1. Google Places
By adding your business to Google Places, you show up on Google Maps and Google local results. This is one of the most important things a local business can do to get found on the web. Here are a few reasons why:
- Google Maps is a hugely popular mapping application.
- Google Place Page results show up on Google.com for most local searches.
- Google Maps is one of the most popular applications on smartphones.
Compete puts monthly visits for maps.google.com at 58M, but Google.com and mobile are probably the bigger traffic drivers. If we conservatively estimate that 10% of search on www.Google.com is local, that amounts to over 300M locally-oriented visits per month. I don’t know of a good source for usage data for the mobile Google Maps application – please let me know if you do.
To add your listing: Google Places. And while claiming your Place Page is a good start, you should also invest the time in optimizing your page so that you rank well for your categories. Here’s an article with some pointers on Place Page optimization: To-Do List: Creating a Fabulous Google Place Page
2. Facebook Fan Page
Apart from being the most visited site on the internet, over 1.5 million businesses have created fan pages on the network, and 20 million people become fans of pages every day (source). Facebook is a long way from being the first place where consumers search for businesses, but it has quickly become the most likely place for consumers to connect with local businesses online. According to Compete, Facebook received almost 3.5 billion visits in December, 2010, though little of this constitutes local business search traffic.
To create a page you must be logged in to your personal account. People who follow your page won’t be able to see your private information, FB just doesn’t allow people to anonymously create pages. Also, once you’ve created it, you can add other administrators to the page. Create a Facebook Page. And here are some suggestions for how to engage with prospects and get people interested in your business: Great Content for Facebook Business Pages
Facebook users can also check in to locations, and Facebook has their own version of place pages as part of this functionality. You need to claim or create a place page in addition to creating a business page, and then link it to your business page. Here are instructions for doing this.
AT&T owned Yellowpages.com rebranded as YP.com, and it’s not your parent’s yellow pages any more. Under pressure from the likes of Google and Yelp, YP.com has a fresh look and more social content and features. They also distribute listings to a number of syndication partners. Currently at 29 million visits per month.
Claim your listing
Superpages also went through a significant redesign recently, but doesn’t seem to be keeping up with Yellowpages.com or the others. Their traffic figures indicate same, but they did have a nice uptick last Fall. They get 19 million local search visits a month.
Get your free listing now
The review site Yelp is the most popular social site focused on local business search. Given its emphasis on social content and interaction, Yelp tends to do better than other directory sites when it comes to attracting younger, more social users. Currently at 18 million visits per month.
To add your listing: Yelp signup page
Citysearch.com has been holding steady for a number of years now in terms of on-site traffic, but they have been growing their network of distribution through syndication and the recently announced CityGrid blows their distribution opportunity wide-open. Currently at 9 million visits per month. Citysearch is also a powerhouse when it comes to review syndication.
To add your listing: add business – note that you must be logged in to a personal Citysearch account to see this page.
7. Yahoo! Local
As with many things Yahoo!, Yahoo! Local is holding steady, but not seeing the growth of Google or even Bing. But they still provide a very popular service, so worth making sure you are listed there. Local.Yahoo.com is currently at 17 million visits per month, and we estimate about 60 million more local search visits at search.Yahoo.com.
To add your listing: add a business page
8. Bing Local
Microsoft has long struggled behind Google and Yahoo! in the world of web search, but the tides have turned of late. Since Microsoft launched Bing.com last year, they have steadily been gaining search share. Bing local and maps operate under the www.Bing.com domain, which gets 654M visits per month. We estimate 65M of that to be local search.
To add your listing: Local Listing Center
LinkedIn isn’t exactly a place where people go to look for local businesses, but it does offer rich business listing functionality, and the domain carries quite a bit of authority. LinkedIn has also been adding many useful features for businesses, such as the ability to announce promotions, share articles and blogs, and list open jobs. LinkedIn is very important for business-to-business exposure, since people will often browse from a personal profile to a business profile. Currently at 48 million visits per month, though very little of this is local search traffic. Add a company to LinkedIn
Honorable Mention – Universal Business Listing
Universal Business Listing’s basic submission service costs $75, but deserves mention here. UBL.org provides an automated submission service that gets your listing into Acxiom and InfoUSA, back-end data providers similar to Localeze. UBL also distributes business information to a number of other sites. All told, submitting to UBL will get your listing on to hundreds of sites and services, definitely worth the $75.
You’ll notice that both Localeze and UBL distribute listing data to some of the sites mentioned here – we still recommend that you claim them and enter all the information you can.
A Couple of Pointers When Creating/Updating Listings
- Be accurate and consistent. If you have a registered business name, use that as your business name in all cases. Some of these sites will verify your information with public business registration data, and consistency will help your search ranking.
- Fill out everything you can. More information helps you get found, and makes your listing more useful to searchers – remember, your goal is not just to have your listings show up, you want people to visit your business.
There are many benefits to getting your business listed on other web sites. Four important ones are:
- Links – links pointing to a web site are major factor in how that site ranks in search engines. I would say the most important factor, but linking is a complex and nuanced topic. Links are not all created equal. Where a link comes from is important. For example, a link from the home pages of nytimes.com is worth a lot more than a link on a page buried deep within a blog like this one. And some web sites put a “nofollow” attribute on links. This attribute is a way of telling search engines not to follow nor associate value with a link. However, there is still some SEO value in a nofollowed link, in particular because user behavior is also a factor in Google ranking. Matt Cutts of Google explains more about the value of nofollowed links here.
- Web site traffic – this one is kind of obvious, but your listing will include a link to your web site, which will result in more traffic. Many consumers like to visit a web site before visiting a business. If yours isn’t listed, you lose out.
- In-store traffic – consumers are using the internet more, and print yellow pages less. According to one study, print accounts for less than a third of local business search. Listing your business on the web is now the best way to get people to walk in to or call your business.
- Citations – citations are references to your business that include your business name and some sort of geographic identifier, like a phone number or street address. Citations are one of the signals Google uses to determine ranking for local listings.
[note: this post was updated in January, 2011]