Top Five Tips for Local Search

With so much advice available, it’s sometimes hard not to suffer from information overload. When you think there are so many things to do that you’ll never have time to do them all, it’s not unusual to shut down and do nothing.

So here are the five most important online tasks you can do to help your local business thrive.

Claim Your Local Listings

Claim your local listings in Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and MSN Live Local. This will you help your customers find you and get correct information about you. Almost as important, it will prevent unethical competitors from hacking or hijacking your business listings on these important Web sites.

Claiming and verifying your local business listing also gives the search engines a higher level of trust and confidence in the information they display about you on their sites. Because trust is a factor in the algorithms, the simple act of claiming your ownership can give you a boost in the rankings.

Enhance Your Local Listings

Enhance your listings as much as is practical. Searchers in the shopping phase of the buying cycle are usually very hungry for information, so give it to them. Tell them the hours you’re open, the credit cards you take, the towns and neighborhoods you service, the services you provide, the products and brands you carry, your guarantees, your professional certifications, and anything else you think may sway them to choose you over your competitors.

Add photos and videos to your listings to help build familiarity and trust in you, your employees, and your business.

Add Location Terms to Your Page Titles

Combine geo-qualifying keywords with your main keyword phrase. This makes it obvious to the search engines where you are and what you do. Searchers will see this information prominently displayed in your listings in the SERPs (define), as well. If they see that you provide the product or service they’re searching for near their location, you have a good chance of earning their click.

Link to Your Web Pages Using Location Terms

Link reputation is a very powerful component of the Google algorithm and can’t be stressed too much. Whenever possible, ask those linking to you to do so using good link text that includes variations of your location and best keyword term.

Don’t forget that internal links can also convey some link reputation to your own pages, so use good link text within your own site. Do so in your site navigation, HTML sitemap, and with links you create within page text. Be certain to vary this link text, however, to keep it looking somewhat natural.

Monitor Your Reputation Online

Reviews are incredibly powerful for local businesses, because people want to share information to help other potential customers decide where to shop. Customers also want to reward businesses that have provided exceptional service by recommending them to others. Conversely, they want to steer other shoppers away from places where they’ve had bad experiences, both to punish the business and to keep others from having similarly poor interactions.

People have always shared their shopping experiences with their neighbors and friends, but by posting them online, they can now share them with everyone everywhere who may be interested in reading their opinions about your business. Reviews posted on practically any Web site can propagate other posts and be displayed on other powerful Web sites, like Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and MSN Live Local.

It’s therefore critical to monitor what’s being said about your business on the Web, so that you can quickly become aware of problems and take steps to address them. The easiest way to do so is to set up Google Alerts for your name, your business name, and variations of them. Then, when Google crawls the Web and finds mentions of you, it will send you an e-mail (or an RSS feed) showing you what was found. It’s not complicated; it only takes a few minutes and is well worth your time.

Don’t suffer from information overload paralysis. Get started on these five tasks today. They’ll take you well down the road to local search success.

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