Local search has been on a lot of people’s agendas over the last 6-12 months. Search engines have been improving and promoting the features. Delivering an SEO program for local search is no big deal; however, I think it is wise to really think through your options before going down that track.
If your website is essentially trying to promote a bricks and mortar business in a particular area or region then undertaking an SEO program that focuses on local search makes sense. Likewise, if your online business only services a particular area, you should optimize for that area.
Where some businesses get into trouble is when their long term goals are different to their short term situation. You may have an online business that services a certain region, however your long term goal maybe to service an international audience. If your SEO program optimizes the site for local search, what affect will that have when you plan to go international.
This can be a difficult situation. You need to keep your local search traffic coming whilst building the international side of the business. There are ways around the situation including optimizing several different domain TLD’s. If you’re primary business is to service the UK, registering your domain with as a .co.uk makes perfect sense. Given the long term goal, it would make sense to also register a .com domain name as well – preferably the same.
An even bigger issue is the website owner who lives, say in Australia, yet wants to service an international audience. If that website owner doesn’t think through the issues first, they may find themselves with little international traffic, only local. This may not be due to SEO activities, it could be simply because they are using a .com.au domain. They may have been better off registering a .com site instead. The .com.au domain could then be redirected to the .com site.
Local search is ideal for businesses servicing a particular region. If you are not servicing a particular area, you should ensure your website search engine optimization program does not lock you into that local area, instead it covers the international search community.