I suppose the real reason for a local small business to have a website at all is to provide information for the local market, generate leads from local shoppers. Up until now too many small businesses have created websites more like monuments to their company name. If someone knew the name of the company, they could probably find the website. That was good to a point but what about those people who just know they need what you sell but they don't know anybody who sells it?
What if, instead, local businesses began to think about their websites more like a listing in a phone directory. What if they began to build and optimize their websites with the primary intent of being found in their hometown as the leader in a category. Someone looking for "Farm Fresh Tuna in Upper Cutbank, Montana" is going to enter just such a search, right?
Google and Yahoo both announced this month their model for tapping into the local search traffic. In other words they are now going to make it easier for web surfers that want to find an accountant in their home town to do so.
Everyone knew they would eventually get around to this very lucrative market so now more than ever you need to prepare your website to be found in your town.
More about local search at these sites.
http://www.google.com/lochp - Beta site
http://local.yahoo.com/u_s__states - yahoo local
What I'm talking about today is "local" search engine optimization. In one sense the principles are the same as everyday regular search engine optimization but the way of thinking about them is a bit different.
gEEk Term definition: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science of making sure web pages are "designed" in such a way that search engines can find, index, and rank them according to the value of their content. For those of you who don't know, there is an entire industry built around this science.
In the old day the mindset was to create a website and optimize it for anyone looking for a certain topic.
Local SEO focuses first on being found in your town....for a certain topic. Geo targeting is the key. When someone is looking for a veterinarian, they don't search locally (at the moment) for the name of your firm. Think in terms of a Yellow Pages directory. They go to city they are looking for and then the category and then the name of the firm to call.
Local search is structured much the same. People who are looking for an auto mechanic online will search "Kansas City Auto mechanic" In order to win the local search game you must be able to win that type of search.
There are no hard and fast rules and even if there were they would change but here are some things you need to begin to think about to bury your competition in the local search game.
Title tags - Probably one of the most important info on your page anyway so make sure your title reads something like "YOURFIRMNAME Kansas City's oldest bakery
H1 tags - Make sure that your keywords for your site and your geography have H1 tags - The Best Baked Brioche in Peoria, Il
Content - Add your address and phone number early and prominently (not a bad thing for every page really)
Meta tags - Opinions vary on the usefulness of these but there are some tags that may gain usefulness depending on how the search engines refine their methods.
meta name="zipcode" content="64105,64113,64112,64110,64106,66207,66208,66210
meta name="city" content="Kansas City"
meta name="state" content="Missouri, Kansas"
meta name="ICBM" content="39.10246, -94.59009
City, State, and Zip code tags are pretty self explanatory but the ICBM one is a bit out there but kind of cool too.
If you go to the GEOUrl Address Server you can locate the exact latitude and longitude of your business. That's what those two numbers after the ICBM tag are. (Of course I think that is the same system they use to target bombs.)
Linking - Make your internal links local friendly - Instead of "Remodeling Projects" use "Omaha Kitchen Projects"
DMOZ - The Open Directory Project is a directory of sites that are listed by human volunteers. It seems that getting listed here gives you high marks with search engines so you need to do it but make sure that you go for the Regional listings all the way down to your town. It is unlikely (and not very useful) that you will get listed for a broad category, particularly if you don't provide world-wide service. Go for the poodle clipping section of your town and you will have better luck.
Other Directories - Another good reason to get listed in DMOZ for your town is that other local directories like Verizon's Smart Pages and SBC's Yellow Pages rely on these listing as well. By the way, get listed in as many of these phone book type of directories like Smart Pages as you can. Some are free and there is speculation that initially the big search engines will rely on these already built local directories.
There...that should keep you busy
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant based in Kansas City, Mo. He writes frequently on real world small business marketing tactics and is the creator of ¡§Duct Tape Marketing¡¨ a turn-key small business marketing system. Check out his blog at http://www.DuctTapeMarketing.com/weblog.php