Location-based or franchised businesses are in the unique position of being able to leverage the power of numerous local search options with a little bit of time spent on the set up and some enterprising SEO on board.
Modern search puts much more emphasis on serving local results, especially where Google is concerned as they are considered to be the most relevant to the user. As far as on-page optimisation goes, local businesses should ensure that their business name and location are in the Title tag and that their full contact details appear on the Home Page of their website.
Maps produced for the purpose of showing business location(s) or to offer directions should be checked to ensure that the map places the business at its actual location when entering the postcode. If it does not, or for those who prefer to personalise everything, a Custom Map can be created via any Google account.
Google has recently changed the face of local search by integrating Google Places with its social networking site and creating Google+ Local Pages giving a dual opportunity of local search parameters and a social networking opportunity rolled into one.
Creating profiles on business directory websites is a must for local businesses. Due to their popularity, many show higher in the search engine results pages than the business itself.
Local businesses should sign up to as many relevant business directories as possible. This can be quite a time consuming and tedious task initially but usually proves to be worth the time in terms of additional exposure. Taking the time to create a good and accurate profile initially is important as it is often more difficult to make amendments to an existing entry than it is to create a new one.
Time Saving Tip: Create a business information template in MS Word or Google Docs with contact information and two or three versions of the business description ready to copy and paste direct into the application form fields.
Most free directories are national like Yell.com and Thomson Local, but some towns operate their own as well. The latter usually charge a small fee but offer users of their site additional levels of interactivity and it is usually still less costly than other forms of advertising.
Tip: Remember to keep a note of which directories have been signed up for and any relevant information about them which may need to be accessed in the future e.g. passwords.
Some small businesses will only ever need to find local customers, a hairdresser or riding stable for example whilst others require nationwide exposure, but with the ability to be found using location-based searches as well.
An example of a company that is able to leverage local search whilst operating nationally is angelsprings.com. They are a West Midlands based company but supply water coolers and accessories all over the UK via local delivery services. This means that they can easily be found either from a general search for `water coolers` or locally by adding the name of a town to that search.