Small businesses should pay close attention to this article about a recent change in the way Google reports search results. Apparently Google recently began analyzing the IP address where a search originates and giving higher placement to local businesses, even if the search doesn’t include a particular location.

For your business, the process begins by putting information into the “Google Local Business Center.” Someone from your business has to log in with a free Google Account and put in a few details about the business. The information is confirmed by an automated phone call or postcard. There may still be national companies listed high in the results but local businesses will show up higher in the results, leveling the playing field a bit – you don’t have to beat everybody, just your local competitors. The Google Local Business Center has been primarily an offshoot of Google Maps but this apparently expands its influence to regular Google search results.

The article also has some tips about keywords and how to build sites that Google will index and rank more highly. Good web site design requires someone reasonably knowledgeable about how Google works but it’s worth reiterating that there is no way to pay someone to rank higher in a Google search. The way to rank high in Google is to have an interesting web site that other people visit and talk about. That’s the secret. That’s the only secret. Resist solicitations from “search engine optimizers.”

If you have a small business or law firm, go take a look at your web site. Freshen it up. Change it. Add content. Write more words. Make it interesting. Even very small businesses will have to pay attention to their web sites if they want to grow their businesses in the years ahead.

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