In the first post of this series, I outlined five steps for getting your business found through local search. The first of those, “Have Accurate Online Business Listings,” is covered in detail in this article.
A Little History of Business Listings
If you remember the old Yellow Pages that were inside printed phone books, you already understand the basic principle of online business listings. It’s just that now these listings are in digital format rather than print. The publishers of printed listings provided a bare bones listing free of charge to all businesses in a certain geographic area, but they also sold enhanced listings as advertisements to those businesses that wanted increased visibility.
Online Business Listings Today
Things are similar in today’s digital environment, only there is much greater competition among companies that are trying to establish themselves as ‘go to’ listing services. Many of them collect public information about local businesses and list them on websites. Your business could be listed right now, yet you may not even be aware of it. The bigger question then becomes how are you listed? Is the information accurate? Are there popular sites where your company should appear but doesn’t?
Many listing websites are eager to have you create or claim your listing—for free. That’s because they need accurate content to establish themselves as search destinations, and because they sell advertising based on that content. This is an opportunity for you to manage your company’s image and get found when local consumers search for the things you sell.
4 Steps to Maximize the Opportunity
1) Google yourself. With the location service activated on a smartphone, stand in your office and do a generic Google search for your business. If your business website came up near the top, that’s great. If not, you’ve got some work to do because Google is the premier place for local search. Google+ and Google My Business (formerly Google Places) also have local listings, and these should come up near the top of your SERPs. If they don’t, do a separate search to see if and how your business is listed there. You want to be included on both.
2) Scroll down into the results listings. Depending on the nature of your business it may be listed on several third-party sites, such as Yellow Pages, White Pages, Yelp and others. Check each site where you are listed and, if possible, suggest edits where necessary. Some sites, such as Foursquare and Yellow Book, include links you can click on to claim your listing, add information and upload photographs, among other actions.
3) Once you have claimed and enhanced all of your existing listings, search for your competitors. For now, resist comparing the content of their listing to yours (we’ll get to that later in this series). What you are looking for at this point is to see if your competitors are listed on third-party sites that are unknown to you. If so, go to those sites and create a listing for your business. (It’s neither necessary nor practical to appear on every internet listing site, but you do want to be on those sites where your competitors are.)
4) After identifying, editing and setting up profiles on the sites that are key for your business, do a monthly search as in step 1 so you can identify new listing sites where you may want your profile and eliminate defunct sites that are no longer relevant.
In my next post, I’ll cover how to manage the reputation of your business on review sites such as Yelp and CitySearch.