Over the last month or so I have been heavily inundated with local search, probably more than usual. At the end of August I recorded a Google+ Local episode of Search Geeks Speak alongside fellow local search geeks Darren Shaw and Mike Blumenthal. Then on September 5 I made my speaking debut at the AAFPRS 2012 Fall Meeting in Washington D.C. to educate facial plastic surgeons on the importance of local search engine optimization. In both instances I learned a couple of things about local search; 1) the big guys don't want to invest in it because of the time and effort it requires and 2) the little guys don't have the time or resources to fully understand or engage local SEO the way they need to. So with that in mind I thought I would take this opportunity to share some insight on how to easily uncover existing opportunities for your local business and help outline how to expand from there.

Claim and Complete the Big Three

If you do nothing with your local presence, at the least, claim and complete your business listings in Google+ Local (formerly Google Places), Bing Local, and Yahoo Local. These will at least ensure that the information people are finding about your business in the search engines is up to date and accurate; mostly accurate (I'll explain the caveat to this later).

Google Thyself

The easiest way to uncover your current local presence is to run a handful of Google searches related to your business. Run queries for your business name and any variations of it that may exists. Search for your business address. Search for past addresses. Get an idea of what sites are listing your business and if possible claim any existing listings that may be out there mentioning your business and providing a citation. If it's not a site that offers a listing that can be managed, reach out to the site if you feel your information is outdated or inconsistent with the local presence you are trying to build.

Note: Be sure that as you identify these opportunities and claim them that you keep your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistent. The difference between Suite, Ste. and # could create you a world of trouble in the future. Since the search engines gather data from outside sources, inconsistent information can alter your local listing in the search engines, or create duplicates regardless of the fact you have already claimed and updated your local listing.

Expanding Your Local Presence

Local listings rely heavily upon data from various local listing and data providers in the local search ecosystem. As you begin to expand your local presence I would strongly suggest starting with known providers that fuel and strengthen listings in the major search engines. David Mihm regularly updates his local search ecosystem graphic for the U.S. and more recently developed the local search ecosystem in Canada. At the least I would suggest businesses expand their local presence beginning with these sources as they are going to impact your local presence the greatest.

If you are short on time or resources and want to know which citations sources will give you the biggest bang up front, and Whitespark put together a list Best Citations Sources by City and by Category (U.S. only).

A recent study from 15Miles and Localeze revealed that consumers find local results to be the most relevant and trusted results in the search engines, which means that businesses both big and small need to start thinking about local search as part of their overall digital marketing strategy. Does your business have a local search strategy? What are you doing to ensure your local listings are current and that your citations sources continue to grow?

If you liked this, you might also enjoy 9 Easy Ways to Improve Local Search Rankings