This week our guest posts focus on the latest trends in SEO.

Today: Local search by Monia Raymond. 

Every day, more companies learn a bit more about SEO,and every day, competition for  website traffic increases.

For small businesses dependent on location, local SEO has become one of the most important search tactics, especially after the recent Panda update.

Gini Dietrich wrote about the benefits of Google+ just yesterday touching on it’s search benefits. Today, we’ll expand on its numerous benefits to help with local search.

Five Ways to Improve Your Local SEO using Google+

  1. Put your address and phone number in the right places. Put your address and phone number either in the footer or in the header of your website in search engine-readable HTML text. This way, your contact is on every page of your website allowing Google to attribute the city data to the homepage.
  2. Encourage  reviews and Google+1 votes for your content. Research has proven that social signals from Google+ social network  count heavily when it comes to search engine ranking. When Google+ Local pages took over Google Places, the strategy remained somewhat the same as previously. Search engines, when looking for local content, put more weight on sites and content with many reviews, and Google+1 votes. So, put your Google+ button wherever you can– on you pages, in your email signature, your contact form, etc.
  3. Use graphics (and pictures). Never underestimate the SEO benefit of an optimized photo! A picture speaks more than a thousand words. Use photos and graphics whenever possible, and include your keywords in the alt text and metadata. While you’re at it, upload your photos to your Google+ page. This helps even more.
  4. Get directory  and Google + local listings. Directories are the first stops for the search engine spiders when they are searching for content,  although they are not as valuable as they were a couple of years ago. Also, it is indispensable to list your business in Google Places and Google Maps among many others. Google+ Local pages are now indexed after Google+ is integrated with Google maps, search, and mobile, so your listing has a huge impact on local SEO.
  5. Social networking: Share like crazy! The other big local SEO tip is to get links to your content from the various social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Yeah, yeah, we all know that…but the key is to engage visitors. Following are few tips about thinking outside the box:
  • Share local area information and transportation. Share content not just about your business but about your local area. The more informative you are, the more shares and engagement you’ll get; expanding your reach. Take pictures and post them on Google Maps from your Google+  business account. Get close views, get sidewalks, photos of food, drinks, and people.
  • Bicycle trails. What are the best bicycle trails in Georgia, for example? Post a picture of a bicycle trail on which you just went for a ride. A friend of your friend or fan might not have been aware of your business, but he will share the link or picture, which means more traffic to your content, and/or your Google+ business page. Apply this idea to a variety of special interests that would appeal to your target audience.

And remember, a strong Local page is one that provides a great deal of information about your business, but also has high visitor engagement with submitted photos and reviews. Keep your Local page fresh, and interact with your customers. Do this, and you will increase the page’s ranking in local search results, guaranteed.

How else would you improve SEO through G+ pages?

Monia Raymond is a freelance journalist, SEO enthusiast, and professional blogger. Currently she is a content contributor for SEO Highway , an Atlanta-based SEO company. She also blogs at Female SEO: A women’s approach to search engine optimization