In today’s ultra-competitive business environment, it is surprising that so many businesses still fail to take advantage of the free directory listings that can be driven by a fully optimized Local Business Profile. The term ‘free directory listings’ applies to local search engines, internet yellow pages, consumer review websites that focus on local businesses rather than products, local vertical search engines, and special directories like free 800 listings.
A fully optimized Local Business Profile contains a well-crafted business description, containing a unique selling proposition based on market and keyword research, domain name and email cross branding (including generic domains), authentic testimonials, and all permissible media including photos and videos. This is on top of all the basic contact, product, and services information. A fully realized business description in the right category is the key to the free directory kingdom.
Local Business Profiles Can Save PPC Costs
Submitting a properly optimized Local Business Profile to free directories can generate up to 2,000 unique and motivated local business visitors per month. Attracting 24,000+ annual visitors will save roughly $25,000 in pay per click costs (depending on keyword prices and competition). Such benefits more than justify the minimal effort involved in this process.
This post outlines methods and benefits for creating fully optimized Local Business Profiles – with or without a website. Also listed are free time-saving submission tools and free directory resources.
Here is an opportunity to learn a disciplined approach to creating an online presence in the local search market, with no ongoing cost. America has around 20,000,000 existing small and medium sized businesses and nearly one million new businesses are formed each year, yet very few businesses have yet done this – by acting now, you can be one step ahead of the game.
As a courtesy an email link to a fill-in-the-blanks Local Business Profile Fact Finder is provided at the end of this document.
About Local Search
Local search is growing rapidly, yet relatively few businesses take full advantage of free directory listings. More growth is forecast and this projected expansion justifies taking action. According to the ‘US Online Local Advertising Forecast, 2007 – 2012’, released by Jupiter Research, local advertising will increase by 13 percent from 2007 to 2012, faster than online advertising as a whole.
My local internet business clients have enjoyed high quality website traffic driven by Local Business Profiles optimized for free local internet directories. Meaningful traffic for the local business succeeded whenever the business owner, advertiser, or a paid professional took the time to prepare and submit a fully optimized Local Business Profile. This process will be described in full later.
One reason optimized Local Business Profiles work is simply that most businesses have not set one up yet. Check it out: Most local search queries at Google Maps will show just a few businesses, with little more than basic contact information – no pictures, testimonials, product brands, persuasive business descriptions, videos and the like.
This lack of competition alone has enabled many of my clients to appear on Google’s main page one results in its One Box; similar results have been enjoyed on other directories.
An optimized Local Business Profile offers the following benefits:
- Free Traffic: Substantial traffic potential that persuades visitors to take action. Free advertising and new customers, whether or not supported by paid online advertising campaigns.
- Branding: An opportunity to brand a business across many local directories encompassing business name, domain names (including generic variants to attract type-in traffic), logos, email addresses, phones, fax and 800 numbers.
- Unique Selling or Value Proposition: In a business description written for local searchers, with a search engine friendly value proposition limited to 200 characters based on keyword and market research.
- Drag and Drop Identity: One place to incorporate all your essential business information, including name, address, phone, fax, email, products and services, hours of operation, etc. Also, a handy cut and paste business profile for other occasions, including online business or social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc
- SEO Enhancements: Improved overall search engine optimization results on local and main directories, improved ‘findability’ in local directories that may use many different category systems. If you are in the wrong category then you will not be found.
At this point, you may well be asking questions – What distinguishes a ‘fully optimized’ Local Business Profile from a more basic profile? What does it include? Why does it get the attention of search engines and visitors? Why does it attract a high and surprising amount of qualified traffic?
Our experience has shown that the key factors for generating traffic and buyers are a well crafted business description, photos that relate to the services offered, and authentic, well written testimonials – which most businesses struggle to obtain, no matter how satisfied the customers.
Start with what is known for an established business, and what the goals are for a new business. These benefits are for both the short-term and long-term
Free directory listings are available at Local Search Engines like Google and Yahoo, most internet yellow page directories, consumer review websites such as Yelp.com and insiderPages.com, many vertical directories, and even 800 number listings. Resources for the major free directories are provided at the end of this document.
Creating and submitting a great Local Business Profile is a very human endeavor. Most of it cannot be automated, despite several companies offering such services. I have found the economic value of automated submissions to be non-existent, as automated creation and submission to the major databases and search engines can neither create a great Local Business Profile nor properly submit one, since they cannot address the many listing category variations, or upload photos and videos.
A great Local Business Profile requires basic keyword and market research skills, basic search engine copywriting awareness techniques, domain market know-how to understand the value of generic domains and direct navigation, local directory familiarity, and, last but not least, common sense. Whilst creating the profile is human, there are submission tools that can semi-automate the process.
Once you have created your Local Business Profile, you can use it as a persuasive drag and drop tool for online and other networking. It pays, therefore, to ensure that the profile is as good as it can possibly be.
Here is how I go about creating a fully optimized Local Business Profile:
Step 1 – Basic Market and Keyword Research
Get a handle on the marketplace and competition. Basic market and keyword research are key to the business description and the directory categories. I never cease to be amazed at the gap between my common sense assumptions and actual results – results will often contradict how a business has merchandized itself if they have not advertised online and researched their market.
First, some basic questions: Am I a new or established business? Do I have a website? Do I advertise online? Have I done previous market and keyword research? Do I have any useful data? Whether the answers to these questions, I do basic keyword research testing variations based on geography, to get a big picture based on search terms and number of queries.
With or without prior keyword research or experience, I like to imagine myself as an online customer of my business’s products or services (and my competitors), walking in their shoes as an online mystery shopper. What search terms or phrases (keywords) would someone enter into Google or other search engine to find your business?
I use basic keyword research tools to see the number of searches my business categories generate – nothing too sophisticated at this point.
As a local business I add location to my keywords. For example, if I am a seafood and waterfront restaurant in Miami I will check the number of searches for ‘seafood restaurant‘ and ‘waterfront restaurant‘, then ‘Miami restaurant‘, ‘Miami seafood restaurant‘, ‘Miami waterfront restaurant‘, and ‘Miami-Dade restaurant‘. It also pays to test for zip codes, state or county combinations.