The landscape of local search can be confusing, especially for small business owners with little or no time to navigate through it. Local search is different from general organic search in more than a few ways.
Some of the differences are:
- The lack of a market leader that dominates the space
- Multiple types of local search platforms
- Different ways searchers use those platforms
- Rules that bend easier
- Rapid market share changes due to distribution partnership changes
These differences can make it very hard for small businesses to decide where to invest their Internet marketing budget, and what to expect from local search in general. Here are 5 things you need to do to make the best out of local search:
1. Keep Your Online Business Information Accurate And Up-To-Date
This is where your local search efforts must start. Your business can’t grow if your business information on the web sends potential customers to the wrong addresses. Also, people don’t react very well to out of service phone numbers.
The bad thing about local search is that no one will ever take care of these issues for you, only you can do it. The good thing about this is that it’s not very difficult. That can be accomplished by systematically correcting the business information in more important local search platforms like Google Local, trusted data providers like InfoUSA and any other site people might use to find local business information.
2. Make Your Website The Best It Can Be
Self-evident or not, your website must be performing at its best. Without it, you are always in risk of getting almost nothing from local search. This is important for many reasons, but I will address only two.
A large portion of traffic generated from local search engines like Google Maps , or Internet yellow pages (IYP sites) like SuperPages  will end up on your website. There is no use in making a business omnipresent in local search space if its website can’t convert the traffic to customers.
The second reason is simple. Most people still use general search engines like Bing or Google to find information about local businesses. Every visitor that doesn’t click the maps in the universal search engine result pages, but clicks the regular search engine results, has a potential of landing on your business website.
Having an easy-to-navigate, credible and search engine friendly website is crucial.
3. Be Ubiquitous
Local search space is very fragmented. On top of that, people use IYP sites, general search engines and local search engines differently — even expecting different results when searching for information about local businesses.
Being ubiquitous in the local search industry means having a strong presence and being prominent across the many different search platforms people use to find information about brick-and-mortar businesses.
For a small business owner this means:
• A website that ranks very well for a wide array of local search terms
• High rankings on all major local search engines (Like Google Maps, or Yahoo Local)
• Being prominent on IYP sites that matter
Your industry directories, local business sites and local guides are all places you should place your business information.
This is important for two reasons:
- Any of your profiles can be a source of business, so take advantage of the profiles
- Your business information on the Web helps your local search visibility, as long as it’s consistent
You shouldn’t throw money at every local search engine or site that solicits you just because they claim to be a perfect fit for your business. The rule of thumb here is – if they solicit you, they are not that good. But certainly take advantage of free profiles, and consider paid upgrade options on the most popular ones.
4) Make Local Profiles Represent Your Company Impressively
Having incomplete profiles, with badly written descriptions, lacking images, videos and other signals that boost your credibility (example: a good rating on your BBB membership) — all such deficiencies speak volumes about your business. To make the most out of your business profiles, make sure that they:
- are complete
- have no spelling and grammar errors
- speak the language of your customers (avoid industry lingo)
- inspire trust
- accurately describe what you do
- have images that portray your business the right way
- emphasize your unique selling proposition
Keep in mind that optimization of your profiles on third party sites also plays a significant role in how much business local search can generate. Well optimized profiles and listings on high authority sites tend to rank very well.
5.) Get Reviews
Only a small fraction of small business owners had ever done anything to encourage people to review their business. Why are reviews important? People use reviews and ratings as one of the most important factors when deciding who to contact and where to purchase something.
The reviews are also important when it comes to your local search rankings. Reviews are a strong ranking factor in two of the biggest local search engines and that reason alone should be compelling enough to do something if you have a local business, but lack the reviews.
Search Concept  Photo via Shutterstock