These differences can make it hard for small businesses to decide where to invest their Internet marketing budget, and what to expect from local search in general. Here are five things you need to do to make the best out of local search:

1. Keep Your Online Business Information Accurate and Up-to-Date

This is where your local search efforts must start. Your business can’t grow if your business information on the web sends potential customers to the wrong address. Also, people don’t react very well to out-of-service phone numbers.

The bad thing about local search is that no one will ever take care of these issues for you; only you can do it. The good thing about this is that it’s not very difficult. That can be accomplished by systematically correcting the business information in more important local search platforms such as Google Local, trusted data providers such as InfoUSA, and any other site people might use to find local business information.

2. Make Your Website the Best It Can Be

Self-evident or not, your website must be performing at its best. Without it, you are always in risk of getting almost nothing from local search. This is important for many reasons, but I will address only two.

A large portion of traffic generated from local search engines such as Google Maps, or Internet yellow pages (IYP sites) such as SuperPages, will end up on your website. There is no use in making a business omnipresent in local search space if its website can’t convert the traffic to customers.

The second reason is simple. Most people still use general search engines such as Bing or Google to find information about local businesses. Every visitor who doesn’t click the maps in the universal-search-engine result pages, but clicks the regular search-engine results, has a potential of landing on your business website.

Having an easy-to-navigate, credible and search-engine friendly website is crucial.

3. Be Ubiquitous

Local search space is very fragmented. On top of that, people use IYP sites, general search engines and local search engines differently—even expecting different results when searching for information about local businesses.

Being ubiquitous in the local search industry means having a strong presence and being prominent across the many different search platforms people use to find information about brick-and-mortar businesses.

For a small-business owner, this means:

  • A website that ranks very well for a wide array of local search terms
  • High rankings on all major local search engines (such as Google Maps, or Yahoo Local)
  • Being prominent on IYP sites that matter

Your industry directories, local business sites and local guides are all places you should place your business information.

This is important for two reasons:

  • Any of your profiles can be a source of business, so take advantage of the profiles.
  • Your business information on the web helps your local search visibility, as long as it’s consistent.

You shouldn’t throw money at every local search engine or site that solicits you just because they claim to be a perfect fit for your business. The rule of thumb here is—if they solicit you, they are not that good. But certainly take advantage of free profiles, and consider paid upgrade options on the most popular ones.

4. Make Local Profiles Represent Your Company Impressively

Having incomplete profiles, with badly written descriptions, lacking images, videos and other signals that boost your credibility (example: a good rating on your BBB membership)—all such deficiencies speak volumes about your business.

To make the most out of your business profiles, make sure that they:

  • are complete.
  • have no spelling and grammar errors.
  • speak the language of your customers (avoid industry lingo).
  • inspire trust.
  • accurately describe what you do.
  • have images that portray your business the right way.
  • emphasize your unique selling proposition.

Keep in mind that optimization of your profiles on third-party sites also plays a significant role in how much business local search can generate. Well-optimized profiles and listings on high-authority sites tend to rank very well.

5. Get Reviews

Only a small fraction of small-business owners had ever done anything to encourage people to review their business. Why are reviews important? People use reviews and ratings as one of the most important factors when deciding who to contact and where to purchase something.

The reviews are also important when it comes to your local search rankings. Reviews are a strong ranking factor in two of the biggest local search engines and that reason alone should be compelling enough to do something if you have a local business, but lack the reviews.

Vedran Tomic is an expert in Internet marketing, search-engine optimization and local search. Learn more at Tomic Internet Marketing.

Reprinted with permission from Small Business Trends, a comprehensive online publication for small business owners and entrepreneurs. For more information, visit