create a separate circle for local users so you can target status updates directly to them.
  • Interact with Local Connections - Interact with your local connections regularly. Those that share their public updates and allow everyone to comment on them will be a great help for you to gain additional exposure with a local audience once you start commenting on their updates.
  • Suggest Your Google+ Business Page to Local Followers - Once you’ve built up a good local following, you can suggest your Google+ business page to them through a status update targeted to your local connections’ circle.
  • Follow Your Local Connections Back on Your Business Page - Show your local connections that you value them on Google+ by following them back as your page. One of the perks to Google+ pages over Facebook pages is that you interact with personal Google+ profiles as your business page once people are following your page. Be sure to use this to gain even more exposure for your business to a local audience.

Local Marketing on Foursquare

Last but not least on the social circuit is Foursquare, the ultimate social network for local businesses. If you have a location that you want to share with the public, you will definitely want to add or claim your business on Foursquare.

Optimizing Your Foursquare Profile for Local

Foursquare business pages are as locally optimized as they get, so nothing to worry about there. Just be sure to take advantage of adding extra details about your business, including your other social profile links and a link to your website.

Connecting with a Local Audience on Foursquare

The best thing you can do on Foursquare is encourage people to check in to your business. One of the top ways of doing this is by offering incentives such as discounts or coupons for people who check in often at your business. You can offer perks by creating specials for newbies, friends, swarms (when lots of people check in during the same time period), loyalty and mayors (the person who checks in the most at your location).

The reasons check-ins are so powerful is that, most of the time, users will not only check in on Foursquare but also share their check-in with their Twitter and/or Facebook audience. This is great word-of-mouth marketing as people are more likely to go places their friends have been to or recommended.

Promote check-ins at your business location by putting a Foursquare window cling on your business’s window to remind people to check in. Also, be sure to advertise your Foursquare presence and specials on your website so people will know they are getting a great deal when they check in on arrival.

More Local Social Media Optimization Tips

The following are general tips that suit almost any network that wants to make sure its social media presence is locally optimized and that is ready to build an even larger local audience.

  • Include Social Links in Your Emails - Anytime you send out emails, whether they are special emails to your general mailing list or just regular emails to your contacts, be sure that your email signature includes a link to your top social profiles.
  • Include Social Buttons on Your Website - Add social media buttons or badges to your website so that visitors are able to connect to your business easily. You can add them in the header, sidebar or footer of your website.
  • Add Social Mentions to Printed Materials and Advertisements - Do you have brochures, business cards or advertisements in local magazines or newspapers? Be sure to add a simple “Follow us on Twitter” or “Find us on Facebook” to these items (and direct links if possible).
  • Stay Active - Staying active on your social networks will help greatly in encouraging engagement with your current audience.
  • Encourage Sharing - If you create content on your website in the form of articles, newsletters or blog posts, be sure to encourage your audience to share them socially. This should help lead new traffic to your website and connections to your social profiles.

Looking at Local Analytics

To make sure that your local marketing strategies are getting local results, check out the following analytics.

Google Analytics

When reviewing traffic to your website, look at your Google Analytics’ Audience Demographics data.

Here, you will be able to see if local visitors stay on your site longer than other visitors by analyzing time on site, bounce rate and pages per visit. If you have set up goals on your website, such as a person making a purchase or signing up for your mailing list, you can see if people in particular regions are completing these goals more often than others. Through analyzing the data, you might find additional regions that you will want to target your local marketing efforts towards.

Facebook Insights

Want to see if you are getting likes from the right audience? Check out your Facebook page’s Insights to see demographics information for your page’s likes, reach, and people talking about your page content.

If you notice that you are getting more likes outside of your targeted location, you will need to figure out better ways to encourage audience growth in your desired region such as creating more location-specific content or specials on your Facebook page.

Conclusion

If you follow the steps I mentioned above, you should start seeing an increase in foot traffic to your business. The thing to keep in mind when doing local search and social optimization is that it takes time to see the results. Don’t expect miracles in the first 30 or even 60 days. It will take months, if not a year, before it really kicks in.

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Comments

  1. I have to agree, the analytic’s are a very important part as it points out the weak areas and areas you need to improve on.

