A marketing channel that small businesses often overlook is achieving visibility through local search. Consumers are being armed with more mobile devices that let them search for local listings quickly and easily. Chances are they're only a few miles away from you when they do their search. This column will show you how you can tap into this marketing channel and drive more traffic to your local store or website.
The other day I was trying to send a package. I figured I would run into a UPS or FedEx store somewhere along my travels. Well, I didn't and I was running out of time. So I picked up my iPhone, opened a search app, and voiced a keyword phrase. I was instantly given several results. I found one that was less than a mile away and delivered my package. For many of us, that's a regular experience.
So, how can you tap into that experience and connect with more customers? Here are some simple things you can do to get you on your way.
A good place to start is to visit Google Places, which used to be called the Local Business Center. This is where you have the ability to get placed on the Google Maps with your local listing. Here are some examples of local listings for "bicycle shops" via browser and iPhone app.
The nice thing is that once you set up an account, you have a dashboard that shows you how often people viewed your local listing and the top search queries. You can, of course, update your listing at any time. You can even create printable coupons to help nudge them to pick your store over the others listed in the search results.
Use Local Contact Information
When you set up your account with Google Places or other listings, make sure you're consistent in using "local" contact information. This will help you get better visibility. You should also have this same information on the footer of each page of your website, but try to keep it all local. Even if you use an 800 number, try to also include your local numbers.
To further help with better visibility, make sure you put your local contact information into your title tag and meta description tag on your home page and other appropriate pages of your site. You can keep it simple, like:
Just put in enough information, like city and state, to help localize your page to a geographical area.
Local Search Directories
Just like Google Places, there are many other directories that you can list your company in. There are too many to list, but here are some you can start with:
If you'd like a more thorough list, try checking out eMarketing Matador's list of local search engines and directories.
Local Membership Organizations
To further solidify your place in the world, consider joining your local chamber of commerce, Better Business Bureau, or other type of organization that serves the community. These are great places to network and build trust, and most will provide links from their site to yours.
This brings us to a really important aspect with any type of SEO (define) strategy. Develop a link building campaign that generates many inbound links. These links are like votes to your site. The more you have, the more "popular" you are, and you'll see your visibility increase as a result.
Comments and Customer Reviews
In this day and age, we all have many channels to voice our opinion. Everywhere you look people are sharing comments and feedback. First, you should employ some kind of reputation management program to monitor what's being said about you and your business. Next, you should go out of your way to serve your customers well and even solicit positive feedback. Many search results publish user comments right next to your listing so people can make a judgment call on whether or not to do business with you. Having many negative comments can not only turn people away but will also hurt your brand.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with local search visibility. As you employ these tips, you'll start seeing more customers coming to your doorstep or website. As always, if you have other tips that have helped you with local search visibility, please post them below in the comment section.
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Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.
Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.
Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.