Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to try our exciting new web tool, the Local SEO Site Grader tool, launched earlier this week. It was developed to serve the multitude of small business owners that haven’t yet leveraged the HUGE advantage that local businesses have in search. As an easy do it yourself SEO tactic, it’s too big of an opportunity to miss.

The short story is that local SEO can even the playing field, allowing small- and mid-size businesses to compete with national, multimillion dollar corporations. Read on about local search for small business — why you should do it and how to get started.

Local Search Rankings

Search engines believe that location is a key factor in quality search results. Makes sense. If you just type ‘doggy daycare’ into the search bar, you want results in your area, not those businesses three states away.

Change location (arrow) to revise your geographic search results (square).

Google explains how they determine search parameters in their Inside Search > Location web page. Once a user completes their search settings, local businesses with ‘Google + Places’ pages and quality SEO work, have an opportunity to be served up above organic search results.

All major search engines have local listing variations in their algorithms. The results are slightly different for each but the bottom line is that if you haven’t completed your business pages on Google, Bing, Yahoo, you’re not in the local game.

Earlier this month, Local SEO expert, David Mimh, released The 2012 Local Ranking Factors Report. He provides a complete list of ranking factors, they are definitely worth reviewing and tell you how to prioritize your local marketing efforts and website.

How to Start

If you are a local business, here are a few easy steps.

1. ALWAYS include your physical address on your website. Ideally in a global footer but,if not there, at least it on your homepage and contact page. This simple step tells both search engines and people the areas you serve. Include your area code and state. How many Springfield USA locations are there?! Be specific about where you are and areas that you serve.

2. Run your site and competitors through our Local SEO Report Card. This will give a good idea of where you stand with local search and how to improve your listings.

3. Claim your business and complete profile on major search engines. All of these are free and easy for do it yourself seo.

  1. Google+ Local
  2. Bing Business Portal
  3. Yahoo Local

4. Follow the terms of service for each individual search engine for the best results. Take the time to read the terms of service for each search engine. Remember to always practice white-hat’ SEO, being ethical always wins!

5. Local reviews help with local SEO results. Ask for reviews and be prepared to respond to both favorable and unfavorable listings. If people are talking about your local business, you want to know.

As Google+ and mobile search evolve, there will be many more changes to the local algorithms. There is no silver bullet in SEO, long-term practice and patience always pays off. There’s never been a better time for local businesses to start!