Before we dive into the meat of the article, let's first define what a local search is. On Google, a local search is anytime a user adds in a geomodifier into the search results, for example, your city or state ("Milwaukee SEO" vs "SEO"). Additionally, with a recent update, Google now has blended search results with both local (based off IP address) and organic results regardless if there's a geomodifier.
Key Local SEO Thing to Know #1: Google Places to Google+ Local
Late breaking Google news, as of a few days ago, Google Places has shifted into the social world of G+ and taken on a new look, feel and shall now be called "Google+ Local".
Along with this change, there are also a number of new features added and some old features of Places that were taken out, however, the general concepts and principles of how to optimize your Places page still remain and now are even more social.
For those of you who have not adopted Google+, I would strongly recommend you make it a part of your marketing strategy. Google has done a really good job of "strong arming" their way into getting people to adopt their social media platform and it is not going to stop. If you don't adopt it now, there's a good chance your business will be left behind in the future.
Key Local SEO Thing to Know #2: Post Penguin Keywords for Local SEO
Just for clarification, Google likes to name their projects after things like animals and one of the most recent updates that the SEO world is buzzing about is the Penguin. Penguin 1.0, launched at the end of May, was geared towards penalizing SEO individuals who are trying to cheat the system through what we call "Black Hat" SEO techniques.
Black Hat SEO techniques could include stuffing keywords all over the place (title, text, footer, etc), buying links, joining link networks, un-natural links in text or in the footer, etc. Basically anything that is trying to manipulate the system to try and get higher on search.
In this post-penguin world, your keyword strategy for your text, title tags, alt texts and anchor texts must be strategically planned out. A recent article I ready that looked at the keyword structure of the top ranking sites on Google (post-penguin) found that in general the majority of the keywords were brand name based and not keyword based. The general structure of keywords to follow is: 60% branded keywords, 30% general keywords and 10% exact match keywords.
Key Local SEO Thing to Know #3: Get Reviews, Citations and Be Social
One of the key things you can do to help drive your local business to the top of local search results and help convert customers is to start building up reviews, citations and social mentions.
It's recommended to start with gaining reviews on Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) and to work to get at least five reviews off the bat. Once you have five or more, the rating starts will appear on your listing on Google. Once you have built up a good number of reviews on Google+ Local, then work on other local networks like Yelp, Foursquare, City Search etc. The more reviews you can get the better.
A citation is anytime your business' name, address and phone number is mentioned somewhere on the web. Each time it's listed, it will build your credibility with Google and help with ranking better and the best part is you don't even need a link back to your site.
Getting people talking about your business, products or services is great for generating buzz, increasing awareness and traffic to your website. In turn, these activities will improve your credibility with Google. I suspect in the future there will be many more social signals that will be taken into account in search results such as check-ins and size of social network.
Key Local SEO Thing to Know #4: Mobile for Local SEO
Over 50% of the searches on mobile devices are local searches and of those searches an extremly high percentage of users end up stoping into the local business. Additionally, Google is making key updates to their mobile platforms to enhance search results, showing that Google see's a big role in mobile search for the future.
Make sure that you have a mobile version of your website so that mobile visitors can easily find what they are looking for and convert into a customer. Studies have shown that if a customer is not happy with their mobile experience on your website, 40% of users will turn to your competitors for their business. It is also imprtant to keep your local SEO strategy consistant on your mobile website.
These are just a few of the key points to keep in your mind when planning your local SEO strategy. Creating a successful local SEO strategy is a complete science, however, there are lots of great things small business owners and marketers can do to help improve their local search results and I have many of them in my free 1-hour webinar: "Supercharge Your Local SEO: The Complete Guide", which you can download here.