According to Forrester Research, 40% of US retail sales in 2010 were “web-influenced”. So even when consumers plan to purchase offline, they often consult online. This is where Local Search comes into play. For an explanation of Local Search, please see my previous post. In short, Local Search ties the digital world to the real world. It’s how many of us find out about products, services, locations, reviews and special offers available in nearby shops and towns. Local listings (like Google Places) are the first contact many mobile searchers will have with your business. Investing time in Local Search is important for business owners as it ensures the phone keeps ringing! Local Search is different from regular or Organic Search How is your business performing for Local Searches? How are your competitors performing for Local Searches? What can you do to improve your Local rankings? The first step is to perform a Local Search Audit. Reasons for a Local Search Audit: Review listings to find any confusion about the business information (Name, Address, Phone Number) and correct where required. Find duplicate listings and remove. Discover what the top ranking listings have in common so that we can try to duplicate their success. Analyse the top ranking listings so that we can understand how they have achieved ranking and how we can replicate. Time for a NAP. Not the sleeping variety, but the Name, Address and Phone number. Included in this, should also be the website url. The N.A.P allows search engines to cross reference information about local business from many sources. Roughly speaking the more times you business is referenced by local sources the more relevant your business is deemed to be. These references are known as citations. They have a similar effect on your local listings as inbound links have on your website. At this point it is also important to stress that the N.A.P needs to be identical every where on the Internet. For example, search engines will see Franks Hardware and FranksHardware.com as separate businesses. This creates two problems firstly you may end up with duplicate listings in for example Google Places. The second issue is that you will not get the citations associated with this reference. The Audit Process Google your business name. Check that the N.A.P is identical in each instance. Search for the business name in Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. Search for the business address in Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. Search for the business phone number in Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. Look at the citations and reviews in the local business listings on each search engine and see if the information is correct. Note what needs to be corrected/updated and for any opportunities for improvement. To analyse competitors citations, there is a great tool from Whitespark – Local Citation Finder. This enables you to find out where your competitors are listed so that you can seek citations from these sources as well. Check for Duplicate listings Note duplicates during the audit process and try to determine the source of the listing. Google Places often auto generates listings for businesses it finds in Internet directories. See if any of the listings are owner verified. As the business owner no one else but yourself should have claimed the listing. If a listing has been hijacked (claimed by a third party), report to google. See which listing ranks best for your target keywords and note this. It is probably the listing you want to keep and concentrate on. Remember if you change your business name, address or phone number. Or you might get two separate businesses merging, this can really confuse search engines. Once your local listing gets to the top things are not finished. You need an ongoing strategy to obtain reviews from your customers and to focus on getting the same citations as you competitors. The above is a time consuming process, but if done correctly it produces great results. Please share your comments or questions below.