If your organization isn't engaging in local search strategies, simply put, your customers may struggle to find you. Not only in search results, but just flat out finding where your business is physically located. This is especially true in many cities throughout Asia where populations are dense and space is limited.
Image Credit: Flickr
In Singapore, in particular, there are two priorities: eat and shop. With nearly everything located in some sort of mall consisting of many levels, there have been several occasions I wanted to find a specific shop and ended up walking around endlessly searching because they either don't have an address listed anywhere online, or if they do it's outdated and they've relocated down the street. On the food side, there is such an abundance of choice, you can hardly go outside without smelling something delicious lingering in the air. The problem becomes not what do you want to eat, but where should you go to find the best.
It resembles organic search of old when presented with a simple listing of links with no real insight into why they are the ones listed or what you'll find once you enter the site. With the integration of ratings, review, and pricing information directly in the results, searchers can quickly find the best foods to meet their appetite or a locally trusted handyman.
The problem is many businesses have yet to take the necessary steps to claim the local search result's real estate. Below are three primary tactics to to begin that process.
1. Get listed. If your business isn't listed in the major mapping services, then there is little hope for being found. This is the starting point and cornerstone of local search. In most of the world, Google is the dominant engine and it's critical to have 100 percent accurate information, as well as engaging imagery listed across each of your locations in Google+ Local. The more granular the information you provide, the better. Sticking with the Singapore mall example, most addresses are accompanied with a four-digit number representing the floor number and unit number of the place of business. For example, #07-04 represents the seventh floor and fourth unit. Google has recently begun allowing you to view the businesses located on individual floors of buildings in its mobile maps application. Leaving this information out of your listing may hinder your visibility within this extremely helpful feature.
Creating a listing is a fairly straightforward process that Google has outlined here. But don't stop there and assume being on Google is enough. There are many other important platforms to list and optimize your business:
2. Build citations. Business citations are the links of local search. These citations are simply a reference to your businesses' location and contact information such as name, address, phone number, email, etc. The most important thing to be aware of in building citations is again that your information matches exactly across each listing. Within the U.S., there are a few must-haves like Yelp.com, Yahoo, Bing Local, CitySearch.com, Foursquare.com, Local.com, and YellowPages.com. However, the more "local" the citation is the more relevant it will be deemed to your business. For example, if your business is solely operative in one city, it's better to have your business listed with other organizations within that city. There are many great tools for identifying quality citation sources, some of which will even allow you to submit and manage listings in bulk including:
3. Leverage location-based Schema.org tagging. Schema.org markup tags are a topic I've written on previously for first mover advantages in Asia and the importance of leveraging them for improved click-through rates in the SERPs. Looking beyond just the SERP, the purpose of Schema tagging is to directly label and identify specific pieces of content for improved relevancy and understanding from the engine's perspective. Ensuring that you've implemented the location-based schema tags on your business address, phone, and contact information can play an important role in sending location relevancy signals and assist in local search visibility.
Bonus Tip: Do Real Things to Build Local Exposure
Wil Reynolds, of SEER Interactive, may have put it best with his acronym RCS - Real Company S***. One of the underlying points of RCS is for businesses to be active locally and engage in business strategies both online and offline that are going to naturally influence the community to talk about you (both online and off-). While not as straightforward as applying a few tags to your site or creating a map listing on Google, doing real things that matter can have profound impacts on your business' reputation and growth from a local search perspective. These don't have to involve huge budgets and campaigns, either. It can be as simple as asking your employees to volunteer together at a local charity, host a fundraiser for a good cause, or sponsor a kids' sports team. Doing "real company" tactics is about breaking down silos internally and working together for the good of not only your business, but arguably more important, that of the local community. Behind it, those responsible for SEO must have the understanding and ability to effectively communicate how every single thing a business does can positively influence search efforts.
Search engines will continue to move toward leveraging as many levels of granularity, like location, to improve their personalized search results. Businesses must take advantage of the platforms that are available in order to grow. And while I'm happy to take on the challenge of trying out as many different food spots as possible in pursuit of the best, I'd sure welcome the guidance and ratings that are available from the community when businesses take the necessary steps to allow for them.
Is local search a priority for your business? If so, I'd love to hear what you’re doing to increase local awareness and grow the brand in the comments.
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Scott Kellam is a search engine optimization professional with over 8 years of experience in the industry. Scott has developed SEO strategies for marquee clients such as SAP, HSBC, Humana, Saint Laurent (YSL), SanDisk, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and many others. He has worked in search marketing since 2005 with a proven track record of developing profitable SEO and social media strategies. With a deep understanding of both technical SEO issues as well as search marketing’s role in identifying and connecting with target audiences, Scott has been able to effectively scale strategies that directly impact bottom lines for clients of all sizes across B2B and B2C industries as well as non-profits.
March 19, 2014