If you do have a website...
If you already have a website you can utilize the suggestions above for paid, locally-focused search engine placements, which are extremely useful for targeting local consumers who neglect to use "place modifiers" — city, neighborhood, or county names; traditional and local nicknames; and area codes or zip codes — in their searches. In addition, your site needs to be optimized so that search engines can easily associate it with your local area in their unpaid (i.e., "natural" or "organic") rankings.
The trick here is to use place modifiers as important keywords on your website. You can also use the names of local landmarks (such as local universities or other draws) and geographic features (such as mountains, valleys, or rivers) as place modifier keywords.
There are three primary places on your site where these place modifier keywords will do the most good:
Your homepage title tag
Your homepage title tag should include the category of product or service you provide, and the geographic areas where you provide it. An example homepage title might read: "John Doe Gardening Supplies: Serving Portland, Beaverton, Oregon City, Tigard, Wilsonville and the Willamette Valley, Oregon."
Subpage title tags are also very useful if you can avoid duplicating the exact same phrase on every page. Subpage titles can be structured with a product name or subcategory title, followed by the list of place modifiers. For example: "Gardening gloves in Portland, Beaverton, Oregon City, Tigard, Wilsonville, and the Willamette Valley, Oregon."
In an H1 statement
The "H1 statement," as I call it, is something I've been incorporating into client sites for a few years now. This is simply a sentence or paragraph on the home page stating the nature of the business, with the inclusion of a targeted keyword phrase, and placed within an H1 tag. Search engines consider H1-tagged content to be the most important content on the page, so the more place modifiers you can pack into an H1 tag, the better chance your site has of being associated with local place names.
A word of caution, however: if you simply create an H1-tagged list of keywords, you will probably get penalized for trying to trick the search engine spiders. Your H1 statement needs to be written in natural language, even if it sounds a bit clunky, and placed on the page as if you intend it to be part of the content. This is really not difficult, as your homepage should feature a description of your business anyway.
On a "directions" page
If you want people to find your place of business, it is a good idea to include a page with directions. This is good for search engines, too — you might be on Main Street in Mansfield, but how many Main Streets are there in towns called Mansfield?
By creating a directions page, you give search engines street names and route numbers that help distinguish your Mansfield from all the others. It is also a good idea to embed the map from one of your local directory listings on your directions page, and to link to your local directory listings. This can give the spiders additional geographic clarification as they spot your links back to their own indexes of your business.
Additionally, you need to have your business name, address, and phone number — including area code — on every single page. Search engine spiders are smart enough to recognize an address and phone number when they see it and will index these appropriately.
Other important search engine optimization strategies include:
There are typically four different URLs with which a user can access your home page:
Search engines spiders regard these as four separate pages with identical content, since they each have different addresses, but will pick only one to serve up in search engine rankings. If you have inbound links going to all four home page addresses, you are diluting the weight these would add to your ranking by a factor of four, which can be especially damaging if you're targeting a limited geographic area. You are also leaving yourself open to 301 sabotage.
301 redirects consolidate all your URLs into one, and are also useful if you move your website and don't want to lose rankings in the process. Read more about 301 redirects.
These are files that live in your site's root directory and help search engine spiders index your site more efficiently. In my experience, sitemaps go a very long way in getting a site to show up in search engine results quickly, and this can be especially effective if your primary keywords include place modifiers, which are, by their nature, specific and targeted.
Sitemaps need to be updated periodically, depending upon how frequently you update your website, to ensure search engines have up-to-date information about your site.
You can generate a sitemap automatically at XML-Sitemaps.com. Download the one that ends ".xml" and upload it to your website's root directory; then head over to SitemapWriter.com to notify the search engines. You should re-notify whenever you update your sitemap.
Search engine optimization is a huge subject and the suggestions I've included here are far from comprehensive. Nevertheless they should give your site a noticeable boost in local search results.
For more information, please see: