local SEO: first steps to better Vancouver results

Local SEO (Search Engine Opti­miza­tion) refers to search opti­miza­tion with a regional focus, for instance tar­get­ing a city such as Van­cou­ver.  An exam­ple of local search engine opti­miza­tion would be my web­site, Blender Design, tar­get­ing searches orig­i­nat­ing in the Van­cou­ver met­ro­pol­i­tan area. For a local busi­ness this means focus­ing SEO efforts to com­pete for the searches that mat­ter most — poten­tial local clients.

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that search results are tai­lored to the searcher.  If a search engine, and by search engine I really mean Google, believes local search results would bet­ter answer a query, then local results will be pri­or­i­tized. For instance, if you do a Google search for “best restau­rant” you will likely see a cou­ple of web­sites fol­lowed by a list of local restau­rants.  For many obvi­ous local searches Google takes this a step fur­ther and includes an area map of results.

Getting Started with Local SEO — Address Please

As with all SEO cam­paigns you need to start with the basics, and there is noth­ing more basic for local SEO than ensur­ing that search engines know where you are located (e.g. your busi­ness, orga­ni­za­tion, event, per­son, place, or thing).  The eas­i­est and most effec­tive way to do this is to pro­vide an address on your web­site.  Focus on:

  • accu­racy — make sure the address you use locates you with­out con­fu­sion or error.  Check it in Google Maps and other online maps.
  • con­sis­tency — choose a sim­ple for­mat and use it every­where, every-time.  This ensures search engines won’t divide their atten­tion across sev­eral sim­i­lar results.
  • stan­dards based — mark the ele­ments of your address so that search engines can’t make a mis­take. Tagged infor­ma­tion is called struc­tured data. More on this below…

Address Formatting for local SEO — Structured Data

Search engines will prob­a­bly get it right if you include your busi­ness address in your web­site in a sim­ple for­mat, but why take the chance?  Struc­tur­ing the address data is easy(-ish) to do and Google might even reward you for your efforts.  Things are about to get tech­ni­cal so some of you might pre­fer to share this post appropriately.

There are sev­eral ways you can mark up/structure/tag your address.  A pop­u­lar for­mat is an hCard. Learn more at microformats.org. They also pro­vide a tool for cre­at­ing hCards. The hCard micro­for­mat builds on HTML by spec­i­fy­ing classes to add to tags wrapped around the ele­ments of your address.  The fol­low­ing exam­ple of the sim­pli­fied hCard for Stephen Drozdik with Blender Design will give you an idea of what the out­put of the hCard tool can look like:

<div id="hcard-Stephen-Drozdik" class="vcard">
<p><a  class="url org" href="http://blender.ca/">Blender Design</a> / <span class="fn">Stephen Drozdik</span>
<span class="adr"><span class="street-address">252 East 19th Ave</span>
<span class="locality">Vancouver</span>, <span class="region">BC</span>, <span class="country-name">Canada</span>, <span class="postal-code">v5v1j2</span></span></p>
<a class="email" href="mailto:stephen@blender.ca">stephen@blender.ca</a>
<span class="tel">604-633-1211</span>
</div>

After you have your encoded address you can add more classes to enable styling in your web­site, or include the micro­for­mat classes in your website’s style sheet.  The result­ing address from this code will look like the following:

Blender Design / Stephen Drozdik
252 East 19th Ave
Van­cou­ver, BC, Canada, v5v1j2
stephen@blender.ca
604 – 633-1211

Another source for struc­tured data sup­ported by major search engines is schema.org. Schema.org is a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft so it deserves your atten­tion. To quote Google, “Google doesn’t use markup for rank­ing pur­poses at this time — but rich snip­pets can make your web pages appear more promi­nently in search results, so you may see an increase in traf­fic.” Read more at schema.org, or for infor­ma­tion spe­cific to cod­ing your address you can visit schema.org/organization.

Once you have added your encoded address to your web­site you can con­firm it is prop­erly struc­tured by using Google’s struc­tured data test­ing tool.

Summing Up — Local SEO First Steps

  1. Add an address to your web­site for­mat­ted with local SEO in mind
  2. Test that google rec­og­nizes your micro-formatted address

Now when search engines visit your web­site they will know where to geo-locate you in the real world. Next step: reg­is­ter­ing your busi­ness or orga­ni­za­tion with the major search engines.

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Comments

One response to “local SEO: first steps to better Vancouver results”

  1. louisa says:

    I also found this inter­est­ing arti­cle where it explained a local key­word phrase. A local key­word phrase is gen­er­ally one or two words com­bined with loca­tion that are used by adver­tis­ers in search engine opti­miza­tion, or by vis­i­tors who are using search engines in a desire to find infor­ma­tion based on that par­tic­u­lar local phrase. For exam­ple, an adver­tiser that pro­vides local plumb­ing ser­vices might use “Plumber Mor­ris­town, NJ” as a local key­word phrase to draw more vis­i­tors inter­ested in the topic. On the other hand, vis­i­tors to a search engine look­ing to hire local plumber would also use the key­word phrase “Plumber Mor­ris­town, NJ” in the search engine, which would then match the local key­word phrase with web­sites like that of the adver­tiser that men­tion the same local key­word phrase.
    It’s really sim­ple; search engines like Google rank pages and you need to give them what they want to rank your page. To give them what they want you must pro­vide the con­tent that they’re look­ing for and send enough links to your pages to let the search engines know they are rel­e­vant and important.
    And, never for­get the local cus­tomer. It does you no good for a local search term if your con­tent doesn’t include loca­tion you serve.
    Note: search key­word phrases that are used in Meta Tags con­tent are no longer fre­quently used by search engines to index pages. Major search engines such as Google no longer look for key­word phrases in the Meta Tags, and are more apt to use the infor­ma­tion within the actual text of the web page. List­ing the local key­word phrases in the in Meta Tags does not do any harm though, but is com­pletely up to the web­site to whether they will use local key­word phrases in the in Meta Tags content.

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