'SEO' for small LOCAL business

Hi there...

500 pts that I will probably *split* between those who provide interresting answers..

Been looking hard for tips on getting the proper keywords and such for small/medium LOCAL business. By that, I mean there isn't much value being listed at top of 'hair styling' if you are a local barber shop. Same with things like interior designers and such who needs to be 'on site'.

Should the emphasis be on plugging the city name, province/state or country, or rather on the services offered? -- What kind of keywords do people use when looking for local biz anyway?

Any tip, link to 'tutorial', any discussion of the subject at hand is MOST welcome guys.. :)
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PaulPosition -

>Been looking hard for tips... small/medium LOCAL business...

A very interesting and important question!  Most expert SEOs can talk about this for hours but in fact the best way to do it is really quite simple.  You optimize as you would normally but you do one extra thing and that is put your full address at the bottom of every page.  Think about it...

- duz
Pete LongTechnical ConsultantCommented:
Google Listings

If there is a link to your website on an indexed site you will get indexed eventually, failing that submit your URL to http://www.google.com/addurl.html

TO improve your "Ranking" see http://www.seo-guy.com/tutorial.html
The tutorial PeteLong provided is probably the best place to start.  You want to find good resources like that (another good one is  www.highrankings.com).  Use the knowledge you gain there and monitor the results.  Keep what works and adjust the things that don't work and you'll start to get a feel for it.

If the website is for a local business, you definitely want to put some keyword emphasis on your area (ie. city) as well as focusing on the best keywords for your product/services.  The best way to think of keywords is as words that someone looking for the kinds of services you offer would type into a search engine to find those services.  You want to put some serious thought into which keywords best represent your website and then use them in your Page Title tag, your Heading tags, your Alt tags, etc. as outlined here - http://earthskater.com/library/seo.asp.  You also want to use them in your website content (very important).  Try to use the 'early and often', but never at the expense of compromising the relevance and clarity of your content.

The most important thing to remember is to forget about using any tricks, because they generally work against you.  The best way to get SE recognition is to create a quality website, because that is consistent with the objectives of any search engine, to deliver quality websites to their users.  There are lots of people who look for ways around that, but the SEs are constantly refining their methods to focus on that primary objective and they're starting to get pretty good at it.

So what is a quality website?  Content is king -  you have to provide lots of useful, original content.  From a design perspective, it has to be clear and uncluttered (both visually and in terms of your coding) so that it is easily accessable and navigable by users (and SE crawlers).  The earthskater link above provides a basic one-page overview of some of the  design aspects.

Links also help a lot.  Most search engines use the number and quality of links to your site as an indication of the relevance and importance of your site.  How do you get links?  First and foremost, you build a quality site with relevant content as above.  If you create a valuable information resource, people will link to you.  You can also exchange links with other websites.  However, make sure they are also quality websites with content that is related to yours.  A link from a poor site won't benefit you at all and remember to avoid Link Farms at all costs.  Not only will you not benefit from their link to you, SEs will penalize you for linking to them.  The best place to start is to get your website listed in the appropriate directory at the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org).  This ensures that your site will be crawled by Google and numerous other SEs and legit directories.

This is a very basic starting point and SEO tends to be quite fluid as the Search Engines evolve.  You have to stay informed and commit to an ongoing process of keeping your website in top shape.
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PaulPositionAuthor Commented:
Okay, a few good tips from humeniuk.. Thanks. SEOguy's site I already knew of (and read through), but I'll have a look at that other one.

I have an understanding of SEO, though it's very general. I already understand many concepts, like keywords density and such, know about the culprit of trying to cheat spiders (no invisible texte and such) and the worth of inbound links that comes from real sites and not just linkfarms. I'm also happy with having w3c conform code for my html and css.

I am really wanting tips on LOCAL business. Things that worked. Should one use titles such as 'Best whatever shop in Toronto' or not. Should one forget about google and instead launch an assault on all the small directories in his locality. That kind of stuff. For example, using the WebCEO program to search for 'printing in montreal' won't get ANY result. Now I'm sure there ARE printing shops in montreal that advertise on the net :p I understand that software can't do guess work and thus, if it has no suggestion for me, it has none ; but certainly there are methods, tools and such to do it.

Or some good example websites I could look at. Something UNLIKE amazon.com ;-)

Thanks anyway, will keep on reading :D

I don't think you should forget about Google.  If I were looking for a print shop (for example) in Toronto, that's where I'd look first.  Local directories (good ones anyway) can be very beneficial as well, both from the standpoint of delivering some traffic, but also in that they can represent quality incoming links.  One very good reason for submitting your site to DMOZ is that a lot of other directories (large and small) use it as a source of their content.  If 'Toronto' is one of the keywords you want to optimize for, you should definitely include it in your titles.  

Something else you should definitely look at is Google Local (see http://local.google.com) - still in Beta release.  Even if people don't use it directly, the results are presented on the main search page.  For example, if you search 'Toronto Print Shop' (www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=toronto+print+shop&btnG=Google+Search), you will see 'Local results for print shop near Toronto, ON' (see www.google.com/local?hl=en&lr=&sa=G&q=print+shop&near=Toronto,+ON&oi=localr), which presents business listings from the YellowPages.ca (you can narrow the search to a 2km, 10km, 25km or 75km radius).  You can add your business listing by sending an email to local-listings@google.com.  You can read more about Google Local at www.google.com/help/faq_local.html.

Something else to consider from a marketing point of view is Google's AdWords program (https://adwords.google.com), which can target ads pretty effectively.  To read more about targeted ads, see https://adwords.google.ca/select/targeting.html.  From this standpoint, you may want to check out www.overture.com as well.
once again duz brings in the proverbial bacon with the old *K*I*S*S* attitude.

I'd add to this by having a couple of pages dedicated to "our clients come from as far away as ... , ... and ... " (insert names of nearby towns/villages/areas) or a "coverage area" map with the areas listed that you travel to.

this will not only help you to optimise for your exact location, but nearby places too.

humeniuk mentioned directories - again this needs your research to do correctly, but search for your competition... if they are listed on a trade website, a directory website, a local listing, whatever - make every attempt to get on it yourself.

spamming the newsgroups isn't wise, but every now and then, contribute to the "local" newsgroup by discussing something fairly relevant to the business matter. a simple URL in your sig without all the "promotional crap" will not go un-noticed, but shouldn't cause offence to the spam-brigade.

above all, I think it's important to revisit this question in a couple of months time and post what you actually did, if it worked, which pages seem to attract more hits and which type of referrers are worth pushing harder to get inbound links

PaulPositionAuthor Commented:
Many interresting tips, all. Thanks. I am not unhappy to see solutions that make sense, a load of sense. I 'almost' could have thought them myself, that's to say!! ;)

Oh, and that addy in the footer 'trick' from Duz, most valuable.
Pete LongTechnical ConsultantCommented:
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