This post was selected as one of the top digital marketing articles of the week by UpCity, a B2B ratings and review company for digital marketing agencies and other marketing service providers.
Before local search developed, small and local businesses had an extremely tough time trying to outrank major brands. As most small businesses work with limited marketing budgets, it was sometimes an impossible task to rank above global brands.
Thankfully, all that’s changed. Local search today provides small and local businesses with the opportunity to put their websites in front of customers.
Why Local Search Is Important for Your Business
If you’ve ever used a local search query, you’ll have noticed that the results are different from normal. You receive a lot more information than the standard a list URLs and short descriptions. In the search results, you typically see a map of the local area along with businesses’:
- Map location points
- Telephone numbers
- Opening hours
In other words, pretty much everything a consumer needs to know to contact the business, view its products, or walk/drive to its store.
Every business can appear in local search for free, and there are hundreds of online search directories to choose from.
Consumers Turn to Local Search
A decade ago, if you wanted to find a lawyer or plumber in your local area, you’d ask the neighbour, walk into town, or pick up a physical directory of some sort, like the Yellow Pages. This type of search had many flaws. First, it could take you hours to find a business suited to your needs, as information in directories was not always up-to-date. Second, there were rarely reviews of businesses. This made it impossible to know if the company was a real deal or a bunch of cowboys. Plus, because each business only received a tiny A7 size listing, the price and product or services offered often weren’t even mentioned!
Today physical directories are almost obsolete, thanks to online search. Consumers rely on local search to find everything from landscapers to coffee shops. Best of all, unlike print directories, where you have to pay a yearly fee to list your business, online local search is free. If you use the right methods, you can rank above your competitors and generate more customers for your business.
The Big Four
You should make it a priority to be listed in the Big Four of online directories. These are:
Google – the world’s most used search engine, Google offers your business the greatest free online exposure. Google local search displays a map search of local businesses. By listing everything correctly on your website, you will automatically propel your business to the first page of search results.
Bing – the second most popular search engine in the U.S., Bing offers the same features as Google. Listing your business is free and, when you’re on Bing’s map, you’ll see your business on the first page.
Yahoo! Local – the third most popular search engine, Yahoo offers free and paid listing. A free listing provides you with all the benefits offered by Google and Bing. A paid listing allows you to add more photos, links, and information and puts your listing in bold, to stand out.
Yelp – search engines use this popular review site to rank your website in search. Favorable reviews improve your business reputation and authority online. They also separate you from the competition. As Yelp is one of the biggest review platforms in the world, if a user types your business name into search, your Yelp reviews will most likely show up on the first page. You should always monitor your Yelp account, as it allows you to reply to customer reviews, resolve problems, and minimize the impact of any low review scores.
If you want to expand your reach by listing your business in yet more places, check out the top 50 local business directories.
Local Map Search
There are two major map services. They are:
Google Maps – the app comes pre-installed on every Android device. Plus, nearly 70 percent of iPhone users say that Google Maps is their favorite map app.
Apple Maps – although small businesses often ignore Apple Maps, around 40 percent of Apple’s market share comes from the U.S. smartphone market and 13 percent of iPhone owners use the app. This means that millions of people use the map app daily. Plus, Apple Maps comes on tablets and Apple computers.
Listing your business on both map services is a must.
Listing on Online Directories
If you’ve never listed your business on an online directory, it’s a good idea to input all your business details into a spreadsheet. It will then be easy to then copy and paste the information into each account, and you’ll ensure that the data is consistent and accurate. If your business’s location, telephone number, opening times, or zip code differ across listings, search engines will be unsure about which listing is up-to-date. As a result, your business will appear lower in local search results.
If you have already set up profiles, now would be a good time to check all your listings to ensure that the information is all accurate.
Along with your spreadsheet, keep a file with your business’s logo. You can use this as your avatar. Also, make full use of any opportunities to add images and videos to listings. This will allow you to provide more content about your business. To an extent, the more you are able add to your profile, the greater your visibility. Many sites show a percentage of how complete your profile is. Every one of your accounts should be at 100 percent.
Listing your business online is easy and doesn’t take long. However, your business won’t appear in local search results immediately — it can sometimes take weeks. The amount of time it takes depends on a number of factors, including competition in your area, the platform, and the quality of your business details.
In 2014, Google released a study titled Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior. This revealed several interesting findings, including:
- Local searches lead to more sales than non-local searches
- Four out of five consumers want ads customized according to their city and zip code
- Half of local searches from smartphones are for a business’s store address
- 30% of consumers are more likely to buy in store if they know that the store is nearby
Local search is the most profitable way for your business to interact with customers during their buying journey. Have you optimized your website for local search? If you want to propel your site to the first page, check out our SEO blog for tips and tricks about local SEO.