  2. Another 4+ hours spent writing another masterpiece post! Well done, Neil. Even though I don’t really do local search, there are lots of nuggets here that I will learn loads from. Thanks!

  3. Submitting KML map will help a lot in Local search ranking and it is the most effective and fast way to rank in the local search results and i recommend to submit KML site map in order to rank your local business in the search engines.
    Nice article and there are plenty of think i learned from this article.

  4. I dont actually have business premises, if Im just a blogger is there a benefit to linking with other local bloggers?

  5. I think the most important component of local marketing is local citations. Getting reviews, listed in as many different directories as possible will increase you visibility with your Google Places page.

    Google is still tweaking the algorithm for local to make searches more targeted, but these are definitely the signals that they are looking for.

  6. Neil another great post.

    Also reverse engineer your local competitors by putting in their address in Quotation marks and then seeing which citations pop up, then submit your site or clients site to those local citation sites.

  7. I never knew about the KML sitemaps. What else can help with ranking higher in Google Places?

  8. Google places is excellent for free SEO on google and getting your business mapped!

  9. Thanks for sharing such useful information and content to get your business mapped on Google and for free!

  10. Neil

    We are just learning how to optimise our sites so your post about local searches came just at the right time. It was BRILLIANT and VERY helpful.

    Our problem is that we are a lawn care company and there are 3 of us in the business and we are self employed.

    Due to our location we border 3 specific counties (NOT countRies :o) ) in the UK so we struggle trying to be area specific and our SEO is VERY weak.

    We will try to follow your instructions as it is definitely going to help us.

    Thanks again for the great information. It must have taken you hours to write it but we want you to know that it wasn’t time wasted and was extremely valuable to us.

  11. Thanks for the great post Neil! Saving this one locally for future reference on local optimization.

  12. Local Search optimization is very important now a days for any local business. It is also important to have a website for any local business. If you can get your listing on Google Local Business Listings and other search engine local listings, one can get plenty of leads!!

  13. Another tip for Yelp. If you have 4+ star reviews, you can add a Yelp Bar just like the Hello bar at the top, to create instant trust. You just need the Yelp API code and the plugin from the WP directory and you’re good to go.

  14. This a well written post. Thanks Neil. You give so much value and detail information. I love it.

  15. A great tip is to actively encourage visitors to your business to fill in reviews of your service.

    Set up a simple web page with two options, one for those that liked the service and one for those that didn’t.

    Redirect those that liked your service to Google/Yelp to leave a review.

    Redirect those that didn’t to a contact us page so you can get feedback directly but without ruining your reviews on other websites.

  16. Wow..That is very detailed tutorial Neil ..Thanks

  17. Terrific post, Neil – so many of the obvious “close-to-home” solutions are overlooked as we build our grand global strategy.

    As always, success comes from mining the details.

    Pay close attention to those who rank above you and learn from them. One day they will learn from you…

  18. This is going to take a while to work through and implement these tips. Little by little.

  19. Wow, pretty comprehensive post, Neil. Nicely done and thanks for sharing.

  20. Awesome strategies to improve business step by step. Thanks for your useful article.

  21. Very helpful article! Thank you so much, Neil!

    One question about the order of getting into local directories: I’ve heard it’s best to be listed in as many local directories as possible BEFORE claiming your Google Places listing. The notion is that when you are claiming your Google Places listing, Google goes out to see where else you are listed; if you want a better ranking, make sure Google finds your business in several directories during that process. If you sign up in local directories AFTER you do your Google Places, it’s too late to get “credit” from Google for those directory listings.

    Is that B.S., or a good practice?

    Thanks!

  22. Great post Neil, a lot of information in here; it will take me a while to really absorb and implement it.

  23. With such comprehensive article I sure learned more than “a thing or two”, :)

    Neil’s articles are always masterpieces. Perhaps he should be a professional writer. It’s not easy to write, especially to write so well consistently and to maintain (and even improve) the quality!

  24. Really complete post! I just have a question for you that has been confusing me ever since i started to use Google Adwords keyword tool. Do you use exact searches on your local keywords to have an idea of how many monthly searches it has, or you use general searches?

  25. Amazing information – I will need all day to digest this post. As a small business in the construction industry everything in this post is relevant – I just need to action and prioritise these steps.
    Wonderful to have all this in one post – thanks Neil – brilliant work.

