According to the experts at Planet Ocean, publishers of Search Engine News, “. . . very soon any business, small, large, local or international must include a plan and strategy to incorporate Local Search optimization efforts into their online marketing plan or be left to catch up on those who do.”
This is basically the same thing I said in my MarCom Strategist newsletter, “Increase Business with Local Search” (I read SE News after publishing it, so obviously great minds think alike!).
In short, local search is going to be BIG! HUGE! (as Julia Roberts says in the movie Pretty Woman) so it pays to take steps now to ensure customers / prospects can find your site when they’re searching for it — whether they’re down the street or across the U.S.
In addition to having a site optimized for search engines, you also need to get your business listed in the three search engines’ local listing centers.
Before you begin, take a moment to ensure you have accounts with all three search engines. You’ll need a Windows Live ID for Bing.
Once you open your accounts, you’re effectively creating profiles people can see, so you’ll want to take a minute to ensure that people you don’t know are viewing only the information you want them to see.
Setting up your local listings is pretty easy but can take a good half hour or more — and after having just added my listing to Yahoo and Bing, I have three tips you can do before-hand to help you save some time.
1. Create a tag line — Each listing center requires you to include a tag line of approximately 150 to 200 characters that describes your business. Be sure to develop a tag line that describes what you do using action verbs and plain English.
2. Write a description — Yahoo and Bing also require that you include a longer description where you can flesh out the services you offer and what makes you unique from your competition.
I created a really good one for Yahoo and then kicked myself when I realized that I couldn’t access my Enhanced Yahoo Listing since it’s pending review — hence, I had to make a new one for Bing from memory.
So be sure to have your tag line and description ready to go in a separate document when updating or adding your local listings. (This step ensures that your tag and description are the same across all three platforms, too.)
3. Have images ready to go — All three local listing platforms let you upload images, including photographs of your products (or yourself) and videos. Save time by having these images and/or URLs ready to go.
And speaking of Yahoo, you can also pay $299 annually to be listed in the Yahoo Directory. Now, I’ve read in places that getting listed is good for SEO as Google considers the directory a trusted source. (This is because a “real” person reviews each directory listing.)
However, some people believe that a Yahoo Directory listing can adversely affect your Yahoo rankings, so I can’t advise you whether you should pay the fee or not.
And, if you were grandfathered into the Yahoo Directory the way I was (and hence don’t have to pay the $299 annual fee) and you’re listed in the wrong category but your URL is correct, just leave it alone (which seems to be the general consensus).
And that’s it for setting up local search listings. Once they’re complete, you’ll then want to ask your customers to post online reviews to sites such as Yelp — which is a Google Partner — as reviews are now part of the local search algorithm.