Localization is making sure your site is positioned to do well in searches for the specific service areas you cover, especially the major ones, as well as providing useful qualifying information to prospective clients who might land on your site from a search result, and need to quickly determine if you cover their area.
If your web site or other marketing material, such as your Facebook page or your blog posts, does not mention the place names you cover, search engines have few ways to show your material in search results involving those place names. Most searchers don’t merely search for an attorney, CPA, or real estate agent by typing in just those words. Otherwise, they might get businesses that service Pittsburgh, PA and Baltimore, MD when they live in Minneapolis, MN. To refine or narrow the search results, searchers tend to add a place name. Some types of prospective clients might search by county, while others are more likely to search by city or even neighborhood. Some might mention the major metropolitan area, while others might input a nearby suburb. If you want your material to be well represented in searches for those areas, one important step is to include all the relevant place names.
The most important ones should appear on your home page. The home page tends to be weighted more than secondary pages for search engine indexing, so include your most important place names. You can link within the text to a complete list of service areas for less critical ones. You can also link each place name to a unique content page on your site with original text material discussing the differences that affect your prospective clients in those areas. For example, your home page might read:
Acme CPA Services provides accounting and bookkeeping to all of Cuyahoga County, OH – including Cleveland and all outlying areas.
If the prospective client wants to know more about your accounting or bookkeeping services, he clicks. Same with your place names and areas link. Just as importantly, search engines use these links to boost the page rank of those high value content pages, and further index your site for your various local areas. After all, those pages may contain even more place names. The county page might include an annotated list of all cities in that county, mentioning a unique facet of each that’s relevant to your search terms. The city page (e.g. for Cleveland) might break down key neighborhoods in Cleveland, discussing the features of each (e.g. for a real estate agent or Realtor) or property values in each (e.g. for a Mortgage broker) or even just community information relative to each (for just about anyone).
Localization is key to being effective in an internet environment in which meta-search engines like Google are the norm, and the web is inundated by competitors of every conceivable brand.