A Torian Group Solution – Technology with Integrity

Executive Summary: Get your business set up on Google Maps, Yahoo Places, Yelp, and local directories so people can find you on their cell phone, and in “local” searches on the internet. About 40% of internet searches are “local internet” searches – a service or product plus a location. Cell phones with GPS return search results for businesses that have a nearby location. If you are not showing up in local search, you are losing business. The bottom line impact of local listing exceeds that of the phone book, social media or Google ad campaigns, and it is easy to do. We can get you started with local search, including listings in local directories for about $200.

If you have a business location, you need to be taking advantage of local web search. When was the last time you opened a telephone book to find a local business? Your customers are searching using their mobile devices, and finding (or not finding) you on Google Maps.

There are now more internet enabled cell phones than there are computers.
92% of people search online for local businesses.
80% of Internet users own a smartphone. 53% of mobile searches have local intent. 1 in 3 searches on a smartphone occur right before a consumer visits a store.
71% of people click on a listing in the first page of search results.
70% of mobile searches result in action being taken within an hour as opposed a week for desktop. 18% of local searches lead to sales.

If you are not showing up in local search, you are losing business.

Search algorithms are smarter at understanding the “local intent” of a search, and also can often tell where the searcher is located. If you type in “tacos” you are likely to get listings for local Mexican restaurants. This is called GeoTargeting. It is especially useful for internet enabled mobile phones. You want your business to be in the top listings returned – these are typically customers actively looking for your service, in your city. You can optimize your search results by understanding what search terms potential customers use when looking for your services.

Make sure your website is in good shape – in particular that it is mobile friendly. This means it is easy to read and navigate on a mobile phone. In many cases, local search efforts lead people to your website. Don’t disappoint them. Make sure your map and location on the website match your local search listings, and match up keywords so they show on both the website and local listings.

Web SEO scams have been replaced with local search optimization scams, and social media experts. Beware of people from out of the area offering to “optimize” your local search for a fee. Check their credibility carefully. None of this is difficult – you can do it yourself if you are inclined.

Getting Listed

The first step is to see how you look online – go to Moz: https://moz.com/local/overview , and put in your business name and zip. This will show you where you stand with the many websites that list your business address. This included Google Places, Facebook, Foursquare, Bing, Citysearch, Yelp, and many others.  You can then “claim your listing” by creating an account at each search engine, and provide more information about your company. This often involves proving your ownership of the location by answering an automated phone call at your place of business, so plan on doing this from work. The more detail you provide, and the more different “citations” (listings) your business has, the more likely you are to be found. You also want to be sure to claim your listings to prevent someone else from trying to steal them.

Because Google Local has such a big impact, take care to set up a Google account for business use, and then tie all your business related Google services to this account. They offer a wide range of powerful tools, and it is easy to get multiple accounts going which can cause confusion later.

When registering for listings, you will be creating a large number of online accounts. Use a password manager such as www.lastpass.com to keep track of the accounts. You may even want to create a separate email address for registration – many sites will send you updates, and possibly marketing materials for their “upgraded” fee based listings.

Some of the search engines offer a free portal which allows you to see how many times you were displayed in local searches and what search terms were used. It will also show you how many times you’re listing was clicked on, and whether the map was accessed. This allows you to fine tune your description of services to include the right key words. This will be tied to the email and password you select when registering.

Nearly all local search engines ask you for a short description of your business, and possibly a biography of the owner.  Give careful thought to the description of your business, making sure all the relevant keywords are included. You want to optimize your website for local search, and clearly describe your unique selling proposition.  To select keywords for your business description, use keyword search analysis tools such as those listed below. Keyword selection and use in your web content is such an important topic, we have an entire article on it – ask for a copy.

Be sure to be consistent in using your “Doing Business As” name, and to use exactly the same address format and phone number.  Local search engines use data from major data providers such as Axciom, Localeze, and InfoUSA, which get their information from business registrations, credit reporting, etc. They also check traditional phone listings, and internet directories such as SuperPages, Merchant Circle, etc.  You want to be listed the same everywhere, so your listings reinforce each other.

