It's important that every company promote itself in its own local area. Even if your business sells products and services nationally (or globally), you should still reach customers in your own backyard. Local search expert Greg Sterling comments on a recent WebVisible study that reported 70% of consumers had used the Internet to search for a local service business in the past 90 days. So how do you ensure that your website is found for all these local searchers? Our five-part series will give you the tactical steps you need every day this week.

First, let's talk about who the players are. Of course, there are the big search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) - where local businesses can be found both in the main results and in local results. There are also local-only search engines, Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), business data aggregators, and review sites. This space is highly fragmented, so we'll give you a list of the most important sites to target. Here's a sneak preview - Bruce Clay has published a Search Engine Relationships Chart showing where the major players get their data (PDF). There's also a list of IYPs and extensive local search resources at the Local Search Guide.

These local search engines and IYPs offer both paid advertising and free editorial opportunities to businesses. The advertising part is easy - just call the phone number on each site and a sales rep will be happy to help. Figuring out how to get free listings is a bit trickier, and since presumably everyone prefers getting something for free over having to pay for it, we'll focus on the editorial opportunities here.

(That being said, if you've got a little money and are short on time, there are services available to help small businesses trying to tackle this challenge. For example, RegisterLocal will get your business listed in key local search engines and IYPs for just $129.95 a year.)

Stay tuned - the rest of the week, we'll walk you through how to promote your business locally yourself, at no cost.

(Disclosure: I speak on the Search Engine Strategies panel "Local Search Marketing Tactics" with Greg Sterling, as well as Justin Sanger of RegisterLocal. Therefore, I can attest to their expertise in this area. Come hear us speak in Chicago next week!)

Postscript: Find the rest of this series...
Part 1: So how do you ensure that your website is found for all these local searchers?
Part 2: One easy on-site change you can make to get your site into local editorial results.
Part 3: What a business profile is for and the data you should compile.
Part 4: How to submit your site to local search engines and review sites.
Part 5: How to submit your site to business data aggregators and Internet Yellow Pages.

November 27, 2006

Stacy Williams, search engine marketing specialist, is founder and President of Prominent Placement, Inc. With an extensive background in Internet marketing, Stacy offers her clients cutting edge solutions that are always rooted in sound marketing strategy. A member of the Technology Alliance of Georgia and the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association, Stacy is a frequent lecturer on search engine optimization and Internet marketing topics.

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