If your business has a website and you serve a local market, and you are not in the Google Local listings — what are you doing? You are throwing away traffic.
Local search results are here (have been here for a while) and are only going to become a bigger piece of the pie. If you don’t believe me or are not sure what I am even talking about, let’s do a little experiment. Load up your web browser and do a search for dry cleaners on Google. Dry cleaners serve a very local market. Check out the results below. (note: my ISP actually flows through Atlanta so I have to add the Richmond keyword in to get the same type of results you will see if you are one of my fellow Richmond businesses).
In the image you see 4 highlighted boxes that demonstrate what you will see on a local-centric search.
Red: Mapped results of local businesses that match the search terms. You want to be in this list if you have a local office.
Orange: Sponsored results — these are Google AdWords listings. If you spend money on marketing in offline channels (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers) and are not spending ad dollars on AdWords you are likely wasting money. You will not find the level of ad targeting in any offline media that you get with AdWords (or their competitors). Be careful though, it is very easy to waste money on Pay Per Click advertising if you are not experienced.
Black: Depending on your view point, this could be the evil local competitor! You will find that local business directories or local aggregaters spend quite a bit of effort trying to own local listings. Their revenue model is to get you to pay them for advertising since they are at or near the top of local listings in the search engines. It is hard to beat them, but surely not impossible.
Green: This is the first real business in the local listings. There are some searches that will yield an entire page of the “black” listings described in the previous paragraph. The more that are there, the harder you will need to work to get the top listings. Beating out entire pages of “black” listings takes much time and effort.
So What is Next?
If you have the time to do your own SEO work AND you have knowledge of what you are doing, get in the Google local listings. Next step… consider setting up an Adwords account and start getting yourself in the sponsored listing. If you are not in Google Local already and do not have a successful AdWords account already, you might surely want to consider getting a company that specializes in local SEO on board to help you out.
While you are setting up Google Local and your AdWords account, you will also want to do some research of your local competitors’ websites, be they real competitors or the “black” box competitors above. Assuming you already have a good website, you need to see what they are doing to come up with a plan to outrank them (or even to just rise in the rankings).
Remember a couple things about your SEO process:
- Results take effort and time
- There are no shortcuts
I mention Google Local and Adwords in this post repeatedly since Google is currently the single largest traffic driver for most sites. With the increasing presence of Bing (Microsoft’s search engine), you may need to pay attention to their local listings and pay per click platform in the future.
Good Luck. Now go out and dominate your local market!