For small businesses, competing against Goliath national chains on search results pages can seem like a losing proposition. Granted, Google and its competitors are now giving more weight to local results, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t load your sling and aim high. Focus on these local SEO efforts to reach your local customers when they need you.

Create Profiles on Social Sites

Make sure you claim or list your small business on review sites like Yelp and Foursquare. This is where your current customers go to talk about you to prospective customers. Having a Facebook Page and a LinkedIn page are good ideas if you have the manpower to keep up with them, but more important for search is creating a Google+ Local Page (which is what Google Places has become). Both of these places let you have conversations with your customers, keeping you top-of-mind with your current customers, which is just where you want to be when one of their friends asks for a recommendation.

Google+ Local Pages are important because the information put there — your business address, phone number, website and, when applicable, any Zagat reviews — will appear in Google results.

These days, people expect a business to have a Twitter account. If you’re a new small business, maintaining a Twitter account might be more than you bargained for, but as you settle in and get comfortable doing business, make a Twitter account a consideration.

Add Your Business to Online Map Services

You can easily add your small business to Google Maps and Mapquest. (Not so much for Bing or Apple Maps.) Sometimes customers know what they want, they just need to know how to get to it, so make sure they can quickly find directions to your place.

Have a Mobile Option

Smartphones are everywhere now, which means that, whether they need a quick bite, a stiff drink or a cab ride home, prospective customers use smartphones to search for what they need right now. If you don’t have a website that mobile phone users can navigate easily, you’re losing these customers.

Use These Simple Site Optimization Tips

Here’s a simple local SEO tip that is easy to overlook: Put your business address on every page of your website. Most business sites put the information in the page footer. Although your human customers might not scroll down that far, the search spiders will.

If your small business has several physical locations, Google SEO guru Matt Cutts recommends that you create a separate page or website for each location — for example, ElephantYoga.com/northside. Web crawlers might not be able to find all your locations if they’re “hidden” behind a search feature.

Feature Local Content

To get the search engines’ attention, you need to create content. A blog is an effective (and fun) way to connect your business to a local community, both to search engines and to prospective and current customers. Posts about nearby landmarks, local news and community goings-on can wrap your site in a cocoon of content that clearly shows the search engine algorithms where you work and that you’re part of the community there.

Note, though, that the more you think of a company blog as a marketing outlet, the less interested real people (and the algorithms that watch what people are doing) will be. Continually providing content that is interesting and useful to your community will bring more people to your website, which has a ripple effect:

  • More site visitors means more customers (even if your conversion rate stays the same).
  • More customers means more reviews and more online buzz about your company.
  • Google and its competitors will notice that more people are talking about you online and (assuming they’re saying good things about you) will lift your site higher in the SERPs.
  • That, in turn, leads to more prospective customers finding you online.

Do Good Business

No amount of SEO tricks or coding magic will replace good business. Keep your customers happy and encourage them to find you online, leave reviews and recommend you to friends. Bloggers and social mediaites love to talk about great businesses almost as much as they love to read about horrible ones, and getting them to talk about you can boost your search rankings without any further help from you.