  26. In keyword search tool high competition means what ? whether it is high competition for the advertisers for that particular keyword or for the keyword itself ?

  27. Great content and very timely. I am in the middle of setting up a mobile WP site for a small business so this was great timing. I did not know about the geositemap (now added to several blog sites) and found out that I should have also added a mobile sitemap for the site as well (now done). I would not have known if I had not gone to add the geositemap. I will be back again. count on it.

  28. Neil you’ve hit my main area of interest with this blog. I love it

  29. Most of the people do optimization of the web page / business for the worldwide but very few are optimizing business for the local search. So these tips will help lot especially for local optimization of the web page or business.

  30. You mention the ability to hide your address on Google Places, but it’s important to mention that Google recently changed its policy and it is now mandatory to hide a business address if the given business does not service customers at its address (for example, this could apply to a plumbing business that always goes out to customers).

    Some businesses have actually had their Google Places listing removed with no notice because Google determined that the address should have been hidden. Wanted to give the heads-up!

  31. What a great resource Neil, thank you for this. One question though, how important would you say it is to use “phrase” and “exact” match when doing your keyword research?

    • Super important! often :)

      Try looking at the numbers for ‘dry cleaners’ for example. Google gets very confused on how to associate things.

      [dry cleaners] = 33,100 searches globally
      dry cleaners = 1,000,000 searches globally

      So the difference is a factor of 30, the trouble is the broad matched dry cleaners includes phrases like ‘dry cleaners prices’, ‘online dry cleaners’ which aren’t too bad, but then it includes ‘office cleaning’ and ‘carpet cleaning’ which are terrible (if you’re a dry cleaner)

      Always try a broad match and the scroll down the list to see what Google thinks is associated, as your view of whether a phrase is worth optimising for may rapidly change.

    • I use a mixture of both. The keyword tool is a great resource, but I like having as many resources available as possible.

  32. Neil’s content are always works of art. Perhaps he should be an established author. It’s not simple to create, especially to create so well continually and to sustain (and even improve) the quality!

  33. Great post as always Neil! For those of you who don’t know, getlisted.org is a free service that help you get listed on various local sites/directories (not aff., I just think it’s a great service).

  34. It is really a shame that it takes as long as it does before you see any real results from local search. I have found from prior experience that social marketing usually works out pretty fast.

  35. Neil, I really appreciate your posts. They are consistently well-written and to the point. I hope you are getting paid well for your good work.

  36. Thanks for sharing Awesome Post…Could you please describe e some Social Media Optimization Factors… How to get start with Social Media Optimization..

    Thanks

  37. To get links back to the site , does anyone have a blog or knows any financial websites where I can post, it’s written by editors in UK.

  38. One other thing: Don’t underestimate the power of keyword research for local searches. You can be on the first page of Google quickly when you use this idea along with Google maps and places.

  39. I find this guide on business optimization for local search and social marketing very helpful to me now. I’ve just got a project to promote a business in Australia using the power of the Internet. Thanks for sharing this, Neil. This guide will be my workbook on completing my tasks.

  40. This was a really great guide to business optimization! Thanks for this great share Neil Its going to help me a lot in my future projects as well as current ones.

  41. You’ve certainly define a careful analysis on one’s business battle online. Those listed tips for optimization are really essential and needed to apply not to mentioned the keyword research with its external free tool (Google AdWords) and including a map for showcasing the geographical location of a certain place.

  42. Great Post!! Love how you used a plumbing location as a example!! Especially since Im a plumber looking to score higher in seo! I must say though, how would you go about getting ahead of the competition? I assume we are all doing the same seo tactics!

  43. I love doing local SEO, it’s probably my most favourite because you can really participate in the local community (instead of country wide). One thing you should always check though while doing keyword research, is placing the city name before the keyword, as well as placing it behind the keyword. The differences in local search results could surprise you!

  44. Neil another great post. Ican stop reading your posts..You are bookmarked for tomorrow..

  45. Fantastic post. I really enjoy this blog and think I’ll save it to my favorites. Great work Neil keep it up.

  46. Great post with some valuable tips for SMBs. We just gave a webinar on the topic in Orlando at the digitalNow Conference and the room was filled with people taking notes and asking questions.

