local searchBy now, we’re all at least somewhat familiar with the term SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

But ask anyone what SEO means to them and you’re bound to hear different answers.

For some, SEO is a series of strategies designed to get your web pages to appear on the first page of Google or the other search engines.

It is organic (free) search that starts with the creation of content on your website or blog.  It is content developed around specific keyword phrases which eventually gets you ranked when people search with those keyword phrases.

For others, SEO means paid search most often using the Google Adwords platform.  Paid search gets you high rankings if you are willing to pay for it.  Within in the industry, paid search is also known as SEM or Search Engine Marketing.

But there’s a third leg to the SEO stool that is often overlooked.

It’s called Local Search.

Just as the term suggests, Local Search is getting your business to show up on a Google Search page when someone is searching for a local business.

You see it all the time.  You search for “plumber in Milford, MA” and Google immediately provides a list of plumbers in the area.  Sometimes, the listings also appear on a map.

Local Search is about getting to the top of that list.

If you run a local business – a restaurant, a retail store, a dental office, a law office, a contracting firm, etc. – Local Search should be far more important to you than the other forms of SEO.

Here’s why:

  • Google gives Local Search priority status.  When a local search is entered into the search engine, the local listings come in at the top of the organic listings.  In some cases, those listings also appear on a map.
  • Local Search listings are free.
  • Local Search listings are actually achievable.

Why Local Search is more achievable.

Even the experts in SEO will tell you that traditional SEO (the better known form of SEO) is very difficult. First, you need to create volumes of content around the keyword phrases that are relevant to your business.  Second, the content you create has to be better, more in-depth and more relevant than millions of other websites and blogs.  That’s a pretty high hill to climb.

With Local Search, however, it’s more about consistency than content. The search engines need to see consistency in the way your business is being presented across the web.

But the main reason why Local Search is more achievable is that you’re only competing with other local businesses in the same or similar industry.  That could mean just a handful of businesses depending on the industry and where you’re located.

That makes it very possible that your business could get shown on the first page.

So how do you get ranked in Local Search?

You may be wondering how Google decides which business get’s listed first, second, third, etc.  Is it random or is it based on some other factors like the size of the company?

It’s based on a few factors –

  1. relevance to the search inquiry – your local pages needs to include the keyword phrases that are important to you and are most often searched by customers.
  2. distance from the location mentioned in the search or the searcher’s location – the closer your business is to the location of the search, the more likely you will rank.  Some searchers include the location in their search.  For those who don’t, Google bases the search on the searcher’s location.
  3. confidence in the listing’s accuracy – the only way Google and the other search engines can gain confidence in your listing is if it appears the same way across the web.  Steps need to be taken to make sure your listing has consistency.
  4. social proof through customer reviews – customer reviews may be a headache for some businesses (especially restaurants) but they are important to the search engines.  The more good reviews you have, the higher you may rank.

It starts with your NAP

As I mentioned above, Local Search is largely about consistency.  Google and the other search engines need to have confidence that your business is real – and their confidence increases when your business listings are consistent across the web.

The first step in this process is to develop your NAP – meaning your Name, Address and Phone number.

  • Does your business name appear exactly the same everywhere, or do you change it from time to time?
  • If you have moved recently (or not so recently), has the new address been updated everywhere?
  • Are you using more than one phone number including cell phones and toll-free numbers?

If you don’t have consistency, you create confusion for the search engines (remember you’re dealing with computers) and as a result, your Local Search listings will be compromised.

Spreading the word

With a consistent NAP, you then need to be sure this NAP appears across the web – in the thousands of online directories, search engines and social media outlets on the Internet.

This process takes time but is important.  We use a combination of manual submissions with bulk submission tools to expand your web coverage.  We also continually monitor your listings to be sure the information is accurate.

And don’t forget those customer reviews

Finally, Google and the other search engines give preference to businesses that have customer reviews.

Some business categories, like restaurants, thrive on customer reviews.  Potential customers rely on them and the search engines rely on them.

Other business categories have little interest in reviews – and generally have no reviews – but even those categories could benefit from even one positive review.

You may not like or trust those customer reviews, but they are here to stay.  And while you can’t control what people say about your business, you can manage the review process and take steps to encourage more positive reviews.

FREE Local Search Analysis

If Local Search makes sense for your business, let us do a quick analysis of your listings. There’s no cost and we can send you the results the same day.  Click here to learn more.


About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."