by Liz Jones
About one-third of people deliberately search for information about local businesses through the internet rather than through the phone book or other traditional media. Ignoring this fact can be detrimental, but those that take advantage of local business internet marketing will see the advantages that are available. There are three basic steps that a local business can utilize in order to market itself online. They are not necessarily followed in any particular order, but they include managing online business profile information, optimizing web pages for local internet searches, and increasing the local popularity of the site by dominating the search results.
There are various sites that provide business profiles, and the most important ones are those run by the primary search engines. In order to ensure that the search engines have an accurate profile of a business, it is necessary to improve and correct profile data through various online channels. These include data providers such as Amacai, infoUSA, and Acxiom. The search engines themselves have business profiles as well. These include Google Maps, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Local.com, Ask.com Local, and TrueLocal. The search engines obtain information from the national data providers, but allow businesses to submit their information as well. Internet yellow pages such as Switchboard, YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, and Citysearch should also contain up-to-date information.
The next step is to optimize the primary website. This means performing keyword research, providing relevant local information, organizing the site both for users and search engines to understand, and obtaining links from high quality sites related to the subject of the business. In addition to these tasks, which are relevant to all online businesses, a local business marketing strategy will target keyword phrases that reflect local needs, and information on the site will seem targeted to local traffic rather than a generic audience. Furthermore, a local phone number and address should be listed on all prominent pages of the site, or even on every page. Display a local phone number even if a toll-free number is also available, as this is helpful for the search engines and people to determine the location of the business. Driving directions can also be helpful.
The final step is to dominate the search results for keywords related to the business. The first two steps contribute to this. There are three locations that a search engine can display a website: the general search results, the local listings, and the advertisements. The first step focuses on a high location in the local results and the second step focuses on a high rank in the general results. By taking advantage of pay-per-click opportunities, a business can advertise next to the search results as well.