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Maximize Your Business' Visibility With Local Search

Consumer shopping habits are ever evolving, especially online, and more so in turbulent economic times. So what is the next “big thing” for reaching buyers online? Many search engine marketers are favoring local search. Local search can be a very cost effective way to make your company increasingly accessible to online users, but few businesses take advantage of all the opportunities.

According to TMP Directional Marketing’s second annual Local Search Usage Study, search engines are now the primary resource used by consumers to find local business information (31% and growing), followed by print yellow pages (30% and declining fast), Internet yellow page sites (19% and growing) and local search sites (11% and growing). Last year’s study, by comparison, ranked print yellow pages at 33% and search engines at 30%.

This means that while print yellow pages are still a factor, usage is declining. However, online searches are increasing across the board and the future of mobile search is likely to further the progression of local search. The best way to benefit from this trend is to achieve local business listings for your company and utilize some fairly simple SEO techniques.

Achieve Local Business Listings

Small businesses need to provide search engines and potential customers with as much correct information about their business as possible. Achieving an online business listing has proven to be successful for companies that don’t even have a website. Getting the listing is simple and can be done on a local search site or through a site like GetListed.org.

GetListed.org is a new site that offers a simple starter tool for local businesses to get their listing on the four main local search sites: Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Live Search Maps, and Best of the Web Local. Of additional utility, GetListed.org provides a one page “to do” list for creating a listing or editing one.

Ensure that the information included in your business listing is accurate. Make certain your company is listed in the right category so potential customers can find your profile. Correctly input the street address, city, state, zip code, mailing address, and areas served. Not having an address can be a major disadvantage. If you have multiple locations, I recommend you create one profile per location. Also include contact information, hours of operation, and payment options.

Additionally, a business listing should include relevant business descriptions and keywords. Descriptions are limited to about 200 characters. Therefore, be concise in describing unique selling propositions and include one to two main keywords. Some services allow the association of keywords in a profile.

Once your profile has been created, build brand credibility with business credentials, endorsements, and reviews by adding your business listing to Internet yellow page directories and consumer review websites such as CitySearch.com, SuperPages.com, InsiderPages.com, Yelp.com, YellowPages.com, and BrownBook.com. The amount of positive customer reviews is a critical factor in ranking, so driving happy customers to local search sites and directories is beneficial. Association with the Better Business Bureau or your local chamber of commerce will help enhance your online credentials as well.

Essential SEO Techniques

To further maximize your local listing success in the search engines, consider including the physical address and local phone number on every page of your website. Then give them extra prominence with a contact page. On the contact page provide driving directions from all possible directions. And include a link to Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps, as both include latitude and longitude of the location in the URL.

Take advantage of on and off page optimization by utilizing accurate title tags, meta tags, header tags, alt text tags, links, and keywords. Include the city name in the title tag and heading of your website. Use smart anchor text to create relevant links. Finally, use local keywords to geo-target to a local market.

It is important to grow your company’s marketing efforts as online consumer habits and trends evolve. Implementing all of the above strategies will ensure the success of your business’ online discoverability and marketability. The cost to achieve local search listing and use simple SEO techniques is low or free, and the ability to connect with your customers is invaluable.

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