Ultimate Guide for Local Search Engine Optimization

by Stuart McHenry May 18, 2009

How many times have you used a phone book in the last couple of years? Chances are if you are like most people you simply Google what you are looking for. Phone books as we use to know them are becoming absolute. Of course the sales people from these companies will try anything to get you to sign up or keep your advertisement. The most common searches for local business are:

  • business type + city name
  • business type + zip code

Ranking number one for your keyword plus city name or zip code can increase your sales dramatically. Even ranking in the top three can help your business increase your sales. Often times you can achieve these search engine rankings for a lot less than what it would cost to have placed an advertisement in the phone book.  (which nobody uses anyway)

Where to start and what to do?

You can hire a search engine optimization company and have them achieve the results or you can follow the steps I will outline below and give it a go yourself. Hiring an experienced search engine optimization company can often save you time and money in the long run.  SEO Experts know what to look for and will generally achieve results faster. The decision to hire a firm or not should be based on your time and your level of commitment. Do not take search engine optimization for granted as an easy task that anyway can do.

Do It Yourself:

This is not a be-all-end-all guide to local search engine optimization but it can help you achieve the results that your business needs.  Keep in mind that SEO is always changing and what works today might not work in the future.  If you are planning on taking on your SEO efforts yourself, then you should keep up-to-date with some online publications.  A great starting point and information about keeping up are the following websites:

Now if you are ready to take on the search engine optimization yourself you can follow the four steps below.

Step One – Understanding the Diversification of Anchor Text

Anchor text is the word or words that link to your website. The most common mistake that many people make is not diversifying their anchor text. They seem to get link after link with their main keyword in it. This is not natural and the search engines will know that you are trying to game the system.

Think of it this way, if you asked 100 people to link to your website and did not give them any instructions on what anchor text to use, how many different anchors would there be? The majority of people would not use your keywords they would simply link using your company name or website name. Others may use the URL and some will even use any words within a sentence to link to your website. Here are some great examples of diversification with anchor text.  (use Google as the example)

As you can see these are only the top five that came right off the top of my head.  If you use the same anchor text too much you may cause a negative effect on your search engine optimization efforts.

Step Two – Directory Submissions

Starting off whether it’s a new website or a website that hasn’t had any SEO before you will want to begin with getting some links to your website. A great place to start is submitting your website to around a dozen web directories. Why only a dozen and not a few hundred? Search engines look for natural growth and getting too many links too fast can have a negative effect on rankings. Plus, it’s simply not needed. We look at age and quality as the main factor of which directories we submit our websites to. Don’t get caught up on Pagerank, we focus on backlinks and a quality editorial team. Here is our list of the top six directories you should be in.

After you have submitted your website for review in these quality directories you will generally have to wait for acceptance. This can take anywhere from one to five business days. You are now ready to move on to the next phase.

Step Three – Finding Links

This is what separates the men from the boys.  (figure of speech) This is where we look for blogs or content websites within our niche. We are looking for quality websites where we can obtain links within the content of a homepage, subpage or blog post. Notice that I did not say blogroll links, footer links or any other type of links. I specifically said links within content. Same as with the directory submissions we do not look at Pagerank. We look for other quality factors like:

  1. Is the page my link goes on on-topic to my keyword?
  2. Is the page cached in Google?
  3. How many clicks away from the homepage is the page my link goes on? (one is best, two is OK)
  4. Where within the content will my link go? (the higher up on the page the better)

How to search for these links are easier than you might think. You can Goolge your keyword and search the top 100 websites looking for potential websites. Here are a few other Google searches you may want to try:

  • Keyword + How to’s
  • Keyword + State
  • Keyword + Blog
  • Keyword + City
  • Keyword + Guide

Step Four – Rinse and Repeat

Once you have obtained your links keep in mind that most links you will not see an immediate benefit.  Links are like a fine wine and are better with age.  You can often see a little increase after 1 month, 3 months and 6 months.

If you followed and completed steps 1-3 you can now start looking for more valuable links.  At this point, you really don’t need to focus on the directory submissions unless you happen to come across a high-quality directory.  Stay focused on finding those in-content links that are on-topic.  Depending on how competitive your keywords are will depend on how fast you will rank.  This process can generally take from three months to one year depending on the market.

Stuart McHenry
Stuart McHenry is a US-based SEO Consultant focusing on link building, content marketing, local SEO, and reputation management. Follow Stuart on Twitter @smindsrt

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