In today’s world, it is simply imperative for all brick-and-mortar businesses and organizations to be visible online. An essential part of that is to show up in the local search results.
What exactly are local search results? This can perhaps be best explained through an example: hit Google right now, and search for ‘pizza in new york’ (replace with the city you’re currently in). The search results will show the locations of all pizza places in said city on a Google Maps map, along with their business address/location, website, and the link to the business’s Google Places page.
This allows your business to stake a claim on the internet, have your presence put on the world wide web, and be found on Google and on the map easily.
It can be greatly beneficial for numerous reasons – it is good for visibility, exposure, sales and revenues, especially in a world that now lives and breathes on the internet! It helps you get found and makes your business more accessible. And for me, a business that has an online presence leaves a good reputation on its potential and existing customers as well.
I am a firm believer on the fact that if you and your business can be found on Google, you’re already a winner and head-and-shoulder above your competition. It is still quite surprising when I learn businesses do absolutely nothing about improving their local search rankings. For newer establishments it is understandable (although not excusable) if they’re not spending a lot of resources on local search, but it is absolutely inexcusable for larger, more established firms.
Local search marketing has started to pick up, and if my predictions are correct, it will blow off pretty soon, thanks to Google Panda (updates to Google’s search engine, which now places more emphasis on local search results).
Here’s what you can do to stake your claim on Google Places, and establish a good online presence to enhance your local search visibility and ranking:
1. List your business on Google Places: If you’re the owner of an established business, the first thing that you need to do is have yourself listed on Google’s business directory, aka. Google Places (if you aren’t already listed). It is as simple as going on Google Places, signing up and filling it out with your business information. Do the same with Bing and Yahoo! search.
2. Put complete contact and location information on your website: This includes a proper address phone number, and any other details essential to determining your business’s location. This makes your listing more trustworthy as well as improves usability. Above all, it helps Google ‘find’ you and helps displays those results so that others can find you as well, improving local search rankings. Personally, I would urge business owners to make separate ‘contact/contact us’ pages for their businesses, add it to the menu/navigation-bar so that it is easily accessible and add all contact information there.
3. Make sure that you enter the same information everywhere: consistency with the information that you put in is essential, regardless of where it goes on the internet. The same principle applies when a piece of information (such as phone no., address, etc.) of your business changes – you need to update the information on all places that it was listed on. In order to be consistent, create a business listing file for your organization – which includes complete business information – and store it somewhere centrally for easy access.
4. Make multiple pages if your business has multiple branches/stores/locations: Pretty self-explanatory. If your business has branches, stores or exists in more than one place, city or country, make separate pages for each location, in order to enhance your chances of showing up in the Google results.
5. Home Page Header Tag: Very important to use your business’s location as one of the keywords in the home page meta information. For instance if you’re running a paper company, the title of your website’s homepage should read: Dunder Mifflin | Best Paper in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
6. Look beyond Google Place: in order to be found online and have a strong presence on the internet, it is also important to look at other places where you can have your business listed. Yelp, for instance, is a popular service that provides online local search capabilities, including the name of places the user might be seeking, along with the business location, address, contact numbers, office hours, as well as a 5-star based rating and reviews. FourSquare is another popular location-based social networking service, which has a lot of users (mostly used by people on their smartphones), and lets people ‘check-in’ to place, sending an update of where they are to everyone in the friend list, and leave recommendations, tips about businesses and the like. Extremely essential for your business to be listed on these services.
7. Reviews: Online reviews provide a trustworthy, reliable source of information about a business, particularly if a business has a large number of positive reviews. Reviews are also detrimental to your local search rankings, if you have reviews, Google will definitely rank your website, and if it has a large number of them, expect your website to be ranked quite high on the local rankings. Ask for reviews from your customers. Check which of them have Gmail accounts and ask them to leave reviews about their experience. Ask people that walk in to your store or purchase a product for review. You could even try giving them an incentive to do so.
8. Online Directories: Get yourself listed in online directories: there are tons of them out there. Getting as many listings (aka. citation) as possible is better. Try the Internet Yellow Pages, and Getlisted.org for starters.