There was once a famous politician who once said, “Politics is always local.” So in very much the same way, all offline retail and services should be realizing that all of their online marketing for their business should be local as well. With the rise of GPS based mapping enabled mobile devices, and taking into account Google’s recent changes on how local searches triggers their results, local search is becoming prominent as well as critical for marketing. If you ignore this, you’ll cripple your organizations visibility to potential consumers and clients.
This concept should be considered more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Most offline marketers are savvy enough to know and claim their business listing in Google Places, but most do not bother to do anything else beyond that. Instead, they will rather opt to focus their online efforts towards optimizing their business for general search queries instead.
Claiming your ‘Google Places’ listing is just the first step in a comprehensive strategy, as the majority of location specific searches do not even take place on Google anymore. A lot of consumers now use a variety of other outlets and social media sources such as: Yellow Pages Online, local online directories, and city guides such as Yelp or CitySearch.
There is also an increased usage in other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo maps when it comes to conducting searches for local businesses or services. Even if Google starts dominating local search results, much like they do on general search queries (which may only be a matter of time,) the results are going to be heavily influenced by these other prominent ‘local’ sources.
It’s vital for you as a business owner to take the following steps to optimize and start increasing your local Web presence, so you can begin dominating the local results.
Make Sure That You Stake Multiple Claims For Your Business
Organizations and businesses should be establishing their local listings on the major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing using their map services. If your company has 10 or more locations, Google has a handy bulk upload process allowing you to submit by spreadsheet your business listings instead of the postcard/phone verification process. Once your listings are uploaded, you’ll then be able to start the verification process by submitting a request to: Google Verification
What this submission does is it will trigger a manual process, so it won’t be an instantaneous verification by Google. The process however can be accelerated if you register your Google Places account first, provided you use a company based email address. So it cannot be a Gmail, Yahoo or any other third-party based email address.
Your next step after submitting your company on the various search engine map listings, is increasing the number of “citations,” of your company, using the exact street address and phone number on other third-party sites. They are critical in improving the ranking of your map listings. Google will put more weight on ‘citations,’ if the resources are known and trusted, so submit to portals such as: CitySearch, Yelp, YellowPages and Local.com. Keep in mind that citation authority is often industry-specific in a lot of the cases. Also keep in mind that top-tier City Guides as well as Internet Yellow Pages will usually get increased traffic while providing excellent outlets for consumer based reviews.
Google will often pull reviews from these other third-party sites and then place them into their own listings. The number of reviews a location will receive impacts rankings. Locations that has a lot of customer reviews and ratings will typically see a rise in click-through rates to their sites as well.
Illustrate As Well As Amplify
Optimizing your business for local search is a constant feeding process that requires offline marketers to keep abreast with the latest developments by both vertical as well as mainstream search sites while enhancing their listings accordingly.
When it comes to Google Places, the first step after you claim and verify your locations is to enhance your business profiles by building up your listings with concise consistent detailed information, which should include pictures and videos if available.
Businesses should also try adding unique coupons or rebates to their listings that will provide incentive for their customers while helping the tracking process as well. The more complete that your profile is, the more verified and trusted it will become by both the consumer and Google.
If you find that you’re still not showing up for your chosen ‘priority’ local search term, consider advertising your Google map results on Google Adwords Local Ad Extensions, which is a pay per click PPC service, or through Google Places Tags, which will cost $25 per month on a flat fee rate. Either of these advertising options may not push your local listings into the Top Ten, but they should get your listing a lot more exposure in the result pages of Google Maps.
Take Some Chances
Experiment with coupons or incentive’s based on consumer actions through social media mobile portals such as Twitter. Twitter now supports more than 800+ million search queries every day, which is more than twice what Bing and Yahoo gets combined. Many of these searches usually have local intent which can be leveraged for direct response or product branding. While it’s great to have a large following of interested and engaged users that you are able to reach directly, Twitter gives you the potential of making this popular micro-blogging site an useful marketing tool independent of your community based building skills.
Offline marketers looking to promote their business should also consider social interactive mobile based location applications such as Gowalla and Foursquare, as these services allow businesses the opportunity to directly tap into the mobile users’ exact geographic location. Companies will be able to use that information to promote their offers, as well as providing information for consumers that are nearby.
One thing for certain regarding local search marketing programs is that you need to be consistent, be detailed and your profiles kept up to date. Doing this should not only increase online traffic, but should increase offline traffic and sales as well.
It’s important that you constantly keep updating your listings that are across the Internet when any of your details change. Keeping this information accurate is the key to establishing credibility with the various search engines.