Having worked closely with small and medium sized businesses over recent years, it is very clear that there is a lot of confusion about what SEO (search engine optimisation) is and how to implement it.  In particular, what is Local SEO and is there such a thing?

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is quite simply about marketing your website to get it in front of the most likely customer base – those that are physically located near it.

With over 90% of people in the UK using Google it is important for businesses to understand that the more entries and opportunities you have to appear on a local search on Google the better.  Diversity is the key!

For example, search for a ‘plumber in newcastle’ and you will find a mix of Sponsored Listings at the top and right hand side, Google Places listings in the middle followed by a mixture of organic results with direct links to businesses and local directory sites.  Some of these directory sites will be specific to the keyword/service being searched for.  Images and video are also included in the new universal search results in prominent positions. But what do you focus on?

How to tackle Local SEO and appear in local listings on Google?

Often businesses approach this increasingly complex situation with a one dimensional view confusing SEO with PPC (pay-per-click), which is paid prominence on search engines.  Often, the simplest way to ensure a presence near the top is through a monthly AdWords programme, this is great but there are some alternative options to consider with greater and longer lasting rewards which work alongside AdWords.  If executed properly, these can help provide more opportunity to appear across search engines for a more diverse range of keywords.

Local Directories.

There are many local directories out there; some free and those that charge a fee to be listed.  The very fact that a local directory has ended up on the front page is a strong signal that Google rates these well.  During the recent Google Panda update some directories were wiped off from the Google register while some were left unaffected.  Our advice for any business who is interested in a cost effective web strategy is to approach and list themselves on as many of these sites as possible, and to provide as much content as possible including images, video and service related content.

The main advantage of this is that this helps towards your inbound link count.  If the sites you are appearing on are high authority sites this can be very beneficial and count as strong votes for search engines to look at your website.  After all, the whole objective is to push more traffic to your ‘shop window’, your site.

Also note that these directory sites are also found in the Sponsored Ads sections on Google.  These sites will have refinement tools and hopefully more accurate listings which are preferred by some users.

So why not get listed?

Opting for a more diverse strategy should bring greater and longer lasting rewards.  If there is an opportunity to provide Google with more information about your business, don’t miss it…