by Paige Burton-Argo on November 4, 2013

Ever searched for yourself on Google? C’mon, you can admit to it…we’ve all done it! Because we all want to know what’s out there, floating around in the webisphere, with our name on it. And it goes without saying that if you’re an owner / director / highly–invested employee of a business or organization, you want to make sure that people are finding accurate, presentable information about that as well.

Nowadays, technology has gotten so smart that when you use a search engine to look for a place of business — even in the most general terms — you don’t have to put in a location…because it already knows where you are. (Creepy? Yes. The creepiest thing technology is capable of? Not even close.)

For example, here’s what happens when I search for “hair salon” on Google:

Notice what pops up here. The first result is from YellowPages.com, followed by a listing on Yelp, and then a list generated from Google Places that includes a map. All local results based on my current location.

Business listings generated through these three platforms have become key factors in getting your website found. Local search has become a huge component of search engine optimization (SEO). Whereas SEO used to be about keywords and links, it has transitioned to become more about users, and delivering results that match their inquiries. Local search allows users to not only find relevant information according to their location, but it also boosts businesses and organizations that are liked and recommended by their consumers.

How can you use local search SEO to make sure your business or organization is there when people are looking for it? Here are some tips for optimizing your local search presence:

Google Places for Business

Establishing your business/organization on Google Places is probably the easiest thing you can do to improve your local search SEO. Why? Because this listing always appears on the first page of Google search results (and with 67% of the search engine market share, Google is still the most widely used). Internet users like easy and fast, so being on the first page is crucial.

Getting there is simple. Just go to the Google Places website, and they’ll walk you through how to set up an account and list your business through Google.

Having your business listed is the first step, but even more important is having a good rating to boost your placement. And to have a good rating, you have to have good reviews. Encourage customers to review your business — you could even offer various promotions to get people motivated. A small investment on your part could lead to big gains.

Yelp

With over 100 million unique visitors per month, Yelp is the site for local search. It’s got everything: maps, search options, ratings, reviews, and details about each business it lists, from hours, price level and menus to appropriate attire and ambience (can you say awesome?!).

It may be obvious by now, but the reason Yelp is so popular is because it offers levels of information that usually aren’t found on business websites. AND reviews come directly from people who have actually been there. After all, why take a business’ word for it, when you can read for yourself what other customers have experienced?

Much like Google Places, your success on Yelp depends on above average ratings and reviews. And to incentivize your customers, Yelp lets you give “check-in offers” to those who check in when they visit your place of business. (Increasing brand loyalty and awareness…priceless!)

Unlike Google Places, businesses do not have much control over what is shown on their Yelp page. Yelp depends on their customers and third-party data providers for that. But you can contact Yelp if the info shown is inaccurate. If you want to know more about Yelp, they’ve got a great FAQ page that will likely answer all of your burning questions.

Yellow Pages (web)

An old standby that’s gone digital! YellowPages.com (or YP.com) operates much like Google Places in that businesses can create a listing for free, and people can write reviews that then affect the rating of that business. Don’t overlook this step, because businesses with great ratings on YP.com often show up in top search results.

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If your business or organization doesn’t show up on at least a couple of these platforms — or if the information shown is inaccurate — it’s time to take action! Don’t lose potential customers because of a wrong address or a bad review. By optimizing for local search, you’ll be on your way to getting found.

Got your own tips for getting found online? Please share them below!