The big growth area in online search in 2010 has been local search. Google has been the driving force with their Google Places feature. They are not alone, however, with both Yahoo! and Bing having their own versions. Consumers are turning to the Internet in greater numbers to do their research prior to going on a shopping trip, so this growth will continue to be strong in 2011.
While consumers are turning to local search for information, local businesses have been slow to respond. When they do, they frequently make small errors, which in turn undo the potential that claiming their business could deliver. And sometimes they are such simple mistakes. Some of these small errors include:
Inconsistency – The most important part of any local search optimization program is consistency. It is worth the effort of creating a file, either in notepad or a spreadsheet, and using this to record the information you are listing. Then it’s a simple matter of copying and pasting that information each time you register your business. Inconsistencies in business name, address, and telephone number may result in your business being listed in search multiple times – effectively a duplicate listing. This will damage your business’s ability to rank highly in local search.
Local means Local – If your business services a local community, then be local. Include local place names in links and landing pages. If you service more than one location, then create landing pages for each location. Be sure each page has your business name, address, and phone number, exactly as it appears in your listings.
Directories – Register your business in as many directories as possible. These are not your standard Web directories, rather business directories such as Citysearch, Yelp, and Yellowpages, to name a few. Of course, make sure the data in your listings matches the data you have recorded elsewhere.
Creating a data file can make life easier. It’s impossible, and probably unwise, to register your business everywhere in one session. It could take weeks to slowly seek out relevant directories, create landing pages, and claim your business through the various search engines. It only takes a minor change, for example, leaving out a shop number, or abbreviating a name, or not including an area code, and that listing could become irrelevant.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the last 12 months, it is that of consistency and ensuring you tell the world you are local. Local search engine optimization is becoming a skill all on its own.