The phrase “Search engine optimization” conjures up an image in my head of someone sitting in front of their computer, strategizing and implementing tactics with the tools of their trade, a mouse and a keyboard. Often, this is an accurate depiction of an SEO. Personal communication is limited to internal communications with client liaisons and the occasional presentation to a client or a potential client. Maybe there are even a few phone calls associated with link building (or removal) campaigns. And, as an SEO, a large portion of your time should be spent in front of a computer, but as Google continues to aid local businesses with boosted local search results, SEOs spending all their time working on their monitor tan will no longer be able to get the job done.
Search engines, Google in particular, have always seemed to have a soft spot for local businesses. This is reflected in the recent additions to the search results page, like the local Carousel and the addition of Google+ local results to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). With a coordinated local SEO effort, a small local business can now compete with and even win the top spots of the SERP from much larger, better-established, non-local businesses.
The advantage that your small business has over big business is your local relationships. You get your lunch at local restaurants, you get your coffee from the local deli, and you go to the local bars for happy hour. These people recognize you. Chances are, unless you’ve been consistently nasty to deal with, they treat you better than the random people that walk through their door because they know that you keep coming back and that you will make more purchases in the future. Maybe they even chat you up, or you them. So how can this help your SEO?
You need to talk about your business. You should be proud to tell them where you work (if not, you may want to rethink your current employment). Maybe they have a website. Maybe you can write a guest blog. Maybe they can write a guest blog for you. Maybe you can give each other +1s on Google+, review each other’s businesses on Yelp, and follow each other on Twitter. Local links are relevant links, and if Google hasn’t already factored this in, you can be sure that eventually a +1 from your neighbor will be more valuable than 1,000 +1s from Indonesia. These local relationships have value beyond the occasional free lunch or coffee, and with local search as powerful as it is, you need to seize the opportunity.