Small Business Local Search Essay

by Jon Cooper

A couple days ago I came across an SEO contest on Bruce Clay’s website that was giving out prizes for the best entry on this question:

How would you advise a small business owner on how best to use SEO, PPC, or Social Media to drive conversions to a local business? (You had to pick either SEO, PPC, or Social Media).

So, naturally I was bored and had enough desire to write an essay on the subject. I was then thinking about sending my entry in and competing for the prizes that were being given away, but then I realized something. Chances are, I wasn’t going to win this contest, and this piece of content would find a better home on my blog instead of his. Secondly, if I did submit, I wouldn’t get any links in return, just an entry into the contest. So, here’s what I wrote. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, and tell me anything I missed.


SEO is beautiful. Imagine a lead generating technique that costs little of your time to learn, and can target the largest concentrated audience this world has ever seen. Every day millions of people are searching for your product through search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and all you have to do is to get noticed by them. Yeah, it’s not as easy as it sounds, and it will takes hours and hours to make it all pay off, but this isn’t exactly marketing; you don’t need a big budget, you won’t have to worry about revenue offsetting fixed costs, you just have to worry about how creative you can get. Through search engines your business can get exposure that local advertising and business cards can’t compete with.

As I said before, you have to get creative, but first you have to get to the point where you can do that. Your goal is to have the search engines be able to read (index) your site, understand what each page is about, and help it understand just how truly important your content is.

To help search engines index your page and make it worth featuring in their search results, you have to make your website SEO friendly. This is basic, yet 100% necessary. I don’t care how great of an SEO you are; if your page isn’t readable by the search engines, it won’t make it to the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This would take too much time to explain every detail, so I suggest using online sources, free e-books, or even an actual book on the different things to make your website readable to the search engines. If you have this done, you’re on the same playing field as all your top competitors.

By Definition, Search Engine Optimization is the practice of using the search engines to feature your content when different keywords or phrases are searched. Therefore, you want to designate different pages for different keywords on your site. This is called creating a landing page. A landing page could be your home page, a blog post, or an article on your site. Once you choose which page is your landing page for a specific keyword, you need to optimize it for the search engines. You can do this by featuring the keyword in the Title of the page, the meta description, the content (I recommend a 2-5% keyword density), and even in the Alt Text of a picture. This is letting the search engines know that this is in fact a page about *Your Keyword*.

How serious are you about local search?

I say this because when you create the title of your home page, lead generation pages, landing pages and beyond, you have to figure out just how focused you are on local search. If local is your undoubted #1 and only goal, consider putting your location in your home page title. For example, if I wanted to rank high in local search in Tampa for SEO Services, I would make my home page title something like “Tampa, FL SEO Services provider”. This has it’s advantages and disadvantages – if you put the location in the title, you rank a lot higher for local search, and get higher quality traffic. At the same time, on global search you will have a lot lower CTR (Click Through Rate) because the majority of searchers are not from Tampa, FL. This is a vital decision – you need to figure this out before you start any type of Off Site SEO.


Now, the single most important aspect of SEO that separates Rand Fishkin from the average SEO is creativity. Creativity is HUGE – it doesn’t get talked about much because it is such a broad subject. Here’s what I mean – creating a landing page can take a day, but promoting it is an endless process. The top analytic that Google uses to show a page’s importance is through how many links it has pointing to it. This is called link building. You want to build a link profile that features diversity, quality, and bulk. You want links from as broad a range of websites as possible, you want high quality links on pages viewed by large audiences, and in general a large amount of links. There are a number of specific link building techniques local business owners can take advantage of immediately. Here’s a quick list.

  • Local Directories – There are numerous local directories to get your website listed on. Start off by submitting to these:
    • Google Places (google.com/local/add/businessCenter)
    • Bing Local (bing.com/local)
    • Yahoo Local (listings.local.yahoo.com)
    • Yelp (yelp.com/writeareview/newbiz?search_loc=xxx)
    • Yellow Pages (yp.com)
    • Yellow Book (yellowbook.com)

There are at least 50 quality local directories that you NEED to get listed in, so don’t stop here.

  • Content Syndication – When you write content, publishing it is just the first step. If it’s an article, you can rewrite it in a summary 200 word version and post it on your blog. You can also syndicate it through other websites; Article directories like Ezine Articles and Articles Base allow you to submit your articles with a few links back to your website.
  • Local Bloggers – Go to people who have already successfully pooled local traffic on niche related blogs. Local blogs are a great way to climb your way to the top for local search – you can interact with them by commenting on their blog posts, linking to them (in hopes they link back), or guest posting.
    • Commenting – By commenting on their blog, you can display your knowledge as a small business owner and get noticed by the blogger and other readers.
    • Linking to them – as long as they aren’t direct competition (look for non-competitive niche related sites), try talking about them on your site/blog, and consider putting a few links their way. They WILL take notice, and chances are they will link back to you.
    • Guest posting – get immediate exposure for you and your brand by reaching out to them and asking about being a featured guest writer on their site. If they say yes, spend time writing a high quality article with a few links in it. High quality means a lasting impression & business relationship.


So, those are the basics for link building for local search. You can read loads of content on different techniques, and I encourage you to do so, but if you want to get serious about being successful, you have to be creative. You have to bring something to the table that others can’t. When I said creativity is key, I truly mean that, because competition is so high these days that if you aren’t creative, you just flat out won’t make it. The top two categories of creativity are:

  • Creative content – This is content known as “linkbait”. You have to create content that people would be willing to link to, +1, Tweet about, or mention to their friends. As an SEO, I struggle with this every day, trying to create content that is worth the read, worth going out of the way to tweet about. If you create content that meets the above guidelines, then your life is a heck of a lot easier when link building.
  • Creative Link Building – You have to be one step ahead of your competition. Everyone knows the local directories to submit to, the places to syndicate your article, the local bloggers to build relationships with, but you need to be able to think outside the box. Two popular ways of doing this are link prospecting with advanced search queries and using link building tools. Solo SEO’s tool on using search queries is a great example of the first (http://www.soloseo.com/tools/linkSearch.html); by typing in a targeted keyword, you can find link prospects willing to link (yes, this is also considered a link building tool). Now, for link building tools, there are a few free ones like that one just stated, but there are also higher quality paid options worth looking at. If you have the budget ($99/month), one example of a top rated link building tool is Ontolo (Ontolo.com) that helps you discover new websites willing to link to you. It’s not the only one, but one worth looking at.

If you’re serious about pursuing local search for lead generation, look into each of the above points. I mentioned On Site SEO tips very briefly, but if you haven’t yet optimized your site for search, your life as an SEO will be 10x harder. Link building is an ongoing process, and if you aren’t making some type of effort, no matter how small, on a daily basis, you might want to consider hiring someone to do it for you.




Well, there you have it. If you want to know more about Bruce Clay’s contest, click on the link. Now, I’d LOVE to hear from my readers. Please tell me this: What did I leave out and why is it so vital to ranking for local search?

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This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 129 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper is a link builder based out of Gainesville, FL. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter @PointBlankSEO.

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  1. local seo says:

    I think local seo and internet marketing is really comming into play in advertising campaigns for small businesses. I think alot businesse that have not yet started trying to establish themselves online are not only missing out on alot of business, but also are going to have to really play catchup in the future….it could get expensive.

  2. Jon Cooper says:

    I totally agree; I almost get angry when I talk to small businesses that don’t have a website or don’t update it, optimize it, or put any effort into it.

  3. SEO Company says:

    Internet started a clamour where ever company wanted to spread globally but thankfull sense has [revailed and LOCAL SEO has beomc emore importnat than ever.

Small Business Local Search Essay