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5 Tips to Improve Your Local Search Presence

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Local businesses are turning to local SEO in order to drive visitors to their physical locations as well as driving online sales. With so many consumers armed with mobile and tablet devices, it is making local search engine optimization such an important piece of every local marketing strategy.

If you are looking for ways to increase your online exposure then use these five tips to boost your local SEO effort.

1. Make sure your business is listed in prominent online directories

One mistake many small business owners make is attempting to get listed on every single business directory they come in contact with. There are many low quality spammy directories that can actually hurt your organic rankings rather than improve them. Focus on local business directories that are related to your industry as well as your physical location.

If you focus on high quality business directories they will actually work in your favor, by helping people find your business when they perform a search in the directories you are listed in. Some high quality directory links can do wonders to help improve the position of a business in the local Google search results.

The easiest way to find local directories is by performing a search. Typing in "South Florida business directory" into Google returned the following results, with a clear indication of a great local business directory.

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2. Don't forget the Yellow Pages

The old school, huge phone book might be on the fast track to extinction, but the online YP directory is a must-have local listing. Not only do many consumers turn to it when they are looking up a local business, but several other online communities and social media applications pull their data from YP.

YP is just one of many directory sites that third part applications pull their local data from, but it the most well known and widely used by local consumers. Getting your business listed on YP.com allows you to take advantage of the actual searches performed on the site as well as the other applications that use the YP data.

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3. Audit your Google+ listing and make sure it is complete and accurate

There is a very good chance that you already have a Google+ listing, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. Having a complete and fully optimized Google+ local page is essential if you want your business to be displayed in the local search results. Google displays the local results on the top of the search results, so make sure you take the steps necessary to fully optimize your listing to make a run at that top real estate.

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The first thing to look at is all of the information fields available within your Google+ listing. Are they all filled out completely? Make sure that you complete every section of the profile and also include attractive images. Google displays local listing images in the search results. You also want to make sure that the address you have listed in your Google+ listing is exactly as it appears on your website. Even something as simple as writing out "Street" on one and abbreviating it as "St." on the other can cause a problem. You need to have an identical NAP (name, address and phone number) in all directory listings -- exactly as it appears on your website.

Note: If you are not sure whether or not your business has a Google+ listing, use the Moz Local tool to see what local listings your business currently has. This tool will also help you edit listings and removed incorrect listings.

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4. Be smart about your social media strategy

There seems to be a new social network popping up every week, but that doesn't mean that you need to use each one. Most local business owners have very little extra time to devote to social media, so it is important to participate on the platforms that will generate you traffic (both foot and web).

Picking the right social media platforms to become active on is simple. Use common sense and put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. For example, if you were a trash removal service you wouldn't want to waste time on Pinterest.

The big three that most local businesses can take advantage of are Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Find out what platforms your target audience is active on and devote your social media time interacting with your market.

Once you have your ideal social platforms identified make sure to let your customers know where to find you. Window stickers utilizing QR codes that customers entering your business can quickly scan are a great way to quickly increase your social following. This gives you a highly targeted social media audience that you can now market to directly.

5. Encourage customers to leave reviews

Local business reviews are important, but you need to gather local reviews the right way. Telling customers to leave reviews or offering them something in exchange for a review is not the approach to take.

A very simple example is printing a QR code that points to your Google+ listing or other local listings on your receipt paper with a simple "Let us know how we are doing," or "We value your feedback" above it. Get creative and find ways to let your customers know how they can leave a review if they wish, instead of bribing or directly instructing them to.

You will want to make your customers aware of the most important review sites. Google pulls reviews from your Google+ listing while Yahoo! and Bing are now pulling reviews from Yelp and displaying them along with the local listings, as seen here:

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These five simple tips can help you improve the local SEO for your business. Focus on quality when it comes to local business directories and make sure your local listings are all consistent across the board. Engage socially with your target audience and provide an easy way for your customers to leave reviews. All of this combined will help improve your local search position.

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