As a local business owner, if you’ve been in operation for more than 5 years, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve purchased an ad for your business in the local yellow pages at some point. That’s because up until 2006 or so, yellow pages, advertisements were the way to reach local consumers. However, if you’ve been in business for less than 5 years, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve never purchased an ad in the phone book. The reason? Since 2006, consumers have steadily replaced their phone books with search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. By some estimates, less than one-third of consumers will use a phone book in 2011*.
Local Search Forcing Out Traditional Print Ads
As consumers steadily replace their phone books with search engines, local businesses are beginning to recognize just how important search engine optimization has become. Because search engines only show a handful of businesses on the first page – and because consumers usually click on the top search results – being listed #1 on Google (or Bing or Yahoo) for your business search term is more important than ever.So, if you want consumers to find your local basement finishing business when they do a search for “Denver Basement Finishing,” you’ve got to work on optimizing your business for local search. In the SEO industry, we call this Local SEO, and it’s the fastest-growing service in our industry.
Getting Started with Local SEO
One of the first steps in any local SEO effort is to create and/or claim a profile for your business on popular websites like Google Places. With a profile on Google Places, business owners can share their business phone number, location, hours of operation, types of payment accepted, types of services provided, etc., and this information can then appear in local search results. Google Places isn’t the only place business owners can register a profile. Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, MerchantCircle, Best of The Web, and dozens of other companies all offer business owners the opportunity to create profiles as well. By creating and/or claiming profiles for your business on all of these websites, you increase the likelihood that your business will show in local search results.
Why Business Profiles Boost Search Results
When someone conducts a search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo for a local business, the search engines each use their own complicated algorithms to determine which business should appear #1, which business should appear #2, etc. While the specific details of these algorithms are secret, we know that “citations” – or a mention of a specific business in an online directory, local business organization website, etc. – correlate with rankings. The reason that search engines look for citations is that they’re a very good indicator of a business’s trust and longevity.
If a local business has been around for a long time, or if a business is well-liked and trusted, there will be a lot of mentions for that business in local business directories, on the local chamber of commerce website, on local business association websites, and even in local media. So, if you want your local business to show up at the top of local search results, you need mentions…and that means you need to create profiles on as many quality local directories as possible.