There has been a huge increase in the 'hyper-local' scene for a few years now. Ever since Google changed the way they show their local results, the local small business owner has gained a signifigant advantage over big box corporations when it comes to online reach. The hyper-local movement, if you will, has created some great local review sites, the Check In feature (first on FourSquare, then on Facebook and Google+), some great local bloggers and a vast variety of local news websites (such as the patch system).
Along with these changes, business owners - particularly those in the service industry - have been given a great opportunity to really dominate their local landscape.
To take advantage of that potential, small business owners are doing what they think is obvious when it comes to getting that hyper-local traffic. Following are some tips on getting your business noticed in local searches.
Location in Title Tag
In most cases, this is a no-brainer. I've posted many times before on the importance of a title tag, and this one is no different. Adding your main targeted city in the title tag will improve your rankings for related searches.
Method: Keyword | Keyphrase | City
Example: Dentist | Dental Care | St Louis
Just the other day I was visiting a local client of mine who sells items for the home. While visiting, he received a phone call about one of his items, and at the end of the call he asked where they found his number. Their reply - Google Maps (ie Google Places).
The last time I read stats on this, only 12% of all businesses had claimed their business listing. Of those 12%, only about 4% of them have done a full optimization of their Google Places listing. With over 50% of the US population now carrying smart phones, this is another no-brainer. Claim your listing. Optimize it to its full potential. Now.
Map on Your Home Page
Because a map takes up a significant amount of room, I'd say it's a bad idea to put one on your home page. Home page real estate is very valuable, and that real estate should be used for more important SEO-related things, such as text, calls to action, and featured items/products/services/sales.
There are exceptions, or course. If the majority of your visitors are simply searching for a location to visit, and not expecting to shop online, a map may be a good idea. For instance, if you ran a business that did STD testing in Chicago, you may want to have a map that listed the locations where people can visit. There is no physical product being sold, and a testing location is all the visitor really needs.
One of the many algorithms that the search engines use is related to something called Latent Symantic Indexing (LSI). Without going into detail, LSI looks for related words in a website or web page that helps it determine if it is worthy of moving up in the rankings.
For example, if you own an Italian restaurant, the LSI system would look for words like 'pasta' and 'fork' and 'sauce' - words you'd probably use in a normal conversation when talking about that restaurant.
Same goes for local-related websites. If you simply pepper the pages with St Louis, that may not be enough. But mentioning landmarks such as the Gateway Arch, Ted Drewes and Art Hill, you're more likely to see better results and rankings.
My wife loves to read reviews. When she's researching a company, a hotel, or a restaurant, she'll always read through the reviews - and will base her conceptions of the business upon them.
Your follow up strategy with every customer needs to include getting reviews. It's becoming more and more a must-have - and it doesn't really matter if you ignore this advice - people are probably already writing reviews about your company anyway.
In your follow up email, point your customer to a page where they can review your business. This page could be your Google Places page, your Yelp page or any variety of others. Or - you can build a page that gives them several options. In my opinion, this is a better idea, because the reviews will be somewhat randomly placed throughout the Internet, and not all in one place. For an example, check out the "Review Us" page at Sunshine Drapery.
CitationsIn the world of SEO, we say that Content is King and Links are Queen. In the world of hyper-local SEO, another phrase needs to be added - something like Citations are the Prince. While good content and a good linking strategy is very important for your business, getting citations is not to be ignored.
A citation is simply a business listing - a mention of your business name, address and phone number - somewhere on the web. These mentions are noticed by the search engines, and influence where your business is listed in things like the 7 pack. The more citations you have, the better you'll rank.
Your Address in the Footer
Putting your address in the footer of every page on your website is a smart idea. Not everyone goes to your Contact Us page to find your information. On top of that, putting your address on your website will help sites like Google Places believe you have a real location.
Of course, if you work out of your home, this may not be a great idea. In that case, I'd recommend a UPS box or other physical location where you can collect mail (no PO Boxes though).