The most important component of an online presence for small businesses is the exposure to potential customers – Just call it Getting Found. Local search and local business listings are increasingly important for this. Being the first in your local market to get found by customers searching for your products and services on the Internet can give you a huge advantage. As local search grows it is imperative that you take the right steps to get your small business included in local business listings so it can be found online and more specifically in your local area. One Comscore study showed that in 2008 36% of searchers were looking for businesses within a 15-mile radius of their location, and in 2009 that rose to 42%. Below are some of the basic steps you should be taking to optimize your website for local search. Later articles will address in greater depth some of the things you should be doing to get your business found locally.
First you need to optimize your website for local search. In addition to individuals performing specific geographic searches, Google also tries to present local results based on the geographic area from which the person is searching. Therefore, it is important to get a high ranking in your local area.
Here are some things you should do in order to achieve a high ranking in local search:
• Make sure that your location is listed in your title tag. This is the short description of your business that appears at the top of your web browser.
• Include your location in your meta-tag description as well. This is the description that no one sees expect the search engines when they are crawling your site. If you are not sure how to edit this yourself you can get your Webmaster to do it.
• The meta-tag description is often the text used for the short snippet under the link to a site in the search engine results page, so make sure that it also describes what you do as well as your location.
• Add your address and contact information to the bottom of multiple pages on your site.
• Make sure your contact information is in crawlable text – that is make sure the search engines can read the text. Items are generally not crawlable if they are in flash, iframes or images. If you are not sure whether its crawlable or not, a simple test should work: If can highlight the text and copy and paste it into Microsoft Word then the search engines can probably read it too.
• Add suburb, area and neighborhood names into your website text as naturally as possible.
• Research and include high-ranking local keywords in the text of your website. You can research keywords using a tool like Google.com/sktool.
Secondly, getting your site listed in the main local search engines, local business listings, directories and GPS navigations systems is another strategy you should employ to be found locally. It is important that you do not limit your entry to just one site because the sites reference each other in order to validate your information, and validated information will rank you higher in a local search. Thus being included in as many local business listings as possible will not only help you get found in those directories, but also help you rank higher in local search engines like Google places & Yahoo local. Here are some of the main places that you should make sure you include a listing:
• Google local (Google Places)
• Yahoo! local
• Info USA
You can go in and add your company to these sites on your own, or you can hire someone to do it for you. Demandmart.com is one of the affordable options that will perform this task for you as a part of its basic services. If you decide to do it on your own, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Include your product/service keywords in your title and description in your listing.
• Make sure you correctly categorize your company.
• List a phone number that has a local area code. Do not list a cell that is not from the area or an 800, or toll free, number as your primary number.
Here are a few other things that you can do to optimize for local search and get found online:
• Create a blog. Talk about the company, the industry, community events, and where appropriate, use geographic specific keywords.
• Create links back to your site either through link exchanges with other local companies or getting listed in places like your local chamber of commerce.
• Signup for and monitor the primary review sites. These sites include Yelp, Citysearch and Angie’s List. If you get a bad review you can reach out and try to resolve the issue.