P.S. Since this article was originally first written in June 2009, this company relocated to Nevada, so you won’t find them in search results. The information in the post is still solid. Updates on well-optimized settings for Google Places will be coming soon.
By now, most folks have figured out about how to use local search information to find a businesses close to them. Heck, you can dial GOOG411 FREE from your cell phone, and Google can have a pizza delivered to your location from over the phone.
But, did you know that you can have your business found on the Internet at the local level, for businesses who don’t have a website? How is that possible you ask? Allow me to demonstrate from my personal experience.
I recently moved to Conrad, Montana, and needed new drapes for my Southern exposure windows to help keep out the bitter cold and hot heat. Not knowing many people here, I “Googled” it to find a local business that could makes drapes for me. What I found was a local Merchant Circle business directory listing for the search query keyword phrase “Conrad, MT drapes.”
I found a local business called “The Drapery Lady” with a coupon for a free trial visit and estimate. Conveniently, I was able to find out her business hours, store location with a map, the forms of payment she accepted, drapes she stocked and what other customers had said about her business in reviews. I was even able to subscribe to her newsletter. I was able to learn all of this information without her having a website. Again you ask, how is this possible?
With a free local business listing from Merchant Circle, our Drapery Lady was found in the local search engine where I conducted my research before ever picking up the phone or looking in a phone book. MerchantCircle even gives her the ability to create blog posts and connect with other businesses locally to create a virtual network. There are quite a few free, as well as paid, venues available to help you get listed in local search results, even without a website.
Small business search marketing has a very good blog to follow for local SEO search engine optimization and Matt McGee goes into great detail about how to submit your listing to Google Local Maps, Yahoo Local Search, MSN Local Search, Yelp, CitySearch, Insider Pages, Local.com, InfoUSA and, of course, Merchant Circle. Many of these venues are user generated reviews which help stop SPAMMING of false reviews and keep the integrity of the local listings.
Keep in mind that each of these local venues still utilize a search engine database to pull results and you are still writing for two audiences: Humans and Search Engines. The search engine for the local listing will only return relevant search query results. That means that the words used to find your business are very specific to what you write in your listing.
Let’s go back to The Drapery Lady example to explain why you should write for both audiences and how it affects your local listings.
My initial search was on Conrad, MT drapes. Had I searched using the keyword query “Conrad, MT curtains,” the Merchant Circle listing for The Drapery Lady would not have come up. Why? The listing did not include the word curtains for her company local listing. Local listings need to be written and optimized for keywords that are most relevant to your business and should be written contextually and purposefully. This way the search engine can return local results where it finds the words listed that are most relevant to your brick and mortar business.
If I had only searched for Conrad, MT curtains, I might never have known that The Drapery Lady existed. By having her listing optimized for keywords relevant to her business, she would have been able to represent her business semantically and convert her business listing into a qualified business tool for inbound lead conversions.
After working with Lesa Hayes, owner of The Drapery Lady, I explained to her how local search works and we modified her current Google listing to include relevant keywords to her business. Now this example above reflects the Google Local Business Center account where we optimized the business listing. This description would now return her business under the keyword query Conrad, MT curtains as well as under the drapes term that I originally used.
As of today when I checked Google’s databases they are not showing this listing for curtains, yet, but they will. I might have to talk her into a website afterall with well written content about curtains… maybe then I can afford my Window Quilts for my beautiful windows.
By optimizing your local listings well with a qualified SEO professional, you can watch your business show up in local results even if you don’t have a website. The bottom line…. If you want to be found in search engines regionally (your target region) and locally, you have to build your local listings to be relevant for the kind of queries your customers are using.
If they can find you, then you can convert more searches into sales.
P.S. Since this article was originally first written, this company relocated to Nevada, so you won’t find them in search results. The information in the post is still solid. Updates on well optimized settings for Google Places will be coming soon.