For business owners, it is has always been more important to be found in their local area, city or region by people who are already looking for them. Over 60% of consumers prefer to do business with a local business close by in our own backyard. This includes all kinds of “wallet-ready” service-based businesses such as auto repair shops, electricians, hair salons, attorneys and restaurants. Each of these businesses has significant local competition. Further, competition for placement on the search engines for these businesses is stiff. What are the different ways a business can stand out and easily be found by those who are searching for them?
The major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) all have a business mapping application that allows businesses to set up or claim their own business listing, associate it with a physical address, and provide more information to the consumer who is looking for them. For example, if a searcher types in “electricians” into the Google search bar, it will return millions of results (the first 10 being displayed on page 1 of course). However, Google assumes that the person doing the search is looking for a local business, not all electricians. Based on this assumption, Google will show up to seven results for “electricians near xyz city”. Another example might be that the person searches for “windshield replacement, san diego, ca” meaning he or she is looking for a company that will replace her windshield in her specific location. Again, the major search engines will return a map with several local businesses listed for him or her.
Be Sure to Claim Your Business Listing
Often, local businesses will get these listings automatically because they are in one of the major online business directories. These listings may or may not have current information, and tend to have sparse information (address, phone number, and business type). Search for your own "business name + location" in any of the major search engines, and look to see if your business is listed. Note that if you do not claim your listing, someone else may, and put false or incorrect information in for your business! The more complete your listing is, the more you’ll bubble to the top.
Get Listed Without a Website
If you’re a business owner who doesn’t have a website or for one reason or another (e.g. due to franchise rules) isn’t allowed to have a website, you still have the opportunity create and claim your business listing, and subsequently get to the very top of the search engines for the services you offer.
SEO for Local Search - Optimizing for Cities
Many business owners understand that a professionally designed website is critical to attract new clients and customers. Potential customers will search for them on the search engines, view their website and decide if they should call or step into your front door. It’s relatively easy to get a website set up for the search engines for local search. It’s also easy to go down the futile path of trying to get listed for extremely generic and highly competitive phrases such as “auto repair shops” (currently approx. 3,000,000 results in Google for that particular phrase). By focusing on your local market, you can get your business listed for people who are searching for you in your local neighborhood. For instance, the search phrase “auto repair shops, escondido, ca” only returns 460,000 results, most of which are "accidental" listings. Follow these steps:
- Create a page of content on your website for each city and phrase that you want to get listed.
- The Title and Description tags should include that phrase and city location.
- The page should also contain content about that specific phrase and city.
- Sprinkle the name of the city throughout the page.
- Repeat this process for each phrase you want listed. It’s likely that you won’t have much competition for these niche phrases, and the search engines will reward you with highly visible placement.
Similarly, people do search by zip code. For example, they might search for “auto repair 92101”. Be sure to include your zip code in the Title or Description META tags and content on that same page for your specific city. You will have very little competition for this, because hardly anyone else is doing this. Your potential customers will love that you have taken the time to build these specific pages just for them, and they’ve found exactly what they’re looking for.
Online Review Sites
It’s becoming more common for your customers to review your business and share with their friends how good (or bad) your business is. Yelp is a very common online review site that originally started as a place for people to praise or pan their local restaurant. It has quickly grown into all other businesses, and can now be found around the world. Yelp results typically rank high in the search engine results. The searcher will then find a list of businesses, some good and some bad. Showing up in these listings is free advertising for your business. Furthermore, the Yelp results get incorporated into your Google Places listing mentioned above as “Reviews”. Make sure to go through the process of claiming (or creating) your own business listing in Yelp, or any of the the many local business directories (e.g. CitySearch, Kudzu, SuperPages). Again, add as much relevant information about your company as you can to these listings. You can usually include photos, videos, and specific product information. Don't forget to encourage your happy clients to review you.
Stand Out from the Crowd
Even with all these steps, it may still be difficult to stand out in highly competitive industries. You'll need to take the necessary steps to make your business look unique from everyone else. Google Places listing, now offer tags to make your listing stand out. You can point the tag to a photograph, a video or to your website itself.
Small, local businesses drive the bulk of the world's economy in the world. The majority of the population prefers to do business with local merchants. We frequently develop personal relationships with these business owners, and it’s easier and more convenient to travel to their office due to their proximity. The search engines are a rich source of free leads to a smart business owner’s front door, and there are many free or inexpensive ways to get ahead of your competition next door.