|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Improving Your Local Small Business Profile
Online mapping and directory services continue to get more sophisticated, making it more important to small businesses to optimize their profiles and company information.
Search engines have long tried to make their small business results as relevant as possible to local users, and the importance of "local" information has increased significantly as more people conduct searches with mobile devices.
If someone is looking for a nearby coffee shop, restaurant, dry cleaners or other type of local business, the odds are pretty good they're going to conduct that search on a smartphone, and the odds remain good they're likely to consider distance from their current location as they evaluate their choices.
All of which means it's important for small businesses that depend on a local clientele to make sure the information provided about their business by the search engines is as complete and accurate as possible.
Submitting more complete information about your business, and its offerings, to search engines can help you rank higher on result pages and, ultimately, attract more customers.
Starting With Google
Google's domination of search engine results makes it an important starting point for small businesses anxious to reach local audiences. Google has offered a variety of tools to support local searches in the past, which in turn made it potentially confusing for small business owners to try to optimize their local profile results.
Google's latest iteration, Google My Business, is designed to help small business owners create and update Google Maps and Google+ business pages (as well as pay-per-click AdWords campaigns) through a single screen.
This will make it easier for business owners to coordinate the information they provide to Google, which will also make it easier for them to be found in localized searches.
Although Google+ hasn't gained a lot of traction as a social network, the fact that Google displays information from the platform prominently in its search listings make updating a Google+ profile a good idea.
If you haven't claimed your company's Google Maps listing, doing so is an important first step. Although Google will obtain some basic information about your company from commercial databases, this information is likely to be limited and may not be current.
Claiming your Google maps listing, in contrast, allows you to provide and maintain local employment information such as your company name, the addresses of your locations, images of your business, hours, current promotions, online reviews, and other information likely to appeal to local customers.
If your neighborhood has a local nickname, be sure to add that to your profile and company website, as Google has started to include neighborhood information in its search results.
Don't Overlook Bing Maps
Although Bing has a considerably smaller share of the search market than Google, it's also a good idea to provide similar information to your small business Bing Maps profile. Bing offers users the ability to obtain more details about a small business, such as price ranges, parking options and other details.
Although providing this type of information isn't likely to generate a considerable amount of traffic, it wouldn't hurt and, since you're creating most of it for your Google listing, it's pretty easy to provide the same information to Bing Maps.
With both sites, providing information and keeping it current can make an important difference in your ability to attract a local audience of prospects and customers.
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