Sage Lewis is President of SageRock Inc., a digital marketing company founded in 1999 with the goal of helping clients engage customers across an ever expanding interactive marketplace through multiple channels such as search and social media. To learn more about Sage and the company, visit the SageRock, Inc. website. – Tina
The thing about local search is that businesses often don’t realize how important it is to their success; I see time and again businesses getting a ton of traffic from local search and they have no idea that it’s happening.
In addition to your PPC campaigns, having your business listings appear in local search results should absolutely be part of your online marketing mix. These days, users are going to search engines significantly more than the Yellow Pages; it is estimated that one in five searches are local in nature. This is a huge market for the search engines as they want to provide the information people are looking for. It’s a win-win situation: they give local businesses a ton of really great tools totally for free and local business who use these tools to their advantage are basically getting free advertising.
If you have not claimed your business at the Bing Business Portal (BETA), please take a minute and do it now. There are a bunch of really great features, you can learn all about them over at the Bing Community.
If you haven’t already taken these steps, here’s a quick reference guide of free options to help you promote your local business online:
1. Claim your local listings on the top three search engines. Claiming your local listings in these search engines is likely to give you the biggest impact on increasing local search traffic. You can build each profile out later but just go ahead and claim them now. You will thank me for it.
For Bing: Bing Business Portal (BETA)
For Yahoo!: Yahoo Local
For Google Google Places
2. Claim your listings on other local sites. Look to see where your competitors also have local listings, or you might find that you are getting reviews from other sites already. Which sites you want to claim will depend on your region and industry, but it shouldn’t take you long to figure out who the players are. These sites and others are spidered by the search engines and generate their own traffic. So taking some time to claim your business on these sites is going to help you as well. Depending on your business and location, potential sites could include:
3. Become familiar with important citation websites. When you look at a local business listings you will see they include several parts, one of which is labeled something like “Web results”, these are referred to as “citations.” It is believed that the citations may play a significant role in how and where your local listing is positioned in the search engines, as David Mihm hypothesized on his blog.
The long and short of it is you need to be covered in these citation websites. Look to see what websites your competitors are being cited in, or, if you can’t find any citations with local competitors, look at your industry in a bigger market to help you understand what sites you need to get mentioned in. For more information, check out this article on 20 local citation sources for the United States.
4. Promote your local listings. It is important for you to promote your local listings because you want people to interact with them. As the web continues to become more and more social, it’s going to become increasingly important that people review you on your local listings.
Within the Bing Business Portal (BETA) there is a “Create” tab where you can create postcards, business cards, and posters. It looks like this is a continually evolving and valuable section; there is a top Marketing tab which reads:
In this section of Bing Business Portal, you will be able to market your business easy and effectively. Manage your brand styles, design advertising, create promotional campaigns, and more.
You can also make your own postcards at a variety of printing websites. Simply use a URL shortener like bit.ly to create a short URL that you can put on a postcard or business card, then just hand these out to your customers and suggest that they go to this URL and write a review of their experience with you.
5. Begin experimenting with location targeting paid search. Check out Microsoft Advertising adCenter Intelligent Targeting. Local targeting in paid search continues to become more sophisticated and useful. It is quite likely that you could get a lot of benefit by testing some paid search strategies using geo-targeting.
Okay, so that last one wasn’t free, but it’s still a good one!
There’s a huge potential for gaining new customers by taking advantage of all the local search options. You can do all of this stuff quickly and easily and you’ll absolutely be glad you did.
Thanks for reading,