Optimize Your Site, Optimize Your Location

You probably already noticed that Google is spending tremendous resources and real estate space on its results pages to show both traditional search results along with location based results using its product Google Maps.  Google Maps has grown in leaps and bounds not only for those using mobile phones and tablets, but for those searching at home.  If you are an SEO/ SEM professional it’s critical you take note of how location is changing how the major search engines are delivering and ranking results.

Location, Location, Location
We’ve all heard this saying before- usually referring to the real estate market, however now this mantra is turning out to be just as strong in the search arena as well.  Today, many keywords we search for can usually be associated with proximity of where we are actually located. Whether you are looking for a new pizzeria restaurant, auto service, health professional or looking to buy certain goods, the chances are the most relevant and most important listings returned to the user will be listings that are physically close by.  Google and the other search engines have taken note and have built and integrated their map programs to work seamlessly with their search algorithms to return results that are not only relevant for a keyword search, but for the user’s location as well.

It’s also important to note that these location based search results are shown prominently on the first page.  Here is an example of a search for “auto repair in Pearland Houston TX”.  You’ll notice that when you do a search that specifically states a place, precedence of top rankings go to those sites that are already listed in Google Maps.  In addition, there is a balloon next to each Google Maps listing that can be also viewed on an area map to the right.  It is important to note that these Google Map listings are above the normal search listings making them extremely important to optimization of a site.

local search results

The Big 3
The major players in Geo-Location search are still the same as regular organic search- Google Bing and Yahoo!  While Yahoo! And Bing have now teamed up in many respects the destination sites that many users still visit continue to have their own personality.

Optimize for Organic Search, Optimize for Local Search
Today, if you are optimizing a site for organic search, you should also optimize a site for local search.  There are two basic ways to optimize for local search: on-site and off-site.

On-site Optimization of Local Search- It’s important to optimize your location of your site by ensuring that a complete address is available on at least your homepage and it wouldn’t hurt for other main pages as well- if not all pages.  Make sure the site you are optimizing only shows one clear and complete address. It’s best to place this complete address on the footer or side banner of the page that is not only easily readable to your human guests, but robots as well. If your business has multiple offices, you might want to either create a contact page (which you probably already have created) and list your offices there or create unique websites for each office located in its respective city.

It is also a good idea to have a phone number prominently listed and it definitely helps if the phone number’s area code is the same as the location being optimized for.

Off-site Optimization of Local Search- For off-site optimization, the most important thing you can do is sign up for map accounts with Google, Bing and Yahoo and create a basic listing for each of your web properties.

Google Maps:  You can find information on how to add your business listing to Google maps at the following link:  http://places.google.com/business
This is a great starting point for adding your business to Google Maps (sometimes referred to as Google Places).  Besides a free listing component, Google also offers a paid component that utilizes advertisements.

Bing Maps:  Bing also offers a map service that has been growing and innovating quite quickly.  While Google Maps is the current leader, Bing is definitely making some headway.  You can list your business for free and find out more about Bing’s paid services at the following link:  https://ssl.bing.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx

Yahoo! Maps: Yahoo! also offers a map service that includes a free, basic listing and a paid product as well.  While many no longer see Yahoo! as being on the cutting edge, millions upon millions of users still use and are loyal to their products.  You can find out more information about their map product at the following link:  http://listings.local.yahoo.com/

In later articles we’ll go more in depth on each of the aspects of location based optimization but the above tips can definitely point you in the right direction and get you started on optimizing your site for the future of SEO which now involves a location component.