local listing
Magnifying Glass Looking Down at City Earth

By Megan Totka

The local Yellow Pages have been irrelevant for the past 20 years. However, many local businesses haven’t invested nearly enough in establishing an online presence.

In 2016, local businesses will have a difficult time surviving if they aren’t listed online. If your business lacks an online presence, then you need to start setting up local listings right away.

Why Do Small Businesses Need Local Listings?

In the 1990s, the Internet was primarily used by e-commerce companies. Brands like Amazon and eBay quickly grew into billion dollar enterprises. However, the Internet has since become a major driving force for local economies as well.

According to research from Yelp, 85% of people use the Internet to find local businesses. This is an 8% increase from 2010. Customers use the Internet to find lawyers, restaurants and other services and in most cases will be bombarded with search result after search result of listing sites. With 88%of all local shoppers relying on review sites it’s more important than ever to get your business listed with positive reviews.

Reach More Customers with Local Listings

Local listings are very effective platforms for generating leads. However, you need to do a lot more than set up a few local listings. Take the following steps to make sure your listings are effective.

1. Get On the Right Sites

There are hundreds of local listing sites. However, many of them are rarely used and won’t drive many customers to your door. Rather than setting up profiles on all of them, it’s best to invest in a few of the most important. Here are some of the best local listing sites available:

  • Google places listings often rank at the top of the Google SERPs. Since Google receives almost 6 billion searches every day, you’ll want to have an account to attract local buyers.
  • Yelp is another major player in the local business listing sphere. The website receives about 69 million visitors a month from mobile devices alone.
  • Local businesses should also have a presence on Foursquare. This website has about 10 million active monthly users. Foursquare users are very vocal and passionate about sharing information on their favorite brands.

These sites have a great track record of generating new customers for small businesses.

2. Encourage Positive Reviews

Customer are searching for businesses online every day and basing their purchasing decision on the experience others had. Having a listing isn’t enough. You need to get satisfied customers to leave reviews and find ways to discourage customers from leaving bad reviews. One study found that 95% of customers that had a negative brand experience shared it online, while only 87% of customers that had a positive experience shared it.

If any customers leave negative feedback on one of your local listing profiles, try to address as tactfully and quickly as possible. Take responsibility for the problem, offer a solution and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Establishing a good customer service policy is your number one priority. You also need to remind your employees about the reality of living in the digital world. Their conduct is under strict scrutiny, so you need to make sure they are professional, courteous and competent.

Megan Totka is the chief editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.