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August 1, 2011

3 Surefire Ways to Increase Visibility and Bring in Customers to Your Local Business

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This is a submission to the Small Biz Local Discovery Contest and part of our commitment to serve the small business community with quality Internet marketing resources. This article answers the question: “How would you advise a small business owner on how best to use SEO, PPC or Social Media to drive conversions to a local business?”

Vote for your favorite contest entry from August 1-10.

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The day I turned 15, I was eager to find a job. Feverishly thumbing through the business listings of the Milwaukee Yellow Pages, I cold-called business after business looking for a company that was hiring. I contacted close to 50 local businesses before I was interrupted by my father, who had come up, patted me on the back, and told me that while he admired my eagerness to find a job and start earning money for myself, using the phone book as a medium to achieve my goals would never turn out to be effective because they weren’t looking for me – I was looking for them.

After a number of years spent helping companies of all sizes maximizing search engine visibility, I’ve come to realize that not many customers have the time and eagerness to do what I did over a decade ago. As a small business owner, you can’t sit back and wait for customers to come to you – take proactive approach local search marketing and follow these 3 surefire ways to increase search visibility and generate sales.

Display Your Address and Contact Information in All the Right Places

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t put a physical location on their contact page, let alone on every page. Adding your business name, mailing address and phone number on pages you would find related to a local search query increases relevance and shows validity to both your customers and search engines.

Begin by adding contact information to your home, about, and contact pages. Another place to add contact information to is the page’s title tag. Using an Italian restaurant in Milwaukee as an example, I would expect to see:

Anthony’s Fine Dining Italian Restaurant & Bar | Milwaukee, WI

As you find the need to add more content to your site to help drive traffic and bring in customers, start adding your contact information to specialty pages in a targeted fashion. If my Italian restaurant had a special vegetarian menu to cater to those who don’t eat meat, I would want to create a page showing the special menu options. To make sure that customers searching for an Italian restaurant with vegetarian options can find my listing, I would use the following title tag:

Vegetarian Options | Anthony’s Italian Restaurant | Milwaukee, WI

When it comes to adding location-specific information on your site, ensuring you have a relevant title tag will deliver the most bang for your buck.

Extra Credit: Markup your geographic location with Microdata, a collection of HTML tags used to help all the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) to enhance the display of search results in the form of rich snippets. When search engines display your site in search results with rich snippets, there’s a greater chance your site will get clicked on. More real estate in search results almost always results in a higher click-through rate.

Submit and Claim Your Listing on the “Local 7”

Back in the day, webmasters used to have to submit their site to search engines for inclusion. That time has come and gone, and search engines are a lot smarter now. So smart, in fact, that they can (and probably already have) listed your website and business address in their directory. If this is the case, create an account and claim your business by searching for it first and clicking “Claim Your Listing”, a link common on most unverified local listings. Claiming your listing often unlocks additional features like the ability to add more pictures, along with giving you the option to respond to positive and/or negative reviews added by customers.

The “local 7” is a great place to begin when starting the submission process. These 7 sites will save a significant amount of time as a large number of other popular websites tap into their databases to help customers find the businesses they’re looking for:

Google, Yahoo!, and Bing comprise the top three search engines in the US, and having your listing present and verified increases the likelihood that your site will be shown when local results are displayed. MapQuest Local Business Center is a recently launched effort, and while it may not result in a great deal of referred traffic to your site, it always helps to have a verified citation from a high authority directory like MapQuest. InfoUSA, Axciom, and Localeze aren’t just your average local business directory – they are frequently used by aggregators and feed local data to smaller topic and industry-specific directories that cater to a niche-based audience.

Note: The most common mistake small business owners make when submitting and claiming their local listings is adding inaccurate data. Make sure your name and address is completely accurate and uniform across every service: “1234 S. Oak Street” is not the same as “123 South Oak St.”

Extra Credit: Add as much content as you can to each listing. The more images you have, the better – images add validity and prove to the customer you are a legitimate business. Always fill out your submissions completely.

Get Social. Seriously.

We’ve heard a lot lately about social media and its impact on search visibility. It’s even been covered in depth here on the Bruce Clay Inc. blog. In the past, I’ve consulted my clients on the necessity of sticking to mediums that can easily me measured, so ensuring you have the right mechanisms to track social media campaigns is paramount its success. Use free tools like Google Analytics + URL Builder for brick and mortar campaign measurement or try out premium tools like Sprout or Radian6 to

If you’re ready to begin utilizing social media in your small business marketing efforts, start by registering your username on each and every social network frequented by your target audience.  If you’re a restaurant owner, I would definitely be looking at Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter. Professional services company? Start with LinkedIn.

There have been many documented case studies on local businesses that have succeeded in driving awareness through social media. One local restaurant here in Milwaukee, AJ Bomber’s, hit it so big that he now speaks about it on social media panels.

Extra Credit: Promote deals, specials, and new product offerings by holding contests on social media. By encouraging retweets, likes, shares and +1’s through incentives, you increase awareness through social media while also positively affecting your social link profile.

Just like any marketing initiative, the key to success in ensuring maximum return on local search engine marketing programs is consistency and visibility. The more places your business is mentioned and cited, the better. Customers can’t find you if they don’t know you exist. Make it easier for them, and yourself, by following these 3 factors to local search marketing success.

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4 responses to “3 Surefire Ways to Increase Visibility and Bring in Customers to Your Local Business”

  1. Tyler writes:

    Bravo! Brilliant. This was really helpful. Would love to hear more!

  2. Amanda, Radian6 Community Manager writes:

    Great post and nod to getting social. Seriously. ;)

    Thanks for including Radian6.

  3. John Minter writes:

    Great article! I like your “local 7.”

  4. Cindy Lavoie writes:

    Great article, Anthony! I particularly like your introductory story – you make a good storyteller, which means you have a bright future as a writer!

    Cindy



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