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It is becoming increasingly popular to support local businesses rather than large corporations, especially with people who crave the intimacy and customer support that small businesses provide.

Most small businesses, even ones meant to be multi-regional or national, will find that a significant portion of their customers comes from their own front yard. Here are some tips for local search optimization to help you ensure that these valuable customers are able to find you easily online.

Create Your Profiles

The first step in local search optimization is to build profiles for your business on websites like Yelp and Foursquare. Some people use these sites to search for local businesses directly, but even if they use a general search engine like Google, these pages will come up in the search results.

  • Relevant web sites: Not sure which websites you should focus on? Do a few searches that are relevant to your business (for example, “Italian restaurants + Los Angeles” if you own an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles) and see which context specific websites come up first.

  • Getting the details right: Pay attention to what details you are looking for when you search for businesses and make sure that you have them on your own pages. The most crucial ones for local search optimization include contact information, local address, business hours and a link to your main website.

Ask for Reviews

Asking for reviews can be tricky for two reasons. One, some customers don’t like to feel nagged for reviews. Two, you easily invite bad reviews, sometimes from people who didn’t even try your business. However, you will find that many customers who support your company love to share about their positive experiences and will be happy to provide thoughtful reviews so that other people can discover it.

  • Responding to bad reviews: Bad reviews can be frustrating, but the way in which you respond to them is important. If a customer truly had a negative experience, respond to their review by reaching out to them and trying to make it right. Apologize and offer them a discount for the next time they come in. They will appreciate the effort and might even change their review because of it.

  • Incentives: Offering incentives for reviews never hurts. If you are having trouble picking up reviews, consider running a short promotion that rewards customers for reviewing your business.

On-Site Optimization

Local search optimization still requires you to have a killer website that draws people in. You want curious customers to follow a link back to your main website so that they can find more information. Make sure that your page easily answers any questions they might have. Local search optimization also requires a couple extra nudges to move you up in the rankings.

  • Meta descriptions: Go into your coding and make sure that it is easy for search engines to find your local contact information. Google can’t tell people about your local flower shop if your website doesn’t say where you are located.

  • Mobile site: An increasing number of customers conduct searches for local businesses via mobile devices. It makes sense; most of the time, they are searching for something local because they are already out and want to find something nearby. Make sure your information is readily accessible by a mobile phone.

Hopefully, this information will help you connect with more local customers. Please comment and share your thoughts below.