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Get Found: The Importance of Local SEO

April 15, 2015
Rick Iorio

Take a look at that. Isn’t it beautiful? A complete profile on Google, both helpful and organized — what we’d call a fully optimized local search listing. This type of listing helps people everywhere find information on local businesses.

But, chances are, this depth of data doesn’t exist for most local businesses. In fact, it’s probably a very unfamiliar sight for most businesses.

Honestly, how many times have you been looking for information on a local business, but finding relevant data like their hours, address or even a phone number proved difficult or impossible?

In a perfect world, more business owners would know how to handle there local listings. But the world is not perfect, and actually doing so isn’t always easy.

Now, you may hear us throw around the phrase, “SEO is dead.” But in some ways, SEO’s not completely dead, per say. Really, it’s just changed.

Gone are the days of blackhat tactics, keyword stuffing and the like. And with all the changes in recent years, whatever is left of traditional SEO has transformed — a lot.

Within this drastic transformation, one particularly smart developments was Local Search Engine Optimization.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what “local search” looks like, and you’ll learn exactly how it impacts your business.

Understanding What Local Search Really Means

Have you ever used your phone to search for business information while on-the-go? Or tried to research a business before heading out for a day of shopping?

If you own a smartphone, then of course you have.

People on the move need specific, accurate information about businesses, and they need it fast. That’s why a growing number of consumers will use apps to find local content. They’re looking at things like classified ads, business directories, movie info and maps. (And pretty soon, even every one of those will be available directly in Google.)

Source: Search Engine Land

What Does That Mean for Local Businesses?

People use their phones for everything, including finding, researching, and buying from you.

As a business owner, you have a responsibility to meet consumers on the platforms they use, whether that’s an app or directly in Google. On top of that, you need to ensure that your business listing information is ABSOLUTELY CONSISTENT across the entirety of the web. Otherwise, Google’s likely to show a competitor with a more consistent, accurate listing in your place.

Ask yourself, what will consumers find when they use apps to find your business? This includes things like Google Maps and Yelp.

Do you have optimized profiles that bring you up in the search? If not, let’s talk problem-solving.

Getting found in local apps starts by optimizing your business listing in local search directories. According to the Moz Local Search Glossary, a directory is:

Any website which lists business names and contact information in an organized fashion, typically in alphabetical order or by business type. Directory information is frequently assimilated by the local search engines.

Which Directories Should I Get Listed On?

The Internet is full of directories that feature business’ data. There are a few, well-known “top” directories, as well as ones specific to different geographies and/or industries. So, with all this information, it’s important to know where to start.

The full list of local search directories is a bit staggering, so here are the 13 we recommend every business locks down out of the gate. We specifically chose these 13 directories because, at a basic level, they compliment each other.

What I mean is, the larger engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! all look to the indexes of smaller directories like Foursquare, Hotfrog and Yelp to ensure listings are accurate and consistent.

Ultimately, the more directories you choose to index your business with, the more you can confident you can be knowing your customers can find you when they need you most.

The Two Most Important Factors: Consistency & Accuracy

Getting listed is only one piece of the pie. As a local business owner, you must keep listings consistent and accurate. This applies to every directory.

Inconsistent information not only confuses your customers, it also confuses search engines. And it’s shocking how many local businesses have inaccurate citations.

Just look at this data pulled from a powerful infographic by Yext:

Consistency and accuracy are two of the most important local SEO ranking factors. When you do it, make sure you do it right.

If information changes in the business, change it in your directory listings as well.

Why Local Search Is Important to Your Business

Local small businesses need to invest in accurate, consistent local listings. If you do nothing else for your marketing program, then do this.

Many factors contribute to the digital success of any business; and in certain urban markets, local search is so important, a handful of businesses are thriving WITHOUT a website of any kind! They’re able to generate daily, walk-in business because people on the ground are consistently able to find their stores.

It really is that important.

Local listings provide a quick win for small businesses. That’s where local searchers, with money to burn, spend time. It’s proven that a business can increase foot-traffic and build a solid customer base from listings alone.

According to Search Engine Land, 78% of mobile local searches resulted in offline purchases.

That’s a clear mandate for accurate local listings. Consumers want to find your information. And then they want to use that information to make purchases.

An investment in local SEO opens your business up to an amazing opportunity. And it’s one that many haven’t taken advantage of yet. So, if your business depends on foot-traffic, a competent Local SEO strategy will give your business a competitive edge.

Let’s think about it in terms of supply and demand.

Fun Fact: 50% of online business listings are inaccurate. That’s a low supply of accurate info.

Another Fun Fact: 78% of mobile local search consumers view directory apps with purchase intent. That’s a huge demand for reliable listings!

Keep in mind, at least half of all businesses have inaccurate listings (and they know about it, too!). That makes it easy to stand out and put your business at a great competitive advantage.

The data doesn’t lie: small business owners are BAD at keeping directories consistent, accurate, and up-to-date. We suggest you take advantage of that and use it to your competitive advantage.

Take your Local SEO to the Next Level With Reviews

Saturated markets may find that most of your competition already has accurate information. In these situations, especially, you can’t after getting initial listing right.

Positive reviews from real customers serve as a strong ranking signal. Start encouraging your customers to leave positive reviews on certain directories. It’ll give you a great local SEO boost.

Places like Yelp and Google My Business are good places to start gathering reviews. Offer incentives, reward loyalty, but first and foremost — simply ask. You might be surprised just how willing your customers are to support you!

And it’s important to note: every small business can benefit from reviews. In addition to the local search signal, it also provides what we call “social proof”, meaning consumers feel more inclined to visit your business if it has multiple positive reviews.

The Complexity of the Local Search Ecosystem

Today, you’ll find four main U.S. data suppliers dominating the directory market. These aggregators include:

The local search ecosystem features a complex distribution system. The top four data suppliers only send your info to databases within their particular networks.. That means if you sign up with Infogroup, your data will end up in different places than if you signed up with Localeze.

“Well, which aggregator should I pay for to manage my data?”

The answer: all three.

Each part of the ecosystem supplies important information about your business. You’re leaving money on the table if you neglect a particular directory.

Signing up with all suppliers also keeps your information consistent. That means that you’ll have the correct data for local, national and international databases.

And, as we’ve already discussed, you must invest in consistency.

Testing Your Own Local Search Optimization

Where do I start? How can I get listed? Am I already listed? How do I correct wrong information?

It can all get a bit overwhelming.

Luckily, there are a few ways to make the process less stressful.

Let Moz Local Manage it for You

Invest in a tool like Moz Local for a hands-off method of managing your local SEO. It makes sure you have correct, consistent and visible listings across the web.

To get started, all you have to do is enter your business information. The tool then uses it to push your listing data to all the major aggregators. And it’s easy to update information. Just log back into Moz Local and change the information from the dashboard.

But, as with everything good in life, it comes at a price.

It’ll cost you $84/year per location.

It’s important to note: if your business has been around for a while, and there are lots of inaccuracies online, simply putting your information into Moz’s website will not fix your problems. You’ll need to go in and manually make changes to existing incorrect listings, and remove duplicates.

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