    I am going to print it out and use it as a reminder of our must do check lists!

    Thanks Again!

  47. Hi Neil,

    I was wondering if you have a blog post or ideas on how to apply these ideas for B2B marketing and national focus for the UK rather than just locally?

    Regards

    Vasileios

  48. Google doesn’t support GEO Sitemaps anymore. They say they still support kml files but there’s no way to load them in Webmaster Tools.

  49. keith barnwell :

    wow, i read through this post and i just wanted to say this was very helpful. especially because i’m an seo intern @ a furniture company and our goals are to dominate within a 5 mile radius. In this post i fould a lot of value, how long do it take you to write this post neil? i proabbly would of had to take a break and come back to finish it lol

  50. I’ll be using your local search strategy as part of the overall mix. One tip to everyone out there. Just keeping chipping away and you’ll get there in the end. Neil’s local strategy is just one of a number of techniques to improve traffic levels overall. I think local search will be become more and more important in the future.

    Cheers
    John

  51. Great stuff, I think keyword density is important as well.

    • Thanks for the input glad you liked it.

      • Your welcome, but to be honest, I doubt the target searches given by Google is correct, one one of the search terms My website was first, while on google web master tools, I saw different result, anyway no alternatives as global search is monopolised by Google.

  52. What a great post once again. Your blog post is a boon for anyone who wants to learn SEO

  53. Didn’t realise you could hide your address on Google Places thanks for the info

  54. I found this article from a kissmetrics article where you said,

    “How can you leverage local search? One way I did this was to claim that Hyatt Hotel in Seattle where I live, as the location of my business. This has led my business to appear when you search under that keyword: “Hyatt Hotel in Seattle.” I landed one enterprise customer worth $120,000 for my company.”

    It doesn’t seem like you explained in great length how you did this (I assume you listed your address as the Hyatt’s own). But this woulda been cool to have a walk-thru on how you made $120K just from doing this..

  55. Hi Neil – this is one of the best posts that I have read on localism – key to any local business success. I have seen good results with G+ on less competitive real estate words and will try to put your recommendations to work. Thanks!

  56. Awesome post on optimizing business locally. I will follow your points for my local business. Thanks!!!!

  57. Simply amazing article with a lot of good information. It is also important to make sure the information of your business is consistent throughout the web, including business name, phone and address. http://www.infocities.com/articles/tips-for-creating-a-google-plus-listing-for-your-local-business

    For example if you add your business to Google plus, make sure that the info is the same when you add your business listing to other online directories.

  58. This is could be a guideline for every local businesses. It takes time and effort to implement all the details. It’s better that the business owner takes control and make it a 3 month plan – a list of ” what to do next after website finished” .
    Thanks for sharing.

  59. Hi Neil,
    Really nice article this post is really helpful for our business step by step. I will follow your points for my local business.
    Thanks for great posting.

  60. Is there a way to expand local rankings to other cities/suburbs? I am working with a company with 1st page ranking for St Paul (they are a suburb of St Paul) but they are actually closer to Minneapolis where they rank on the second page. Minneapolis is a bigger market and would like to be ranked there as well. Great post thanks for the help.

  61. Hi Neil
    I am grateful for the information because it applies directly to my local real-estate site. Even though I had already implemented some of the measures there is some really good powerful ones I overlooked. Thanks, and I would implementing them for sure.

    Great post.

  62. hey neil,

    great information you have shared with us. this is an incredible post. local marketing concept is awesome.

    Thanks.

    Matt

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  64. Amazing post, Almost you covered all the optimize tips for local.

  65. Both local search engine marketing techniques and social media optimization, or “SMO”, are becoming very important tools for marketers.

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  66. THE definitive step-by-step guide to Local Optimization!
    I visit often – thanks Neil :-)
    Andy Kuiper – Calgary

  67. Neil, 1 of the better writeups I’ve seen even 10 months later!

    Question – do you submit to the data aggregators first and wait a while for the sites to populate or just start submitting to all on day 1?

  68. Neil,
    Very helpful tips & guide, thank you very much.

  69. Thank you for this local marketing guide, especially for overviewing GEO sitemap creation. Keep writing, you’re great at it.

