But local search is still in its infancy and is a “mess,” as Greg Sterling described it at SES San Jose. Little is known about the local search algorithms in use at Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. We do know that local SERPs use a different algorithm than the main SERPs.
And with local results creeping further into regular SERPs, now is the time 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.
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, 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. (Here’s a look at Google’s link.)
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.
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.
Related reading: Bill Slawski’s Which Newark is the Dominant Newark? Classification of Ambiguous Geographical References in Local Search
Anyone have suggestions to add to this list? How do you make your pages more local?
[tags]local search, google maps, yahoo maps, mapquest, geotargeting, small business, bill slawski[/tags]