Local SEO / Search Engine Optimization is crucial for all businesses who use the brick & mortar element in business. The reason is that even if your site is being outranked by competitors, you still have a chance to get noted exposure when people who search in your area for services or people who use long-tail keyword phrases with geo-targeted keywords in their searches by getting a good listing on local directories, especially Google+ Local (formerly Google Maps). A Google Maps listing sits higher than traditional organic listings. Getting visibility in maps can mean everything.

The first question some might ask is, "Wait? Don’t all businesses have a brick & mortar component?” The answer is, "nope.” Some are just an online platform. Others are brands. The majority of their business is either online or through franchising & affiliates.

With that settled, let’s begin.

Elements of Local SEO

In our experience, Local Search Engine Optimization comes down to a few components:
  • A healthy dose of user reviews
  • Keyword-Rich Descriptions
  • Properly Geotargeted markets
  • Backlinks never hurt

Claim local SEO directories for Keyword Rich Content

The top SEO sites have indicated that the number 1 element in Local SEO is getting reviews in Local SEO directories. We follow in this belief. BUT, before we start promoting techniques on how to gather reviews, the first thing one should do is to claim the company’s listings in Local SEO directories. While you’re at it, you might as well start optimizing the listing’s content with keyword-rich descriptions that include geo-targeted keywords.

[NOTE: REMEMBER to Keep all the updated login info with the spreadsheet you’ve been using]

We believe the most important local SEO directory is Google+ Local (formerly Google Maps, formerly Google Places...). The first thing one should do is to take ownership of all their properties in Google+ Local. To look, put your address(es) into searches. Then, follow our instructions on how to put your site into Google+ Local.

Other local SEO directories of note

Once the Google+ Local listing(s) are claimed, there are a few other directories of note that will greatly impact your local listing.

Zagat

Zagat might not be a name that pops out at you, but what makes us go after this listing is simple: Google bought it and uses it when ranking Google Places / Google+ Local. So, owning the listing in a site that Google Uses to determine rankings is key.

Go to Zagat.com. If you do not already have a Zagat account, click the Register button. From there, it will tell you that it will use your Google+ ID so make sure you log in with your Google Account. type in your name and address into the search bar and see what pops up.

NOTE: Not all businesses will benefit from Zagat. Zagat is for restaurant-oriented businesses.

Yelp!

At last check, the Yelp! is the second most popular search directory that is utilized. Owning your listings here is essential. Once again, like Zagat, this is for restaurants only but many of our clients are from the industry.

The rest of the directories we recommend

Once you’ve applied for the directories above, you’re already a pro. Go ahead and get the rest of them that we recommend:

  • Bing Local
  • Yahoo! Local
  • Dex Knows
  • Yellow Book
  • Yellow Pages
  • White Pages
  • Mantra

Niche directories

Your online local communities have a different connotation than your brick & mortar communities. Your network will have niche sites, media sites and watchdog sites that will include you into their midsts. Identify them and gain into these listings. We would love to provide for you a list of what those sites are but since every market is different, our list would be...well, a World Wide Web. If you have questions or would like help, please use the contact form below to get ahold of us.

Local media directories

Many of the local print and online newspapers have local directories of which one can place their listing. Make sure you own those as well. It will be worth the effort.

Encourage user reviews from clients

Once the listings are acquired, now is the time to get your stakeholders - customers, clients, friends, allies - to start sharing the good word for you. Spending 95% of the time on Google+ Local, there’s a few good ways to do this:

Send a link to your Google+ Local page to your stakeholders

This sounds a bit cheesy, but it works. One of the hardest things to do is to ask. You’ll be happy that you did.

Include link to your Google+ Local page on your website

Your website has a contact page - or, at least it should. Including a link on your contact page will help encourage listing. Also, placing the link in the header or footer of the website will encourage even more.

Include the link in email signatures

We have actually encouraged clients to run two email signatures: one for basic transactions and a second one for people who they would like to have reviews from. Try this idea out.

Share it out on Social Media once in awhile

Hey, we’ve seen worst cases of self promotion.

Questions regarding Local SEO

There are a couple basic questions we get when people first start out. They’re great questions. Here are our answers as best as we can tell.

”Google punishes those who pay for links. Should we pay for directory listings?”

See, a great question.

While it’s true that Google punishes sites involved in linked schemes, directory placings have often been considered a gray area. Our advice is to never pay for any listing. [Also, never advertise on any site that doesn’t have a contact page, privacy policy page, a physical mailing address , are not indexed in Google and do not add "nofollow” to their advertising links.] Our rule of thumb for directories is the less likely a user is to use an online directory, the more likely Google will punish sites who pay to be listed in it.

”If we spend 95% of our local SEO time on Google+ Local, what do we spend the other 5% on?”

It depends. If you are a restaurant, start on Zagat and Yelp! If not, work on Bing & Yahoo! first.

Now, it’s time to play

Once you have this taken care of, it’s time to move on to being engaging. It’s time for Social Media.