Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on November 10th, 2009

Local Search Fundamentals - Part 1

Today’s commerce is now an online marketplace and the Internet isn’t just a playground for the biggest kids anymore. Local search brings relevance and opportunity to any sized business. The advantage of e-commerce goes to the website with the most usability, optimization, and relevance to the consumer, not the size of the business' physical headquarters. And any business can whip up a great site with a CMS these days. Whether you are new to the SEO scene, or are taking a step back to smooth out your online wrinkles, it’s always good to get a refreshing look at the fundamentals of local search.

1. Claim Your Local Listing

Go to each of the major search engines and claim your business listing:

Google Local Business Center

Yahoo Local

Bing Local Listing Center

This is free exposure to anyone searching your area for businesses. All you have to do is claim your listing and this gives the search engines trust in your business and improve your chances at ranking in the SERPs. It also prevents anyone from trying to filch your listing.

2. Submit to Data Providers

Business owners are familiar with the big three – Google, Yahoo, and Bing – but few are aware of the other big three in Local Search – Localeze, infoUSA, and Acxiom. Many SEO wizards believe these are the backbone of the local search ecosystem, and it is not wise to cross a wizard.

3. Categorize Correctly and Consistently

One of the main purposes of listing your business with the big six from above is to get your business correctly categorized. If you are a floral shop, you want all the search engines to acknowledge it. That way you will rank higher for targeted search results pertaining to ‘florists in Austin’ or other keywords and phrases you focus on with SEO.

Most search engines appreciate business information that matches up laterally online. This gives them confidence that the spiders are retrieving relevant results. Although this seems like a no brainer, many businesses are not consistent with their business title, phone number, address and contact information.

4. Optimize Your Contact Information

It is unquestionably crucial that the search engine spiders are able to read your business’s name, address, and phone number when they crawl your site. If you use a fancy font or place it in an image, the spiders won’t be able to read it. It needs to be in basic HTML. The ideal format is an hCard microformat.

5. Create and Upload Location Map

Another confidence boost that you can give your site with the search engines is by creating a KML file. Think of a KML file as a location map. It’s file format includes the latitude and longitude coordinates of your business’ physical location listed on your website.

Local search is a great element of your website’s success and doesn’t require much of a budget at all. Fundamentals #4 and #5 may require some help from a developer or local SEO firm, but it shouldn’t cause you to give out mixed CDs for the holidays. The additional profits you will make by optimizing your local search is well worth the time and effort it takes to implement these tips.