Today’s post is by Account Coordinator Frank Zhang, an ex-Googler who helped launch Google Places and knows every ramen restaurant in the Bay Area.

Both PPC and SEO practitioners have more and more reason – and tools – to tackle local search these days. Whether it’s using geo-targeting as an important targeting technique for PPC ads or using certain SEO-friendly directories to help your business rank well in community-based searches, local search is more robust than ever. Here’s a quick primer on how to optimize a business for local search.

Paid search ads should take advantage of geo-targeting

You can use this on any scale, from driving more foot traffic for a local business or increasing sales volume for a national business (think of a clothing chain that might hold a winter sale for galoshes in Portland, down jackets in Boston, and sweaters in San Francisco). Geo-targeting enables you to display your ads broadly or narrow your distribution down to regions, country, and metro, allowing better control on cost by better targeting your customers and customize your ads. The general idea is to get clicks and customers from a specific location that you’ve targeted.

(At PPC Associates, we recommend starting with very simple campaign structures so geo-targeting can spin off from there and not create infinite layers of complexity.)

Mobile location search – important for both PPC and SEO

With the ever-growing smartphone market and releases like the agenda-pushing Enhanced Search, mobile location search is a market not to be neglected. Nowadays, people search for things like the nearest theater using their handheld devices, and perhaps they follow up by searching for something nearby after their events. Occurrences like these are at the essence of local search (both PPC and SEO); it is important to enhance your mobile account and keep data up to date. And despite some of the well-chronicled drawbacks of Enhanced Campaigns, the release has made mobile targeting much easier to manage.

(Seems like a good time for a reminder that local businesses should optimize for mobile if they’re investing in mobile location search!)

Keyword research is fundamental

Using relevant keywords for your business is very important when it comes to SEO for local businesses. Adding location into your keyword can better enhance the ranking of your keyword.

For example, let’s say you want to increase traffic for your gardening business. The keyword “gardener” is very broad and can relate to many different possibilities (gardener tools, gardener supplies, etc.) – not to mention that without location, most of those searches will most likely generalize the search to users who are nowhere near your local business location. But if you start broad and add location (click on the example below), you can use Google’s Keyword Tool to see more specific keywords that people in the area might be searching for:

keyword research local

These keywords hold specific buying intentions for the user and will help drive better traffic to your local business.

Take advantage of community research/directories:

There are a number of well-known directories to help direct traffic from global search to local search and help drive traffic. A few of the leading community directories are:

–          CitySearch

–          Yelp

–          Google Places

These local search databases can help you boost your traffic on top of your PPC ads. Google Places, which combines both social (Google+) and local search, definitely excel s when it comes to including community local searches. The results are most helpful for users who wish to find information relating to their own area.

For example, when you select a listing for gardeners on Google Places, you will see all of the user-generated recommendations. This allows you to see other consumers’ opinions, which tends to help decision-making.listing google places

Whether you’re proficient in PPC or SEO or both, there’s always something to be gained by focusing on local. Leave a comment with techniques that have helped your business!

– Frank Zhang, Account Coordinator

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