"Why are the Yellow Pages like nursing homes? They're shockingly expensive, few people under 70 use them, and many who do are just a little out of it." (from advertising company Killian & Company).
There can be little doubt that the rise of Local Search on the Internet has greatly disrupted traditional local Yellow Pages advertising. The once-powerful Yellow Pages is now a weak also-ran to Local Search. Ask anyone how often they use the Yellow Pages. An older person might say "a few times a year".
A younger person will probably say "never". When my 2010 phone book arrived a few days ago, it went straight into the trash. (I know, I should have recycled it or returned it.)
There's no surprise here. The information available by performing a Local Search on your computer or other Internet-enabled device is more current, more detailed, and probably more accurate than anything you'll find in the Yellow Pages.
With change comes opportunity. Here it is: without spending any money at all (just a little time), you can enhance your position in the Local Search results offered by the major search engines. This could be one of the best investments of your time that you will ever make.
What is a "Local Search", exactly? It is a search done using an Internet search engine that includes "where" information as well as "what" information in the search keywords used. For example, if you do a Google search on "grand junction realtors" or "attorneys 81501", you will see at the top of the results page a map showing "local business results" based on your search criteria. These are Local Search results.
It's generally not too difficult to rank among the top few Local Search results.
First, sit down at your trusty computer, open a web browser, and go to getlisted.org enter your business name and zip code, then click "Check My Listings". After a minute or so, you will get a "Listing Score" which indicates how well you are set up with the major search engines for local searches. More importantly, there are some links to the right of your Listing Score that will, with a little effort, help you to increase it.
If you're not already listed in the Google local search, go to maps.google.com. You'll see a link in the left hand column that says "Put your business on Google Maps". Click that link and you'll be taken to the Google Local Business Center. You'll need to sign in with a Google account (click "Sign up now" if you don't already have one).
After you sign in, you'll be able to add, edit or delete a business listing. There are opportunities to provide detailed information about your business and to upload photos and videos. Before any changes take effect, Google will confirm that you are the business owner by sending a postcard to the business address. The postcard will contain a confirmation code. When you get the postcard, sign in to the Google Local Business Center and enter the confirmation code. As soon as your code is submitted, your listing will become active.
After your listing appears for a local search, encourage a few of your happier customers to write short reviews for you. They can do this by finding your local listing and clicking the "Write a review" link on your listing page. They will need to have a Google account in order to do this for you, but it's very easy to set one up.
To add a Yahoo local listing, go to local.yahoo.com and click the link "Add a Business" at the bottom of the page. Submit your business information there and wait for Yahoo! to review it.
To add a Bing local listing, go to ssl.bing.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx and click "Add new listing". Fill out as much information as you can. You will need to set up a Windows Live ID in order to complete this procedure. Bing has an option for verifying that you are the owner of your business that involves calling you on the phone and having you enter a code number that it supplies through the website. This can save a week or 2 over the Google postcard process.
Best of the Web Local is another option offered through the getlisted.org site. You can get there directly by going here and clicking "Jumpstart" under "Local Listings".
To give you some idea as to the relative importance of these search engines, and to help you focus your efforts where they will have the greatest impact, their market shares as of a recent survey are: Google (66%), Yahoo! (18%), Bing (10%). "Best of the Web" isn't even on the radar. We just mention it because it is measured by the getlisted.org site.
Spending a little time on letting the search engines know who you are, where you are, and what you do can pay big dividends. Enjoy the increased traffic to your Web site that will result!