Local search, the act of showing up on page one when surfers type in phrases that hint they are looking for a local business, requires much of the same focus as any type of optimization – only localized.

Here’s what I mean.

Winning the search game takes 3 things (yes, SEO folks will tell you it’s 300, but focus on these 3 and you will do better than most.)

  • High quality, education based, frequently changing content
  • Naturally generated, inbound links from high quality sites
  • Properly formated and used HTLM coding

Focus on the list above and you will go far. Again, this is not the definitive “every trick in the book” SEO list. This is the practical, what most local small business web sites need to focus on first, list.

For the local business, the list is the same, the content is simply local focused.

1) Content – use the names of cities and suburbs on your pages, add your address and Google maps, talk about local and community events in your blog posts and titles. Link out to local sites using town and neighborhood names in the anchor text.
2) Links – this one is not as local focused but get links from your local chamber directories, local school alumni directories, local strategic partners, your blog network
3) HTML – use local words in you title tags of pages, anchor text for internal and external links, H1 tags, bold and italics tags, urls of page names, and alt and title description of images. Make sure anything you do that highlights content makes sense to eyeballs as well. Don’t overuse this mark-up, just use it to help point to your site.

Here’s an example of a site that does this well. It’s a remodeling contractor looking for business in the Kansas City area. Most home services related searches are local in nature so this is a pretty competitive industry.

The site is RemodelAgain.com, but searches for Kansas City Remodeling Contractor or Kansas City Kitchen Remodel, both extremely important search phrases for this business, turn up very high results for this site.

This is a long time customer of mine so I know for a fact that these results were achieved by simply focusing on the three steps above.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John I love your insight.
    It means so much to our local small biz owner to be able to get their site up on the first page of google.
    It could mean the difference between new paying clients and nothing happening to improve their sales.

    A professional Seo co that is affiliated with our company, did the seo for the Metzler remodeling co that is right there with this one.

    Our web site packages come with seo. This is not allways the case. But it is important that our clients succeed, so we make sure they get the best pckges to help them.

    Tell your friend good job with his seo.

  • Thank you! The timing of this article helps so much! I’m going to be doing more marketing for two companies via blogging and was looking for more ideas on how to reach out. This helps!

  • John Jantsch

    @Heather – glad this helps – best of luck and keep blogging!

  • Roger Samara

    John, that is really interesting.
    This is very helpful information.
    I am currently managing 32 blogs and this will help me a lot.

  • Joe

    Couple of points John. “use local words in you title tags of pages, anchor text for internal and external links, H1 tags … .” Well, yeah, user local key words to market locally but it’s more specific than that. One needs to decide up front what keywords you marketing each page for and then user those exact keywords (or one keyword) in the places you name. This is why your Kansas City Remodeling contractor did well in your search. Check his source code, you see “kansas city remodeling contractor” at strategic places. Change the search phrase a little and page doesn’t rank. It’s about targeting specific keywords whether this is local or national. Also, did you see where the Kansas City guy’s highest value link came from? see backlinks–answer>: ducktapemarketing by a mile.

  • Exactly Joe!

    The key isn’t one page or one term to win, but lot’s…hundreds or thousands. The KC contractor wants to win on kitchens and baths, lighting, additions, room add-ons and so on.

    This is why business have to get out of this WordPress mentality and look more towards Software-as-a-Service applications geared specifically towards business blogging and SEO. It’s not ‘a blog’, it’s about BLOGS.

    Many small business marketers get excited when they rank on one or two terms organically but then go out and do Pay Per Click advertising and target 100 terms. You want to win those terms organically.

    SEO is about content organization and keyword titles. With the right blogging software the SMB can target their keywords specifically and write content that is appropriate for each search.

    One correction to your Post John as well. Your point one was “frequently changing content”…just to clarify, I’m sure you mean “frequently updated content”. We don’t want to imply that people should remove or replace content ever….just continually add to it.


    Chris Baggott
    Compendium Blogware

  • John Jantsch

    @Chris – yes, thanks for the clarification I do mean updated, additional content. However, I don’t agree on the WordPress comment. It’s hard enough to get small business owners to even accept the idea of adding a blog and blog content. While I think your approach is a step in the right direction for many, there are many other who first need to crawl, to accept the idea of what content really is and what it means for their business.

