Local Search is poised for big growth, with a recent estimate from Borrell Associates hinting at a 32% growth in local online advertising in 2007. But local search is still in its infancy and is a "mess," as Greg Sterling described it at the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose.

We don't know much about the local search algorithms in use at Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. We do know, however, that local SERPs use a different algorithm than the main SERPs a location-based algorithm. So if you're a small business that relies on local search traffic, it's a good idea to make sure search engine crawlers have a good sense of where you're located.

Here are some thoughts on how to make your web site and web pages more local search-friendly:

1. Have your physical location on every page of your site. So obvious, but not all small businesses do it. If you choose to hide your address because you work from home, then get a mailbox at the UPS Store or your local equivalent and put that street address on your site.

2. Have your local phone number on every page of your site. It's great that you offer customers an 800 number for customer service, but how do you expect a search algorithm to learn anything about your location from finding 800-555-1212 on your web site? You have to list your local phone number, with the area code, to help the engines connect you to your location.

3. Give your physical address extra prominence on your "Contact Us" page. In other words, before you show the actual contact form, have your street address, city, state, ZIP, local phone, etc. at the top of the page where the crawler will get to it quickly.

4. Create a page on your site called "Directions / Location". This helps customers and search engine crawlers. Don't just use a MapQuest or Google Maps image; instead, write out where you are and how to get there.

When you write this page be as detailed as possible, including as many location descriptors as you can. Something like this would be great:

XYZ Widgets is located in the Shadow Trails Shopping Center on 4th Avenue in the North Hills area of Happyville, Washington. Our address is 425 4th Avenue, Suite 201, Happyville, WA, 99999.

(Notice the two different descriptors for Washington in there?)

And then write out driving directions to your location from all possible directions, again making sure to use plenty of well-known location descriptors.

5. Link to Google Maps and Yahoo Maps on your Location/Directions page. Both offer a "Link to this page/map" URL that you can use on your web page. The reason these might be beneficial and this is pure speculation on my part is that both Google Maps and Yahoo Maps include the latitude and longitude of the location in the URL, and that can help a crawler learn more about where you are. (MapQuest generates an incredibly long URL which doesn't appear to have latitude and longitude information.)

6. When possible, include your location in your page Titles. It's one of the most important signals your page offers to a crawler, so why not include a local signal?

7. Somewhere on your site, list all the cities / towns your business covers. If your business is located in Happyville, but you also serve 10 other outlying towns/cities, list those on your home page, About page, or Contact page. You can also use the long lost "Keywords" meta tag for this purpose, for those crawlers that still look at it.

8. Take advantage of internal linking opportunities with smart anchor text. When linking to your Location / Directions page, saying click here for directions isn't good enough. Better: click here for directions to our Happyville location.

Together, these tactics should help you give search engine crawlers a better idea of your exact location. And that, in turn, should put you in better position to take advantage of the growing local search market.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

December 11, 2006

Matt McGee is SEO Manager at Marchex, a search and media company in Seattle, Washington. He's guided successful projects for clients of all sizes and budgets, with special emphasis on traffic acquisition via organic rankings. Matt is a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences, and writes about online marketing at Small Business SEM. He's a frequent contributor to several SEO/SEM forums, and is a moderator for the Small Business Ideas Forum.

Search Engine Guide > Matt McGee > 8 Simple Steps to Make a Page More "Local"