Improve Your Local Search Visibility

Local search is a search engine that allows for geographically constrained searching. If I am in Hong Kong and would like to search for bars, I intuitively use “hong kong bars” because I think “bars” is pretty much generic and results might not necessarily refer to those found in Hong Kong.

With local search, search engines are able to determine a searcher’s geographic location and therefore identify which sites are relevant and should appear on search results. Search engines have a way to determine a site is suitable for a certain search by someone located somewhere. So if I search for flower shop, within local search I should expect Sam Flowers should be there for a search for “flowers” and Shake ‘Em Buns for “burgers”.

But how do we help search engines recognize our sites deserve a place for certain search phrases?

1. Have a crawlable site
Not only applicable for sites vying for local search visibility but for all sites on the web. Basically, our website needs to be crawlable before it can rank.

2. Have your business address appear on your homepage
I am not saying this will guarantee rankings but perhaps if search engines look for validation of IP address or other determining factors, this should be it.

3. Get listed on business directories of major search engines
Google, Yahoo! and Live Search have interfaces that support this feature.

4. Get some ratings
Search engines may believe in what your customers say about your products or services. Putting a highly reliable site on top helps generate more happy clients and keep those questionable sites at bay.

5. Gather links from the neighborhood
Good sites or at least deemed helpful to the community could be in for easier time to get link love from local sites. For example Dr Kong may get links from Timway or PCCW Yellow Pages. This enforces local presence.

6. Look at what your competitors are doing
Middle distance runners do it. Cross-country skiers do it. Tour de France cyclists do it. A webmaster should be able to do it as well. Look at your competitors and on their online efforts. Surely we can’t see everything, but what we can see is often good enough to gauge competition.

7. Check existing directory listings
Ensure the current online directory listings are not outdated. If you moved shop last year, listings on old directories may still reflect your old address. Correcting them not only enhances better search rankings. It also helps your long absent clients find you immediately without getting lost.

Local search has long been regarded as a bane to marketers who rely on keyword rankings to brag their performance. Now we must think that ranking well on more specific phrases is better than ranking well on generic terms, whose visitors may end up making a short stop at your homepage then leave immediately.