(Business owners, if you’re looking for actionable advice, skip to the end)
I spoke at a local Chamber of Commerce here in the Portland area last week, giving a brief presentation on the fundamentals of SEO. Unlike a previous event I’d attended just three months ago in eastern Washington, about 75% of this audience had actually heard the term “SEO” before.
But after my brief synopsis on local search, I still received a couple of questions from the audience related to “claiming your listing” and what that was all about. It seems that even in incredibly savvy small business markets like the one I spoke in, the concept of a local search engine remains foggy for SMB’s.
In last week’s Small Is Beautiful column, Hanan Lifshitz of Palore commented that in his company’s surveys, only 5%-10% of SMBs had updated their business profiles on the major search engines. That is a frightening statistic, considering the rapid growth in Local traffic, especially for Google Maps, after the release of 3-packs and 10-packs into universal search results last year!
Marty Himmelstein argues in an excellent guest post on Greg Sterling’s blog that the key to local search data is the community in which the business is located (both real and virtual). While I agree with Marty that the community can play a significant role, I think local will have reached a turning point when it is the businesses themselves who are actively engaging with data providers and search engines.
My business partner Patrick Sexton and I hope that GetListed.org, launched last week, will help create some direct engagement with search engines and major data providers, and will facilitate the process for small businesses to claim their listings and verify their information.
But the responsibility for accurate data should not fall entirely on business owners themselves-as Miriam Ellis and Mike Blumenthal argue, Google and the other search engines, along with data providers, need to make a stronger commitment to make SMB’s aware of how and where their data is being used, and take the responsibility for accuracy more seriously than they do now.
In a previous era, all small business owners needed to do in order to ensure that correct business information was presented to their audience was to make sure that the Yellow Pages printed their phone number correctly. Of course, in those days, if there was an error, it would be wrong for a year, because the Yellow Pages weren’t going to re-print and re-deliver an entire book just to correct every error reported to them.
One of the benefits of the online world is that corrections happen much faster (though they’re still not instant). But the downside is that instead of being one primary data source, there are at least a dozen that play some role.
If you’re a search marketer reading this column, I strongly encourage you to give some of your time for a presentation to members of your local business community. Not only will you meet potential clients, but you might just save your favorite mom n’ pop store from having its listing hijacked or, on the flip side, help it bring in more business-something we can ALL use in this economy.
In my view, it’s to our benefit as an industry to increase awareness of the opportunities in Local Search among our own communities; after all, a rising tide lifts all ships.
Verifying your business’s information may lead to improved rankings on the major search engines, in addition to ensuring that they present correct information about your business.
1) Check to see where you’re already indexed using GetListed.org (OK, so I’m a little biased!).
3) Submit or verify your information with as many different data providers as you can. Here’s a quick list to get you started, but in general, the more places you can list your business, the better:
- Best of the Web Local
- The OpenList Network
- Universal Business Listing (note: UBL charges a fee)
4) Stay up-to-date on current trends and techniques in local search engine optimization by reading and subscribing to many of the SEMMY-nominated blogs in the Local Search and Small Business categories.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.