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S'More Fire Starter
By: Wendy Ogryzek, June Bachman and Teresa Mitchell ~ 6/9/2009

 

Search engines and the internet gave us instantaneous access to a world of information. Cell phones have replaced phone booths. And, local search is making the phone book obsolete. Local search occurs when a web surfer searches online with the goal of finding something with a geographic location. In other words, anything you used to look up in the phone book is now considered local search, if sought after online. With local search your customers can use the internet connection at the office or a mobile device to learn your exact location, your product lines, your hours of operation, and get driving directions, all within a nanosecond.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking … uh we mean “Typing”

Local search changes the way your customers will find you and renders the phone book obsolete. The best part is that local search is leveling the playing field. Deep pockets and full-page color ads will no longer determine who gets noticed. Local search provides small businesses with the opportunity to be found just as easily as their larger competitors. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly 40% of all searches include a geographic intent. For some businesses this can be as high as 100%. Needless to say, it is now critical for your business to be found for local searches – especially if “where” you are is as important as “what” you do.

The Fastest Way to Get Listed Locally

To be included in local search results quickly, go straight to the search engines and either create a listing, or claim your listing. Your listing may already exist, since the major search engines have mined online data to create many local listings. If a listing for your business already exists, it is even more important that you claim it … before a swindler claims it – and directs the traffic to their website instead of to yours.

Google Maps – http://maps.google.com
Information that you enter directly into Google Maps will appear higher in the search results. Visit the Local Business Center to add/claim your local listing.
Yahoo Local – http://yahoo.com
Yahoo has its own version of local search that also requires you to claim your listing. Yahoo Local has a streamlined submission process, it's fast and easy! Where Yahoo departs from Google is how you can upgrade your free "Basic Listing" to an Enhanced or Featured listing that allows you to upload your company logo, tagline and photos or ensures a premium placement of your listing.
Bing Local (formerly Live Local) – http://www.bing.com/maps/
Microsoft recently launched a new browser, Bing, and with it a new local search, Bing Local. Claiming your listing at Bing Local is as fast and streamlined, as Google and Yahoo. You can upload images to your Bing Listing, free of charge and include your tagline as well.

Additional Tactics to Increase Your Local Listings

After you’ve claimed (or added) your listings to the major search engines, you may wish to consider the following strategies for expanding your local reach:

  • Google Mobile’s Search with My Location – Search with My Location is a function that facilitates local search for users who search using their cell phone.
  • Find Partner Websites – Coordinate with local business associations and directories to ensure your listing is included in their website. Offer a reciprocal link on your website. Some ideas include:
    • Better Business Bureau
    • Chamber of Commerce
    • Local City guides
    • Local Newspaper – business directory
    • Trade Association Website
    • CitySearch
  • Localize your Pay Per Click campaigns base on your geographic location and/or service area.
  • Add the following to your website:
  • Create a directions page, and include driving and public transit directions.
  • Use both the state name spelled out (Washington) as well as abbreviated (WA) throughout the pages of your website.
  • Add “Click to Call” services to your website.
  • Link to your Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local listings from a page within your website.

How to Increase Your Local Search Rank

Next, optimize and maximize the potential of local search to drive your customers to your front door by implementing the following items:

  • List accurate information about your business, and keep it up to date.
  • Choose appropriate categories for your business when you claim your listing.
  • List your business in multiple categories, the primary being the most relevant to what you do.
  • Title the listing with relevant keywords. For example instead of bWyse simply titling our listing bWyse, LLC we might expand our title to read "bWyse -- Website Design, Development and Optimization for small businesses and independents."
  • Your physical address should correspond with the area you serve. For example, bWyse would have a difficult time optimizing a local search for Birmingham, Alabama -- which is NOT local to bWyse's physical location.
  • Strive to include relevant photographs and comprehensive text that delivers a complete picture of your business.
  • Use only one, complete physical address for your business, on your website.
  • Include your business hours on your website.
  • Make sure your phone number corresponds with the information you used when you claimed your listing.
  • Write descriptive text for your local listing that paints a picture of who you are, what you do and where you do it.
  • Be included on review websites. The highest ranking sites in local search results have customer reviews.

We have some parting advice. First, consider the search engines’ motivation to make local search such a priority- that they are going to great lengths to make something so valuable (the phone book) so obsolete so quickly. They are trying to satisfy the end user, the person sitting at the keyboard or the out of town guest, to get their needs met. Second, if you have read this far without pausing to claim you local search listings with Google, Yahoo! and Bing, do so now! Failure to do so will be to you and your business' detriment. And lastly, if you are planning a camping trip this summer to the Olympic Peninsula, where it rains 300 inches a year, take your phone book with you, it will make a great fire starter for roasting s'mores. Happy camping!