5 Things You Need To Have To Survive Local Search

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.

internet searchSome 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


Vedran Tomic Vedran Tomic is the Founder of Local Ants, LLC, an local Internet marketing agency focused on helping businesses acquire more customers for less using the web.

7 Reactions
  1. With the increase in the amount of search being done on mobile phones, search engines will become better at knowing your location and serving locally relevant content. Therefore, having your information accurate is very important.

  2. Ooops — I saw the title said 4 things, but there are actually 5 things in the article itself. So I edited the title to say “5”.

  3. Customer reviews are very important, and monitoring them are even more important. If the business only has a brick & mortar presence then it’s up to management to make sure bad reviews are responded to. This gives you credibility and potential customers understand that you are concerned and care about your customers.

  4. The good news is that a lot of these activities can be outsourced, allowing the company to focus on areas that are not easily outsourced. For a few hundred dollars an owner can get listed in up to 250 online directories or make their website mobile-ready.

    When it comes to customer reviews, participating in “referral” forums like Angie’s List or Yelp or Trip Advisor could be very important, depending on the type of business. Although this activity could be outsourced as well, I think it’s something that should be managed in-house. It’s a great opportunity for company employees to engage prospects and customers about the company and its products.

  5. Agree with your post! The shame of it is that too many Local businesses fail to realise the importance of these points, and that they either need to stay on top of them in-house or allocate marketing spend to get it done properly for them. For the price of a modest sized ad in the local newspaper (which rarely produces the results they want) they can get this done for them, with a cohesive online visibility and credibility plan.
    Online reviews in particular are increasingly going to be critical to being found in local search – and just having a handful of reviews on one site isn’t enough!

  6. Your items 4 and 5 deal with issues that I continually need to improve for my business. Web design, web development, web construction and the myriad other terms people may use to try and find my business on Google make it imperative that I do my best to get – and publish – great client reviews. And not just generalistic, “he’s great” kind of comments, rather comments that say specifically what problem I solved for my client. I am very glad to see that item reinforced here in your post. A great reminder for me!

    In your item 4, I have found that having an impressive profile is a priceless commodity. There are so many business profiles out there tat lack even basic data, let alone impressive or memorable information. I feel that excellent imagery is the key to a winning profile.

    Thanks for the great post.

  7. Those 5 things seem solid. But still no one will convince me of my own theory. I ran my own test on google places and yelp and came to the same conclusion. My theory is that if you have an physical location (virtual office/physical address) within your metropolitan area (most dense) on your Yelp and Google plus, your results will have a lot more impressions and you will cover a lot more ground. But don’t take my word for it. Go ahead, search for something on google or yelp, you’ll see the listings that appear first are those of the metro area.