Let’s face it; the average business owner has neither the time nor the inclination to learn the nuances of search engine optimization. When I was first introduced to the concept of search marketing, I spent endless hours researching forums and blog trying to separate the signal from the noise. There’s no shortage of information and advice for business owners out there in theinterwebz , but finding trustworthy and reliable sources is another monster entirely. I would estimate that I invested hundreds of hours researching reliable sources ofSEO and SEM information, and I am thrilled to this day when I discover new ones. This can be a daunting prospect for a small business owner, regardless of their current level of marketing knowledge. I know when I was trying to grow my first small business, I barely had time to eat and sleep…much less surf the web for hours on end.

The real key to local search visibility is to recognize that your location is your brand. In most cases, searches with local intent rarely reflect brand terms. In the research I have seen, most local searches are industry and/or service based with geographic qualifiers. For example, “boston emergency plumber” or “san diego pediatric dentist” are more likely to be searched for than “city name + your business name”. If people are searching for your business by name, that’s great! You’ve done a great job establishing your brand! But if your sole focus is on brand promotion, you are missing out on some great opportunities to develop relationships with new customers in your area. Recent research has shown that almost 40% of allinternet searches are local in intent. If you want to maintain a lead over your competition, now is the time to take action. The following short-list of actionable items will help get you started:

1. Get listed at all of the major local search engines and telecom directories. Start with Google Local and Yahoo Local. There are also services such as UniversalBusinessListing.org which facilitate your submissions to such sites for a minor fee. If you don’t have the time to manually submit your listings, this is an excellent option.

2. Get links from related local sites, industry associations, and the chamber of commerce. One thing to keep in mind is the importance of anchor text; the clickable words that link to your website. Ask your business partners to link to your website using the phrase you want to rank for as anchor text (ie. “boston emergency plumber”, if you are a plumber in Boston). You could even incentivize your suppliers to link to you in exchange for a discount, as the value of the links gained will far outweigh the short-term costs of discounting.

3. Get reviews from customers and/or suppliers. If you go to Google and do a search for “your industry +reviews”, you should come up with a decent list of sites that contain reviews of businesses like yours. Naturally, some industries are more popular than others. If you don’t find one related to your industry, consider it an opportunity and start your own review site 😉 To continue with the discount idea noted above, why not give your customers a discount for a favorable review? Note that businesses can be given reviews directly on Google Local, but you also want your reviews to appear on reputable third party sites like Yelp.com (for restaurants), TripAdvisor.com (for hotels, etc.) or RateItAll.com (for general consumer products).

4. Consider the impact of universal search. Universal search refers to the use of non-traditional media in standard search results. Search engines generally serve up hypertext search results. With the introduction of universal search, Google now serves up video, photos, news, etc. in addition to hypertext. Get your geeky nephew to help you produce a video for Youtube. Take some funny photos of the hijinks in your office and upload them to Flickr. Ask one of your industry bloggers if you can contribute an article to their site. Submit a press release. Write an article like this and syndicate it. The opportunities are endless, if you are motivated.

Jacob Davidson is happy to share his new found knowledge of search engine marketing with other small business owners. When he is not trying to stay abreast of the latest marketing and advertising techniques, he spends his time exploring the local yellow pages for new business leads.

Read more about this and other topics related to eco planning

Comments Off on Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses