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Local Search Engine Optimization: Best Practices

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Local Search Optimization

The best practices for local search engine optimization become clear for anyone who has spent years managing local newspaper and television Web sites.

Local newspaper and TV sites are packed with references to communities and institutions common to the area.

But those packed references don’t necessarily lead to great rankings in search engines, even for media sites that typically have large online audiences.

It’s remarkable how a few tweaks can lead to 70 and 80 percent year over year increases in search engine traffic.

The real trick simply comes down to keywords and placements.

Local Search Keywords

T

he highest value keywords are the most commonly used in day-to-day life. The list shouldn’t hold any surprises:

  • Communities — cities and counties
  • Institutions — schools and government agencies
  • Businesses — the larger the better

The first one is by far the most important and makes the biggest impact on search results.

The community name should be part of every page on the site.

It also helps to include the state where relevant because many community names appear more than once around the country and in search results. Including the state will provide even more effective targeting.

Schools and government agencies of course are an important part of community life and therefore commonly part of local search engine activity.

A site will increase its relevance for local search by including school and government content if it makes sense to have it. A Realtor site is a good example of where it is useful.

Here is where combining the community name with the institution pays the most dividends.

For example, instead of having a page titled “County Government,” the local relevance of that page becomes much more targeted by saying “Hanover County Government” or “Hanover Virginia County Government.”

Likewise, combining a business name with the community also adds to relevance and results.

“Joe’s Auto Body” will be merged with numerous other “Joe’s Auto Body” businesses around the country UNLESS the search engines make an accurate guess based on I.P. addresses, cookies and other tactics that the searcher really means to find “Joe’s Auto Body” in Hanover County.

Otherwise, the page or site should be titled “Joe’s Auto Body” with Hanover County Virginia displayed somewhere close to the name of the business.

Local Search Placement

B

est practices in local search optimization require taking the list of geographically targeted keywords and placing them in the most prominent locations on the site.

These SEO friendly locations include:

But it doesn’t end with placing the keywords in the most appropriate locations on the site.

It also helps to include them in any external site references that link back to the parent site.

A good place to start is with major social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.

Place those keywords as closely as possible to links back to the parent site because search engines will find them close to the link and interpret them as adding context to the link.

Improving Results

S

earch rankings are intensely competitive and don’t always deliver the desired results even after putting in a lot of effort to develop local optimization.

The most important keyword may end up on the second page of search results while a much less important keyword gets to the first page.

The best results for a site come from the highest ranking keyword in search engines.

So focus on that top ranking keyword even if it isn’t the most important one. Do everything possible to get it to the top three positions.

Then make sure the landing page has links to pages with more important keywords, which in time will rise as a result.

Local search optimization is a long-term investment with long-term benefits. It pays to keep practicing and never get discouraged.

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