  70. Hi,
    what if 2 different businesses in 2 different towns want to share one website; so they would both use the same URL on their Google plus local pages (to point to their shared business website). Do you think Google would find that acceptable?
    Thanks,
    Hans.

  71. Great advice Neil! Thanks

  72. Hi Neil,Am totally agree with you,your blog is the best one I read about local optimization.But can you elaborate about yahoo,Bing local optimization?I think local optimization of yahoo and bing is little more difficult from that of Google.

  73. Geez, this is the longest blog post I ever had to read, and among the most informative! I bet it required a lot of work, but how helpful it turned out being! Thanks Neil, and keep it up!

  74. It was really helpful info Neil, I am really having a good evaluation in your posts. And I am still reading along your posts to gain helpful tips from you. :)

  75. Neil, this is the best and most helpful post. Thanx a million

  76. Awesome share Neil, greatly appreciated!

    Danny

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  79. Quite interesting post. The way you have explained linkbuilding for local keywords is very impressive. I had also written a blog for local SEO here: http://www.resultfirst.com/blog/index.php/local-seo-enhancing-your-search-engine-rankings/

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  82. This is a pretty impressive post on local SEO and really thorough and lot of work to do. Lot of businesses are not really aware how powerful local seo can be and really bring a lot of business to small local businesses, especially with mobile devices local searches will dominate the searches. I think this is something small businesses cannot ignore….great info and guide.

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  85. Absolutely AWESOME post, Neil! I was searching all over for a simple, yet comprehensive guide, and this is the bomb! You should totally do a repost with updates for Google+ Local Business Pages. Perhaps adding a link list at the top of the post with anchor links to the key section headings would be handy for usability/navigation and for bloggers looking to link to specific sections?

    BTW, I found this post by searching for “percent of businesses that optimize for local search”. It didn’t surface for my earlier searches for “local search guide” or “local search guide for businesses.” Just FYI. =)

  86. This is an excellent post with all one needs to dominate local search. why run adwords when you can optimize well?

  87. Neil this is one of the best free SEO articles I have ever come across. Thank you for sharing and especially being so detailed in each step.

    I assume that when you say local it can be applicable for country specific search as well. For an example, if an Australian business should rank high in google.com.au than in google.com if optimized for local search.

  88. Nice article, will definitely use some of these tips when optimizing my blog for local search performance.

    Thanks once again.

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  90. Great post, this gets book marked for sure!

  91. Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say…
    I procrastinate a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

  92. Great article! After years of spinning our wheels we are finally gaining traction with local SEO. We are now #2 in local results for our primary search phrase. Still can’t quiet understand how to rank well for multiple search phrases in local results. Do we need to add more pages with targeted info for additional results?

  93. Great article! Thank you. It was written before the Panda and Penguin updates and Penguin 2.0 is imminent. Does anything above change materially since those updates?

  94. This is great article.

    It is so important that local business and local customers improve their Local SEO for a better conversion.

  95. Thanks for finally talking about >How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing <Loved it!

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    Hope everything is well.

    What’s the biggest problem you’d pay to solve for your business or personal life right now? :)

    Thanks for your time

  98. Hello Neil,

    Thanks for the wonderful and carefully presented post. I needed this to refresh my knowledge on local listings.

    I never knew about the geo sitemap and KML file. Very helpful.

    Best Regards,

    Samuel

  99. I followed a lot of instructions out there but how do you tell Google to show your review count in Serps? I thought it happened automatically being that Local is now attached with G+….

  100. Thank you for the helpful info. I am a local dentist and needed tips to get my business improved for the local listings. A lot of great tips and links. Thanks

  101. Silly question but I want to ask

    Placing city name with every keyword in description tag is helpful or not??

    Or placing city name just once is enough??

  102. Hi Neil,
    First of all I would to appreciate your hard work. Secondly, I have a question.
    “As we know for a blogger traffic from US, UK, etc. is quite worthy.So, what if a blogger from any other country (counted as low quality for international advertisers) linked his blog to their local office (via map). Will it result in decrease in traffic from other countries. (us, uk, etc.) Because may be search engine will give more importance to its physical locations and will stop showing its news and other articles for foreign countries.”

