In the past, advertising was one of the most effective ways to get the word out in your local market. Yellow pages, local newspapers, door-to-door flyers, coupons and promotions, and of course, word-of-mouth all contribute to generating business. However, consumers have increasingly made the Internet their primary source of local business information. Having your business listed at the top of local search engine results and in local directories should therefore be a critical part of any local marketing plan.
When someone searches for a local business, product or service, search engines will return results that match the search within a specified geographic area. Often these local results are listed ahead of the general search results. If the search engine has information about your business and the products and services you offer, that information could be displayed on the first page of the results.
There are two factors to getting good local listings – one is to create a profile within the search engines themselves and the other is to get listed in local directories which gives you a chance to get displayed more than once in the search engines results. To claim your business listed and create your profile, you can get started with Google, Yahoo! and Bing:
- Google® Local Listings powered by the information in Google Places are prominently listed in local search results. It is a free opportunity to feature your business name, map, contact information, and more. Once your business is approved by Google, it can be searched by going to maps.google.com . Google local listings often appear on searches that include regional keywords, such as “Iowa City restaurants” but are now coming up for services that are typically done on a local level (ex. “tax accountant”).
- Yahoo! Local ® is a free online local listings directory and a great way to increase your site’s local exposure. Listed business information is featured in Yahoo! Local searches, as well as other Yahoo! search engines, such as Yahoo! Answers.
- Bing Local Listing™ is an online local listings directory and a great way to increase your site’s local exposure. Listed business information is featured in Bing Local searches, as well as other Bing search engines.
With regard to local directories, there are thousands and thousands of them out there. You will probably know of some local ones that cover your area and should definitely submit your site to them using whatever submission process they have in place. In some cases you may need to pay a small fee to get listed. In addition there are several larger, national websites that are worth looking at, including CitySearch and SuperPages. Our SEO Optimizer tool has a more comprehensive list and guides you through how to sign up for these sites.
One important thing to remember – most all of these sites will require verification from you that you actually exist and posted the listing. Normally this is via an email, but in some cases it may be via an automated phone call. So make sure you provide a phone number that you can answer quickly or else your hard work may be for nothing.
Tip: Once your listings go live, you can share them via Social Media for an extra boost!
Image via Flickr (creative commons) by fortinbras
- SEO Series #1: What is Search Engine Optimization and Why Should you Care?
- SEO Series #2: Audit what you have and plan for success.
- SEO Series #3: On-site Optimization: Get your website ready for visitors
- SEO Series #4: Link Building: Now You’ve Built it, Get it Linked
- SEO Series #5: Add a Dash of Social Media
- SEO Series #6: Market Your Business Locally