Remember the Disney film Cars and the town of Radiator Springs? In the movie, Radiator Springs was a little town that was thriving off of all the traffic passing by on Route 66. Unfortunately, once Route 66 was decommissioned, Radiator Springs was left in the shadows and forgotten. Roads across America are always changing and so is Google’s algorithm, but you don’t want to end up like Radiator Springs, lost and forgotten, so you have to keep up with the changes.

In the movie, Lightning McQueen helped his new friends spruce up the town to make it more attractive for people passing through. Your website works the same way. You need to frequently update your site so that it is optimized based on Google’s algorithm changes, is modern and easy to navigate for your visitors, and features local content. Local website optimization is often missed by companies, but is crucial to the success of your website. Google is putting a larger emphasis on local optimization because they want to make sure they are showing the most relevant results to the user by displaying businesses that are near them. If you are living in Phoenix, Arizona searching for a restaurant nearby, it wouldn’t help you to know of a new restaurant that opened in New York City, right? Here are 4 tips to help you optimize your site for local search so you aren’t left in the dust.

1. Verify Your Website

Let’s start off with an easy one. One of the easiest things you can do to help your local search engine rankings is to make sure your business is listed and verified. List your website on sites like Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing places.

2. Add Alternative Text

Adding alternative text to your pictures on your site can also really help with local search engine rankings. Since sites like Google and Yahoo can’t crawl pictures, adding alt tags helps them distinguish what is actually in the pictures on your site.  By adding geo-specific alt tags to your pictures you can also reach more customers in or interested in your local area.

For example, if you own a taco restaurant and have pictures on your site of tacos with alt text like “taco restaurant” when a potential customer searches something like “taco restaurants in Scottsdale AZ” your site can show up in search engine results but you will probably not be high up on the list. But simply adding geo-specific alt text to your pictures can dramatically help boost your search engine rankings for geospecific searches.



3. Use Precise Location Information and Keywords

For using precise location information and keywords, let’s keep the taco restaurant example from earlier in mind. When a potential customer searches for your restaurant today, they will typically type something into Google like “taco restaurant” , “taco restaurants near me”, or “taco restaurant Scottsdale”. After typing in their search, Google will display organic results and will also display results from Google+ and Google Maps. That is why it is important to have the correct information on your listings, because if there are any discrepancies between your business listings on different directories, then your business will show up lower on the Google results because Google views this a problem that can hurt the user experience.

To fix this, all you have to do is make sure your listing information is consistent. To help optimize your local search results, focus on using consistent location keywords throughout your site, especially on title tags, H1 headings and in your urls. Incorporating these keywords helps Google recognize that your business is relevant and that your business is local and optimized for the best possible user experience. Research shows that location has a 19.6% impact on search results

4. Give Your Pages Geo-Specific Descriptive Meta Tags

When it comes to search results, people are going to see your website’s SEO title tag and meta description. A meta description is just a short summary of the key points that are on that page of your site. If you have geo-specific optimized tags on your site when a potential customer searches something that is related to your business and in your area, you have a better chance of showing up higher on search engine rankings.

In the movie Cars, after a few small changes and some much needed exposure, Radiator Springs was thriving again and your local business can too. Local website optimization may take some time but in the long run it is worth it.


Images by Mathew Kramer via Flicker CC and Ryan Wilmot via Wikimedia Commons