If your business or nonprofit caters to a local population in any way, say through a bricks-and-mortar store or some kind of localized in-person service, you might be missing out on a great online opportunity. How can a geographical limitation become an advantage over other websites that have no local boundaries? The answer lies in local search, and capitalizing on it can make a big difference for your business or organization.
What is local search?
In its simplest terms, local search is not anything more than when people use a search engine to look for a local service. To do so, they will usually enter the service along with a location, such as “emergency plumber portsmouth nh.” This is something that most of us have done. Where it becomes particularly interesting (and helpful for the website owner) is in the ways that search engines lend a helping hand with this kind of search.
A local search will usually yield results that list not only the actual websites in search result listings but perhaps local listings with a map pointing to locations, and even other review and directory websites, such as Yelp and Manta, as well. Think of each of these as additional ways your website—and your business or organization—can gain positive exposure.
Getting local with Google and Bing
To maximize your local search exposure, you need to set up or claim the local listings for your business or organization. Google and Bing both provide local listing services that will plot your location on a map, show your listing when people conduct geographical searches, and even provide another opportunity for you to showcase important information about your business. Getting started is easy. You can search for your local listing to see if it already comes up (like “emergency plumber portsmouth nh”), and if your business turns up, there’s usually a button in both Google and Bing to claim your business listing (after you click on the place page). If you don’t turn up, you can easily set up a listing. Setting up a new listing and claiming an existing listing require you to have a Google account (for Google) and Windows Live ID (for Bing). To set up a new listing on Google, go to
www.google.com/placesforbusiness, and for Bing, visit
A special bonus about Google’s and Bing’s local listings is the ability to share additional information about your nonprofit or business. Make sure that your organization’s name, address, phone number, hours, URL, and description are complete and accurate. You’ll also want to include your keywords and phrases in your tagline and/or description; it just may help with your listing’s ranking. You can also add photos to make your listing visually appealing, and you can file your listing in a category to assist with describing your business; choose categories that match your keywords!
Embracing customer reviews
It’s also a new reality that your customers are leaving reviews of your business online. Whether they are discussing your organization in social media, on review sites, or in forums, you probably already have (or soon will have) an online reputation. These reviews can actually help your presence in local search listings. When you conducted a local search to see if you were already in local listings, you may have seen review sites, like Yelp (
www.yelp.com) and InsiderPages (
www.insiderpages.com), listed in the results. If so, it’s probably wise that you make a listing (or claim one that’s already there) with those review sites because they may boost your local listing presence a little higher. And if you’re concerned about what people will say about your business online, know that they will be talking about it sooner or later, so keep focused on offering top-notch products and services, and encourage your most satisfied customers to leave great reviews!
Don’t forget your own website
Finally, it should also go without saying that your own website can be optimized for local search as well. Make sure that your local contact information is clearly posted throughout your website, and also name all the locales you do serve. Each of your home and landing pages should name those locations. Your web designer should make sure to code this information in search engine friendly ways.
If a lot of these steps seem overwhelming, a good web designer and/or an internet marketer can help you make the right decisions—and implement them—for you. So go on and embrace the local community so that it can love you back!