If you’re a business that operates out of a physical, brick and mortar storefront, then the odds are you want to attract and serve customers that are nearby – or local to you.
Local consumers are increasingly searching online for shops, grocery stores, restaurants, car dealers, realtors and other businesses in their local area. The importance of hyperlocal searching cannot be overemphasized for a small business. Not surprisingly, 4 out of 5 people use search engines to find local information, like a company’s business hours, address, phone number, online reviews, busy times and more, according to Google.
Hence let’s talk about the ins and outs of one of the best ways to connect with local customers: local directories.
Local directories are a great way for local businesses to connect with potential customers in their area. The first step is to create a listing in local directories. These online listings include your key information, like your business name, your address and your telephone number. Many local directories require that your business has four walls or a local service area in order to be listed, so virtual businesses that don’t meet with customers directly are usually ineligible.
To get started, you’ll need to pull together the name of your business as you want it to appear everywhere online, your street address, or where you receive mail in the post, and your phone number.
The name of your business seems straightforward, right? But, consistency is the key. If the sign in front of your shop says RK Hardware Store, then you don’t want to list your shop like that in one directory and as Ram Krishna Hardware Shop in another.
For the address, you’ll need a physical address or location. Post office boxes and shared locations usually won’t be accepted. Just like with your business name, enter your address in the same exact way for every directory. Telephone numbers should be local as well, including area and country code, so generally, you won’t want to use a free phone number.
Now that you know what to list, it’s time to find out where to list it. There are loads of online directories to choose from, but we’ll start with the obvious ones.
First, you want your business and all those great local details to show up on the most popular search engines, like Yahoo!, Bing and Google—and all of these have local versions and local business listings for you to use.
You should also explore options on major local directories, social networks and review sites, and some of these might be industry specific.
Every local listing site has its own registration and verification process, but most work essentially the same way.
One such local listing site is ‘Google My Business’.
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
You need to include those three key pieces namely name, address and phone number a.k.a. NAP plus additional business details like your working hours, photos of all types of products, videos of your fittings & fixtures, and anything that you find relevant to your business. You may be asked to choose one or more categories to describe your business, and while you might not find the perfect category, you should always try to choose the closest fit.
Google My Business will ask you to prove that you are, in fact, the owner of the business you’re verifying. It will verify you by doing things like mailing you a postcard with a special code on it, leaving a voice or text message for you with a code, or sending you an email with verification instructions.
Once you’re approved, you can update and manage your listing anytime. That just means regularly reviewing and changing the particulars as needed.
If you’re listed on a bunch of directories apart from Google My Business—and you should be—you’ll want to keep track of what you’ve got where maybe by making a spreadsheet.
You always want to keep your local listings consistent and up-to-date. Remember, if your name, address or phone number change, you need to update all those listings immediately.
Google My Business has recently added a new feature called ‘posts’ in order to keep the listings updated and businesses should advisably go for it.
Adding additional information to your listing such as photos of your product offering and the location, reviews from your customers will add credibility to the business.
Photos help people find your business across Google—including on Search and Maps—and come from both businesses themselves and their customers. By adding your own business photos, you can showcase your products and services to people who are looking for what you offer.
Reviews from your customers can provide valuable feedback for your business, and replying to reviews can help build your customers’ trust. When you reply to a review, your response will appear below your customer’s review on Google Search and Maps under the label “Response from the owner”. People on Google will see both the customer review and your response when they look at your Google reviews.
Business hours aren’t required but they’re strongly encouraged to let customers know when to visit your location. For days when your business has an irregular schedule, like holidays or special events, you can even enter special hours in advance.
In addition to Google My Business, you can register your business information on other online local business directories too. Including your business’s contact information in Google My Business plays an important role in reaching your potential customers.