We often get inquiries from small business owners asking us for help with their local Internet marketing, local SEO, Google Places optimization, Yahoo! Local listings, Bing Local listings, etc. We'd love to help, but our services are designed to make this process efficient for companies with thousands of locations.
We've put together this guide to show you how easy it is to manage this process yourself. Sure, it takes some time, but YOU CAN DO IT!
NOTE: Unless you are a developer, you probably aren't in a position to truly optimize your own website*. But there are things that you can do that will have an impact for very little investment in time or money. Follow the steps outlined below, and you will get more targeted traffic to your website. If you do not have a website, you can still take advantage of the advances in local online marketing by getting your business listed on websites that offer local business listings. If you don't have a website, just skip to Step 3.
ANOTHER NOTE: All of the links on this page open new browser windows so that you can keep this guide open as you optimize your small business listings at the various local business directories referenced here.
To find out how people are searching for products and services like yours, use the Google keyword suggestion tool. The simplest thing to do is to type in a few words that relate to your business. Google will give you a list of keyword phrases related to those words and tell you how frequently they are searched, broadly. After the results display, look in the left hand column for "Match Types," uncheck "Broad" and check "[Exact]." The page will reload and show you exact search frequencies for each keyword phrase.
You can export the results as a .CSV (Excel) file, save it, and keep entering in new phrases to build up a list that covers everything you can imagine related to your business, exporting again after each search. Once you have the data in Excel, it is easy to sort by search frequency to see exactly which phrases are being used the most often.
Visit the Google keyword suggestion tool page.
Enter a few words and complete the CAPTCHA test. (Curious about CAPTCHA? Check out reCAPTCHA: Stop Spam, Read Books.)
The frequency results are for "Broad" matches to your phrases.
Uncheck "Broad" and check "[Exact]." You will see that the search frequency numbers change substantially. That's because Google considers a wide range of searches to be "broad" matches for any particular keyword phrase. Now we know the exact search frequencies for your phrases.
Click the "Download" button and select "All."
Choose the file format. Default is CSV for Excel.
Open the file you downloaded in Excel, and see your keyword phrase data. Sort the data by Competition, Global Monthly Searches, or Local Monthly Searches.
As a small business, you shouldn't be aiming for the most competitive or highly-searched phrases. You should look for phrases in the list that clearly indicate that a person is searching to purchase a product or service you are offering. Those are your highest quality phrases.
Now that you know what keywords and keyword phrases people tend to use when they're looking to purchase a product or service that you offer, take another look at the content on your website. Are you "speaking their language?" Rewrite your content so that you are. Organize and rewrite content to target the keywords. (Make sure to keep it readable for human visitors and not just search engines.)
Make sure your HTML TITLE TAGS are optimized. The title tag is the most important element of a web page. Make sure that you use your most important keyword phrase in your title tag. For a guide to optimizing title tags, read "HTML Title Tags for Search Engine Optimization & Web Usability".
Make sure your HTML META TAGS are optimized. For a guide to meta tags, read "What are meta tags?" and other related FAQ answers you'll find on that page.
After your site is ready, you will submit it to major web directories and several local business directories. To make the process smooth and consistent, you need to have your business information ready.
Launch your favorite word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, WordPerfect, TextPad, Notepad, BBEdit - whatever you use to write stuff). If you create all of this information once, you can just copy and paste it into all the fields that will be required in the next few steps.
You will need the following information ready.
Address, phone number, fax number and toll-free number (optional)
Website and email address
Hours of operation
Payment methods accepted
Tagline or slogan
Bing, Yelp and others allow you to add your business tagline. If you don't have a tagline, take a look at the 360+ Most Famous Business Taglines Ever put together by ChomChom Advertising for ideas.
Descriptions of your website
Each description should be written as a librarian would describe a book. Write one that is less than 150 characters, one less than 170 characters, and one less than 200 characters. Do not simply list your services separated by commas. Do not use ANY promotional language - it will be edited by the editors who review your submissions and will leave them with an unfavorable disposition towards your site. Do a great job with your submission, and you'll be more likely to have your site accepted without any edits. For an excellent guide to writing website descriptions, read "Open Directory Editorial Guidelines - Editing Style: Descriptions".
Descriptions of your business
You will have multiple opportunities to describe your business when submitting to local business directories. The amount of text allowed varies quite a bit.
Google Places allows a 200 character description of your business, and they do not edit the descriptions. Yelp and others allow up to 1,000 characters when describing your business.
Different sites allow you to upload different sized logos. We've found that many small businesses have logos that are a bit wide, and many have logos set against colored backgrounds. To keep it simple, we suggest you create a square image with your logo in it against a white background.
The exception is Bing. Bing displays logos at a 1.75:1 ratio. But if you upload your logo in a square file, it will work just fine.
The optimal file format for your logo is PNG. PNG files scale very well without very much distortion.
