One of the most important things for many small businesses to focus on in terms of getting new leads and more customers is local SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Personally, I neglected local search optimization in my own business web design for way too long. It frustrates me to think about how much potential business I probably lost as a result.
This is probably quite common among entrepreneurs. They tend to be positive, optimistic people, which is one of the qualities that helps them succeed in business in the first place. Their thinking, just like mine was, is that the internet is global, and therefore their market is global. So why should they limit themselves to local customers when they can have the whole world?
While it’s true that many businesses will have customers all over the country and potentially all over the world, I still believe that for most businesses, the place to start looking for new customers is in their local market. I’d rather have 100% of $100,000 than 0% of $100,000,000. As far as SEO is concerned, it’s easier to be effective in your local market than in a global market because you have less competition. If you’re a divorce lawyer in a small town, for instance, there may only be 1 or 2 divorce lawyers in your area. This makes it pretty easy to rank on the first page of Google. This isn’t just true for small towns, but for suburbs in large metropolitan areas as well. That’s why local SEO simply makes the most sense for most small businesses.
Here are some very simple and effective things you can do for local search optimization.
- Put your business address and phone number on every page of your site. Search engines use text for search, not images. So make sure this contact information is in text form, not in an image file like jpeg. Many times this is added to the footer of your website.
- Submit your site to Google’s Local Business Center.
- Submit your site to Yahoo Local Listings.
- Put a Google Mapon your site. Note that Google needs to verify your location. After you submit to Google’s Local Business Center, they will send you a postcard to verify your mailing address. Watch your mail for it and make sure you get the code off the postcard, and enter it at Google’s Local Business Center to verify your business location. This way Google Maps will find you.
- Submit your site to local directories. Many of these are free. Some of these include SuperPages.com, Yellowpages.com, InsiderPages.com, and Local.com.
- Use alt text to your advantage. For instance, if you have a picture of yourself or your business on your site, your alt text should say, “Mark Jones, Independence, MO divorce lawyer,” etc., to reveal your location to the search engines.
- Look for forums or blogs with content about your business or profession. Post comments, and a signature link back to your site. This creates back links which help your search engine rankings.
- Write a blog. One of the most powerful things you can do to help your rankings is to write articles in your site blog about your business or profession. Continually adding new relevant content to your site makes the search engines index your site more frequently than if you just put the site online and then just leave it as it is.
While none of these local seo techniques will guarantee first page rankings in Google, Yahoo, or other search engines, they certainly help. Local search optimization is a process. It takes time to see the effects, but if you really work at it, over the long-term, you should see significant results in in traffic to your website.