07/25/12
Why Free Local Search Listings Help Online Business Visibility

Today’s announcement that £1.5 million is to be made available for High Street regeneration at various locations across the UK highlights that local businesses need investment to survive.Local Search High Street

The sum of money available isn’t huge, especially when you compare this to health and education budgets for example, but at least it highlights that investment is crucial if local stores are to become a solid foundation again for the traditional town shopping centre whilst helping to boost local economies.

Free Local Search

It also highlights that whilst money is tight, businesses must begin to utilise all the means available to them to ensure that they succeed. One way to do this is to ensure an online presence, either through a website or simply through using free existing systems to ensure that appearances are made in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Google Places

Google, the Internet search giant, is by far the most popular search engine used by UK users. This is good news for all businesses (even those without a website) because Google allows businesses to create free listings for their business which it then includes in their SERPs – it’s called Google Places.

Google Places - Free Local SearchGoogle Places is a way for businesses with a physical address (this could be an office, shop or warehouse for example) and telephone number to describe their products, display photos, offer special discounts and list opening time information to promote their business online for free. Whilst it’s possible to link the listing to a website (and local businesses will usually stand a better chance of being found online if they do this) it isn’t essential before creating the listing or to appear in the search results – it all depends on the competition for the business’ sector.

So, if a searcher looks for ‘florists in Nottingham’, Google Places listings will invariably appear with the relevant local florists for that area. And, because Google can recognise where a searcher is based geographically, simply typing ‘florists’ could bring relevant local shop information to the search results without the need to include the keyword ‘Nottingham’ in the search. Not only that, Googlers can find contact information on the search results page directly – meaning that they can contact the business without the need to click through to a website first.

The emphasis on local search results has been something Google has been constantly improving throughout 2012, especially through the ‘Google Venice’ algorithm update from February (detailed information about this can be found in this great blog post at SEOmoz), so from an search marketing point of view, the information here has never been more relevant.

Bing and Yell.com

Bing too allows businesses to list themselves online and it’s important to ensure that directories such as Yell.com have an optimised listing. Again, as with Google, this can be done simply and for free. For yell.com for example, a business simply claims the information Yell.com already holds by creating an account and completing the relevant information about the services, products and company information.

Brand Consistency

The importance of maintaining consistency throughout all online entries on Google Places and Yell.com is also very important (as explained in this excellent SEOmoz Whiteboard Takeover from October 2011 on brand domination in the search results). If for example a business uses the abbreviation ‘Ltd’ in their company name, then they should make sure they use this abbreviation everywhere, rather than using ‘Limited’.

The aim here is to give Google consistent information so that it begins to recognise a brand online from several different sources. If consistency isn’t apparent, then Google naturally gets confused – how is it supposed to know that all the multiple entries of a business online are the same if names are spelt slightly differently or main telephone numbers are different for example? If Google can’t tell, why should it ensure regular page one listings for a business in the SERPs? The more consistent entries a business has across different sources tells Google that it’s important – which ultimately can assist with good rankings, both for websites and for Google Places listings.

It’s also just good practice.

Contact Landingnet

If you’d like further information or advice about free local search listings on Google Places or elsewhere, please get in touch.