Tips For Optimizing Your Local Business Listings, Courtesy of SMX West

In last month’s column, I highlighted the need for search marketers, search engines, and data providers to reach out to small business owners to increase their awareness of the free opportunities to claim their businesses online.  Well, the two excellent Local Search panels at SMX West, put together by Search Engine Land’s own Greg Sterling, did just that. It’s just a shame there weren’t more small business owners in attendance!

So for SMB’s reading this column, I thought I’d highlight a few key takeaways related to maximizing your presence via local business listings.

In the first panel, “Up Close with Google Maps & Local,” I re-iterated the importance of claiming your listing directly at the Google Local Business Center, as well as data providers like Localeze, Universal Business Listing, and infoUSA.  Verifying with these data providers is key-both because of their direct feeds to Google, as well as their use in directories and other local search portals, which serve as citations via Google’s web crawl.

Chris Silver Smith followed up with a few tips for the case in which your physically-based business actually serves multiple neighborhoods or towns where you don’t have a location.  He recommends:

  • Creating plenty of city- or neighborhood-specific content on your own website to let the search engine spiders know you serve these additional areas.
  • Registering a PO Box and obtaining a local phone number in the additional towns or neighborhoods you serve.
  • Claiming your profile on local portals or data providers who only require a business name and phone number, or who will accept a PO Box as an address.

These steps should ensure that Google Maps picks up your additional “locations” in its web crawl, which you can then claim as local business listings.

Jumping ahead a little bit, you could follow up the content on your own website by starting a series of HyperLocal blogs focused on news and events specific to these communities. In the next panel, “Local Search Marketing Tactics,” Matt McGee demonstrated that these kinds of blogs build buzz for your company in areas which you serve, and accrue more town- or neighborhood-specific web crawl citations.

Back to the original panel-my co-presenter Steve Espinosa also presented some excellent tips to optimize your local business listings, and increase your citation totals:

  • Include yourself in as many relevant categories as possible at Yahoo-this can often lead to multiple URLs, and thus multiple citations.
  • Pay the $9.95/mo. for Yahoo’s Enhanced Product.  His company has found that the little “Merchant Verified” checkmark increases phone calls by 180%.
  • Don’t forget about video, both as a citation source and a direct traffic driver. Getting a video thumbnail AND a local listing on the same search result page has led to a 340% increase in phone calls.
  • Properly constructed social media profiles, like Twitter, can be picked up as citations if they include your business name, address, and phone number.
  • Be sure to link out to your various profiles and citations directly from the landing page you list in the Google Local Business Center. This will ensure that Google is crawling your citations and correlating them with your local business listing.

And finally, Will Scott of Search Influence took Steve’s last nugget one step further with his concept of “Barnacle SEO.”  Essentially, the idea involves linking to your various local profiles from your own content, as well as building links to these profiles through external content.

By doing so, you can leverage the domain authority that a site like or has in the search engines, and make sure that your own profile is the most relevant result on that domain.  Targeting the right sites with a large enough volume of links means not only will these profiles be seen as powerful citations for your Google local business listing, but will rank organically on their own for geo-targeted searches as well.

The other local search marketers (Olivier Amar, Dennis Yu, and Scott Dunlap) all gave excellent presentations as well, they just focused on topics other than profile optimization. All in all, SMX West was a conference filled with actionable advice that I recommend more SMB’s attend next year.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: SEM | How To: SEO | Small Is Beautiful


About The Author: is Director of Local Strategy at Moz, and the architect of Moz Local — a newly ­released software product that distributes U.S. business listings to the primary local data aggregators and important local directories.

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  • eMarketingMatador

    Yeah, don’t miss out on listing with Universal Business Listing. They cover so much now, the $30 fee is nothing compared to the value. There is a great resource where the Local Search Engines and Directories are listed, ranked and the coverage Universal Business Listing has is detailed. Its at We created this for our clients, but have made it available to everyone (The “e” in eMarketing Matador is for “everyone”.


  • sticki

    Great article. The YellowPages also offer a cool Save Business Contact Information widget from your YP listing that you can insert into a page on your website.

  • rebecca@everyscape

    Great list, David…Very helpful for all businesses, but especially for SMB’s. The main issue that I’ve found with most SMB’s is that while getting people to their website is important, what they really care about is getting people to walk through the doors of their real-world business. Following the steps you’ve outlined above are critical to making sure they get found online–but then what do they do on their actual site to encourage users to visit them in real life? EveryScape offers a real-world visual walking experience of local businesses to help site visitors experience these businesses online–and then visit them in real life. You can check it out at:

  • olivieramar

    Hi David, Great summary of the local panels. Was great being there with you. Thanks for the mention too!


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