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Capital Region Business Journal Article

Article Originally published in the Captial Region Business Journal - June 2010 (page 15)

Title: Yes, local search is a handy tool; now, focus on getting to first page


By: Jonny Buroker

HOW TO GET YOUR LOCAL PROFILE TO THE FIRST PAGE


In last month’s column (Big Three search engines offer a business perk: local search, page 15 of the May 2010 CRBJ), we provided you with some of the basics of getting your local business profile listed on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, the three largest search engines.  The steps are pretty straight forward and your listing can be online within a matter of a few minutes to a few weeks. 

However, just completing your profile is only part of the equation.  The biggest benefit to your company comes when you happen to land on that coveted first page of local search results and people searching for your products or services find your listing in those local results.  So the question becomes, “
how do I get my listing to the first page of local search results?

LOCAL SEARCH DO’S AND DON’TS


After considerable reading and research and some experimenting myself, I’ve collected a list of Do’s and Don’ts to getting listed on the first page of the local search results.  There are some differences of opinion by the “professionals” in the field, but the following were generally agreed upon as being some of the most important factors for getting listed on the first page:

Do’s:

  1. Be sure to claim your local listing. As the owner of the business, you need to claim ownership of your listing and go through a verification process. This gives the search engines the trust factor they are looking for.
  2. Businesses within the city being searched will tend to rank higher. Therefore, if you have an address within a city, or multiple addresses, set up profiles for each one (be sure to use distinct phone numbers for each one). DO NOT use addresses that are not your own.
  3. Use appropriate Categories to identify what your business does. However, if you can’t find an appropriate category or your business does more, a great strategy is to create a category using keywords that your customers would use when searching for your business.
  4. Include keywords in the listing title.  For example, for my business rather than just calling it “WSI” I used “WSI – Madison WI Internet Marketing Consultant”.
  5. Use product and service keywords in business description.  In most profiles you get about a paragraph to describe your business. In addition to your title, this is an excellent place to include the keywords your customers are looking for.
  6. Include a local phone number. While an 800 number shouldn’t hurt your ranking, always include a local area code phone number.
  7. Post your business profile to other major data providers and Internet Yellow Page (IYP) sites. In addition to the big 3 (Google, Yahoo, Bing) there are several that could benefit your business including Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch, Superpages, TripAdvisor (especially hotels and restaurants), Kudzu, and Angie’s List. Do some homework and select those most appropriate to your business.
  8. Encourage your customers to post reviews of your business. While testimonials on your website are okay, customer reviews posted on the sites listed in #7 above are used in the local search listings and can help lift your site to the first page. Not only will these reviews help with your ranking they can certainly help to get a prospective customer to click through to your website or call your company.
  9. Develop a linking strategy to gain a large number of quality inbound links. Google has always put a large weighting on quantity and quality of inbound links.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t have multiple listings with the same phone number. Each listing should have a distinct local number.
  2. Don’t create several listings with the same address. If you do have separate legitimate businesses at the same address, be sure to differentiate their addresses (e.g., Suite A, Suite B, etc.).

Once you care for all of the Do’s and avoid the Don’ts, keep an eye on the local results, be patient (for a while) and then start changing things up if you still don’t see your site rising.  Have a strategy for link building and getting customer reviews posted to the 3rd party sites and before you know it your competitors will be wondering why your listing is ahead of theirs.

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