Martin Maybruck’s American Marketing Association guest post:
What all local businesses must do in 2011 to get more customers.
The world of local online and mobile marketing has changed a lot in the past 12 months. In 2010 local businesses were presented with many new and powerful digital marketing channels. The biggest trends were in local group daily deals, like Groupon and Living Social, location based services like FourSquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Facebook check-ins and local social business listings like Facebook Places and Twitter Places. So what’s a busy local business owner supposed to do to market their business digitally without spending too much precious time and money learning about all of these different online and mobile local marketing channels?
While these are all powerful new marketing tools for local businesses the most widely used local business discovery tools are still the search engines. The most important free and simple marketing local businesses should do in 2011 is claim your local business profiles on at least the three main search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The fastest way to find and claim your local business profiles on these search engines is to use the free website www.GetListed.org. All you have to do is enter your business name and zip code and in a few seconds GetListed gives you a snapshot of your business listings on Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as other important online local business directories like Yelp, Best Of The Web and HotFrog. Not only will being listed in these directories greatly increase the chances of your business being found when a potential customer is actively looking for your products or services on their computers but your business will also be listed in the respective mobile directories. According to Google, while 1 in 5 desktop searches have local intent, mobile searches on smartphones are even higher with 1 in 3 having local intent.
If GetListed.org shows that your business is not listed in these directories there is a handy link direct to the sign up page. If your business is listed in one of the directories there is a link to view additional details about your business listing where you can see what information that directory has about your business.
Following are the most important pieces of business information that you must make sure are included, correct and identical across all online business directories.
1. Your business name, which should be your real business name without any additional marketing tag lines or extraneous descriptive keywords.
2. The physical address of your business. Do not use a P.O. Box as this will get your business listing removed from Google. If you are a service business or consultant and your office is in your home or a physical location you do not want listed then you have two options. The first option is renting a UPS box at your local UPS Store and using the store’s physical address with your mail box as the suite. The second option, which is available in Google Places and some other directories, is to use your home office address to set up your listing but then choose the option to not have your physical address displayed online.
3. A local business phone number with a local area code that connects directly to your business location. Do not use toll free numbers, redirecting numbers, call center numbers or tracking phone numbers.
4. A website or a unique page of your company website that represents your individual business location. Do not use URL redirects or landing pages that are not for your individual business location. If your business has more than one location make sure you have either a unique website for each location or a unique page on the main company website for each physical location. On these unique websites or location specific landing pages make sure you include the business name, address and local phone number as described in items 1 – 3 above.
5. Most online business directories require that you choose the categories your business should be listed and found in. I highly recommend that you start your category choices with Google Places (http://places.google.com/business) and try to use these same categories for all of the other directories if you can. When choosing your business categories in Google Places it is very important to use the most accurate category that best says what your business is (Wedding Photographer) and not what it does (Wedding Photos) or products it sells (Custom Wedding Photos and Frames). This other information should be included in the “Additional Details” section in Google Places. Google Places allows up to 5 categories. I highly recommend using the best suggested category as the first one and then do your best to complete the remaining 4 categories with the best suggested ones or the best unique categories that you can come up with if your categories are not included in the suggested ones. In order to get ideas for the best categories it can be very helpful to do a search in Google for your best categories (e.g. “Wedding Photographer Baltimore”) and look at the categories being used by the first page Google Places listings. Study which of the first page Place pages have the same major categories and use these.
6. In your business description you can include a more keyword rich description of your business services and products with features and benefits. If you have a service business and you conduct business in several cities other than where your main physical location is, use the description to list these other related service location.
7. Make sure you complete all of the sections of your Google Places listing as well as the other directory listings. Include your business hours, payment options, upload as many photos and videos as you are allowed and include other information details like listing products, services, awards, links to menu pages and links social media pages like your business Facebook page and Twitter page.
8. Google Places also allows you to include printable and mobile offers. Do it! Use these offers to attract business.
After you complete all of the major directory listings and make sure that all of your business information is identical on all of them it is very helpful to also complete your business profile with all of the identical information at Localeze (click for more info on Localeze). Localeze is a data provider of local business information to all of the major search engines and many of the major online and mobile business directories. In 2010 Localeze also became the data provider for Facebook Places, Twitter Places, Foodspotting and TomTom. (Click here for a discount on Localeze)
It is a lot of work for busy local business owners to stay up to date on all of the changes in local online marketing but with a few hours of work claiming and completing your online business listings you will have made a huge and important leap to getting more customers and increasing awareness of your local business in 2011 and beyond.
Martin Maybruck has been specializing in local SEO and online lead generation since 1997 when he created his first website for his own New York City Architecture and Construction Management company. In 2002 Martin’s passion for online marketing led him to start helping other SMBs with online lead generation. Over the past two years, through online training courses, Martin has taught over 2000 SMBs online lead generation and digital marketing using local SEO, PPC, Social Media and Mobile Marketing. Martin will soon be launching a new website with tips, training and tools for SMBs to learn how to get more business using basic to advanced digital marketing strategies and tactics at www.LocalLeadGeneration.com. You can also join the community of SMBs and get free tips at www.Facebook.com/LocalLeadGeneration.