Most of us designers/developers stay afloat by getting clients fueling us with enough work to pay our bills and daily expenses. Whether you’re a full-time freelancer or not, most of us rely heavily on steady traffic to gain good clients. Where does the traffic come from? The biggest contributor will be the obvious: Search Engines.
For those who are already established and have large clientele, this probably is not the article for you, but for those who are keeping it simple or would like to tap into getting more clients, my recommendation would be to dominate in your local search listings.
Benefits of Ranking in Your Local Search
- Less Competition for your Keyword
Since you’re narrowing down your search to your specific location, you are no longer competing with others around the world. This gives you a chance to shine and better chance to rank. My recommendation for ranking any search term is to start small then grow out. Its always more motivating when you see yourself ranking, and then challenging yourself to take it a step further and dominating more generic and competitive keywords.
- Local Service = More Personal
For most small business owners, the feeling of being able to actually meet the people they are doing business with, in general makes them feel more warm and fuzzy. Having that personal interaction and initial meeting will allow trust to grow between you and your client, which will overall influence the way you work with each other. Having great relationships with your client always makes the job much smoother.
- Popularity of Local Search is Increasing
The trend of consumers looking for local services is increasing. Most major search engines now offer local search features that allow users to more accurately find the service that are located conveniently.
- Targeted Traffic = Increased Conversion Rates
By users narrowing down their search and stumbling across your site, the conversion rates naturally become higher. When ranking on the first page of their local search, you are most likely in the door to becoming their prime candidate. From this point on it’s about your content and appearance of your site that will move them forward and contacting you.
Choosing the Right Keywords and Location
One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make it not choosing the right keywords. Use the Google Keywords Tool to look up what keywords people are using for your service.
One thing I usually do is check out what my competition is using for their keywords. Do a search on what you would like to rank high on, and evaluate and make your own list of keywords that you would like to target.
Optimizing for Search Engines – General Guideline
- Title Tags
Be sure your most important keywords are at the beginning of your title tag, and that it includes your targeted location keywords. Most experts say that 65 characters is around the max of what most search engines read. Anything beyond that limit will most likely be ignored. Some browsers only show a snippet of the title tag as well.
- Meta Tags
Meta Keywords: Meta keywords are said to be obsolete now a days. Do add them, but most major search engines will ignore the keywords since this has been badly abused by keyword stuffing. Note that some smaller search engines still rely on keywords so do not take them out completely.
Meta descriptions: I like to look at Meta descriptions as more geared for the user rather than getting any points for SEO. Just because you landed on the first page doesn’t necessarily mean that the user will be clicking on your link. Having a brief straight to the point description will allow the user to make that decision to click on your site.
- Header Tags <h1> ~ <h5>
From my experience, the header tags have a lot of impact on SEO. Seeing this from a semantics coding point of view, each of these headings should be speaking your targeted keywords but also keep in mind, we are building these sites for users, not search engine robots.
As they say, content is king! What is the use of ranking when your content is horrible or it does not relate to what the user is searching for? Having good solid content with your targeted keywords drives most search engines to love your site.
Also keep in mind it’s not only the copy that is in your content, but how your html code is optimized. Be sure you don’t have unnecessary tags and inline styles cluttering your pages. The lighter and cleaner your code is, the faster the search engine robot can crawl your site. Also keep in mind that the higher the heart of your content is on the page, the better ranking you will get. Don’t allow the important piece of your content be at the bottom of your page. In general make sure your content is accessible for both robots and users.
- Internal Linking / Inbound Linking
Internal linking: Proper internal linking allows both users and search engine robots to navigate through your pages smoothly and logically. Good Inner linking structures allows the robots to find your most important pages faster besides only relying on the sitemap.
Inbound Linking: Inbound links are basically other sites pointing to your site as a reference. Inbound linking allows the search engines to evaluate how popular and how important your website is.
- Sitemap / Robots.txt
Always be sure that you have a proper Sitemaps and Robots.txt set up on your site. This is strictly for the search engine robots to completely understand the structures of your site and any restrictions or directions you have for it.
Local Search Submission
Last but not least, submit your business to local search.
- Google Local Business Center
- Yahoo Local Directory
- ASK City
- AOL Local Search
- Live Local
- Yellow Pages
- City Search
- White Pages