Partnering Up in Local Search

Not all of the Web sites that rank better than yours in the search engines results pages should be considered business competitors. Some may be good potential partners who can help you achieve your online marketing goals.

Internet Yellow Pages

Think about the Internet yellow pages, for example. The big, established IYPs, like Superpages, Yellowbook, DexKnows, and Yahoo Yellow Pages are very powerful Web sites containing hundreds or thousands of pages. They often display excellent page rank, have many good incoming links, possess a suitable link reputation, and enjoy the trust of the search engines. It’s no wonder they rank well and it may be incredibly optimistic to think you can outrank them.

Instead, determine which, if any of them, rank well for the main keyword terms you wish to rank for and make certain you are represented on those Web sites. Nearly all IYPs will allow you to submit a new listing or update an existing one. For a fee, you can buy your way to the top of the page or present more information to those who land there.

Keep an eye on referrals in your tracker. Good, converting traffic will warrant a larger presence in a particular Internet yellow pages directory. Poor referrals are a clue to drop your paid listing and focus your ad dollars elsewhere.

Local Brand Web Sites

For many local businesses, other examples of hard-to-beat Web sites are those like Kudzu, Yelp, Craigslist, and CitySearch, all of whom tend to rank well for a wide variety of location-based terms. Often, people recognize the brands of these Web sites and trust them for information. Your own Web site may not be as recognizable or perceived as trustworthy as these sites, so the searcher can easily be drawn to click on their listing in the search results rather than yours.

Keep yourself in the game by ensuring you have a listing in appropriate categories of the local brand Web sites that rank for the terms you covet. Again, watch your return on investment and adjust accordingly.

Niche Web Sites

Your particular business niche may also contain some powerhouses that may be nearly impossible to unseat. Many of these are topic specific, or vertical, directories. For travel, they are TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, and Fodor’s. For restaurants, think about Chowhound, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and BooRah. Savvy lawyers are familiar with Findlaw, Law.com, and LawInfo and psychologists marketing themselves on the Web must contend with Psychology Today. While it can be pricey to get listed on important niche sites, the return can definitely be worth it.

Trade Groups

Trade organizations, like the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and Coin Laundry Association can also be very strong contenders, even if they are not well SEO-ed, because they are official voices of their niche and its members. Look at the Web sites of groups you already belong to and make sure you’re listed in all possible places. Then, consider joining others, especially those that offer important member benefits, such as specialized insurance coverage, legal advice, or technical resources.

Town, City, County, State, Regional

In addition, just about every locality has important town, county, city, state, and regional Web sites that rank well for many terms. These sites may also have the potential to send very qualified traffic. Partner up with them. In addition, they can also pass PR to your pages through strong, locally-themed links that are entirely within your neighborhood. Many are also trusted sites in the eyes of the search engines.

I’d consider the top tier of these to be the Chamber of Commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, and the Better Business Bureau. These are membership groups that usually list members and link to their Web sites. While it will cost you money to become a member, think of it in terms of investing in your online advertising and consider what the return on your investment is likely to be.

The Web sites of towns, counties, and cities are also great places to get listed, whenever possible. Even if there does not appear to be a way to list your business on one of these sites, it never hurts to ask. Call or e-mail them and discuss the possibilities. Ask if you can be the first local business to be listed in a new online business directory. Ask if you can sponsor a page in exchange for a link or if you can buy advertising somewhere on the site.

Conclusion

Submit, list, join, advertise, and/or become a sponsor. Enlist other Web sites as your partners. Take advantage of the traffic that they get and can pass on to your business. You can’t outrank everyone, so if you can’t beat them, try to partner up with them, instead!

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