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Learn How to Win the Game of Local Search

Article # 2 in The Rules of Marketing Series

The rules have changed and the challenge is greater—but so are the rewards…

How to win at local searchRemember when a “local directory” was just the Yellow Pages?

No, not Yellowpages.com – I mean the actual book. You know – real paper, heavy as a sack of bricks, thrown down on your doorstep and cracked open to reveal a teeming mass of hundreds, if not thousands of local businesses.

Remember the shops vying for your attention with astonishing attempts at advertising alliteration – A-A-A Awesome Plumbing, AA A-1 Fabrics. AAA Absurd Business Name?

You get the idea.

For decades, that was the only game in town and the best-known “trick” to achieve local visibility and success in the eyes of Joe or Jane Doe in Yourtown, USA.

But the game has changed dramatically. When’s the last time you actually opened a phone book, much less received (or kept) one?

The effort to be front and center hasn’t stopped, but it has changed playing fields.

And it has new rules.

Online local search is the undisputed “Yellow Pages” of the day…on steroids. It includes yellowpages.com by the way, but they’re not the only game in town anymore, not by a long shot. Having a rewarding local search presence requires being listed correctly and consistently in every top directory out there, and then some.

And the days of winning by squeezing multiple AAA’s in the front of your business name are A-A-A thing of the past.

There are new tried-and-true methods that work even better than the old-school “tricks.” Use these to get a leg up on your competition.

How To Get Found By Local Customers

local search data aggregrators
Don’t recognize these company names or logos? They influence if local customers find you online or not.
So “everyone knows” the way to get found in Anytown, USA is to have a Google Plus page, a Yelp listing and maybe an Angie’s List page. And of course, you can’t go without a proper listing in key directories like Localeze and Acxiom.

Wait. You haven’t heard of those? What about Factual? Infogroup?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you are drawing a blank. Those four not-so-household names are the vital “data aggregator” listings.

In a nutshell, aggregators are the hard working, behind-the-scenes data sources, in greater or lesser degree, for the “famous” directories everyone has heard of: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yahoo Local, Google Maps and so on. Think of them as the unheralded publicists to the stars. Without them, the big companies would miss out and not know what you want them to know about your business.

Good. So it’s easy then, right? Just get listed in those few data aggregators and sit back and wait for the customers to find you and flood through your doors.

Ah, if only. It isn’t quite that simple. Let’s pull the curtain back a little further.

There are key rules to know and follow. Otherwise, you’ll be that unfortunate business that, in bygone days, missed the deadline to get in their Yellow Pages listing, making them invisible.

Here’s the must-know essentials

  1. NAP time is vital

    NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone. Your business name, address and phone must, must, must be consistent (did we mention must?) across every single listing.

    Why would it not be consistent? Well, your business has an online footprint already, probably within a week of your doors opening. If you’ve been around a while, you have a Jurassic-size footprint across the web – your Chamber of Commerce may have you listed, the Better Business Bureau and other “official” organizations likely list you online as well. Not to mention your address is on your website and can be “scraped” that way and listed by any such website, and it likely has.

    These potential inconsistencies can create online confusion you aren’t even aware exists. You’re official business name is “Alan and Sons Plumbing”, but it’s listed in one location as “Alan Johnson and Sons Plumbers” or “A.J. and Sons Plumbing and Repair” somewhere else. Those different results, and business owners are often as bewildered as anyone as to why they appear differently, can be viewed as different businesses within local search results.

    Have you changed names over the years, particularly during the “Internet Age”, aka the last 20 years? You are virtually guaranteed to have incorrect listings.

    The result of NAP inconsistencies is these data aggregators and other local search players will not see a unified, clean identity for your business. It looks unprofessional, in a word. As a result, they aren’t likely to “recommend” you to those doing local searches. At best your “online power” is being diluted. At worst, you aren’t showing up for some local searches at all. Instead, potential customers see the business “next door” who has everything properly set up.

    Don’t take it personal, they’re just computers. And it can be fixed so that they do YOUR bidding as well.

  2. NAP corrections

    local search inconsistent listings problems
    Having errors in your online business listings can mean you are difficult to find, or that customers find your competition instead.
    As a vital first step, you need to find all of the online directories where you are listed and ensure your listings are correct.

    This is often called an “audit” and “verification” step. It’s the first step we do with any local business clients. It includes “claiming” the listing, because as mentioned above, some of these directories find your business identity online from who-knows-where and use it to auto-create a listing for you. Take control back. You deserve it!

    What does this local search audit and verification accomplish?

    Inevitably we discover two things when completing the process:

    1. The business has odd variations scattered throughout its online listings. Anything from not having the proper street extension, to having an old phone number or a business name inconsistency.

      One client was literally “off the map” – Google had their map listing about 40 miles away from their actual office. Another had two listings everywhere – their old business name and their new one. The result was that people searching for these businesses couldn’t find them, both online and in the real world.
    2. The next discovery we make is the one you want – once those elements are corrected, the business improves its local search positioning and visibility, often dramatically.*

      * Inevitable disclaimer: This is particularly true if the business was not doing well, e.g. far down the local search results. Also, we’d be remiss to not point out that results are often significantly improved with additional marketing basics such as a properly built website and other local search content set up…why yes, that was an impeccable segue.

What Else To Know About Local Search

Well, there’s plenty, but without the NAP steps done above, the rest is like trying to get a car rolling without an engine. You might be able to push and shove it a few feet online, but soon enough you’ll watch competitors with everything in place race by you.

So in brief, what makes a well-oiled winning local marketing machine?

One that has a powerful engine AND great aerodynamics, a turbo booster and sweet racing stripes to boot.

Start your engines with:

  1. website: solidly built, well-structured with core on-page search factors
  2. site content: relevant, quality local-oriented
  3. business address: your addresses properly listed on your site (there is behind-the-scenes code for your website that helps “identify” and “locate” your business for search engines the right way),
  4. consistent NAP: having consistent NAP on the key directories. Having above and beyond the number of “standard” listings, especially if you are in a specialized profession, e.g. dental, medical, legal, etc.
  5. reviews: getting reviews on the key review portals (Yelp, Facebook, Google+ and specialty sites as applicable like Houzz), and
  6. social: active social profiles and activity which we include to being “locally” social such as interacting with local relevant blogs/channels.

Yes that can be a bit overwhelming, and isn’t done in a weekend to be sure. When your preferred game is running your business, helping your customers and delivering a great product or service it’s wise to bring in hired experts.

That’s where local search experts (ahem) can save you hours of confusion or added errors damaging your local presence.

The game WE love to play is to get your great product, service and business more visible. To stay on top of the “tricks” and “secrets” and have businesses reap the rewards. (The tricks and secrets are also known as hard work and paying attention.)

We’ve successfully raised client’s online search position from essentially invisible to top of the stack.

And all without renaming their business to “AAA Absolute Best Company.”

So if you are looking to be found by customers searching for what you have to offer, consider the local search basics above. And if you need professional expertise, just let us know on our contact page.

Read Article #1 in The Rules of Marketing Series: 3 Branding Rules To Maximize Your Marketing Spend

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