Local Search - Getting More Leads from the Internet| |
This is a free way to increase the visibility of your accounting firm on the internet. Essentially, this is free advertising but it requires some elbow grease to make it work properly. And because this is a free service, the updates are occasionally slow.
On the internet, prospects use a wide variety of online tools and websites to evaluate local businesses like yours. These tools range from the local search section of the major search engines to online yellow page directories to review websites to local/regional directories. Below are some examples:
- Local Search – Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Local
- Online Yellow Pages – YellowPages.com, Yellowbook, Dex, Superpages
- Reviews – Yelp, Judy's Book, Angie's list
- Local Directories – Kudzu, Manta, CitySearch, InsiderPages, Local.com
Local Search Optimization is about telling the local search websites about what your business does so they can recommend you. It is free and will increase your website visibility, generate more leads, and help prospects find your business.
About 20% of online searches from a desktop computer have local intent and over 50% of mobile searches (smart phones) have local intent.
Organic Search Engine Optimization is what a website developer does to make your website easier for the national search engines to locate, index content and elevate your organic placement in the search engine results pages. However, this is very different from Local Search. If you use your smart phone to locate a pizza shop nearby, then chances are the app will use Local Search results rather than national search results to help you.
Yes, these terms are similar and confusing but they are two separate efforts to generate more leads from the internet. Organic SEO can be outsourced to a web designer. Local Search is generally done by you, the business owner.
Google and Bing use a term called local citations. Citations are mentions of your business name and address in other websites. These websites range from Yelp.com to YP.com to Citysearch.com to Superpages.com to your local chamber of commerce website and others. Your goal is to consistently get your accounting firm listed in each of these online websites and provide them with compelling information (pictures, category description of your services, hours open, method of payment accepted, etc.). The more information you provide them, the more compelling your listing is to a prospective client and the more likely the local directory will show your accounting firm towards the top listings.
That being said, Google and other major search engines do use Local Search websites to "validate" your information and give them the confidence to increase your visibility. If the search engine sees inconsistent information on the internet about your accounting firm, they will lower your placement because they do not want to provide incorrect information. To a search engine, incorrect information can include tiny differences like your address says Suite 111 on one website and Ste 111 in another and # 111 in another. Your complete contact information should be identical, everywhere. If you are inconsistent, this will be a problem because it confuses the search engines.
The biggest mistake is when your accounting firm is listed but the address is wrong (prior location). While we understand that small businesses often change locations, an incorrect address will lower your website placement with local and national search engines. You must be diligent about updating your addresses and contact information with Local Search directories. And yes, it may take multiple efforts to get your information updated correctly.
Google's version of yellow page advertising on the internet is now called Google+ Local, and it is free. When done properly, this can increase traffic to your website and generate more leads for your accounting practice.
Please keep a list of your usernames and passwords for each because this process is iterative and you will want to update it over time. Yes, Google+ Local is very slow to update but understand that it's free.
Free Local Search Directories (do not pay for upgrade)
Below are the six places you should select your business, create an account, update if necessary, and list your accounting firm. You should complete each listing fully and do ALL six.
Google My Business http://www.google.com/places/
Bing Business Portal http://www.bing.com/businessportal
Yahoo Local http://listings.local.yahoo.com/
InfoGroup Express http://www.infogroup.com/our-services/local-search-optimization.aspx
InfoGroup Express and Localeze – Why?
InfoGroup and Localeze are data aggregators that supply information to most of the local websites that you want to get listed on. To get your accounting firm accurately listed, you MUST set up an account with both InfoGroup and Localeze. It is free and will feed your important information to hundreds of websites. Acxiom is another large data aggregator but charges a fee (subject to change) so we skip it.
Extra Credit After You Get Listed – Positive Reviews
Complete the listing process with Google+, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, InfoGroup and Localeze. If you want to do two more, consider Yellowpages.com and Manta. After this process is complete, then you will want to obtain reviews to give prospects confidence to call you. Yes, you will have to ask a few clients to post glowing reviews about your firm. Online reviews will increase your visibility as well.
BYF has developed a reputation management tool which is part of your website service (no extra charge). If you've completed the Local Search process, we will gladly set up the reputation management tool so it's easier for you to obtain online reviews and influence your local reputation.
In summary, this initiative will be critical to generating more leads from the internet in the months ahead. As more and more people use the internet each day from desktop computers, tablets and smart phones, it becomes more important that prospects can find your accounting firm on the internet and the message is consistent from Yelp to YP.com to Apple's Siri and others that you've never heard of.
This is free advertising for your accounting practice that will generate more visits to your website and phone calls.