Remember the days of cracking into a fresh phone book, rifling through the yellow pages to find someone to fix your roof? Would that be under “Roofers?” “Contractors?” “Construction?” Hey, these people have a huge ad, let’s start with them. Or, maybe browsing through the pages of your local Zagat guide to find a restaurant?
Yeah, me neither (or at least I’d like to forget).
The reality is that the usage of traditional yellow pages is on a decline in recent years. Have you noticed your phone books getting considerably thinner? With advancements in online local search, the swell of social media and our natural tendency to seek answers the fastest way possible, your potential customers are taking to Google, Bing, Yelp and a handful of other sites first.
If you have a local presence, it is absolutely crucial to build out your local profiles. Best of all, most of these channels are free. No more spending more for a larger ad; everyone operates on the same playing field. Only those with the most optimized pages, plenty of reviews and information gain the clicks. Your customers are looking for you, get in front of them!
That said, there have been some big changes in the world of local search as of late, so I wanted to bring everything under one roof.
Google Places is Now Google+ Local Pages
First on the list is probably the biggest change affecting local search. Google Places, the old go-to source for information on local businesses, has been migrated into the Google+ social media machine. This was a widely anticipated move, considering Google’s massive push to promote usage of Google+ and the addition of Google+ Business Pages.
Google Places was well-known for general clunkiness when it came to managing your Place page (if you had multiple locations, your headaches only grew exponentially). From difficulties verifying your address, to potential bans for PO Boxes, virtual addresses, shady service areas and so on, and finally the ability for just anyone to move your location or close your business; Places had its fair share of issues.
With the creation of Google+ Local Pages, reviews and searches are directly tied to your Google+ profile. Oh, and if you dearly miss those nice little Zagat guides—worry not. Google has finally made full use of their acquisition of Zagat last year in an effort to compete with Yelp. You can find your local pages on the sidebar of your G+ account when logged in:
These pages were automatically created based on previously created Google Place pages, so there’s no need to recreate your listings. However, we’ve noticed some kinks in the migration, so it’s important to get in and make sure your pages are still showing, verified and correctly optimized. Of course, as part of Google’s master plan, you’ll need to set up a Google+ page if you haven’t already.
Bing Incorporates Yelp Reviews & Content into Local Pages
This one is still hot off the newsstands. Google’s answer to combat Yelp was countered by Bing, who is fighting back my enriching their own local pages with reviews and other content from Yelp. Now, when visiting a Bing Local page, you’ll notice a nifty little “Powered by Yelp” indicator, as well as a list of Yelp-generated ratings and reviews.
This only makes it that much more important to build out a presence on Yelp and engage with your customers by replying to their reviews. Thank those that have posted positive reviews, respond to negative complaints and learn from everyone. Not only can you potentially change the mind of the negative posters, but new customers will see you engaging and caring about their experience.
Apple Goes Local
Not to be outdone by Google and Microsoft, Apple is rolling out more local products as well. Previously, Siri was the primary Apple product giving users information in relation to their location. Now, they are integrating local search into their new map app. According to Apple:
…Additionally, local search includes information for over 100 million businesses with info cards that offer Yelp ratings, reviews, available deals and photos.
Side note: It’s a good time to be Yelp.
So go stick that phone book under the couch with the missing leg where it belongs, save some advertising dollars and start building out your local presence. Build and verify your listings and be sure to add photos, hours, menu information (if applicable), service area and anything else that potential customers may be looking for. It’s becoming increasingly easier to get in front of your customers and unless you have an online presence, you’re just leaving money on the table.