The World Wide Web enables people to search for answers and find businesses anywhere in the world, quickly and easily; it has made the World a very small place. However, local search has become increasingly prevalent with Google reporting that over 50% of all search queries contain a location modifier, such as 'web design London' or 'seo consultant Bristol'. So despite the fact that a whole World of information is in easy reach, the majority of people now use search engines to find businesses that are local to them.

The Venice algorithm update which was rolled out by Google in February 2012, took local search a step further. Google already knew that a large % of searchers had a local intent and with the onset of Venice, Google started to trigger local results with a large number of generic search terms.

For instance, pre-Venice, local results would only be triggered for search terms with a local modifier. Post-Venice, when searching 'plumbers', for instance, Google now takes note of your location and offers results relevant to your locality, despite the fact that you have not specified a locality in your search query.

A search for 'plumbers' triggers Google Local search results and a location map showing me where plumbers in my locality are situated. Previously, these results would only be displayed if I searched 'plumbers Cardiff'.
Given the above statistics relating to local search, businesses of all sizes need to recognise that the Internet is not just for companies dealing on a national or international basis. It is perhaps even more relevant to businesses who wish to attract clients locally or regionally. So what strategies can businesses follow in order to take advantage of local search traffic online?

Here follows 7 tips to help you gain more local search traffic for your business:

1. Register your business on 'Google Places' (

Registering on Google Places (Google Maps) is a fundamental step in any local search campaign. It is relatively quick and easy to do, and is free. Make sure you complete your Google Places profile fully, as it is a fact that a fully completed profile is more likely to be listed prominently than a part completed one. Consider the keywords that you wish to target and optimise your profile in line with these keywords. Actively harvest reviews from happy customers to boost your profile; you can even ask family and friends to submit a positive review to help you get started.

2. Optimise your website for local search.

You can use the Google Keyword Tool to research the local search queries used by your potential customers and then optimise your website in line with the most optimal localised keyphrase you identify. It is often just a matter of adding a location modifier and ensuring that this is used in the meta title, description and body text of your site. It is also best practice to ensure that the address of your business is included on every page of your website, most commonly placed in the footer. Avoid using PO Box addresses, as these are not local search friendly.

3. Maintain consistency in all your online business listings.

Google looks for 'citations' (reassurances) to help verify your business in the location you have specified. You need to make sure you maintain total consistency when your business is referenced online. If you have an 0800 number, for instance, which sits over the top of a local number, make sure you use the same number consistently whenever and wherever your business is listed online. Switching between the two numbers creates inconsistency, which will be picked up by Google and will work against you.

4. Know your local search landscape.

You should list your business in the most popular online business directories and on any other relevant websites that are likely to be found and visited by your potential customers. A good way to go about finding the websites you should be listed on, is to simply search as if you were a potential customer of your business and make note of what you see. As you type in search terms that your potential customers are likely to use, simply work through the first 2 results pages presented by Google and note the websites that include listings of your local or regional online competitors. For instance, sites such as may often hold a prominent position in Google search results, so registering your business on Yell is an obvious step to take if this is the case.

Conduct relevant searches, make a list, and then register your business on each of the sites you have identified, being sure to maintain consistency in your listings as covered in 3 above.   

5. Discover where your top ranking competitors are listed online.

Further to 4 above, another technique you can use is to search in Google using the postcode and / or telephone number of your top online competitors. These strategic searches will display sites where your competitors are listed online and you can then make an assessment as to whether you should list your business there as well.

6. Gain positive reviews on 3rd party sites.

As well as gaining positive reviews directly on your Google Places profile, you should also look to gain positive reviews against your business profile on the sites you have listed your business on in steps 4 and 5 above. This helps to further establish the validity and quality of your business and gives Google more of a reason to ensure your business is prominently displayed in relevant search results.

7. Use Google Adwords, Pay Per Click.

Google Adwords, Pay Per Click, should not be ignored by any business serious about dominating their local online search market. Google Adwords paid listings are situated top and right on Google search results pages, and gain a significant % of overall click through. Using Google Adwords, you can select the keywords you wish your advert to display for and can even specify the exact location perimeter of searchers you are interested in. For instance, you may wish to focus on searchers within a 30 mile radius of your business. Google Adwords will allow you to do this. You only ever pay if someone clicks on your advert, so it is a highly controllable and measurable form of online advertising which can either be managed yourself or by a professional ppc management provider.

Follow these 7 tips above, and start to take advantage of the growing local search market relating to your business helping you to gain more local search customers in a cost effective manner. If you need help, why not Google a local online marketing business in your region and pay for an expert to help you whilst you focus on your core business.
Richard Best is a self confessed online marketing geek. As Managing Director of Mint Online Marketing, a growing online marketing agency in Cardiff, Wales, he gets plenty of opportunity to express his geeky side. Outside of work he is a happy husband and 'Daddy' of 5 wonderful kids.

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