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The Google Local Search Primer

By Terry Van Horne |

The Google Local SEO 3 Step Primer

I believe there are 3 steps to SEO for Google Local search.

To get you started I would recommend that you read David Mihm's blog post, Local Search Ranking Factors, where leaders in Local Search give their opinions on what is needed to place well in Google Local Search.

The report is basically broken down into the 3 main components of local search. These components are your Google Places/Local+ listing, the webpage your listing points to and  third party reviews, citations and links. The checklist included in this post for each local search component is like a roadmap for optimizing your website and Local listing for local search!

The foundation of all SEO local or otherwise is keywords and phrases.

The first thing you must do is determine these, because they enable you to target audiences for the best traffic. I like to start by looking at competitors, because their targets are also often your targets as well. Pay attention to the keywords and phrases they use in titles and description on their website and other optimization targets. Most of all, on their Google Local Page study the categories they chose, the types of photos and videos they use and the offers they are providing. These are keys to your success as well.

Step 1: Google Local page optimization

At this point you have a list of categories and keywords and phrases to use in your local optimization project. Why not take it a little further and use Mike Blumenthal's Google Local Category Tool to expand your keyword list with synonyms and verify the best categories have been chosen for your Google Local Local page?

You can only choose 5 categories, so this is important! Now we have our foundation ready. It is time to build out and optimize your Google Local Local listing.

Blumenthal’s Category Tool provided us with up to 5 categories. Two important tasks are optimizing the business Name and description so the maximum value can be derived for the primary keyword phrases and terms.

Using keywords, phrases and synonyms in the name and description are keys to success. I strongly suggest you prepare your 200 character description before you begin the listing procedure.

You begin the registration process by either claiming an existing listing for your business  or creating a new Google Local Local listing. Besides optimizing the name and description using keywords, mentioning brands etc. in the attributes is also important.

Adding photos and video definitely also help to raise visibility.

Be sure to go over the Google Local Local ranking criteria before starting the claiming or registration of your Google Local Local page. I would suggest starting to gather the resources need to optimize the Attributes, photo and video areas of the listing.

Lastly Google reviews and to a lesser extent third party reviews are the keys to getting an upper hand in local search visibility.

Note that this year one of the major changes to the ranking factors is the increased prominence of Google's own reviews. It is important that you encourage and discover ways to get reviews on your Local Local pages, not on third party sites. These are still useful, but the boost from Google Local reviews is substantial –  well worth the resources to increasing visibility in this important area of the your Google Local page!

Step 2: Optimizing your Google Local website landing page!

The Google Local landing page on your site is important as a way to further optimize your Google listing by using the related terms and keywords phrases in the landing page Title, URL, headings and more! On your landing page consider the following elements as important:

  1. City, State in Local Landing Page Title
  2. Product / Service Keyword in Website URL
  3. Geographic Keyword in Website URL
  4. NAP* in hCard /
  5. City, State in Local Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
  6. Testimonials
  7. Every page on your site have the address, phone number and Zip

* Adding structured data using hcard or code provides semantic structured data that enables Search engine to gather additional information about a site, picture video and people places and things which these are important to how Google identifies them. I will provide more information about structured data.

Step 3: Build Local authority through links and citations

The third step is to get local links into your Google Local Page, reviews and offers and the landing page for Google Local on your website.

Testimonials and reviews that have mentions of your company by name and links almost always provide a lift to Google rankings. However, note that EMA (exact match anchor text) is less of a factor in Local ranking.

Also, beware of the new algorithms Google has launched that makes the lower quality directories and local niche sites which are often low quality a higher risk then they were in the past. Now the key is to being found in good high quality sites. What you want is not just a lot of links, but a lot of links from the right places. To find links and citation prospects Canada's own Darren Shaw's Local Citation Finder is in a class of its own!

Google Local Conclusions

Local search is exploding as tablets and mobile devices take share from desktop search. Use the tips and guide above to improve your local visibility. Below are some of my favorite blogs for information on Local SEO.

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