Google, Yahoo! and Bing all have local business listings with maps. The cool thing about them is that they often show up above the organic search results when someone is looking for a local business. Another benefit is that it can give you a second link on the page, if your business happens to show up in the regular search results too. In my book, more link exposure is better. This post will give you five easy steps that you can use to get listed on the map or get listed at or near the top.

Claim Your Listing or Create It

Google Local Business Listing

Bay Area Search Engine Academy's business listing on Google

Your business may already have a listing there that was automatically created because you’re listed in the Yellow Pages or in some other business database, like InfoUSA. To find out, search for your business name with your city and state. If it’s there, click the “More Information” link. You may see a link at the top right that says “Business Owner?”. That means it hasn’t been claimed and verified.

If you don’t see your listing, go to the Google Business Solutions page, then click the “Local Business Center” link.

Create a Google account if you don’t have one, or log in if you do, then create a new listing.

Fill In All The Boxes

The more complete your business profile is, the more you’ll get rewarded with a higher position. Fill in everything that you can, including your Web site address, hours, company description, what forms of payment you take, and so on. Make sure your address is correct. If the thumbtack on the map isn’t in the right place, you can also move it to put it in the rigth location.

If you have a toll-free phone number that’s fine, but if you can provide a local phone number with the area code in that area, this will help. Go ahead and list the local number too.

One of the most important parts of the form to fill out are the Categories. You can list up to 10 business categories, and Google will suggest some to you. If you don’t see yours, go ahead and create new categories. Think key words here – what products are people searching for in your town? Add those as categories.

If you want to include some other news or a special offer coupon that your customers can print out, by all means, include that as well. Mix it up and test it out to see what converts your customes.

Upload Photographs

Google gives you a place to put up to ten photos or images. Take advantage of this by adding them all. Make the first image your logo, then it will show up next to your business listing. Fill in the other nine with pictures of yourself, your staff, your store, some products or whatever else makes sense for your business. Again, the more you can fill in all the blanks, the higher you’ll be listed.

Create Videos

Videos are a terrific way of communicating some additional information about your business. Get an inexpensive video camera or use your cell phone to make five short (1 minute) videos. Try to make them as professional as possible, but don’t sweat it too much. Some ideas for some short videos might include:

  • Happy customers giving a short testimonial about how great you are
  • An inside tour of your business, restaurant or shop
  • A video introducing your staff
  • An introduction from you as the owner telling why you love to work with your clients

Just make them short – no more than 2 minutes. Upload the videos to YouTube and make sure your company name is in the Description. Then from your Google Local Business Center account, you can link them to your new five videos.

Get Reviews

Finally, encourage your customers to give you reviews. They can go into your business listing and rate you from 1 to 5 stars and tell why they love you. Make sure that you ask a few people at a time. If they see too many reviews showing up all at once, they may be a bit suspicious that you’re influencing them. Instead, over time, send a thank you card to your clients with a $5 coffee shop gift card asking them to please take a moment to review your business on Google.

Other people will read these reviews, which of course will help you attract new customers (assuming you’re doing a great job!).

Even businesses who, due to corporate rules (like franchisees) aren’t allowed to have their own Web site, can have a business listing for free. All you need is a physical address and a phone number. One of my friends gets business from it every week, because she’s listed right at the top of the Google map! It’s hard to beat “free advertising” from Google and the other search engines.