Search Engine Optimization may seem like a daunting task because of all the businesses out there fighting for top search engine ranking, but small local businesses can make a localized SEO strategy work to their advantage in gaining web exposure via Google’s continual focus on localized search results. Here's how:

The difference between a nationally operating company and a local small business is that the customers of a small business are usually from the area directly surrounding that business.

From an SEO standpoint, this means that the focus of the strategy is a bit different. SEO strategy should still involve on-site and off-site efforts, such as the quality of your site's content as well as link building, but because of the geographic limitations of a local business, the SEO strategy should include utilizing geographic keywords.


Here are the main points when starting a localized SEO campaign:

1) On-Site Localization

  • Provide location data, such as physical address & phone number, on a Contact Us page
  • Make a point to include the different areas the business services (e.g. around the west side of Columbus it would be Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington, Grove City, Hilliard, etc.)
  • Add information about the business location & service areas but be sure not to "spam" the site with too much keyword density
    • An acceptable keyword density (the percentage a keyword is used relative to how many words are on a page) is around 1% for a locally optimized page
  • Location Metadata - be sure to include the geographic keywords in the metadata of the site (e.g. title tags, descriptions, keywords)

2) Google Location-based Services (aka Google Maps)

  • Google Places - claim your business address (this may already exist, in many cases). Also do this for other Location-Based Services (e.g. Yahoo Local, Bing, etc)
  • Optimize your Google Places listing by adding "category" data (e.g. "dentist", "plumber", "veterinarian", etc), as well as any additional contact information & business hours
  • Frequently update the content on your Google Places listing since Google continually rewards fresh content. Up-to-date content also ensures that potential customers have the correct information
  • Offer Promotions and/or Discounts to create buzz around your business and to reward customers for finding your local listing

3) Geo-targeted Paid Search

  • In conjunction with SEO efforts, localized Paid Search efforts can also prove valuable because of the ability to target unique areas (e.g. 30 mile radius around the business address or the Columbus metro area)
  • In paid search campaigns, use regional keywords such as landmarks and geographic markers (e.g. "lakeside boat rental", "arena district sushi restaurant", etc)
  • Schedule your paid search ads to run when people are searching for you.
    • While efficiently utilizing marketing budget is important, data is more valuable than assumptions. Gather comprehensive data, analyze, and then decide on a paid search schedule.
    • If your business hours are from 8-5 PM, that doesn't mean that people are only searching for your produce or services during that time period. They may be searching from 10 PM to 2 AM because that's when they have free time.
    • This scheduling ability, known as day-parting, will come after gathering initial data and then targeting not only hours with the highest traffic, but also the times with the best converting traffic

Any brick-and-mortar business that draws the majority of its customers from a local area should implement an SEO strategy that optimizes their website for local searches as well as tailoring any paid search efforts to include local keywords. This strategy has been proven many times over and will provide the best use of the usually limited marketing resources of a small local business.

Best of luck with your local SEO & paid search strategies!

(The article that inspired this post can be found here)