When it comes to business topics, few publications carry more credibility than Forbes magazine, one of the most-read sources for news about financial, investment and marketing advice. So when the Forbes Business Council – a group of acknowledged leaders in those fields – offered 15 tips on improving local SEO, it wasn’t the least bit surprising that a clear one-third of those tips referred directly to local business directory listings – and several others referenced elements that relate to local business directories.
Why Managing Local Business Directory Listings Is Important to Local Business Marketing
As might be expected from a major publication, a great deal of the advice offered by the Forbes experts was aimed at making your business more visible in the search engine results. The simple fact is that when people look for just about any type of service or product these days, the first thing they do is Google it, or search for it on one of the other major search engines. Anything you can do that helps search engines understand the services you offer and geographical markets you serve is guaranteed to improve your visibility in the search engine rankings.
A Good Local Business Directory Is More Than Local SEO
But there’s more to local business marketing than getting your business to appear in the featured listings when someone does a Google search for the services or products you provide. The other side of the equation is making sure your business ads appear where your customers are already likely to be reading. While many businesses take out ads on local websites – and that’s also an important part of good local online marketing, it’s also very valuable to take advantage of the free business listings offered by larger online local business directory websites like FindUsLocal.com.
Unlike sites that purely cater to businesses, Find Us Local has positioned itself as a valuable resource for your customers. In addition to a comprehensive database of local businesses, sites like Find Us Local focus on being useful to local residents and consumers. The front page of the business directory functions more like an all-in-one-place for your local customers to find out what’s happening in their city, town or neighborhood. There’s a round-up of local news stories, local weather, and upcoming events that are specific to their geographic location. Elements like these are “glue” – they make a website “sticky” by offering features that bring people back over and over again.
When you run a business that relies on customers who live within a few miles of you, this is the kind of website where you want your business to appear prominently. You want people to see your business name frequently so that it becomes familiar, so that it’s the first name that comes to mind when they need someone who provides your services. Not only will a business listing on a local business directory help search engines find your business, it will help your customers find you when they need you.
So About Those Local SEO Tips…
The tips offered by the Forbes business experts break down into a couple of different categories – ways to improve your local business listing, and ways to improve your position in the local search engine results, so let’s take a look at those two elements separately.
Tips for Getting Found on Google (and Other Search Engines)
Good local search engine optimization is a combination of both on-page elements – things you can do on your own website – and off-page elements – things on other websites that help search engines learn more about your business and services. The first is completely under your control. No one but you (or the person/company that manages your website) can make changes to what appears on your website. These five things are all things to do when you’re creating or updating your business website.
- Put Your Location in Your Page Titles
When people see your business in a Google search, the page title is in big print at the top of the result. It should reference both your services and your geographical location. You want them to see something like Dr. Ada Greene – Pediatric Dentist in Albany. A page title like that tells both your potential new patients and the search engines what you do and where you do it.
- Put Your Address On EVERY Page
Take a little space at the top or bottom of every page on your website to list your business address and contact details. If you’re building it yourself using a template, look for the “header” or “footer” section. Those are pieces that will appear at the top or bottom of every single page when people visit your website.
- Add a Find Us Page to Your Website
Or include written directions and/or a Google map on your contact page. Again, this is a clear signal to search engines that your business is located in a specific geographical area. More importantly, it helps your customers find your office, store or restaurant.
- Take Advantage of Tags with Your Location and Business
There are lots of places on your website where you can insert your city, neighborhood or region. Every photo or graphic on your website, for example, can have tags that tell search engines what the picture is about. In the “alt text” tag, for example, you can write “photo of Sweet Bakery, Las Cruces.” You can use the “Description” tag for every page on your website the same way.
- Add Local Keywords to Your Page Content
When writing directions to your store, refer to local landmarks – “across the street from Crompton Field” helps your potential customers find you, and serves as another local reference to help search engines associate your business more strongly with your city or town.
You don’t have as much control over what appears about your business on websites controlled by others, but there are lots of ways to influence those references – and get lots of quality, incoming links. Unsurprisingly, many of these tips are more about being a part of your local community than they are specifically about online marketing. These are five ways to improve offsite local SEO.
- Get Coverage in Local Media
When your business appears on the websites of your local newspapers, blogs and other media, your reputation with search engines gets a big boost. That doesn’t mean paying for ads – it means doing things that local reporters and bloggers want to write about. Don’t just count on them noticing that you sponsor the cheerleaders at the local high school, though. Give local reporters a heads-up when those cheerleaders appear at a local event, for example, and suggest they might want to cover it.
- Do Things in Your Community
Give a talk at the Chamber of Commerce or other local business organization’s meeting. Organize local businesses to do a Community Giveback Day. Sponsor a contest for local vendors, or get involved in one. Those things boost your profile locally, and can be lots of fun for you and your employees. The additional payoff – high profile incoming links that connect to your business website.
- Cultivate Relationships with Local Media
Get to know local reporters and columnists and drop them a line when your business is doing something in the community. You want to be in their contact lists so that when they need a comment on something for a story – say, a feature article about holiday shopping or about neighborhood revitalization – they’ll pick up the phone and call you.
- Join the Local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or Other Business Organization
Many local business organizations maintain local business directories for members. You absolutely want to be listed there.
- Encourage Your Customers to Review Your Business Online
Customer reviews are huge factors in both your business’ reputation and its visibility online. Keep in mind that people are more likely to complain than compliment – it’s just human nature – but you can offset that by specifically ASKING satisfied customers to rate your business on review sites. Those reviews are local SEO gold. Not only will they provide a link back to your business, you can feature the best of them in your local business directory listings and on your website.
Best Local Business Directory Listing Practices
Google relies on “citations” to help it place local businesses in a geographic area. Among the best citations are local business directory listings. Taking control of your local business profiles doesn’t take much time or effort, and the results are better visibility for your business and more customers coming through your door. These five tips will help you make the most of local business directory listings.
- Claim Your Google My Business Profile
Your Google My Business profile is what shows up when someone in your area searches for someone local that provides a service they need. It’s to your benefit to claim that profile and make it attractive. You’ll need to provide a street address for your profile to set up a listing. Once you do, you can list it in a category, add contact information, business hours and photos that show your business at its best.
- List Your Business at Multiple Business Listings
Claim your business profile on all the major local business directories and on review sites. Make sure you pay attention to industry-specific catalogs – contractors, professional directories, etc. Every local business directory listing is a mini-landing page where customers can find and learn about your business.
- Make Sure Information Is Accurate
Inaccurate information can make your business less credible. Check your business listings on the most visible online business directories and review sites and make sure that the address, contact information and business details are consistent across all of them.
- Beyond Local Business Directory Lisitings
When you Google your business, you’ll often see local business listings on websites you don’t know or haven’t listed yourself on. Those local business directories get their information from a variety of data providers, such as Infogroup and Acxiom. Claim your business with those data providers, and make sure that your contact information and business details are accurate and up to date.
- Respond to Your Business Reviews
One of the most important things you can do on an ongoing basis is to check the reviews left for your business and respond to them. When you respond to reviews left on your business profiles, you’re letting potential customers know that you are involved and that you care enough.