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Written by Marc Gamble on February 28th, 2009

Tips For Optimizing Your Local Business Listings

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In last month’s column, I highlighted the need for search marketers, search engines, and data providers to reach out to small business owners to increase their awareness of the free opportunities to claim their businesses online.

So for SMB’s reading this column, I thought I’d highlight a few key takeaways related to maximizing your presence via local business listings.

In the first panel, "Up Close with Google Maps & Local," I re-iterated the importance of claiming your listing directly at the Google Local Business Center, as well as data providers like Localeze, Universal Business Listing, and infoUSA. Verifying with these data providers is key-both because of their direct feeds to Google, as well as their use in directories and other local search portals, which serve as citations via Google’s web crawl.

Chris Silver Smith followed up with a few tips for the case in which your physically-based business actually serves multiple neighborhoods or towns where you don’t have a location. He recommends:

  • Creating plenty of city-or neighborhood-specific content on your own website to let the search engine spiders know you serve these additional areas.
  • Registering a PO Box and obtaining a local phone number in the additional towns or neighborhoods you serve.
  • Claiming your profile on local portals or data providers who only require a business name and phone number, or who will accept a PO Box as an address.

These steps should ensure that Google Maps picks up your additional "locations" in its web crawl, which you can then claim as local business listings.

Jumping ahead a little bit, you could follow up the content on your own website by starting a series of HyperLocal blogs focused on news and events specific to these communities. In the next panel, "Local Search Marketing Tactics," Matt McGee demonstrated that these kinds of blogs build buzz for your company in areas which you serve, and accrue more town- or neighborhood-specific web crawl citations.

Back to the original panel-my co-presenter Steve Espinosa also presented some excellent tips to optimize your local business listings, and increase your citation totals:

  • Include yourself in as many relevant categories as possible at Yahoo-this can often lead to multiple URLs, and thus multiple citations.
  • Pay the $9.95/mo. for Yahoo’s Enhanced Product. His company has found that the little "Merchant Verified" checkmark increases phone calls by 180%.
  • Don’t forget about video, both as a citation source and a direct traffic driver. Getting a video thumbnail AND a local listing on the same search result page has led to a 340% increase in phone calls.
  • Properly constructed social media profiles, like Twitter, can be picked up as citations if they include your business name, address, and phone number.
  • Be sure to link out to your various profiles and citations directly from the landing page you list in the Google Local Business Center. This will ensure that Google is crawling your citations and correlating them with your local business listing.

And finally, Will Scott of Search Influence took Steve’s last nugget one step further with his concept of "Barnacle SEO." Essentially, the idea involves linking to your various local profiles from your own content, as well as building links to these profiles through external content.

By doing so, you can leverage the domain authority that a site like Yahoo.com or Yelp.com has in the search engines, and make sure that your own profile is the most relevant result on that domain. Targeting the right sites with a large enough volume of links means not only will these profiles be seen as powerful citations for your Google local business listing, but will rank organically on their own for geo-targeted searches as well.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the author, and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

David Mihm is a Portland, OR Web Designer and a noted authority on Local SEO. He writes frequently about Local SEO topics at his blog, Mihmorandum. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
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