At last count there are 366,848,493 websites on the internet. This seems like a daunting number. Let’s say you are a dog sitter. When you do a Google search you will find over three and a half million web results for “dog sitter.” This in itself is a startling number. Now let’s say you got a website designed for you and now the web designer is nowhere to be found. Or if they are available, they want to charge you $500 a month for marketing your website. You might be feeling some buyer’s remorse for spending $500 for a website that doesn’t even show up in a Google search. There is some good news. There are a few ways that you can promote your site for free or find a reasonable internet savvy person or web designer to do for a small fee. Google, Bing and Yahoo all have a system in place to give local businesses a leg up on the national competition when it comes to search results.
If you search “Google Places” or “Bing Local” you will find similar systems for promoting your business in their local search directories. Have you ever searched for a local service and saw the little upside down red rain drops on the maps showing local businesses? These are local listing. You can list your site as one of those markers by going to Google Places or Bing Local. In order to list in these directories you must have a Google account for Google or a Microsoft Live id for Bing. These are accounts that are easy to set up. All you need is a valid email address or a Hotmail or Gmail address. After you have the proper credentials to get into the sites, you simply follow the step by step process laid out by each site.
It is good to be prepared before you try to set up the listings. Otherwise you might find yourself trying to fill out the form all night long as you think of what to write. Both sites will ask you similar questions. You will be asked for your normal contact information. You will need to gather your business name, address, website, phone number and other contact info. You will also have to write a short business description. It is a good idea to have some localizing key words in this description. My place page description reads as follows, “Victory Web Productions is a small business website development company located in Guilderland, NY. We serve clients all over New York State. Our main customers are local small businesses.” You will notice that I have mentioned where I do business twice. I mentioned that I am located in Guilderland, NY and that I serve clients all over New York State. Adding location keywords will make sure that your listing will show up when someone does a search for your service in your service area. It is also good to mention your business name in the description and what you actually do.
The listings will ask you what business category you fall into and ask for you to upload photos and video if you have any. Photos and videos can enhance your place page dramatically. Visuals can help draw attention or in the case of a service, personal pictures can put a human face to your business. Having your picture can also help when it comes time to meet with a client in a coffee shop or other public venue. The listing will also ask for hours of operation if available and what types of payments you accept.
After you list all your business information, you will have to verify that you are actually the owner of the address you listed in your business. This is the backbone of the local directory system. This prevents national companies from simply posting local listings in places they have no real location for. Both Google and Bing will send you a post card with a PIN number. This card usually takes 7-10 business days to arrive. Your posting will not show up until you receive this PIN and entire it into the listing for confirmation. Once entered, your listing should show up within 24 hours for Google, and a few weeks for Bing.
Now is the time for the caveat. Although this will give you a leg up against your national competitors, you will still have to compete with others in your business genre. Depending on how many businesses of your type are present in your service area, you might show up as the lone business listing or you might show up at the end of a long list. This is where your description and other factors will come in handy. The better your description is at pinpointing your service area and location, the better chance you will have at showing up closer to first. Also if you have a unique service that others in your industry might not offer, perhaps focusing on promoting this in your description would help you stand out from the crowd. There are no guarantees that this will get you to the top of Google, however, not being listed at all will ensure that you do not show up in the place pages at all.