Your listing with many sites is rated on “completeness”. The more you fill out, the more complete your listing is, and the more points it gets toward being listed in searches. Fill out all the fields, even if they may not be entirely relevant to your type of business.

When filling out your listing follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid claiming duplicate listings – you want only one verified listing with each search engine, at each physical address.
  • Do not use call tracking numbers for your phone. You want the same number to appear across all listings. Use a local phone number rather than a toll free number – it ranks you higher as being local.
  • Be sure to use an email address associated with your website domain: info@mycompany.com, not somename@yahoo.com.
  • Take full advantage of the available space by providing a complete and informative description of your business, being sure to include the right key words. Emphasize your unique selling proposition. Mention product lines or brands you carry if appropriate.
  • Choose your business categories carefully. This is critical to being found. Do not include the city or location – it will not help. In some cases you can type in custom categories. If you do, use Blumenthal’s Google LBC Categories Preview Tool to find synonyms that are recognized by Google Places. Use a predefined category as the primary listing, but feel free to customize the additional category listings. Take full advantage by using every available slot.
  • Testing has shown that selecting a service area is actually detrimental to your listing. If you have a physical location, rely on that.
  • Upload at least one, and preferably 10 images to make your listing complete. This can include your logo, the building frontage, products, staff pictures – anything that showcases your business best. Google Places allows you to upload up to 5 Videos. Only one video counts toward completing your listing. We also have an article on simple tools and techniques to create your own videos.
  • Check your listing for spelling and grammar – you want to present a professional appearance online.

Build your local online presence

Many social networking sites have a place to enter your “Map”. By linking to your local listing, it gains in search ranking, and it makes it easier for your customers to get a map.

Make sure your web site mentions your location, and that the city or area you are in is included in the web copy for relevant landing pages, page titles, and tags. For example, your page title could be “Great Tacos” or “Burritos, Tacos and Mexican Food in Visalia Ca.”

Just as inbound links strengthen your website, “citations” strengthen your local listing. The more directories you appear in, the more likely you are to be what people are looking for when they search.  Here are some additional places to get listed:

  • Business Data Syndication houses: InfoUSA, Axciom, Localeze. Nearly every online phone directory uses one of these 3 services. Be sure you are listed correctly and consistently.
  • Internet Yellow Pages directories such as Superpages, Merchant Circle, yellowpages.com, anywho.com, switchboard.com.
  • The Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau.
  • Dun & Bradstreet. You can get a basic listing for free, despite their hard sell.
  • Business Directories: Brownbook, Praized
  • Location based services such as FourSquare and Facebook which allow tagging places in mobile devices.
  • If appropriate, create a custom map in Google MyMaps (https://support.google.com/mymaps )– It has a big impact on local search listing.
  • Review and Rating directories. Industry specific review sites.
  • Industry specific websites. Be sure you get listed in any vendor directories for products you carry.
  • Government directories.
  • Create a Place in Facebook, and get people to mention it www.facebook.com/help/?page=18837
  • Create or join your company on LinkedIn.

If your Facebook Place doesn’t exist yet, you can use the smartphone Facebook app to check-in at your business to create it. Once your business has a Facebook Place, there is a link at the bottom that says “Is this your business?” Click that to begin the verification process.
Get recommendations and reviews – Add a rating to the Google Maps entry directly; Use Google Maps and Places apps for Android phones, and Mobile Place Pages.

Use paid local search ads, and insert special offers into your map listing.
Use Google Merchant to upload your entire product listing.

A KML file can be uploaded to the Google Maps Search engine to validate your location using Google Earth Pro. This is something you will probably need our help with.

Tracking the results

If you are already asking your customers how they found you, this is probably the most reliable indicator of how well local search is working for you.  You can also use the individual tracking tools provided by the various local search engines.  In addition, there are some tools that try to manage all the local search sites for you. You can tie Google analytics to local search listings, which allows you to track local search results from a web search, as well as map specific hits.  It requires a little coding to get it working- the link is below.

If you have multiple locations, use Google places to manage them.

Take your marketing online by getting set up with local search. You can’t afford not to.