Columnists Brad Simon Internet Marketing Strategies: Local search marketing

Internet Marketing Strategies: Local search marketing

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Even though it is still in its infancy, Local Search is shaping up to be one of the dominant players in Internet Marketing.

Facts:

  • 30 percent of all search queries are Local Search (contain a city, state or zip code).
  • 2.6 billion Local Searches each month - its bigger than all the Yellow Pages combined.
  • Local Search Marketing is already a $31 billion industry.
  • Numbers of Years to Reach 50 Million Users:
    • Radio: 38 years
    • TV: 13 years
    • Internet: 3 years
    • Local Search: 9 months

Local businesses are at an extreme advantage if they learn how to leverage Local Search. The growth potential for local search is staggeringly high, and the impact on your business could be enormous!

Simply put, Local Search will soon dominate the brick-n-mortar world of marketing. Ready or not, Local Search is here and getting stronger.  If you are not optimizing your search presence for Local Search, you are making a BIG mistake. The fact is most retail businesses are not making local search optimization a priority yet, so there is still time to get in the game, but your window of opportunity is closing fast.

Optimizing your Internet Marketing efforts for Local Search is fairly simple and straight forward.  And in spite of the billions of dollars being spent on Local Search, most small businesses can make a big difference in a few hours of work.

The two areas you need to work on are your website’s Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Local Directories.

Local SEO

You actually don’t need a website to rank in local search. If you added your business to the Local Directories listed below, you will find your store showing up in Local Searches.  However, if you do have a website, then there is a lot you can do to optimize your website to help improve your rankings in Local Search.

The most important factor is having information on your website that relates to your local geographic area.  The search engines cannot list your website in a local search if they don’t know your store is located in that geographical area.

The following information needs to be on every page of your website, in text that is easy for search engine spiders to read.

Address - Include your street, city, state and zip code. Spell out your state name in most places, but use the two letter abbreviation as well in different places on the page. Do NOT use a PO Box.  List your street address so that the search engines can pin point your location on a map. Do not list multiple businesses with the same address - you could get banned for spamming.  If you are in a strip mall or shopping center where other business have the same address be certain to use your suite number to differentiate your business.

Phone Number - List your local business phone number (not an 800 number) including area code on all your pages. If you have multiple business locations, make sure they all have their own phone number. Listing the same phone number for different business addresses is a proven way to kill Local Search rankings.

Local Nicknames or Neighborhood Names - If the area your business is located in is known to all the locals by some name other than your city name, this name needs to be on every page of your website as well.  Your potential customers will more likely use this name in a search and the search engines will not know to list you unless you include it on your webpages.

Business Hours - This doesn’t have to be on every page, but you should list this information somewhere on your website, as users and search engines both look for it.

All the above information needs to be typed out in the body text of the webpage.  Also, it is helpful to include it in your page titles. Page titles are very important. At the very least, have your city, state and zip code in the page title of your homepage, your Contact Us page and your About Us page.

Local Directories

It is important when listing your business that your business information remains consistent throughout all of the directory websites and matches the information on your store’s main website. Information consistency across all Internet websites is crucial to the process of getting your business listed quickly and accurately in Local Search.

Internet Yellow Pages

Internet Yellow Page Directories remain one of the best places to list your business for Local Search.  Do a search in Google for Jewelry Store followed by your city name or zip code and see which directories come up in the search results.  These are the ones you will want to start getting listed in.  If you are already listed make certain that your information is accurate, correct any mistakes, and add any additional information.

In addition, fill out the free business profiles at YellowPages.com (AT&T) and SuperPages.com (Verizon). These two directories have the broadest reach and many other IYPs (Yellow Page Directories) syndicate their content, so listing with them will get you a lot of exposure across numerous sites.

Be sure to include your website URL in your listing.  This link to your website from the local listing in the IYPs will help establish your website’s Local Search importance.

The category you’re listed under is perhaps the most effective way to tell the local search engines what your site is about. Mis-categorized listings make it very hard to rank your products and services.

If your business fits under multiple categories, most local search listing centers have custom fields where you can list those additional categories. So list yourself under the primary category your business is relevant to, then list the other services your business provides in the custom fields. Only include services you actually provide, however, and don’t use these fields for keyword stuffing.

Only list your business in the city in which it is located. Listing your business in several surrounding cities is considered SPAM and the search engines will devalue your listing.

Don’t worry about purchasing an expensive listing in the IYPs.  It’s possible to blow hundreds and even thousands of dollars on these listings with little to show for it.

Also remember that many IYPs will try to sell what they call search marketing services. In general, their sales people are stumped by the simplest SEO questions, so avoid these services, as the return is rarely worth the investment.

Online Maps

These are becoming more and more important to Local Search and their value may soon pass Yellow Page Directories.  Fortunately, claiming your business’ listing in Google Maps is pretty easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are already in Google Maps or not. Simply go to www.maps.google.com and enter your company’s information. If you are already in, Google will find your existing listing and give you the opportunity to claim it.  If it is not listed fill out the form and submit it. Next you need to verify that you really do represent the business by either having Google call you with a special PIN number, or having Google send a postcard to your business with the PIN number.

If you are verifying by phone, be sure that you have access to the same phone number that is in your Google Maps listing. If you are in a new development and Google doesn’t recognize your street address use the post card to verify your listing, proving the address does exist.  This process takes only a few minutes and is actually pretty easy.

Once you have verified your listing, add all the information about your business including your website URL.  The more information about your store the greater the chances it will come up in a search result list.  Include all the products and services you carry.  If you don’t list a product or service, Google will not know to list you when someone searches for it.

Customer Review Websites

Having customers review your store on websites such as Yelp.com or directly in Google Maps is an important element in Local Search Marketing.  The more reviews you have the better your chance of receiving higher listings.

Do not worry about bad reviews.  If you receive a bad review add your comments to it including your side of the story and how you resolved it.  Also remember that Google looks at the number of reviews, not the rating or content of the review.  There are numerous reports of companies that tried to do a smear campaign against one of their competitors by posting bad reviews on all the different review websites.  The only thing they accomplished was to drive their competitor’s website to the top of Google search listings.

If a customer reviews your store on Yelp and is an inactive user, their review may become suppressed.  A suppressed review is still on the website, it just doesn’t show up when a person views your listing.  The important thing to remember is the review is still on Yelp’s website and Google sees it and gives you credit for it.

Some thing you can do that might help to keep the reviews showing up are:

  • Find someone who is active on Yelp to comment on the review (or comment yourself).
  • Link to the review in your Blog, and other places around the Internet.
  • Share the review on Facebook, Twitter, etc. by clicking on the buttons to do so at the bottom of the review.
  • Bookmark the review on Social Bookmarking websites.

Every brick-n-mortar retail or service business will need to have an Online Local Search presence, similar to the way a phone book listing has been essential in the past.  These steps will greatly improve your chances of getting listed and ranking well in the major local search engines. Then it is just a matter of keeping your listing accurate and up-to-date. Doing so will help to ensure that the major local search players have your latest information, and that there is no conflict between the information they are pulling from the various directories.

For more information on marketing your jewelry store on the Internet, getting higher search engine rankings, or using the Internet to keep in touch with your existing customers visit www.Internet4Jewelers.com You can follow Brad on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenchJeweler.

 
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