One of the best things about running a business online is the fact that you can reach out to customers literally anywhere in the world. For many people, online revenue is enough to eliminate the need for a brick-and-mortar storefront entirely. But while you may reach for worldwide audiences, a good chunk of your online marketing resources should actually be going into localization; Google has indicated that having a local business listing factors into your search engine ranking, and people are increasingly using their mobile devices to search for businesses close by. There are a handful of websites that are important to use if you want to curate a well-optimized, popular online business: Google, Yelp, Bing Places and YellowPages. You’ve probably heard about them before, but if you haven’t taken the time to set up profiles or pages on each of these sites then you’re seriously missing out on revenue and traffic. Here’s a breakdown of how each site can help you and how to get the best out of them.
This one should be obvious, but it’s frustrating how many business owners fail to make themselves available on the most popular search engine on the planet. Claiming your Google My Business page can improve your ranking, but it also puts vital information at the fingertips of your customers. When they search for your business name, they will find a sidebar with your contact information, hours, website, and map location—all in an instant. When they’re searching on mobile, they’ll be able to give you a call with the tap of a finger. With a Google business page, customers can leave reviews and follow you on Google Plus; you can keep them up to date on new happenings and deals. Google My Business is one of the most important profiles to obtain on the internet, and it should be your first stop when optimizing your business online.
Getting a Google business page is pretty easy; simply head to www.google.com/business and click ‘Get on Google’ on the top right-hand corner. You’ll have to fill out your profile, and Google will send you a postcard with a verification code on it; once you receive it (it takes about a week or so to arrive) then you’ll be good to go. Make sure to fill out all the fields you possibly can on your profile so that customers can access it easily! Once you have a business page, you can keep tabs on things with Google’s Insights feature; it helps you track how many times customers have viewed your business page and how many have clicked on to visit your website.
Bottom Line: Google My Business is vital for your search rankings and makes it very easy for customers to locate and contact you when they search for your business.
Update: February 24, 2015 – Google now also allows you to choose which image appears when customers search for your business on Google.
With over 100 million visitors per month, a Yelp page can seriously increase your visibility on both desktop and mobile. Its robust review feature also provides a vital communication line between you and your customers, and with the right management skills a Yelp page can help convert new customers before they even hit your website. Yelp estimates that businesses gain about $8000 per year on average once they have a Business Page.
Yelp provides access to a metrics page, which shows you how many views you’re getting and from what sort of device (desktop or mobile). You can measure traffic to your page over 30-day, 12-month, and 24-month periods, and see how things are improving or what can be done to increase visitors. They even have a business-owners-only app that lets you manage your Yelp presence on the go, tracking customer engagement and responding to reviews on your mobile OS device. Finally, once you have a Yelp business page you can start to work with Yelp’s paid ad services, which can expose you to an even bigger audience.
The key to a good Yelp page is twofold. During setup, be sure to be as informative as possible. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a business’ Yelp page, only to realize that they haven’t linked to their website and that there’s no indication of hours, location, or price range. You want to encourage new business, and the more information you give your visitors the more you’ll pique their interest. You can use keywords on Yelp the same way you use them on your website; it can be optimized using many of the same SEO tactics, so don’t skimp on the details! So be sure to fill out all the business info fields, give yourself a strong summary, and provide lots of photos to give prospective customers a glimpse of what’s in store. Put a link to your Yelp page on your website to encourage cross-traffic, and encourage check-ins at your location.
Once you have the page going, it is absolutely vital to engage with customers. Yelp reviews are more prominent than Google and more formal than Facebook, and are the bread and butter of Yelp’s existence. As a business owner, your handling of reviews will be an important part of your reputation and public image. Encourage happy customers to leave a few words about their good time, and thank them on Yelp when they are positive. Even more importantly, engage with negative reviews in a calm, diplomatic manner; on Yelp you have a chance to mend some of those fences and, more importantly, gain some vital insight into the customer experience and gauge whether your business needs some improvements.
Bottom Line: Yelp can provide a new way to reach customers, but it’s also vital to engage with current ones via the review system.
Bing Places and Yellow Pages
Local SEO is an important part of your marketing strategy, and it should extend to the other major search engine, Bing. While it’s tempting to focus all of your time and attention onto Google, you risk putting all your eggs into one basket; if Google’s algorithm changes and tanks your site’s ranking, it’s beneficial to have other options already in place so that people can still find you.
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has a local directory which functions similar to Google My Business. You can claim your business by heading to https://www.bingplaces.com/ and clicking “Get Started”; you’ll need to create or log into a Microsoft account. If you’ve ever used Hotmail, SkyDrive, or XBox Live, you have a Microsoft account; that said, you may want to create a business-only profile to keep things professional. If your business already exists on Bing, you can search for it via phone number or address. If there’s already a listing, you can claim it; if there isn’t, you can click “Add New Business”—as always, make sure you enter in all of your details.
Once you’ve filled out all the information, hit “Submit” and Bing will send you a verification PIN through the mail. It takes about 3-5 days, and once you’ve received the card you can verify your business and will be good to go.
The Yellow Pages, and other online business directories like the Better Business Bureau, have gone through a little bit of drama over the past few years. Where the yellow pages was once declared dead and obsolete, the recent Google Pigeon update has resulted in an upswing in traffic to these directories. For the Yellow Pages, claiming your listing involves filling out a profile and contact info. You may want to look into other directories like the BBB and Angie’s List, depending on what type of business you run.
Bottom Line: Bing Places and Yellowpages are vital directories that will not only boost your SEO score but make it easy for customers to find you no matter where they’re searching.