You may have noticed that a Google search result now shows the local map on the right side and the local listings (aka as Google Places at Google) are part of the organic search results. If you follow the evolution of local business listings on search engines since 2007 you will find that this local marketing tool is invaluable to any business.
The disappointing issue is that most businesses have not tapped into this local marketing tool. While the industry is 3 years ahead of businesses, the businesses that are dependent upon the local geography for their revenue are unclear that they can actively manage these listings instead of watching them passively.
All Businesses Can Take Advantage of Local Businesses
First of all, a local business is not a small business. While we will discuss this in more detail in the future, we have to keep in mind that national chains with local presence are also dependent upon the local economy for their revenue. So, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re as large as a Target store or as small as a local florist, local business listings will benefit any size business.
Secondly, the recent change at Google is a telling sign that this is related to both Business-To-Business (B2) as well as Business-To-Consumer (B2C). If you think that B2B won’t have its customer posting reviews then you are in for a surprise. Also, a B2B business that requires revenue from the local marketing should equally be tapping into local business listings like a B2C business.
Customers Decide To Business Based On Search Results
The recent search results change at Google not only displays the regular organic search results, but if there are local business listings that are relevant to the requested search they are showing up above fold and tend show more results than the organic website results.
The local business listings results are also interesting in that they show quite a bit of information to a local customer or consumer. Of course the basic information like business name, address, phone number, telephone number, website link and location on the map is pretty standard. However, the number of customer reviews and the average star rating is prominent to the person searching. Translated this means the local customer or consumer are very quickly see if they want to even click on your local business listing or call you.
Optimization Becomes Important
Businesses now have two marketing tools that need optimization: their website and their local business listing. Since the local business listing is effectively the interactive yellow pages of the 21st century, businesses need to stop passively watching and actively engaging with their local business listing.
The process requires that you first claim your local business listing, followed by your initial update, and then you have to consider monitoring and managing the local business listing just like your website.
You will find that the local business listing can actually be a website, but probably better to use it as a support tool to your primary website. In order for you to show up in the search results you have to be sure the local business listing has all the right information about your business, products and services.
That is then followed by adding photos, videos, coupons, offers, discounts, events and other information that will help the local customer decide to do business with you.
Managing your local business listing includes managing customer reviews and engaging with them not only to secure positive reviews from satisfied customers, but to insure positive public relations with any customers that are less than satisfied.
Finally, the optimization process includes watching the local business listing analytics (separate from your website) and making decisions about how to tweak your listing.
…and did we mention this goes well beyond Google? Variety of other websites are included such as Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Local.com, Merchant Circle, Citysearch and many others that include search engines, social communities, 411 websites, GPS websites, and business directories.
Outsourcing Your Local Business Listing Management
There are generally two types of companies that provide local business listing management services. The first are those that provide “data” only services, which really doesn’t help you much since they don’t get involved in the claiming process. The second provides marketing services, but be careful here since some of them are not well staffed to do anything beyond Google.
This is no different than seeking professional help for your website’s search engine optimization. You will need to not only have professional help in the optimization of your local business listing, but someone has to monitor for duplicate listings, customer reviews, updating your marketing information, and analyzing the analytics.