Local Search: Raking In Business From Your Own Backyard

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

So you’re in the mood for a pizza. You turn to Google (because no one uses phone books anymore). Instantly, 10 local pizza shops are displayed in your search results. You order. It’s a win-win. You have your pizza, and the pizza parlor shop has your business.

What made this so easy? Local search – a type of search engine query that’s intended to produce local information, often about nearby businesses, products and services. What it does is help customers in your own town, city and neighborhood find you quickly and easily.

All of the big players – Google, Yahoo and Bing – have local search capabilities. So do the Internet Yellow Pages, various business aggregation sites and review sites, as well as directories created specifically for different cities.

As you can imagine, there are several business directories for Monroe. One of the best is: http://businessfinder.mlive.com/MI-Monroe.

I want my local listing!
How do you get your company listed? There are two ways: Navigate the process of submitting your business information to each of the local search engines yourself or save some time and hassle by hiring professionals to do it for you. Either way, getting listed on local search doesn’t happen automatically.

So many directories, so little time.
It’s not a matter of if you should submit your business information to a local search directory, it’s a matter of choosing which ones. To help you make the best decision, consider:

Location. Be sure to understand which geographic region or regions the directory serves. Some are very specific, while other serve a larger geographic area. Check to see if you’re able to list your company within a radius of your zip code.

Price. Many directories are free, or charge a nominal fee to enhance your listing or include additional information. If it’s free, why not list? If there’s a cost, make sure you understand what extras you’re getting for your dollars.

Relevance. Make sure a relevant category exists for your business. Some directories focus on a single industry, like hotels.

If you own a gourmet restaurant, you don’t want to be listed under fast food. Be thorough. If the specific category doesn’t exist, don’t list there.

Popularity. One characteristic of a good local search directory is the amount of traffic it gets. More traffic potentially means more potential people will find you.

A quick way to determine this is to go to a web traffic metrics site, like Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/). The higher the ranking, the busier the site.

No matter what you’re selling – computers, sandwiches or shoes – local search can help bring local customers to your door.

That is, people who could possibly return again, generating repeat business, and who will tell their friends and family about your company. First, they need to be able to find you. Think about the last time you used a phone book, versus a search engine. Local search is where you need to be.