Small Businesses – Go Local!

Thanks to the ongoing evolution of search engines like Google and Yahoo, and consumers’ ever-growing reliance on the Internet, there has never been a better time for LOCAL businesses targeting LOCAL customers to implement an effective Internet marketing strategy.

Here’s why: For certain types of searches, the web user clearly is looking for a local business. I’m unlikely, for instance, to want information about a veterinarian in Los Angeles if I live in Orlando. As a result, I’ve learned (as have many consumers) to specify an area when doing a search if I’m interested in seeing only nearby businesses.

It’s estimated that 15-20% (~over one billion searches per month) of all online searches are ‘local’ — meaning that the searcher used a geographic modifier like a city name or zip code along with the product or service for which they were searching (e.g., Orlando Dentist).

The results of these ‘local’ searches generally appear in three separates areas on the search engine results page: 1) local search results, 2) paid (or sponsored) search results, and 3) natural (or organic) search results. Note that these three areas of the page are independent; thus it is theoreticallly possible for a business to appear in all three.

The local results have several advantages:

  • It’s relatively easy to get your business listed there, and doesn’t even require a website.
  • The results appear alongside a map, which serves the dual purposes of capturing the prospective customer’s attention and giving a visual representation of how close by your business is.

As a business owner, the advantage to you is clear. If your business is one of the first to appear, the local consumer is more apt to ‘find’ you. So how do you get near the top of the local search results?

First and foremost, the search engines must have a complete and accurate profile of your business. If information about your business isn’t submitted directly, the search engines may pull data from various other sources like Yellow Books and InfoSeek. Thus, while your business may be listed without effort on your part, the profile is rarely complete, which minimizes the likelihood that it will appear in the valuable top spots in the local search results.

Most search engines allow you as the business owner to submit your profile information. Here’s where to go for the major engines:

Google – www.maps.google.com
Yahoo! – www.listings.local.yahoo.com
SuperPages (powers Windows Live Local) – www.superpages.com
InfoUSA (powers AOL Local and also provides information to Yahoo Local) – www.infousa.com

A few other local directories/Internet Yellow Page sites:

TrueLocal – www.truelocal.com
Dex – www.dexonline.com
Yellow Pages – www.yellowpages.com
Local.com – www.local.com

Getting listed is at no charge for many of these sites. If you’d rather not spend the time submitting information to all these sites, services are available to handle the time-consuming tasks for you. (Shameless plug: You can find one here.)

Next time: What should you include in your local business profile?

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