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Don't be a Local-Yokel - Enhance Your Local Business Listings

Carrie Hill
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With the increased awareness of Local Search in today's online marketplace, small business owners and Web site operators must be aware of how important it is to display correct information online.

Part of establishing yourself in the local sphere of business is making sure the information local search engines have about your business is correct. Claiming and enhancing your local business listings is key to providing uniform and correct information.

In this series of articles, I'll give tips and step-by-step instructions on how to claim and enhance your Local Business Listings in Google Maps, Yahoo Local, followed by a comprehensive review of the Internet Yellow Pages. This information will help you get started on the right track to Local Search success.

Getting Started With Your Google Maps Listing

The first step is to see if you have an existing listing at Google Maps. If you see a listing, select it and then click on the "more info" link on the map and/or beside the listing. Once you see the pop-up, you can then choose "Add or edit your business." If you do not see your business in the search, the left-hand column will give you the option to "Add your business listing."

Let's assume you already have a listing; therefore, our screenshots will show the "edit" capabilities. If you're submitting your listing for the first time, follow the directions Google sets forth, and you'll do just fine. Read on to find tips and tricks to make your Local Business Center listing work for you.

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Click the box that says, "Edit my business information." You'll be taken into a "required information" area. You must fill in the boxes as completely as possible. Street address is important as it brings the mapping feature into your listing. If the map marker is incorrect, you can click on the "fix incorrect marker location" to move it around.

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Submit all of your phone numbers, email addresses and Web site information. Give a great description of what it is you do and be sure to include good keyword phrases. Don’t allow the description to appear forced or stuff it with keywords, but work in a good phrase that will bring visitors to you via rankings in the regular search engine results.

Once you've added all of your contact information, Google will ask you to pick a category for your business. Google allows you to add or suggest categories so try to get as specific as you can.

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Once your category has been set, move to the next screen and list your hours of operation and forms of payment accepted. This information is not mandatory – but online shoppers are impatient shoppers – so if they find the information they need to purchase, or find your site right away, these visits are more likely to lead to a conversion from your Local listing.

Adding photos to your listing can give potential customers an idea of what products you offer, examples of the service work you perform, and the quality to expect. Google Maps has recently given you the ability to add up to ten photos into your local business listing. Take real advantage of this new feature. You can either add photos from your computer or directly from your Web site. Don’t "borrow" photos you don’t have the license to use – you'll get in trouble for that.

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After you've submitted the photos, you'll see a screen that gives you an opportunity to add "custom attributes." This type of information was first introduced in the Google Base product, and seeing them show up on the Maps product is another indication of the "meshing" of Google's product offerings. I expect to see Local Business Listings in GoogleBase in the very near future. With the custom attributes, you have the ability to submit your prices, with details on how you charge, where you work, and information about your specialties. You can create your own attributes to show off product or service offerings you think might be of interest to potential online searchers and customers.

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After you've submitted all of the information, Google will ask you to "verify" your listing. This can be done in a few different ways. You can have them call you to verify. They will call the main business telephone number, so if you choose this option, ensure that the person who answers the phone call is prepared for it and will answer the verification questions correctly. You can also have Google send you a postcard with a verification PIN number on it. Again, this means that whoever receives the mail will need to know what this card is about and what to do with it. Some businesses are also eligible to receive an SMS verification text message.

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Once you've entered your information, saved it, and have chosen the type of verification you prefer, your listing is complete. If you choose to receive a postcard, it will arrive in two to three weeks. Your updated or new listing will not go live until it has been verified. In the meantime, you can experiment with the "Coupons" feature within the Local Business Center. These coupons are printable and can include anything from 10 percent off services to buy-one, get-one-free offers, or whatever you'd like to do to bring business into your Web site or storefront.

The time investment for this setup should be less than one hour, and the benefits will be evident for years to come. Google Maps is considered authoritative, verified information. Other local and yellow pages sites use the information found within Google listings. This leads to more exposure and more business for you.

Next time: information on how you can enhance your Yahoo Local listing.


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