Local Search optimization should be an integral part of every web site marketing plan. The goal is to encourage customers to visit or contact your business and Local Search plays an ever increasing role in this. The ultimate goal in Local Search optimization is a showing your business on the Google Main Search results page (ideally as the “onebox”) on a phrase that generates traffic.
Here is a list of best practices that I have ferreted out so far (what would you add?):
1. Go to the Google Local Business Center (and the Yahoo equivalent) and control your record with correct information, remove all incorrect records and keep it updated. This will override, take precedence over and be more trusted than the default data from a commercial data provider. While there do the following:
–a)include the relevant business categories
–b)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)
–c)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)
2. Buy into as many “trusted” sources that Google uses that make business sense i.e. BBB, Mobil Guide, SuperPages. A comprehensive list of these needs to be developed and they will vary somewhat by industry.
3. Monitor your entries and reviews in the relevant web based guides like CitySearch (a list of the ones that Google uses needs to be assembled). Make sure that they are factually correct and if possible be sure that the reviews are positive as that will affect your rankings.
4. Make sure that your business web site has your basic business information readily available. I do not think that you need to be too concerned with its specific format as Google’s parsing and normalization algorithms seem pretty good but as Bill Slawski points out you should attempt to use key:value pairs (i.e. phone: 716-372-4008 not just 716-372-4008).
5. Make sure to have as many references on other web sites to your business as possible and be sure that they include accurate business data: business name, address, phone etc.
–a)This needs to compliment your overall linking strategy.
–b)If you can a get a link AND a description including address & phone you should
–c)If you can only get a listing of address and no link, take it.
6.It appears from limited experiments that running a Google Adwords campaign associated with your listing in the local space adds authority and ranking to your listing and it might also help to have a coupon (proof of this idea is pending).
That being said you need to be the one ultimately responsible to be sure that the information is accurate and does truly reflect the nature of your business. Google has put the technology in place in Google Local Business Center for that to happen and they have done it in a way that gives businesses small and large an equal opportunity.