(Source) Local Search: Keyword-based and location-based. User provides a query and search engine matches documents to both the keyword and the location. To rank for “seattle green widgets,” develop great content and links about green widgets, and be located in Seattle. In theory and practice this is not simple, nor is it easy.
Here’s why: The addition of geography screws everything up. It complicates everything.
This is the first time I think I’ve read anyone succinctly state the challenge behind ranking a local business for local search. Yes, small businesses need help with SEO. But even a weakness in SEO can’t overcome the geography challenges. Another aspect of local search that is rarely looked at are the different needs of rural businesses to those located in a large urban area.
If your small dry cleaning business is located in a major metropolitan area then you’ll have a lot of competition even for local search terms. If you’re the only dry cleaning business in rural Kansas within a 10 mile radius then you’ll have a lot easier go of it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges.
Zip code searches, for instances, will fare better for rural businesses because of the dispersion of same type businesses in that setting. But type in a zip code in some major metro areas and you’re likely to get several thousand search results for that dry cleaner. You could live across the street from a dry cleaner and not see it in your search results because it doesn’t have a website or, if it does, no one has bothered submitting the website to Google Local or Yahoo! Local.
In major metro areas, the challenge of zip codes is that you could have several neighborhoods within the same zip code. In Dallas, Texas, for instance, if you type in zip code 75180 you will get listings for the city of Mesquite, but if you live in Balch Springs within the same zip code then that covers a huge driving distance.
The challenge for rural businesses is a bit different. Instead of neighborhoods, you might have a bunch of small towns and villages in the same zip code. Or you might have one town and a wide space of boondocks. How these challenges are overcome in local search is something that is not often talked about and the discussion can’t continue without valuable input from the people at the search engines who create the search algorithms. My hat’s off to Matt McGee for taking the conversation to another level.