As major search engines shift their sort criteria and search algorithms around to include everything from social graphs to instant results, how can your company or freelance business stay relevant? One key way is to use location based services and mapping as much as possible if you have an office or a brick and mortar store. If you are a computer designer or developer, you want to encourage your clients to use these services and design your sites for them as well.

There are so many options out there right now, how do you know where to start? A great place to start is with mobile location apps like Foursquare and Gowalla. For example, on Foursquare you can go to and claim your business. Once your claim is approved you can offer specials and mayorship deals that will pop up at specified times and can be designed to encourage repeat business or specialized sales.

Once you are done there, head over to some of the local search options and start putting your pin on your community map and listing your services. Google Places is one obvious one, but even Bing offers a way to claim a business on their maps (of course, approving the listing involves snail mail, typical of the Microsoft user experience). One thing I like about Google Places is being able to offer coupons and add images and other things to customize your profile. you can even use the new Google Tags ad service to enhance it even further.

Some other place services to consider: Yelp, which allows you to receive customer reviews and address customer issues in private via messages, among other things; Yahoo! directories and maps; Best of the Web; Localeze; Hot Frog; Facebook Places and more. It takes about an hour to go through the web and add yourself to up to ten places. The map pins last beyond that quick set up, though, and help drive people into your business. Isn't that the type of ROI you want? Sales? I'd think so. That makes it worth the effort.

If you want to take it to the next level and fine tune your efforts, make sure all of your places link back to a landing page set up for the purpose, and then install analytics to track your incoming links. Go even further and set up campaigns and goals for tracking on each incoming service. That way you'll be getting valuable data on the demographic drawn in to your store and site by location searches.