    I hope my comment will make any sense :D
    BTW once again thank you!

  103. What you typed made a great deal of sense. However, consider this, suppose
    you were to create a killer post title? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog, however suppose you added a title that grabbed a person’s attention?
    I mean How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search
    and Social Marketing is kinda boring. You could glance at Yahoo’s front page and see how they create article titles to get people to open the links. You might add a related video or a pic or two to grab people interested about what you’ve written.
    Just my opinion, it could make your posts a little bit more interesting.

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  105. Hi Neil,

    I’m not sure if I’ve missed a trick here….

    I’m thinking of a way to optimize my local search for my site. However I don’t want to increase the amount of pages on my site by too much. i.e have a page for each region. I know there must be a way to do this.

    riddle me this …………

    great content by the way. great read

    ta

  106. Hi Neil,

    i often use geo meta tags (3,4 tags geo meta), i never used KML file. Would you like to tell me about what is different? and What’s the best?

  107. Wow really wonderful article to get targeted local business traffic Neil you such a great work Thanks

  108. Thank for answer’s Neil. With meta geo position, i lost two week or three week to Google update my Local. Did you think use kml file is faster?

  109. How to improve Listing in Google business places.?
    Hi Neil Patel
    I have a listing in Google business places.
    But it’s in D (Fourth Place).
    How to improve it to A (First Place).
    Top position?

    • Shivkesh, I would suggest first and foremost that you optimize your site. The next step would be to have your customers review your store/product/service. That kind of positive press can do a lot to push you up in the rankings :)

  110. Hi Neil Patel.
    I NEED A CLARITY that i should optimize my site
    or my Google+ page(which i need in top position).
    It’s D(places) in Google places i need in first(A position).

  111. Hi Neil Patel.
    What is the differences between Google places and Google Maps?
    If,suppose i have entered in Google SEO services in Mumbai.
    What is the Red symbol indicates either Google maps or Google places?

    • Shivkesh, they are essentially the same thing. Google maps is a navigational tool that integrates data from Google places into it. Essentially you want to optimize for places so you have a favorable ranking on Google Maps.

  112. Your writing is very open my mind. At first I was using local targeting keywords, and add a few words derived its main keywords. But I have problems with the proper use of backlinks. Local resource for relevant backlinks in the region is still a bit to me. What should I do to improve ranking in search engines.
    Note my current domain could appear on the first page using google.com, but if using a local search engine position is mostly would decrease. What do I need to do now?

    • Glad I could help. I think a good first step would be to check out what your competitors are doing. You can begin by targeting some of the keywords they are going after. In regards to local search you should to get some of your links up on a local maps listing.

  113. I have read this article like a school text book. It is so good and covers everything one needs to rank in local listings. Also your style and way of putting things across is so simple and to the point that even a layman can get it. Thanks for the info. I will be using it for many of my clients now.

  114. Great article. I am a photographer with a local business in Manchester and was very frustrated when i could not rank my site on top of local results. I am sure this will help me a lot. thanks.

  115. My practice is in Newport Beach CA. Neil it puzzles me how many websites that have just come up in the last few months with no back links or authority are ranking on top of the results in local listings as well as organic. Is Google picking up results randomly now ?

  116. Thank you for such a reliable information…Almost everything requird is available on a single page.. Gud luck and keep it up :)

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  124. Thanks for sharing Neil

    It’s good to see citations seem to be working for local search and not just links.

    Can you ad to too many of these? I have a good list of about 50 UK directories but I guess I should add gradually or just bam! ?

  125. In a word, it is one of the great blog ever I read. It is highly informative and effective for the readers. Keep posting…

  126. This is one of the best Local SEO articles I’ve ever read thus far, bravo!

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    2. Create a “How To” document about writing a review for Google Places page.

    Thanks for the great read!

    Kylie

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  135. Aditya Gupta :

    I really like this awesome post and learn a lot from this. but i have a confusion regarding the Geo sitemap, KML sitemap. Now google says “Google no longer supports the Geo extension to the Sitemap protocol. We recommmend that you tell Google about geographically-based URLs by including them in a regular Web Sitemap.”
    My question is this, can I still use KML sitemap to target my local business??
    Kindly reply me asap……

  136. Interesting post, thanks! My question is, what about multiple services as well?

    A design agency with a page for each of it services wants to branch out to it’s satellite cites.

