Why SEO needs to go local

Added 14.04.11

Just when you think you know everything you'll ever need to know about SEO, Google goes and changes something and you have to start learning the tricks of the trade all over again. That was the situation in November 2010 when Google introduced their new local search function – a dimension that serves Google users exceptionally well, but changes the way that some SEO activities need to be arranged. If you're still not sure what I'm referring to, you mustn’t be a regular searcher or SEO expert, because, a few months into 2011, and Google local search has significantly changed the way search terms are entered and rank in search engine listings.

Here's how it works: you begin a Google search for local office furniture stores with the terms “office desks Essendon” and receive a list of results displaying a list of the most popular links, as well as something else – a floating map of the Essendon area with markers on each furniture store location in closest proximity to you. In order to provide the most satisfactory and relevant search results to users, the Google search algorithm has been altered to lend additional attention to local businesses who are successfully combining SEO activities with traditional marketing in their immediate surroundings. Google's local search function has been welcomed by users who enjoy finding the most relevant information quickly, while avoiding an abundance of non-specific data from all over the country, or all over the world. Because of the incredible amount of websites searched and information provided by Google in response to any query, general search terms are no longer an efficient way of conducting searches – or an effective way of selecting key words and key word phrases for SEO. For example, if you live in Essendon, you are more likely to type “office desks Essendon” in a search engine, rather than simply “office desks”, “office desks Australia” or even “office desks Melbourne.” Search engines, and therefore SEO, must now go local.

This might all sound too daunting, but, no matter how much you feel like throwing your SEO strategies in the 'too hard' basket, don't. A recent survey conducted by Chitika, an online advertising network, discovered that the first listed search result received more than a third of the traffic, so being number one on the first page of search results is still as critical as ever for any website owner. Now, to give your business the best odds of appearing in the results returned by local searches, it's important to understand that Google's local search service operates in conjunction with two of the search engine's other features – Google Maps and Google Places – pulling information from both to return an encompassing overview of local services. To lend your web page the best odds of hitting the forefront of Google local searches, always check that your business is correctly listed on both Google Places and Google Maps. As an additional boosting tactic, you may choose to enhance your Google Places profile with the addition of photos or videos which are top SEO tools and magnets for Google's attention.

Finally, to give your website the best SEO advantage in local searches, you must ensure that your suburb or, at the very least, city, is inserted somewhere in the headings, subheadings and title tags of your web page. This is certain to increase the chances of your page appearing in local search listings, as well as being a good approach for general SEO.