Here is our logo. Unfortunately, it does not fit most of the business directories' formats. It will either be squeezed together or shrunk down to an unreadable size.
To solve this problem, we created the square version of the logo below just for the local business directories. It also works very well for Facebook's format.
Choose up to 10 of your best business photos. They can be staff photos, photos of your storefront, etc. As with the logos, photographs are often displayed as square images on local business directories, so you may want to crop your photos before you begin your submissions. The overall file size isn't that important though. Most directories will simply scale your photo down to a manageable size for you.
If you have any videos of your business, you can upload them to some of the directories, so jot down the location of those files for the next steps.
Social media links
Several local business directories encourage you to add links to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, so have those handy.
Adding your website to web directories has several benefits. The most important benefit is the authoritative links your website will get as a result. All of the major search engines (Google and Bing) look for websites linking to yours and rank your site in their search results in part based on what they find.
Submit your site to Yahoo! by going to the Yahoo! Directory Listings page and clicking "Get Started." You don't need to find the most appropriate category for your site. The editors will put your listing into the most appropriate directory category. Keep your website description to less than 150 characters. If you don't an editor is likely to chop it down, and you probably won't like the result.
Submit your site to The Open Directory. Read "How do I submit my site to The Open Directory (ODP or DMOZ)?" for suggestions.
Submit your site to GoGuides.org.
Submit your site to Best of the Web (BOTW.org).
Submit your site to JoeAnt.com.
Sites like Google allow local businesses to list themselves in their local listings for free. You may even find that your business has already been listed. However, by claiming your local listing, you have the opportunity to customize the listing. Other sites that offer business listings are very similar to traditional web directories (see above), but allow businesses to list themselves even without websites. The point of the business listings sites is to list your business - not your website. So, you approach Local Business Listings differently. On web directories, you describe your website. On Business Listings sites, you describe your business.
Generally, you start the listing process on each of the following directories by first searching for your business on that directory. In most cases, you'll find that your business is already listed in some form. When you find the listing, you "CLAIM" it. Once you have verified that you are the authorized representative of your business, you can correct the listing and add additional information. If your business isn't listed on one of the following sites, it is simple to add it.
Make sure that you have accurate information on all of these sites. Add pictures, videos, whatever you can to make your listings more useful and to stand out more - just be professional.
Create a free Google account if you don't have one already. If you use Gmail, then you already have a Google account.
To create your free Google account, go to https://www.google.com/accounts/. Click on the link that says "create one for free" or the link that says "Create an account now."
Fill out the information on the form that follows.
Submit the form by pressing the "I agree. Create my account" button.
Google will then send you a confirmation email. You will need to click on the link provided in the email.
Once you click on the confirmation link, you will have your own free Google account.
On the confirmation web page, click "click here to continue," and you will see many new things you can do with Google.
Create an optimized Google Local listing.
Now that you have your free Google account, create your own free business listing. The listing you're about to create will show up in the Google search results when someone searches for a local business like yours.
First, go to Google Maps and search for your business by name, city, etc. until you have either found your business or are absolutely certian that it is not listed.
If you found your business...
If you didn't find your business...
First, go to http://www.google.com/local/add. If you just created your Google account, you're already signed in. If not, please sign in.
Now you can click "Add new business" and start to add details about your business.
After you've completed all of the fields on all of the pages, Google will mail you a PIN (personal identification number) that you can use to verify your listing. Then your business will be added to Google Maps/Google Local/Google Places.
Now that you've gone through the process of creating your Google Places listing, you should be familiar with filling out forms, so we will keep the rest of this guide a bit more brief.
Create a free Yahoo! account. You can actually create your free account while you're adding your business. So, just go to http://listings.local.yahoo.com/account/ and sign up using your email account, fill out the information Yahoo! requires for a Free Basic Listing (all you need most likely), verify your business via phone or postcard, and you're live.
If you do not have a website, choose the "Enhanced" listing so that you can provide additional details about your business. To start with either the free Basic or the $9.95/month Enhanced listing, visit the Yahoo! Local Listings Account Overview page.
Go to http://www.bing.com/businessportal/ and click "Get Started Now!" Follow the directions and add your business information, then verify your business and you'll be live. You will receive a postcard from Bing, so it'll take a couple weeks to get your business listed.
If you are a Sprint customer, you can add and enhance your business listing for free by going to https://sprint.whitepages.com/.
Otherwise, your business listing will be automatically created through WhitePages.com's algorithym as they gather data from major aggregators.
CitySearch.com only offers paid advertising.
Use the three primary local business listing aggregators to make sure your local business is included in many other local business listing websites.
Join Angie's List or find a friend who's a member in your area and see what people are saying about you.
IMPORTANT: Once you've claimed and enhanced all of those free local listings, get your clients to post positive reviews for you. Local is the future of search, so jumping on those sites and getting ahead now should put your business in a strong position going forward.