It isn't hard to get your site listed and your profile built out on these websites, it's just a little tedious. That's why search engine optimization firms charge a lot to do it for you. If you do it yourself you can save a bunch of money here and utilize their services for more strategic endeavors. It is free to create a business profile on all the sites listed below.
Before social media optimization (SMO) started taking over the world, local optimization (aka local SEO) was making headway. Although not as sexy as social media, local optimization could be even more powerful for mom-and-pop businesses like doctors, pet stores, hair stylists, and any other business dependent on local customers. Local optimization is concerned with two types of optimization: local search engine traffic & local non-search engine traffic. I’m primarily concerned with local search engine traffic for this post.
Online advertising is one of the best ways to get visitors to your website. Websites that offer advertising reserve their most prominent online real estate for advertising. You can rent the internet’s most valuable space by advertising. The goal in local business online advertising is to put your message in front of the right people at the right time to get conversions. Conversions can be anything from a getting a phone call to having a prospect download a white paper.
Search engines are the highest trafficked sites on the internet. According to Alexa, Google gets more monthly visits than any other website. Yahoo and MSN search (Live, Bing, MSN) are not far behind. As a business owner with a website, you can tap into the traffic potential of the search engines for free. How do you do it? Search engines like relevance. Search engines succeed when users type in search queries, get relevant results, and click on pages to find relevant information. The goal of your website is to provide relevant content to those prospects searching for information about your products and services.
As a local business, you have two very valuable assets in your marketing arsenal. Without both of these items, your business will fail. These items are your phone number & your address. These two items are essential to your success. If prospects can't find this information you won't be buying groceries. And still, why are they sometimes so hard to find on many local business websites?
Direct marketing, aka, "junk mail", preceded internet marketing by many decades. Direct marketers mailed to consumers and businesses long before Google's founders were born. Direct marketers understood marketing - they are still masters of the medium. One of the most important aspects of any direct marketing package is the call to action. The call to action is what the company wants a prospect to do when they get a letter in the mail? For example, do they want somebody to fill out a credit card application or call GEICO for a quote? Whatever it is, direct marketers are very clear on their call to action.
Local businesses have a big challenge today. Since most small businesses have websites, a simple online presence doesn't cut it anymore. The market doesn't care if you have a website. It's almost like having a phone number...everyone has one now. If you boast about your new website, your prospect secretly asks, "So what!?". Do you remember the 1989 movie Field of Dreams? In the film, Kevin Costner‟s character, Ray Kinsella, is prompted by an unknown voice to build a baseball field in the middle of his farm. The voice said, “If you build it, he will come.” Kinsella built a baseball field and his childhood hero “Shoeless” Joe Jackson came.
The internet revolutionized the local business world. In 1989 you could place a Yellow Pages advertisement and get targeted calls from prospects. Sure it was expensive, but it didn’t matter. Consumers trusted the Yellow Pages for the information they needed. Business owners paid for what worked. The Yellow Pages were effective. Local business advertising budgets were well spent in the Yellow Pages. To grow your business, that’s where you had to be. The same can be said for newspaper advertisements. People trusted newspapers in a similar way they trusted the big yellow book.
Search engine traffic is one of the best forms of non-referral traffic on the internet. But it's not the only form of traffic for your local business. As powerful as search engines are, local consumers still get their information from non-search sources. Many online consumers go to the online equivalent to the Yellow Pages – often called the Internet Yellow Pages, or IYP. Last month, there were almost 20,000,000 unique visitors at YellowPages.com.
Local listings now display in every major search engine. They are usually under the initial Paid/PPC listings, but before organic results. Local listings often include a map next to the results –that’s why you know these listings are local listings instead of the regular organic listings. If possible, Google displays the top-7 results for local listings. It was known as the “10-Pack” but it has now been truncated to "7-Pack". Keep in mind, Google has 60-70% of the search market, so make sure to submit your local business to Google first. Yahoo and Bing/MSN also show similar results.