As you can probably guess most people these days turn to the Internet to find services and information about businesses in their local areas. In fact, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, which is why businesses compete for the top spots in the search engines. Follow these steps below to gain traction in the search engines, and to help people to find you online.
Important first steps
Before beginning to list yourself in the local directories, it’s useful to understand that the local search space is fragmented, you’ll likely want to list your business on several directories and search engines, and you’ll need to do that one at a time. Remember, free business listings are free and therefore mostly D.I.Y. There’s not a huge customer support component to local search, your better off reading articles and user forums for advice on how to handle particular issues that may come up. Whatever hiccups you experience, someone else has likely experienced it too, and have sought and received advice online, so that you too can learn from their experiences.
A Couple Tips as You Go Down the Local Search Road
- Keep all your usernames and passwords in one place. It’s basic, but so often a missing username or password wastes valuable time, or even derails an online marketing effort entirely. Keep all your usernames and passwords where you can easily access them. Your usernames and passwords are the keys to the kingdom.
- Have all your information ready. On the most basic level, you want your business name, address and phone number listed (also known as N.A.P). Once you put this information out onto the internet, changing it can be difficult, depending on what sites pick it up. Once it appears on sites other than your own, you lose some control as far as going back and changing it. You may also consider enhancing your listings with business hours, payment types, specialties, images, videos and special offers. Have all of these information at the ready to cut down on the time involved with listing your business.
- Keep information consistent. You’ll likely list on multiple directories, and you’ll want to be sure your information is consistent across all of them. If you need to update information, make sure you update all of your listings to avoid creating confusion for customers. As mentioned above, keep a list of all the directories you list on.
Google Maps 101
A great starting point for any business that hasn’t begun to optimize for search engines yet, is Google Maps and Google Places for business — a free local platform from Google that puts you where people are looking for you. If you’ve been in business for a while, you may already be listed in Google Places, in which case you’ll want to claim your listing, and also enhance it.
In addition to Google, you probably will also want to list your business on Yahoo Local Search as well as Bing. A handy resource for small businesses to claim and enhance their local listings is GetListed. In addition to being able to look up how your business appears on the major search engines, you can also sift through their extensive local search resource center for advice on how to optimize for local search.
In addition to listing your business in the local sections of the search engines, you’ll probably want to list your business in other popular directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages (www.yp.com), and CitySearch. There are hundreds of directories you can list your business on for free depending on how much time you have. If you only have enough time to list yourself in a few of them, and you’d like to know which ones you should be in, try Goggling your competition (i.e. gardeners, yoga studios, karate classes, etc. + zip code), and see what directories they are listed in. Then you know you probably should be there too.
For a more comprehensive list, check out Hub Spot’s post on the topic: The Ultimate List: 50 Local Business Directories. Remember when you list in directories, the content you put up there belongs to the directory, not you. Sometimes directories come and go, if a directory goes out of business, your listing will disappear.
N.A.P stands for name, address and phone. Some list management services exist higher up in the directory ecosystem than others. LocalEze, Acxiom, and InfoGROUP provide data to nearly every directory, search engine and check in service online. The search engines, pull information from these data sources as well as from the information that you enter directly into their databases, so it’s important to be listed with these three.
Following these steps, you’ll taking a huge step toward building (and managing) your online presence, making it easier for people who need your services to find you.
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