This topic comes up all the time on the SEO Chat forums. In fact, we offer an entire subforum on local search techniques, and you can find also find a variety of threads in other parts of the forum that deal with issues for essentially locally-based websites.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between promoting a website for a local business and doing the same thing for a national firm or brand involves link building. As noted in this recent thread, when you’re starting a new local-based business, figuring out where to get your links from can be a challenge. The good news is that link building may be less important at the local level than other promotional opportunities.
Your first step, according to long-time SEO Chat forum member jsteele823, should be a visit to Google Maps. If you look on the left hand side, you’ll see a line that says “Put your business on Google Maps,” with a link. Click the link, and you’ll be taken to a Google Places page which you will be able to use to add your business. This screen will include a text box in which you can enter your phone number to see if Google Maps already has some information about your business. Do it; you’d be surprised at what Google collects. You’ll be able to claim your business, fill out your listing, and correct any errors that may have accumulated.
By the way, Yahoo and Bing also boast their own versions of Google Places. You’ll want to create or claim your business listing on their sites as well.
From there, your best bet is to go with local opportunities for link building. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce; you might be able to get a good link from their website. Next, you might look into websites that do a certain kind of local geo-targeting, but on a national level. By this, I mean websites such as Yelp, which let customers review local businesses. You may also want to look at setting up a Facebook page and/or a Twitter feed; explaining how to do that and run it properly would take up another article or three, so I won’t get into that here.
Some of what you need to do will depend on the kind of business you run. Try looking for community outreach opportunities and asking politely for leads and links. Is your ice cream parlor providing refreshments for a children’s charity event? Ask for a link on the web page for the event. Did your computer firm install new computers at the local elementary school? Some schools run their own blogs; you might get a link from a post reporting on the event. Sometimes, if you want to promote your company online, you need to go offline first. Networking is networking, regardless of where you do it.
Sometimes you need to get a little creative, be patient, and stay focused on your real goal – which isn’t to rank in Google as much as it is to get customers. You should remember, therefore, that your website is a means to that end. Let me give you an example.
I live in a gated community where the residents are mostly 55+ years old. Joe, one of the residents, runs his own computer services business catering to that age group. He started a computer club here in the community. Whenever his club meets, he lists his email address as the contact for more information – and the address contains the name of his company’s website. Without even linking to his site, then, he’s telling his target market where they can find him online. Potential customers can research the services he offers, read testimonials from satisfied customers, and so on.
These club meetings, by the way, aren’t just a group of people meeting; Joe puts together a good presentation on topics likely to interest his target market. One previous presentation covered digital cameras; this week, he’s doing a presentation on Windows 8. Anyone curious enough to go to these presentations is probably a good candidate for Joe’s services. Yes, putting it all together is a fair bit of work, and he isn’t even getting a live link out of it, necessarily – but he IS reaching his target market and getting customers. He’s getting his website in front of the right demographic for his business – and he isn’t even using Google to do it. Now that’s going local!