Local Search FAQs
Answers to some common local online marketing questions
Great local listings come down to four basic principles:
Accurate: The data has to be correct and the message consistent with the brand. For example, is the correct and primary phone number used? Is the 'feel' consistent with any national branding?
Complete: Use all available and relevant fields. This not only creates a more informative listing for the user, but drives recall and ranking in the search engines.
Fresh: Make sure your hours and other business details are up-to-date. Take advantage of coupons and 'specials' to promote your latest deals. An up-to-date coupon or special can make the conversion.Ubiquitous: Ensure that all local search sites and data providers have your local listing and that it is accurate. This will mean more inbound traffic and will also have a synergistic effect, driving better rankings at the top engines.
Here are the items that are most critical to local listing rank:
Business Address: This is local search after all, so your business has to be within a reasonable distance from the user's searched location. The proximity of your business to the user's specific search location is less important than it used to be, but you still need to be within the local area to be considered. For businesses that serve a large area, often far from their physical address, Google has rolled out a new Service Area feature that allows you to define a larger geography that your business services.
Listing Authority: How confident is the search engine that the business exists where it says it does and that it offers the services the searcher is interested in? This authority, or confidence, is built through several steps. A good first step is claiming your listings. As a second step, build more citations of your business online.
Business Categories: Add all the appropriate categories to your business...but only the appropriate categories. Category SPAM has been getting cleaned up aggressively by the engines.
Create Great Listings: Follow the 'great listings' advice from above.Customer Reviews: Both the quality and quantity of the reviews matter. While their is still debate on how/if this specifically impacts the rank of local listings, a large amount of quality reviews will certainly increase the likelihood that a browser of your listing becomes a customer of your business.
Here are some review acquisition tactics to get your started:
Just Ask: The best place to start is with current customers. Contact those customers that have been pleased with their experience and your business. Going forward, kindly ask customers at the end of their buying experience if they would consider writing a review. Provide them with a business card or webpage that has links to all of your listings on the different search sites (where you have already claimed your listings, right?)
Email Marketing: As part of your ongoing email marketing or as part of a follow up email to people thanking them for their purchase, you can again include links to your different review listing accounts. The idea is to make it easy for them, giving them options for different sites in hopes that they already have an account at one of them.
Offline: Let your customers know you are online and that you care about your online reputation. A simple note on your marketing collateral or on your whiteboard can get the word out.A few additional thoughts on review acquisition. First, great service will ultimately and organically result in great reviews. The tactics above just help get the ball rolling. Secondly, never create fake reviews for your business. They are likely to get filtered, they can erode trust in your business and they create bad karma.
First, always keep in mind that there is a difference between a negative review and a false or inaccurate review. For negative reviews, consider responding using the functionally available at the review site. Most review sites offer business owners the ability to comment or respond directly. When you make the decision to engage with the reviewer remain calm, speak honestly and sincerely and try to make amends with the dissatisfied customer. Take the opportunity to explain the circumstances of the negative review and what you did to ensure there is not a reoccurrence. Refrain from engaging in an argument or provoking the reviewer. Remember that negative reviews are part of running a business; approach them as an opportunity to improve your business or service.
First, always keep in mind that there is a difference between a negative review and a false or inaccurate review. If the review is posted by a competitor, is done out of malice or just plain made up, use the 'Report Abuse' functionality available at nearly every major review site. This process is often slow, but can result in the false review being removed from the site.
Mobile and local go together like peanut butter and jelly. The good thing is that you don't have to do anything special to have your local listings show up for searches done from a mobile phone. The local search engines will use the same listings and listing data, presented a bit differently, for both web and mobile searches.