The web may be global but it works best at a local level, particularly when it comes to helping local businesses attract more customers.
Everyone knows that the web may be global but it really works best at a local level. The pizzeria round the corner gets found online first before locals come to use it and though its website (or web presence) may be visible in Kathmandu it is unlikely that it will get many customers from Nepal.

We have had time to get feedback now on Facebook Pages, for instance, working better when they are focused on a local audience than when they address a global one, even if, the brand itself happens to be global and marketing globally makes more sense than in my local pizzeria example above.

If you are running a business which could benefit from local customers then you need to take the steps necessary to make it appear high on the search engine results pages of local searches. Those who have been reading my books on practical SEO and Online Marketing know that SEO and marketing are now converging activities. There are, for instance, marketing activities which you need to undertake which will help your SEO. By the same token, part of your marketing has to be the need to have your website appear high on the organic search engine results pages.

The guidelines below are intended to help you do just that, take the practical steps necessary to make your website a search engine darling and, most importantly, to get customers flocking to your door.

Ten Steps to Higher Local Search Visibility

1. List your Business on Google Places. Google Places is a free service and it allows you to leverage the power of Google search, locally, and benefit your business even if you do not yet have a website. To succeed in Google Places you need to make sure that your information is as accurate as possible in terms of locality. It’s not enough to list, for instance, ‘Bakery in Manchester’. To really benefit you need to have: ‘Bramhall Fresh Bread Bakery, serving Stockport’.

2. Get Active Offline. If you work locally you should be part of the local community you trade in. Try to get involved in fundraisers, local charities and local events designed to help the community. These are activities which are reported on local community websites and the local press. Mentions of your business and perhaps a link to your website create a win-win situation whereby you benefit in terms of online marketing and SEO and your community benefits from your presence.

3. Be Active Online. Your local community is probably as much a part of the web as you are. Find out how and where and then figure out how you can participate in their online activities. Your online presence will point to your website and Google Places listing (at the very least) and become an important metric for search engines looking to rank local business.

4. Make sure your WHOIS info is accurate. This is not something many businesses think to check. Google takes WHOIS information into account as one of its metrics for local business. If you are working in Britain and have a website the registration address of which is still your old pad in Australia then you are missing a vital step towards geo-specific optimisation of your website.

5. Be everywhere. Google is the largest, most powerful search engine on the web. That however does not mean you should focus exclusively on it, particularly when it comes to local search. Yahoo Local and BING Maps can become powerful resources in helping deliver traffic results to your business and website.

6. Localize your Web Presence. This is of particular use if you have a .com domain name or are actually running a business which does have a global audience even though it trades locally. Here you have few options. If you are serious about localization and do not want to fall between the two stools of catering to your international clients and your local business traffic then you need to think about launching multiple domains to cover this. Already we know that a local Facebook presence does better than a global Facebook presence. The same principle applies to your website. If your website is relevant to one country only, a .com domain may actually work against you. The options you face are A. Using Google’s Webmaster Tools to geo-locate your website. B. Launching a second, country-specific website C. Launching a country specific sub-domain within your website. Each of these choices has some SEO implications and will alkso affect the way you market your website online so taking any of these should be the end result of careful thought and planning.

7. Get local fans. If you work locally you should be able to connect with local people. Whether they have a website of their own, maintain a presence on the town’s website or simply visit your Google Places listing to write a review. This generates local attention to your business, traffic and valuable user-generated content.

8. Make your local business easy to find. If you are local then local traffic is important which means you really need to be easy to find locally. Use local directories to list your business (hint this is a Google cue the search engine takes on board), make sure you have a Google Map to guide customers to your business and you obviously have a contact address and telephone number on your ‘Contact’ page. 

9. Work on your local keywords. Take the opportunity to mention specific locations in your website content ‘We serve Bramhall customers with our bakery’ for example is much better in terms of localised content than ‘We serve a variety of high quality bakery products’.  Mentioning your location, as specifically as you can, in your website copy helps the indexing of your website for local searches.

10. Put an Online Marketing plan together. Work out clearly what you need to do and whom you need to appeal to in terms of online customers and stick to it. Work it, measure its effectiveness though Analytics and sales statistics and gauge just how it works for you.

If you put these ten easy steps into effect you will significantly help boost your local presence in search and benefit from strong local trade.