Local search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing or modifying a website’s content to obtain a higher ranking in search engine results pages targeted at specific locations. These may include map applications or searches based on proximity to the user’s location. Local SEO may be practiced directly by business owners or by professional consultants, but does not involve payment to a search engine. Strategies for local search engine optimization can take place within a webpage’s markup code or as part of the site’s visible content.
Almost as long as search engines have existed, Web developers and business owners have sought ways to improve their sites' rankings and placements in the results of a given search term, a practice known today as search engine optimization. Generally speaking, this is done by analyzing the factors that govern the order of items on search engine results pages (SERPs) and modifying a website based on those factors to improve the search ranking of a given site or page. As search engines have evolved beyond simple text listings, different subsets of SEO have emerged to optimize content for a variety of search results. In the case of local search engine optimization, the goal may be to increase the visibility of a website in map applications, business directories, or SERPs confined to a city or geographical area. Businesses may perform search optimizations themselves or seek the help of consulting firms that specialize in the practice.
Though a business owner may pay an outside entity such as a consulting firm to optimize his site's search results, local search engine optimization does not involve payment to a search engine. All local SEO strategies and techniques have the goal of improving results “organically,” meaning that they attempt to improve rankings by playing into a search engine’s algorithms and technologies instead of through financial incentives. It is, however, common for a business owner to include search optimization in a larger overall strategy of local search marketing (SEM), which may include paid listings or targeted ads.
Techniques employed in the practice of local search engine optimization can either be behind the scenes or part of a website’s visible content. Behind-the-scenes efforts are often incorporated into a the existing markup language of a webpage and are intended to convey information to the “spider” software that search engines use to index pages on the Web. Examples include geographical coordinates, such as the physical location of the business, and special “micro-format” tags that mark a block of content as a piece of contact information. Some approaches are more noticeable by end users, such as the inclusion of relevant keywords and placement of a business address or contact information in visible portions of the page. It is also common for a business owner to submit his information to business directories maintained by search providers, telecommunications companies, and other entities.