    RANKING e.g.
    Homepage “design agency manchester”
    Web Services Page “web design manchester”
    PR Services Page “pr manchester”
    Print Services Pages “print design manchester”

    So do I create a single page for each new city or little content silos (services sections) for each city.

    If only a single page, which term do I rank for, “design agency liverpool”? Can I only rank for 1 term in other cities?

    Thanks!

    • I would create a single page for each city as it is easier to manage. And on that page you would have to create custom content related to that city and your offerings.

      • Thanks for the reply and advice!

        Wouldn’t that one page only be able rank for one keyword (web design manchester), rather than for every service (Web design manchester, PR manchester, etc)

        Thanks!

  137. Hi Neil,

    What is your recommendation about having a second domain that may be better positioned on searches. Suppose I own TireZilla.com which is my business website for selling tires in Austin but since TiresAustin.com is available (and Insights show some searches for those 2 words), would you recommend to add that domain (redirecting? with different content/design?) Or even though it may have often searched keywords, try a different strategy?

    Thanks for your time!

    • I am not a fan of this strategy. It takes a lot of energy to optimize one domain name, which is why I don’t recommend having to deal with 2. If you focus all of your marketing efforts on one domain, it will be much more authoritative.

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  140. Hi, Neil. Very informative post. It helped me in solving my several doubts. But i am little confused with creating social media profiles. I like to optimize my website for multi-locations and i will create separate pages for each location. But how can i create social media profiles for multiple locations. I have already created one for the homepage. By the way, i have seen that some citation websites do not allow inner pages. So what are the other scopes for local citations. Eventually, if it is necessary to create individual social media profiles for each location then should i need to use different email for each location profile? Thanks, Neil and waiting for your reply.

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  177. Hi Neil, Great Post btw..I appreciate this post goes into great detail, with excellent ideas for local search and marketing but…. Would you say there’s a benefit in using google places for a website that has no physical location.. Like a referral, lead gen or affiliate website for example?

    you could potentially use your home address, or perhaps just a postal code or would you avoid doing that altogether.

    My thoughts are that it would give the website a better online presence but not be of any notable use for people searching, so kind of a Juxta position, as the name of the game is providing value – I think looking at the inevitable it may not be the best idea as we don’t want the local search results full of not so relevant results… Your thoughts on this would greatly appreciated?

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  181. Neil,

    Hey I have been trying very hard to generate local ranking for my clients based here in Dubai.
    I have done the complete onsite optimization, and I am doing an extensive offsite submission every month, but its been 5 months m not able to pickup my clients website on local search engine i.e. Google.ae

    Can you guide me something that can put some value to my efforts.

    You suggestion would be highly appreciated.
    Please help!!

    Thanks
    Abhi,

    • Abh, what can I specifically help you out with ?

      • Hi Neil,

        Thank you very much for the reply.

        I’m working on a tourism client and trying to achieve top ranking for keyword “desert safari Dubai” but it seems very very very difficult.

        I have done the very much onsite and offsite optimization (monthly), followed by considerable content marketing like blogs, PR writing & submission.
        I have managed to get ranking when it comes to Google.com, but the same is not working out for google.ae

        Its not that I’m not using social media platforms, despite of all the above the keyword doesn’t seem to have ranked in top 100 on google.ae in these 5 months (that’s depressing)
        Below is the list of activities that I’m doing as of now.

        1. PR Writing & submission
        2. Onsite Blog & blog on Tumblr
        3. SBM
        4. Video creation & submission
        5. Local listing
        6. Google+ profile, business listing share
        7. Rich snippets

        If there is anything that can be done to achieve top rankings like buying good backlinks from trusted software. (but from where)

        It has become a challenge for me and I have to crack it somehow.

        Your knowledgeable guidance (some smart ideas) would be highly appreciated.

        Awaiting your response.

        Thanks

        Abh.

        • Hey Neil,

          Hope all’s well with you,

          Hope you did received my query.

          I’m awaiting your suggestion to understand if I’m missing something in my monthly offsite submission.

          Let me know.

          Thanks

          Abh

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