Local Business Search and Submissions: Take Control of Your Online Presence

11/24/2008

- Lesley Gross, Senior Manager of Client Strategy

The execution and management of local search marketing campaigns can be a daunting task, but with an estimated double-digit growth expected in this arena through 2012, it is a necessary component of any local business' marketing plan. This growth, according to Jupiter Research, includes more money spent on search, local directories and even display ads. Not only can a local business utilize Google, Yahoo and MSN for targeted advertisements and map listings, but there are also a growing number of simple and often free, local submission sites. Yet with all this growth, there are still many issues facing business owners in managing their online presence.

Several articles have discussed just how easy it is for anyone to manipulate someone else's listings. On most websites, including Google and Yahoo, you must claim your local business listing in order to take control of what information is displayed in the profile. For example with Google, in order to take ownership of the listing they will send a PIN number to the physical business address. It then has to be verified in order to claim and subsequently manage the information.

A growing number of directories, such as Yelp.com, allow for user-generated reviews and comments. This means that, more than ever, you must be aware of what is being said about your company; both positive and negative. Therefore, reputation management becomes a vital part of your local business strategy. If an unfavorable review comes your way, a good practice would be to comment back to this customer and/or offer them a complimentary product or service. Often your best customers originate from properly handling these types of situations. To create a positive online reputation it can also be helpful to solicit customer feedback on these localized sites.

Believe it or not, many local companies are not using local phone numbers or even specifying a physical location in their ad copy or profiles. This can have a detrimental effect on the business. Instead, make use of targeted ad copy for each physical location or area of service. In addition, using local numbers or even a third party call tracking service can help confirm your vicinity to the searcher. Specific landing pages tailored to each location can also help increase conversions and allow you to track activity. Taking these actions make it easier for the searcher to contact or visit you directly.

The future of Local Search appears promising. Businesses can now use Social Media to reach new audiences and create a strong brand. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. afford you the ability to create events and promote upcoming specials, new service offerings or sweepstakes. Mobile campaigns are another great way to provide essential information, such as address and hours of operation, at your customers’ fingertips. Many companies are now using WAP sites (pages designed specifically for mobile Internet usage) to simplify their user experience, when accessing the site from a mobile phone.
If the necessary time is taken to manage your online presence, local search can play a fundamental role in the growth of your business for years to come.

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