Before local search came along, small and local businesses had an extremely tough time trying to outrank major brands in online search. As many work with limited marketing budgets, it was sometimes an impossible task to rank above global brands.
Thankfully, all that’s changed with the introduction of local search, which provides small and local businesses the opportunity to put their business in front of customers and gain the upper hand against larger brands.
Why Local Search is Important for Your Business
If you’ve ever made a local search query using an online search engine, you’ll have noticed that they provide you with a lot more information than just a URL link and short description.
When actively seeking a business, you’re typically shown a map of the local area listing a business’:
- Map location point
- Telephone number
- Opening hours
- Website address
Pretty much everything a consumer needs to know to contact your business, view your products, or walk/drive to your store.
Every business can be listed in local search for free, and there are thousands 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 either 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.
It could take you hours to find a business suited to your needs if you didn’t have a directory nearby and, if you did, the information inside the directories was not always up-to-date.
There were usually no reviews of the business, making it impossible to know if they were the real deal or a bunch of cowboys, and because each business only received a tiny A7 size listing, often the price and the product or services offered weren’t even listed!
Today physical directories have been replaced with online search. Consumers rely on local search to find everything from landscapers to coffee shops nearby.
As consumer sentiment changes towards the online marketplace it becomes extremely important for your business to be in their sight during their time of search (need).
The best thing is, unlike print directories where you have to pay a yearly fee to list your business, online local search is free, and, if you use the right methods, you can rank above your competitors and generate more customers for your business.
The Big 5
While there are thousands of online directories to list your business, you should make it a priority to be listed in the Big 5. They are:
Google – the world’s most used search engine, offers your business the greatest free online exposure to customers. Google local search displays a map search of local businesses close to the searcher, automatically propelling your business to the first page if everything is listed correctly.
Bing – the second most popular search engine in the U.S., offers the same features as Google. Listing your business is free and, if combined with maps, you’ll see your business listed on the first page of Bing too.
Yahoo! Local – the third most popular search engine, offers free and paid listing. Free listing provides you with all the benefits offered by Google and Bing, whereas paid listing allows you to enhance your listing with more photos, links, information, and even puts your listing in bold helping it stand out.
Yelp – a popular review site used by search engines to rank your business’ website on search. Favourable reviews help increase your website rank, business’s reputation, and authority, and separates you from the competition.
As Yelp is one of the biggest review platforms in the world, if a searcher types your business’s name into Search, your Yelp reviews will most likely show up on the first page.
You should always keep on top of your Yelp account as it allows you to reply to customer reviews, solve problems, and minimize the impact of any low review scores.
Yellow Pages – very similar to Yelp. Yellow Pages offers customers the chance to search for local businesses and leave reviews based on past experience. Setting up a Yellow Pages account is free.
Local Map Search
As of right now there are two major map services being used, they are:
Google Maps – can be found on every Android device as the app comes pre-installed and is integrated by thousands of search engines. Google Maps have become so advanced and user friendly that as many as 50% of local mobile searchers end up visiting a bricks and mortar store.
Apple Maps – is often ignored by small businesses, yet around 40% ofApple’s market share is from the U.S. smartphone market, and their map search is used by millions of people daily through their smartphones, tablets, and Apple computers.
Listing your business on both map services is free and a must.
If you’ve yet to list your business on any online directory listing, before you do we strongly advise you to place all your business details in a spreadsheet. It is easy to then copy and paste that information into all new accounts, ensuring data is consistent and accurate.
If your business’ location, telephone number, opening times, or zip code, differ from one listing to the next, search engines mark this against your business as they are unsure which listing is up-to-date. As a result your business will be placed lower in local search listings.
If you have already setup profiles and are thinking about creating more, recheck all your old listings to ensure the information is all up-to-date and consistent.
Along with your spreadsheet, also keep a file with your business’ logo to use as the avatar for all accounts. Make full use of any image and video gallery platforms offered, to provide more content about your business. The more you are able to fill in your listing profile, the greater visibility it will achieve.
Many sites will have a 0-100% score of how complete your profile is. You need to get each account filled up to 100%.
Listing your business online is easy and doesn’t take too long to do. However, seeing your business listed on local search doesn’t happen immediately, and can sometimes take weeks.
The amount of time it takes is based on a number of factors such as the competition in your area, platforms used to list your business, and how effectively you have filled in your business’ details.
In 2014, Google released a study titled Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behaviour which found several interesting statistics such as:
- Local searches lead to more sales than non-local searches
- 4 out of 5 consumers want ads customized based on their city and zip code
- 50% of local searches made from a smartphone are looking for a business’s local store address
- 30% of consumers are more likely to buy in-store if they know the store is nearby
Local search is the most profitable way for your business to interact with customers during their buying journey. Is your business correctly optimized for local search? If you’re unsure or want to propel your business to the first page of search, get in touch with one of our marketing specialists today.