As search engines change the way they display results, online marketing changes as well. From where paid ads are placed on the top, bottom and sides of organic listings, to the local search marketing results mixed in with organic listings, the search engine results pages continue to change. Since local listings moved off the maps and have made themselves comfortable within the organic listing space, they continue to be an important element in online marketing.
As the popularity of smartphones and tablets rises, the number of people using mobile search rises as well. As people are out and about, they are looking for local search results. What restaurant should they stop at for lunch? Where can they find some new shopping options when they're already out and about? Make sure your business can be found when local searchers are looking for your goods and services.
Optimizing your local search presence is important, can be relatively simple, and most importantly, free! Here are some tips for rising to the top of local search results:
- Compile a list of local directories – There are a number of local directories that provide free listings. Create a list of all the local directories you want to appear on. Google and Bing all have local directories, sites like Merchant Circle, Yelp and Manta also have local listing opportunities. There are many more. Google your business and see how many local directories already created listings for you.
- Create your branding details - If you have multiple locations, make a list of directories for each of your stores. Include the details you want to add to each of your listings, so that the information you present across all of these channels is consistent. Leave room for all of the account information for each site so you'll always have a record of and access to your listings. This will also create a long term plan for your local search presence, you don't need to claim all of your listings at once, so keeping an organized list is essential to your long term local success.
- Claim or create your local listings – As noted, there are countless websites that already have your store's listings online. Work through the list you've compiled in step one to see if there is already a listing online for all of your locations. If there isn't a listing for your brand already on these sites, create new ones! Almost all of these sites allow you to create or claim your listings for free. Do this, so you're in control of your brand's information on these sites. If you don't claim these listings, other people can, they could use your local search visibility to drive traffic to their websites or stores. If you're missing from these directories altogether, you could be missing out on valuable search visibility and business.
- Optimize your local search listings – Once you've claimed your listings, you need to make sure the right information is online. This is important not only for potential customers, but also for search visibility. Make sure your contact and business information is correct and up to date. Within the description, optimize the content with the key phrases you want to be found for. List the top brands you carry, what you specialize in and focus on setting yourself apart from your competition. Don't list yourself as a general "store" if you're a specialty kitchen store specializing in small appliances for home cooks. Tell the search engines and potential customers what to expect when they visit your store.
- Verify your local directory listings – Google, Bing and Yahoo all require a verification process for getting your optimized listing online, as do some of the other local sites you will be using. This is to protect your brand, and you should take advantage of it. Many of these sites offer automated calls with PINs to verify the listings, others offer postcard, email or text messaging verification processes to make it as easy as possible. It is important to remember that even if you go through steps 1-2, your optimized listing won't be available to the public (or the search engines) until you verify it.
- Maintain your local listings – While most of these sites are a one and done deal, to make the most of these listings, you should regularly maintain them. Whether your hours or menu change seasonally, you move locations or your products/services grow, these changes should all be reflected in your local search listings. The list you compiled in Step 1 will make this ongoing process much easier!
There are a number of local marketing websites that allow brands to claim and optimize their listings for free. E-Power very rarely recommends paying for any of the additional features local marketing services sell, and we typically stick with the free accounts available for our clients. Creating a local search marketing plan for your business is a simple way to outrank your competitors online. As local search results continue to infiltrate organic search results, you can rise to the top of local search results quicker than you could with organic visibility. Organize, claim, optimize, verify and maintain your local search presence for all of your locations to make the most of your online marketing campaign.