  • John,

    Just to clarify: When you say “inbound links”, you mean other sites linking to you?



  • John,

    Thanks for posting this insight, which I find very relevant to non-profit organizations whose clients are typically local.


  • John Jantsch

    @John – yes I do

  • Thanks this is a great post. One of the things I always encourage my clients to do, especially if they are focused locally is to have a boiler plate description they use on press releases and other posts which link back to their site.

    also, this should sit somewhere on their home page to help the readers – live and robot classify who your are.

    For example: I always define myself as Roundpeg, one of Indy’s leading small business marketing firms. or Indianapolis based Roundpeg (http://www.roundpeg.biz) is focused on small business marketing.

  • Is there any point to putting in full phrases/questions in the keywords instead of just single words? So instead of “Fort Worth marketing consultant” could I put the solutions that people might be asking for such as “looking for a way to generate more sales leads in Fort Worth” or “how can I get better traffic to my website Fort Worth?”

    Sometimes people know the solution so they google it (KC remodeler), but sometimes people just search on questions / problems they are having (“how do I encourage my customers to refer me more often?” or “who is the best web designer in Fort Worth?”)

    I’m no SEO expert, so I’m sure just hitting on certain keywords is better (and more likely to hit), but sometimes if I’m typing a QUESTION about my PROBLEM, I may not hit on the keyword (if your keyword is in the SOLUTION, not my PROBLEM).

    I would love anyone’s thoughts on this one.

  • John this is one of my complaints about many website designers who create the website for small businesses but don’t even know the rudiments of SEO.

    In many cases it is not difficult to get to the top or near the top of local searches both organically and with Google’s own local search facility. The more appearances on page one the better from my point of view.

    To pick up Randy’s question, keyword research shows that there is a long tail and you can pick up extra hits but you’d only chase those when you’ve got the main keywords covered.

    Someone searching for “marketing consultant Forth Worth” is either looking for a marketing consultant in the area or is a marketing consultant checking their own Google ranking and wanting to take a look at the competition.

    I can’t see that more generic searches would be localised so someone may ask the question “how can I get better traffic to my website” but they are unlikely to add in Forth Worth as it unnecessarily restricts them from getting the best free advice on the web.

    What may happen is that instead of searching for an SEO expert or internet marketing consultant, someone may type in “who can help me get more website traffic in Fort Worth” but Google’s likely to find good combinations for that search based on website content about generating traffic and mentions of Fort Worth.

    The great thing is that for the last two weeks much of the uncertainty has gone. Google are now revealing search data in the Adword Keyword tool rather than those silly green bars that used to appear.


    Now we can see that “marketing consultant fort worth” doesn’t generate many hits at all, “marketing fort worth” only generates a few.

  • Another important point to make is that a lot of times you can get results faster by taking advantage of local terms.

    For example:
    If your trying to rank for “marketing” (which is next to impossible since it’s so vague) it’s going to be very hard.

    But if your try to rank for “San Diego Marketing”, you have a much better chance.

    You will also see results a lot faster.

    I also wrote a post on Starting with Local SEO which mentions how to get faster results.

    PS. i think you have a typo in your list at the top of the article…HTLM coding?

  • I share your views. The three steps you’ve mentioned have been pretty consistent with many of the top ranking sites. Keyword heavy pages(not too obvious) along with the locality name really helps local businesses. I think the tips you’ve given are common to all be it blogs or local business sites.

  • I’ve been helping small business owners with internet marketing since 1996 and have been focused on local SEO specifically for over a year now. I also just got home from the SMX Local and Mobile conference in San Francisco.

    I can tell you the that #1 thing you need to do is claim your Local Business listings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

    Once you’ve claimed your local listings on the major search engines, do the same on internet yellow page sites like yellowpages.com, superpages.com and dex.com.

    Then move on to local directories like local.com, yelp.com, insiderpages.com and merchantcircle.com

    Be sure to keep the information identical for each site. This is one case where duplicate content is a positive thing.

  • This article is very interesting. A lot of people target the wrong market. Localizing your content makes it so much easier to target a defined segment of the worldwide market.

  • Thanks so much for your post. I think local SEO is crucial for any business that is looking for local business. I focus on exactly everything that you have said.. and it works. 🙂

  • This is an “oldie but goodie” post. I’m still trying to get the most critical aspect of SEO to sink in.
    Thanks for the insight.