Get consumers' attention with local listings

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Have you ever used Google Maps or Yahoo Local to find a restaurant nearby? If so, you've used one of the most powerful online tools available to large and small businesses. The completeness, accuracy and consistency of this data, called local listings, can turn into a gold mine if the information is managed properly.

So, why are local listings so important? It's all about consumer usage. Since 2008, the trend towards longer keyword searches combined with a local indicator has made the local search field more competitive than ever. According to the most recent ComScore study completed in 2009 for 2008, local search grew 58% in 2008, reaching an year-long total of 15.7 billion searches. For comparison's sake, overall US web core searches hit 14.5 billion in February 2010, with 65.5% of the searches conducted through Google sites, followed by Yahoo at 16.6%, according to ComScore.

Local search shoppers want convenience, are ready to buy now and look for detailed and accurate information every time.   

As local search grew, Internet Yellow Pages and local online business directories saw double-digit growth of 23% in 2009 from 2008. In addition, the same ComScore study showed that 75% of the top 100 keywords searched on Internet yellow pages sites (IYPs) are non-branded, meaning consumers are searching phrases like “chicken sandwich Boise, ID.”

Local search is the natural evolution of “yellow page” directory listings moving to the Internet and mobile devices. Listing data is submitted to major search engines and Internet yellow pages (IYPs), so that when a consumer includes a city name in a search, links to local listings are displayed. Consumers can click on these links to see detailed listings, find events or even download coupons. Local listings are also submitted to navigation devices and mobile directories. Local directory syndication ensures that listings for your locations are detailed and accurate, including contact information, hours of operation, products and services, brands, payment methods and more.

Another important aspect of local listings is optimizing companies' content to work with claimed listings. This includes: optimizing every local page; using a mapping service for all locations, like Google Maps, Bing Maps, etc.; writing driving directions for each location; using local area codes on phone numbers for each location and adding a full address for each location. To further maximize these results, each location should submit their information to local directories and online yellow pages like yp.com, superpages.com or citysearch.com

For franchisors or national businesses with multiple locations, the challenge then becomes claiming these local listings accurately across locations nationwide. This means maintaining your competitive edge whether you sell burgers or tires. Each local listing must be completed with the top keyword phrases that your customers will use when searching for you, whether they are in Texas or Maine. And whether a franchise has 10 or 10,000 locations, each listing is equally important to that local businesses' ultimate success. 

With so many consumers seeking local listing information, it's vital that local and national advertisers with local entities proactively manage and improve their listings' accuracy to gain favorable positions in the local search results.

Manish Patel is CEO of Where 2 Get It

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