There’s a war being waged among Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, all vying for the title of best local search engine. And, the winner is you. Let me tell you what’s behind this movement to enhance local search and why you must claim your listing right away.
Consumers Want It
In 2010, Google began revamping its ranking algorithms to make them more local friendly. They did this because search from mobile devices rose by 130% in just the third quarter of that year. A majority of these searches were for local businesses. Becoming the go-to site for local search means big advertising bucks for these engines.
Those advertising dollars are also why they are encouraging you to claim your business listing and optimize it, and why they are cracking down on cheaters. Busy retailers may have paid a third party to list their business on local search sites. Too many of the practices used by these service providers to raise a businesses ranking on sites like Google are not only unethical, some are illegal. It’s given the whole SEO service provider industry a bad name. And, it’s led retailers and other small business owners into a false sense of security, thinking that everything on their listing is accurate and helpful.
To combat both of these problems, Google has started a phone and email campaign in an attempt to verify that the contacts in the listings they already have are accurate. Plus, they want to encourage you to spiffy up your listing, bring it up-to-date with your latest offerings, and make it more enticing to viewers overall.
All the Big Players are Onboard
Google recently launched Buzz, which features the word-on-the-street about local businesses. But, Google Local is not the only big name in the ring. In 2010, Facebook overtook Google as the number one influencer of purchase recommendation. Bing, owned by Microsoft, and an upstart rival to Google, announced a sweeping array of upgrades and changes to improve local search.
Twitter was an early adopter of geolocation services, but it has not caught on with tweeters as well as the offerings by other social media sites, like Facebook. One that is coming on strong is Foursquare. They now offer a “check-in” service where they scan a special bar code located at one of their favorite haunts, thus earning them points toward special discounts or freebies.
What You Can Do
If you don’t think you have time to invest in getting your free listings, think again. Mobile search is quickly becoming the preferred way to find local business owners and service providers. If you don’t exist on that virtual map, you may disappear altogether to new clients.
The best thing you can do for yourself is claim your business listing on Google. Be prepared to give brief information about your business, and be by the phone to answer a call that will be auto-sent from Google within hours of completing the process. If you miss that call, you could delay getting the listing verified by weeks.
Once you get the basic listing, take some time to optimize it with pictures of your building, details about hours of operation, payment types accepted, parking, coupons, or anything else that would be helpful to your clients.
Then, get listed on every other local search engine available to you. Some advanced offerings are only available in certain cities at this time. But check back every six months to see what other cities are on the list. As the services improve, the rollout across the country will be swift.