Why Local?

According to Google, 20% of desktop search is local, and 40% of mobile search is local. In other words, search has replaced the good old-fashioned yellow pages. When someone wants to find out where a business is located and what the phone number is, they look it up on Google, Bing or Yahoo!. And 80% of people who do a local search follow it up with an action. Impressive numbers, indeed.

If you sell to people in your city or town, you definitely want to be the site that comes up first, second or third in search when your customers look for products and services in your category.

To achieve this lofty, yet accessible goal, you want to get your business name on as many sites as possible. This will not only increase the number of backlinks to your site, but also increase the number of ‘citations.’ Citations are mentions of your site on other webpages, even if there is no backlink to your site associated with that mention. Search engines take these mentions very seriously, so get your business (and site) listed in as many places as possible to rise in the rankings.

Get Ready to Rumble

Before you begin, create a new email address and a new, strong password that you will use as login credentials for all of your listings. Keep these credentials in a safe place. Using one set of logins for all of your listings makes it easier when the time comes to change something – a phone number, for example.

Make a short list of keywords to use in your profiles and listings; including your city, your business name, and several descriptors of the types of products and services you offer. Create a brief description (a short sales pitch) of your business, including your location and other pertinent details. Keep it handy in a text document for easy copying and pasting.

Create Business Profiles on these Sites First

Google Places – As you already know, Google rules search, and they have provided an excellent service for local business: Google Places. If you don’t already have one, create a Google account. This will serve as your login for all your search optimization activities with Google. In fact, your Google account will serve as your main point of contact for all things Google.

Login to Google Places with your new or existing Google account, and follow the directions. Put in your company name, address, phone number and website. Next, choose your business category, hours of operation, and payment options. Add a logo and a photo of your location, especially if you’re in the retail trade. You can even provide a link to a video you’ve uploaded to your company’s YouTube account.

Submit and wait for your verification card. Google sends a PIN via old-fashioned snail mail, which is actually kind of nice because it means that no one can hijack your listing without a lot of work.

Yahoo! Local – Completing this directory listing is virtually the same procedure as with Google Local. Create a Yahoo! account. Fill out your directory listing, wait for verification. Yahoo! may not be as big as Google anymore, but it’s still essential.

Bing Business Portal – Here again, the procedure is the same. Bing is the smallest of the big three search engines, but growing. And they’re part of Microsoft, so you know they’re not going away any time soon.

Facebook Places – You probably already have a personal Facebook page. You need one for your business too. In fact you should create a Facebook Page and a Facebook Place for your business. First you’ll need the Facebook Places app for your smartphone. Download the app and create your a Facebook Place for your business. Next you’ll need to ‘claim’ it. After claiming it and verifying it with FB, you can even merge the two to create and even more powerful FB presence for your business.

Think you’re done? We’re just getting started.

List Your Business in Web Directories

Web directories are a great way to increase backlinks and citations, which will increase your search ranking locally. Make sure you include the sales pitch you wrote up previously in each listing. Remember to monitor reviews and comments on your listings and respond in kind especially to negative ones. Here’s a list of free directories on which to put your business info:

CitySearch.com – Create an account and submit your business listing.

Yelp.com – Yelp is a business directory with crowd-sourced reviews. Create an account and input your business info. You will have to verify your account via email confirmation.

Manta.com – Manta is an excellent directory for small business. While it’s not generally a yellow-pages type of site, Manta will give your website a trusted backlink, and put your listing in front of thousands of other business owners. It’s also an excellent source of articles and tips on everything from marketing to managing employees.

Best Of The Web Local – Sign up for a free JumpStart Business Listing.

Super Pages – Look for the “Add or Edit a Business” in the website’s footer.

Merchant Circle – Over 1.6 million local merchants have made this one of the leading local business directories. Signing up is easy and free.

Insider Pages – Another crowd-sourced review site. You know the drill: create and account, sign in, and put your listing on their site.

Info USA – Look for the “Update My Listing” link on the site’s footer.

yp.com – Also known as yellowpages.com. It’s free to put your listing in this AT&T-backed directory site. Look for the “Advertise With Us” link in the header.

HotFrog.com – Another great business directory. Look for the “Add Your Business” button in the site’s footer.

Create Social Media Pages for Your Business

Facebook – As stated previously, create a Facebook Page and Facebook Place for your business. Add “Like,” “Share,” or “Recommend” buttons to your website. Add the Facebook logo to your signage and printed materials. There’s more to marketing on FB than we can cover here.

Google+ for Business – Use your newly minted Google account to create a Google+ page for your business. Add Google+ badges to your website. Google+ is just gaining traction, but is already a force to be reckoned with.

LinkedIn – Create a LinkedIn profile for your business. Create and join groups related to your industry. Sprinkle your profile with keywords so you rank higher in LinkedIn’s internal search.

YouTube – If you have any promotional videos, create a YouTube account and post them there. Then you can link your YouTube account back to your website.

Twitter – Create a Twitter account and aggregate all of your blog posts, Facebook posts, and Google+ posts so that they stream on Twitter. You may not get a million followers, but you’ll get a juicy backlink from Twitter to your business website.

Do a Little SEO on Your Business Website

Make sure your company’s name, address and phone number are on every page of your website. You can put it in the header or footer. Use an accepted format for these so the search engine spiders will recognize and record it as business name, address, and phone number, and make sure it’s the same format you’ve used for your profiles and listings.

Put buttons for all of your social media pages on your site. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ should all be featured after every article or post.

Put the same business description you created for your profiles and listings in your Meta Description section of your site. Use the same snippet of text so that when multiple returns from your site show up in search, customers will know they are all from your business.

Make sure you have Contact Us, About Us, and News pages on your site and cross-link them. Also make sure the information on each is consistent. Search loves in-site links and consistent, relevant information.

More Tips for the Real World

Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Why? Usually you can get a link on their website or membership directory. Chamber websites have a lot of ‘trust’ with search, so backlinks from those sites carry a lot of weight with search engines. Plus, you can announce on your home page that you’re a proud member of the local Chamber.

Partner with other local businesses. Reach out to owners of ancillary businesses and offer to exchange links with them. A rising tide lifts all boats in the harbor.

You’re Now Ready to Dominate Local Search

It took a little work, but it was worth it, right? However, this list is far from complete. For example, there are hundreds more directories you can explore, and many more social media sites upon which you can create a presence for your business. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet completing these tasks, feel free to explore the many other possibilities out there. Just get out there and crush it!