By Jason Poulos (@TheSaganaki)
An easy first step to maximize your exposure as a local business is to turn toward the search engines. With more than 3 billion searches a day, and a rapidly expanding mobile search market, every local business should be catering toward location-based searches and services.
A local search is when a geographic location is added to the search query. For example, “hamburgers richmond va.” would be a location-based search. When a search is submitted that contains a geographic location, different, “local results” get displayed on a user’s search results page before most organic search results.
How to show up in local searches?
Participation in the local world is easy. The first step toward better local “findability” through search engines is to create local profiles with Google, Yahoo! and Bing. All three search engines display “local results” whenever a geographic search is submitted. As with everything else related to search, Google commands the local search market so if any profile were to be a priority, Google would be it.
Now, create the proper accounts for Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing. Once the accounts have been created, you need to claim your business. Once your business has been “claimed,” try to max out your local profile as much as possible. Photos, store hours, your website will all have a positive influence on your local profile. Reviews have a big influence, and be sure to carefully select your business categories. Just like with normal searches in Google, there are ranking factors that go into Google Places. I’ll go into this later, but from a beginner standpoint, the more information you can provide in these local profiles, the better.
Pretty easy right? Well, that’s the absolute least you can do. The above method might increase visits to your location and website, but to really do it right and own your local business space you need to be more aggressive.
Get Aggressive! Take Your Local Business a Step Further.
Beyond having a local profile, I would recommend the following tactics to maximize exposure as a local business:
- Run geographically targeted search ads. With a high amount of competition in the local space, running geo-targeted ads will help with exposure.
- Have an optimized website. One of the ranking factors in Google Places is your website criteria. Having a Google-friendly site will only help.
- Submit to other directories. Outside of the big three search engines, set up profiles with CitySearch.com, Local.com and SuperPages.com.
Engage with your Customers
- Participate in social media. This is huge! Engaging with your customer base is a “must do” as well as participating on industry specific review sites such as Yelp.com. With coupon applications on Facebook, the social landscape is only going to become more important to local merchants.
- Go Mobile: The mobile web movement shouldn’t be scoffed at. Look toward networks like Foursquare to engage and reward loyal customers.
The term “going local” isn’t reserved for your local meats, cheeses and produce anymore. Any local business, big or small should have a local digital strategy to maximize exposure and brick-and-mortar visits.