While waiting for details about the Microsoft-Yahoo to emerge, don't wait to get your business listed on Microsoft's Bing Local.
By now, search marketers know that Microsoft and Yahoo have entered into a partnership deal. Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, will power Yahoo's search results. There are many more questions than answers about what to expect and when to expect "YaBing" or "MicroHoo" to become a reality. It's rumored that it may take as long as two years before we see any changes and nothing's really been said about how this change will affect search results on Yahoo Local. So, while we wait for details to emerge, make certain you are using Bing Local to your advantage in marketing on the Internet.
Get a Bing Local Business Listing
Yes, Microsoft has a small share of the search market and an even smaller share of the local search market. However, local businesses must be where prospects are searching for goods and services. And Bing Local is one of those places. When Bing does begin affecting Yahoo results, its market share will grow. Besides, it takes less than 30 minutes to set up a nice Local Business Listing in Bing Local, so go for it!
First, you'll be asked to enter you business name, address, and phone number. Bing will then tell you whether you already have a listing or not. This is a definite improvement over Google Maps and Yahoo Local, where it is sometimes hard to tell if you have a listing and how many listings you have. Then, you are prompted to either create a new listing or edit your existing profile. You'll need a Windows Live ID to do either. The process for setting up or enhancing your business profile is pretty straightforward and you'll see a prominent progress bar as you go through it to show you how far along you are. Nice touch!
Take advantage of a unique feature that enables you to add extra links (supplemental Web sites) to your listing. Use these wisely to point to Web pages that will be of the most interest and value to your prospective customers. For a hotel, it may be a link to the great reviews about your accommodations on TripAdvisor. A restaurant might choose to link to its reservation or menu page. A local service business might want to give shoppers a quick way to view its Better Business Bureau rating, whereas a plastic surgeon might want to send visitors to a page outlining her education, certifications, and experience.
When you're finished, Bing allows you to verify your ownership of the listing by phone or snail mail. Why wait? Choose the phone call. You can choose when you'd like to get the call. The options are now, in 5 minutes, in 15 minutes, or in 30 minutes. When Bing calls, you'll be given a PIN number to enter to complete your end of the verification process. Your listing will not update as soon as it's verified, but it doesn't take too long. For the most part, you can expect your new information to be live online within two to seven days.
What's Cool About Bing Local?
For consumers using local search, Bing has some very cool features, which are mostly shown within the entertainment and hospitality niches at the moment. Ratings and reviews appear in a scorecard. The details a searcher might be interested in knowing for that specific kind of business, such as atmosphere, food quality and value for a restaurant or amenities, or cleanliness and view for a hotel are displayed separately. Bing makes it very easy to see the source of the reviews. Right now, most of them are coming from Citysearch, Yelp, and Judy's Book, but if it's smart, the search engine will begin customizing these according to niches.
Bing also has "Show info from" links within profiles. When you click on these, it may display data they have pulled from trusted sources, such as Frommer's and Fodor's travel guides for a hotel or infoUSA Healthcare for a dentist, right on the page. It also may give you a link to the another Web page about the business or both. This makes it incredibly easy for all users to find out more about you. It also gives you clues about the Web sites where you should check, update, and enhance your business information.
Searchers get a link on the results page to get a bird's eye view of the business location, which can help them to find the place, see the parking options, tell what kind of neighborhood it's in, and see what's nearby. Directly from the results page, searchers can also get streamlined one-click directions that begin at major intersections, which most of us are familiar with, rather than at a specific address. However, you can get more detailed driving directions if you choose.
In some respects, Bing Local is already better than Yahoo Local and Google Maps for searchers and business owners. Look for more useful and easy-to-use features as it improves. Google Maps will likely begin adopting the best features just as soon as it can, because that's what Google does. That will also be good for searchers and businesses. Whether Yahoo Local devotes any resources to improving its system may give us clues to its future. Will we see Bing Local results at Yahoo? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out!
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Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.
Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.
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