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By Dev Basu

In Part 1 we considered why local listings are so important for your business. In this article, we’ll outline the first steps towards taking control of your business data, sometimes referred to as “claiming your listings.”

How Search Engines Gathers Data about Your Local Business

Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing rely on third-party data providers for nearly all of the data that shows up in their local business listings. These data providers include aggregation houses such as Axciom and InfoUSA , common Internet Yellow Pages type sites such as Super Pages and Merchant Circle, and social media review sites such as Yelp and iBegin. With such a complex eco-system of local business data, it’s important to claim your listings to consolidate all this fragmented business information under a profile that is under your own control.

Claiming your listing is also the best preventive measure against your listing being hijacked by an unscrupulous competitor, misrepresented with inaccurate information, or merged with a competitor’s data. It’s also the very first step in being able to actually optimize your business listing by hand.

How to Claim Your Listings

You can create your business listing at Google Local Business Center, Bing, and Yahoo. Sign up as a user at each of these respective business centers. Then either search for your business by name and address, or add the business location by following the relevant instructions.

While you’re filling out the required business information, ensure that you’re using the Doing Business As (DBA) for your business, and that you’re maintaining a consistent format for your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). It is important that you fill out this information as accurately as possible so search engines can find your business in third-party business data they draw on and associate it accurately with your business profile. Complete your profile as comprehensively as possible:

  • Provide a keyword-rich business description.
  • Complete all the fields for business information, such as hours of operation, payments accepted, services offered, certifications, awards, parking availability, etc.
  • Upload or link to the maximum allowable number of business images and videos.

When you are ready to verify your information, you will be either contacted via:

  • Phone with a secret pin code to verify your identity, or
  • Postcard mailed to your business location.

Once you have verified your information, you now control your local business listing.

Best Practices in Claiming Business Listings

  • Do not create duplicate business listings when claiming an existing unverified listing.
  • Create only one listing for every physical brick-and-mortar location you have.
  • Follow the listing guidelines for each of the major search engine local business centers.
  • Do not use call-tracking phone numbers as part of your listing.
  • When possible, use a local phone number rather than a toll-free number for additional ranking power.

Next article I will provide 10 Steps to Building an Optimized Listing, which will include tips and best practices on using images, video, text ,and the appropriate keywords to further optimize your business listing.

Dev Basu is a Toronto based Search Engine Optimization, Local Search, Internet Marketing, and Social Media Expert. Dev is the founder and CEO of Powered by Search, an internet marketing agency based in Toronto. He blogs on the topic of Local Search and Small business marketing at his personal blog, Search Marketing Insights.

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By Radi Hindawi

One of the first mistakes individuals make when leveraging search engine optimization and directories, is to assume that the use of these tools is an easy matter. There are no shortcuts around digital marketing. You must be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time and resources in order to yield the benefits of these tools. This may include re-building the coding of your existing design and re-structuring various modules that link to your site.

Below are key mistakes that many individuals continue to make when utilizing search engine optimization and directories to enhance their online presence.

META Tags

One of the biggest mistakes comes from the actual coding of the website. Individuals tend to forget, or avoid using META Tags in belief that they infringe on the privacy of others. This, however, is not the case. META Tags allow you to define your web pages on emerging search engines and directory listings. Even though Google no longer requires an individual to build such coding, many upcoming search engines still use this coding system as a primary means of dictating a name and valid description for a site.

The two most efficient META Tags are “Description” and “Keywords“. “Description” allows you to define your site and its content, while “Keywords” are based on words that people search to find your website.

Site Content

It is also important to structure your content in a more efficient, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way. One of the biggest challenges faced by many existing websites is that the information is so cluttered that search engines cannot build a valid set of tags for them. There are a couple of strategies that can be used to build a website’s content including the use of headers and sub headers, bold/italic text and even bullet points.

It is estimated that today’s users will ONLY browse through your content for around 13 seconds, so you must structure your site accordingly.

Submitting your URL

DO NOT limit yourself to Google.

It is important to submit your site to as many search engines and national directories as possible. Limiting yourself to one system may deter your future plans of growth. The current dominance of Google is likely to waver in the next ten years, in the face of fierce competition. With that being said, it is important to ensure that your site is adopted by as many search engines as possible, to compensate users that use Bing, Yahoo and even Ask Jeeves.

It is also important to look at various directories that can help boost your numbers. In Ontario, many organizations fail to submit themselves to the Ontario Business Directory and DMOZ (Open Directory Project). Even though such submission processes are time-consuming, it is crucial for every organization to research these directories, as they have the potential of sharing your site with more users and a wider demographic.

Getting Individuals/Sites to Link to you

It is also essential for you to constantly promote your site and get others to link back to you. Social networking sites do build on your page ranking, but are NOT ENOUGH to extend your sites’ foundations online. One of the most efficient ways of building ranking today is through blogging. However, the biggest mistakes made when blogging is in terms of the featured content. Always ensure that the content being blogged is:

  • Easy to read and well-organized with links, bold/italic text and bullets.
  • Directly and strongly related to the site that you are promoting. If your website is about your company, do not discuss your personal life on the blog.
  • Linking back from the blog to your website. Confirm that these links are clearly visible, active and not broken.

It is also important to keep informing your blog-followers on any updates and progress to your website, and any URL/page changes.

Radi Hindawi is a Digital Enterprise Specialist graduate from the University of Toronto’s Communications, Culture and Information Technology program. Radi has leveraged his academic background and professional experiences in web development, online communications and digital marketing to found a digital media company and manage a successfully growing blog. For more information, please visit www.radihindawi.com

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