When consumers want to find out where they can buy a product or service near their home or workplace, they increasingly go online to do the searching. Whether you sell a simple product or a complex, high value service, that’s just how it’s done these days.

So, if you are dependent on your local market for business, you must be very, very focused on winning online searches for local products and services – including searches using mobile browsers, location-based search engines and online maps.

Below are five helpful tips to increase your chances of ranking high in local searches.

1. Incorporate Local References into Your Web Pages

There are many ways to make your website pages appear localized. Making sure that the search engines have enough content and data to tell that your business is local can be a very effective strategy to increase your search rankings.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Show your physical address to every page
  • Include city names in navigation (i.e. San Francisco’s Largest Soccer Store)
  • Add the names of nearby towns, suburbs and neighborhoods to your site content in natural ways
  • Do keyword research to identify the best local terms and phrases to add to your web pages (the free Google Keyword Tool is a good resource)

2. Secure and Build out Your Local Search Profiles

The local search directories at Google, Yahoo and Bing want you to claim your local profile and populate it with rich and helpful information. This improves their directory products and makes it easier for people to search their directories for local businesses.

Here are popular local directories:

In each case, you will first need to claim your profile on the directory. You will then be given the opportunity to enhance your profile with your selected business category, business hours, area served and brands carried. Make sure that this information is accurate and updated for any changes.

3. Allow Consumers to Rate and Review Your Store and Products

More and more local business directories have added the ability for users to post ratings and reviews. These ratings are used by many consumers as an unbiased tool to determine who has the best products or service in their search area. It is critical to periodically monitor the major review sites to get feedback on your business, and make sure that there is nothing posted inaccurately or unfairly that may be hurting your business.

We recommend that you claim and enhance your profiles in each of these directories and start engaging your customers in ways that actively stimulate (hopefully positive) reviews. And in the event that you do get a bad review, the best way to offset a negative review is a dozen positive reviews – so both the quality and quantity of reviews is important.

Here are the primary review sites to check out, although many business verticals feature more industry specific rating and review sites:

4. Make Sure Your Listings and Links/Citations are Up to Date

Citations are mentions of your business and address that appear on other websites. These are a key component of search engine ranking algorithms because they tie your business name to its location. There are companies will make sure your business gets listed in a variety of directories across the Internet and ensure that your information is up to date.

There are also Internet Yellow Page providers which have moved the traditional printed yellow pages online.

5. Create a Blog with Content That Appeals to a Local Audience

Blogs can really improve your search rankings as well as connect you with local consumers. Consider devoting a section of your blog to local news that your audience will appreciate or feature local events and festivals. The idea is to instantly connect with local visitors and demonstrate that you are offering content with a local flair.
Blogs are very effective when linked with special offerings for readers. Offer blog readers special discounts at your retail locations. Remember that your blog is part of an overall content marketing strategy that relies on educating and delighting your future customers.

Getting Started

When should you start? We recommend that you start looking at this immediately – as your competitors may already be incorporating these strategies. If you work through each section and apply a few action steps each day, you’ll gradually accomplish the entire list and put your business on its way to building a strong local search presence.