For many of my clients, being found by those searching for local businesses can make a huge difference in the number of inbound leads they receive. If you are a local business (i.e. you service clients within a specific geography or have a store front) and haven’t implemented a local search strategy, your missing a huge opportunity to grow your business.
Google has made many changes to how businesses get ranked in the past 6 months so if you are getting advice from blog posts before October 2010 about the important factors that help you get found on the Google Map, it is out of date and you may be mislead on what works and what doesn’t.
First let’s start with a video by Google product manager Jeremy Sussman explaining some of the new features implemented recently and the three primary factors that help you get ranked higher for local searches: relevance, prominence and distance. He also explains some of the new products – Google Tags and Boost for the advertiser and Google Hotpot (whose name is disappearing and replaced with Places) for the searcher.
If you take the steps necessary to be found prominently in the Google local search results, you will also rank well on Yahoo and Bing.
8 Steps to Success
The goal of this effort is to build confidence with search engines that your business is legitimate. If you implement the following eight steps, you will be well on your way to better visibility.
- Pull out your list of the top keyword phrases that people use to find your type of business (you do have a list, right?). Without knowing how people search, you can’t possibly create an online presence that helps get you found. You will need this list handy to create your business listings that will direct people to your website.
- Ensure your website is all it can be – professional, easy to use and relevant to your ideal client.
- Update your website’s page titles and descriptions to include your location. Add your local phone number into the meta description. This will help searchers quickly identify your company as being local and will help them call you without looking for your phone number.
- See if you already have a business listing at least on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local by going to GetListed.org and type in your business name and zip code. It will show you if you have a listing and need to claim it or you don’t have a listing at all. GetListed.org has other sites they check such as Yelp, Best of the Web and Hot Frog.
- If your business is already listed in Google, Yahoo and Bing, claim your listing directly and create a consistent and complete business profile. You need to have control of these top properties through an account you create. Do not let someone else create these for you under their personal accounts! Include your main keyword phrase that you’ve optimized your website around in the description and all other fields where relevant.
- Use a service such as UniversalBusinessListing.org to submit your business profile to as many other search engines, directories and social sites as you can. The value of this service is that for a small annual fee, they will distribute your listing consistently to all the major search engines, directories and databases for you, saving you time without creating duplicate listings. Another option is Express Update, a free service that covers the top five search engines and major mobile and navigation applications.
- Create a testimonials page on your website to display client endorsements that you receive directly while also providing an option for clients to review your business on review sites. Citations and genuine, earned reviews are the method the search engines use to validate their local search engine results. Make a list of sites with a link to your business profile that your clients can use to provide a review as in the screenshot below. Point your happy clients to this page and request that they write a review for you on whichever site makes the most sense for them.
- Don’t forget to create your business page on LinkedIn and Facebook. Make them clear and focused, add links, products, services and information that builds your credibility such as a blog feed.
If your business is not getting visibility when someone is looking for a local business, try out the above 8 tips and let me know how it works for you.
What other useful tips have I missed in the quest for local online visibility?