Local search is becoming increasingly popular as a growing number of brick-and-mortar businesses are starting to see the value in having a strong presence online. Slowly but surely, businesses small and large are beginning to divert portions of their budgets from more traditional local advertising methods to the Internet. Unfortunately, many of them lack the knowledge required to establish and maintain a successful local search program.
There are, however, some simple steps that businesses can take to improve their local search results and justify the shift in budget.
Make sure your website is "crawlable."
Unless your site is crawlable (i.e. search-engine friendly), it is unlikely to gain much traction in the search engine result pages (SERPs). The engines have to be able to “read” the content on your site and readily identify your keywords and business location. Try to avoid common pitfalls like flash intros, excessive use of tables, and using images that contain pictures and words in place of plain, crawlable text.
Submit your business listing information to the major engines.
First, check to see if you’re already listed. As a starting point, perform searches for your business on the major local portals like Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and MSN’s Live Search, which is integrated with Superpages. If you’re not found in the results, you should immediately begin the submission process, taking pains to make sure your business information is accurate and reinforces the primary keywords on your site. Once you’ve established a presence in these major portals, you can begin to expand to other sites, but these should be your top priority.
Encourage your clients or customers to rate your business.
Most local search portals allow users to rate the businesses in their listings. Yahoo Local, for instance, shows a scale of 1 to 5 stars for each business in its listings, as well as brief written reviews. Take advantage of this opportunity by encouraging your satisfied customers to post positive reviews. Their feedback can make or break your local reputation.
Create unique pages for each of your locations
Many businesses have multiple branches or locations, spread out among a number of cities or states. If you have multiple locations, you should consider the possibility of building out pages specifically for those locations, each with its own unique content.
These are just a few of the basic steps you can take toward improving your local presence online. Keep in mind that much of your competition has failed to take advantage of local search to the full extent possible, which gives you a competitive edge if you’re willing to take the time and do it right.