The Ins & Outs of Local Search
More and more Americans are relying on the Internet for product/service searches. As a result of this drastic yearly growth I have always stressed the importance of search engine optimization as "the" most important online marketing strategy today. I now must admit that having a good local search listing might just trump SEO as an initial strategy, especially if you own a small, local business that needs a strong online presence for the product or service you offer.
Gone are the days of that 10-pound book often found stuffed into the closet (for you Generation Y readers, that would be the Yellow Pages). Today we are dealing with local search listings online. For example, if you typed in a certain query containing a geographic modifier then the search engine would display a number of local search results at the top of the listings alongside a map that shows the locations of local businesses as well as results from local search directory sites like Merchant Circle, City Search and others. Here's an example:
Why is local search so important?
Most searches today for information on local businesses occur online. If local businesses reported that ~ 75% of all their customers originated from within a 50-mile radius of their location, according to a 2003 survey conducted by the Kelsey Group, then that number must be higher today. Below are some other benefits.
It's probably no secret that many customers prefer to deal with local businesses. Despite globalization, people seem to be more inclined to work with someone in their community or with an address in close proximity found through local search. Our business is proof of that.
Local search gives your business a golden opportunity of appearing on the first page of a search and above organic results.
People are getting better at search. Yes, most still tend to start with a general search query. Others are quickly realizing that by adding city names to their queries they will be able to locate the information they need quicker.
Listing with the likes of Yellowpages.com or Superpages.com will get your data syndicated. This results in more of an online presence and more back links linking to your site.
How do I get listed on local search?
The entire process is fairly easy and straightforward assuming you are good at following the instructions.
First, create an account on the search engine of choice.
Second, enter in the appropriate, relevant information. Try to include photos and videos.
Third, claim your listing. Verifying your business listing is the final and the most important step. Search engines want to see that you're physically located in the city you claim but each search engine has different requirements. Google and Bing require you to verify your business. Yahoo does not. If you are not sure you are listed or need additional assistance then I recommend using GetListed.org. This site will allow you to check your local listing status and will guide you through the process of claiming your listing on the various search engines.
What can I do to rank higher?
Maximize your listing with photos and videos. Plain and simple. The more information, the better.
Include the location name in your listing title and/or description.
Categorize yourself properly by including your business in the appropriate, keyword-rich categories.
Add the product or service keyword in the listing title.
Make sure you get customer reviews. But make sure they are genuine. More good reviews will catapult you ahead of those who have no reviews.
Use your local business phone number. Search engines do not like toll-free 1-800 numbers. Remember, we're dealing with local listings.
If you still feel the need for more information on local search then check out this very good article on Local Search Ranking Factors.
What do I do to get started?
Click on any of the local search engines below!