Biznology
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Local businesses

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Establishing a strong web presence is a challenge that every business owner faces. For small businesses in particular, generating local traffic is key. Local customers provide the support that small businesses need to keep going, which makes optimizing your website for local search engine rankings even more important.

1) Find Reliable Hosting
Before you start any website project, you need a reliable place to host it. Look for a hosting service that provides enough bandwidth to support site pages, the types of media you’re planning to use and the amount of traffic you’re expecting to get. Without this, your site is likely to go down without warning. Downtime means disappointed customers and losses in sales. [Full disclosure: I am the Director of Online Marketing at Brain Host, so I have hosting on the brain.]

2) Optimize for Local Keywords
You already know how important keywords are for SEO, but have you put effort into ranking for local keywords? Customers in your area are likely to use some kind of location-based term when searching for local products and services. If you’re a cookie company in Vermont, for example, don’t just optimize for “fresh cookies.” Try phrases such as “fresh cookies in Vermont” or “homemade cookies in Montpelier.” Incorporate these phrases into your website text, page titles and meta description tags in a way that flows naturally.

3) Include Location
Putting your business address and contact information somewhere prominent on your front page makes it easy for customers to get in touch with you. Putting it on all of your pages alerts search engines to where you are and can help deliver more useful results in location-based searches. While you’re at it, why not embed a map as well? That way, customers can see exactly where your business is in relation to their own locations and find you more easily.

4) Get Listed on Local Directories
There are many online directories that allow you to list your business along with contact information, photos and sometimes even videos. Getting your business on Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Superpages and other local search directories verifies that you’re in business and lets you update your listings whenever necessary. Being listed can also give your search rankings a boost over and above the competition.

5) Local Linking
A good network of relevant backlinks helps to show search engines that your site is of high quality and worth crawling. Local backlinks from sources such as other businesses, local resource listings and pages for special community events give your company local credibility. Seek out a variety of links that will help establish your identity. When others link to you, make sure that they do so in a way that incorporates your highest-performing local keywords.

6) Use Social Media
People love to share where they’ve been and what they liked about it, and this is where social media comes in handy for small businesses. On Facebook, for example, business Pages put location, hours and contact information right near the top. When users “like” your page, the action shows up in their news feeds for their networks to see. You can also target important updates to specific locations, so it’s easy to let followers in your community know about limited-time sales, special offers and other location-specific events.

7) Gather User Reviews
On many search directories, customers can leave reviews of their favorite businesses. You won’t have any direct control over whether these reviews are positive or negative, but the feedback you get will help you make business decisions to better serve your customers in the future. Some sites allow you to reply to user reviews, giving you a chance to ask questions, resolve problems and establish yourself as a reliable presence in the community.

Making sure that your business website is designed to draw local traffic is worth the necessary time and effort. Local traffic not only brings in customers from around the community; it also boosts your reputation in nearby areas by generating Internet buzz and increasing consumer feedback. Local traffic has the potential to boost sales and raise brand awareness in the areas that are most important to your marketing efforts.

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