local search

By Rieva Lesonsky

You’ve heard of search engine optimization (SEO) and hopefully, have applied the principles to your small business’s website. But are you familiar with local search optimization?

When potential customers do an Internet search looking for businesses near them that offer what you sell, local search optimization helps ensure that your business lands at the top of their search results. For example, if you own a coffeehouse and a man on his way to work is looking for a place to get a latte, optimizing for local search can make the difference between whether he visits your coffeehouse or the nearest Starbucks.

Fortunately, optimizing your business for local search is pretty easy. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Claim your listing on Google My Business. Data from Google My Business is used when customers do a search and Google pulls up a map showing local businesses, so it’s important to have a listing there. (It’s free.) Make sure the information about your business — such as business name, address, phone number and hours of operation — is current.
  2. Next, you can boost your chances of attracting customers by including additional information such as:
  • Photos of your business. This can include images of your storefront, the inside of your business, menu items, you or your employees, etc.
  • Your business logo
  • Information about parking or directions
  • Seasonal information such as current specials or promotions
  1. Use your Google My Business information as the basis for listings on other local search directories such as Yelp, Bing, Yahoo and YP.com. It’s important that your NAP (name, address, phone) information be exactly the same on all local search directories. For example, if your business is located on Harvard Street, it can’t be spelled “Street” in one place and “St.” in another. If there are variations, the search engines may think the listings are for different businesses.
  1. Regularly update your listings on search directories. Is your store closing earlier than usual or staying open later? Did your restaurant add lunch to the menu or stop serving brunch on Sundays? Has your business’s phone number changed? All of this data needs to be current. Outdated or inaccurate information will just frustrate customers. You should also update photos, promotions or anything else that has changed. Web hosting companies that provide marketing services can often take care of updating your listings across dozens of local search directories, so you don’t have to do it yourself. Ask your web host or web marketing services provider.

By taking a few easy steps to optimize your business for local search, you’ll raise your profile in search engine results and attract more customers.