Author: Laura Lake
There was a day that when it came to local business getting ranked in search engines they faced challenges because they were competing with strong national brands. It was tough to get that first page listing unless you had a master search engine optimization guru working on your side. While today we still face many challenges with search engines one thing is true it’s getting easier to get local businesses listed on the front page of search engines, but you must be strategic. Statistics always motivate me, perhaps the case for you as well. Take a look at the following statistics regarding local marketing:
- 73% of Online Activity is Related to Online Search (Source: Google)
- 66% of People in the United States Use Online Local Search, Like Google Local. (Source: TMP/comScore)
- 54% of Americans prefer the Internet over phone books. (Source: comScore)
- Only 15% of small business owners have claimed their Google Places listing. (Source: Google)
As you can see local search engine marketing is becoming a vital part of marketing for local businesses, but many businesses are struggling to get their listings where prospects see them because they are not following the proper steps. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone, breathe deep and start working on that local listing and I’m going to show you how to do just that, so roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.
Obviously I’m going to make an assumption here and that is the assumption that your website is listed in search, it just may not be in the placement that you would like. If you are finding that you are not listed in search engines at all or your website is brand new you’ll want to submit your website to search engines specifically Google and Bing. Before submitting make sure that your website is optimized and contains information about your industry and location, for example “Overland Park Hair Salon”. I’d also suggest having your business name, address and phone number on each of your website pages. You can put it in the upper corner or in the footer, just make sure it’s there.
Now let’s look at getting an assessment where you are and what you need to do to increase your local listings in search.
Step 1: Perform a Business Listing Audit
The first thing you need to get is an assessment of your business listings. These business listings are often called citations. You need to know where your business is listed and whether or not the information is correct. Where is your business listed and is the information in your listings correct, specifically the name, address and phone number. We call this NAP for short.
There are two tools that I specifically use for this step. They are:
GetListed – Just put in your business name and zip code and it will show you where you are listed. This is a great tool to use to get an accurate picture of your listings and which ones you have claimed and which ones you have not. GetListed is a free service.
BrightLocal – BrightLocal has many tools including search engine ranking reports, Google Places wizard, citation tracker and citations submission services. It’s not a free tool, but the cost is minimal and you will more than likely use the other services that I have mentioned in later steps in the process.
Step 2: Claim, Clean Up and Optimize Your Business Listings
Now it’s time to claim and clean up your listings. You want to take extra care to make sure that you are listed and have claimed your Google Places, Bing Places and Yahoo! listings, if you do nothing else make sure you claim at least these three. Also take special care in checking the accuracy of your listings, you’d be surprised at the erroneous results that have been found in listings, including a butcher shop listed as a jewelry store. Ok, I made that one up but errors do happen, so you want to make sure that your business is listed accurately. You also want to make sure your listings are consistent, this helps in pleasing the search engines because you have matching data. This is where I think BrightLocal comes in handy because you can run a report and review the details to see if the listings are accurate if not you’ll need to manually go in and clean up those listings. It takes time, but it’s worth it. After all, ask yourself what one prospect is worth to you, because with an incorrect listing you could be losing many of them that are searching for your product or service.
Step 3: Encourage Reviews
Reviews not only encourage consumers to do business with you, but they also help in your local listing rankings. When consumers are engaging with you and leaving reviews that engagement will impress the search engines and you will begin to sore to the top. It’s a proven fact that positive reviews increase conversions.
Step 4: Optimize Your Listings for Search Marketing
As you start cleaning up and claiming your listings make sure that they are optimized with names of the services that you provide. Think about what your consumer searches for when looking for your product or service and optimize each listing with those key terms in the description of your business and in the services area. You may also want to includes photos and videos. We know that photos and videos can improve the appeal that you have on people searching, so take a few moments and add them in. Google has also recently taken a liking to photos and will list as many as five images in it’s local search results, so why not increase your chances. Optimize your listings for search marketing.
Step 5: Increase Local Directory Listings
Now that you have a handle on claiming and cleaning up your listing it’s time to start submitting to other local directories. This listings will increase the links coming back into your site and assist you for increasing a higher ranking in local listings. Again, I use BrightLocal’s citation submission services for this, because it’s a time saver and I can also monitor when the listings show up. GetListed will also help with this, but it’s more of a manual process. Set a small goal, perhaps submitting to 5-10 local directories per week and just be consistent. The effort will pay off.