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Putting Your Local Business on the Online Map

Learn how to use a variety of online resources to list your local business and increase the visibility of your small business to local consumers.

More and more consumers increasingly use online research to find local businesses. When someone looks for your small business online, have you made it easy for consumers to find you? Aside from spending the time to optimize the content on your site based on specific keywords consumers may use to search for your company, there are a lot of other things you could do to increase the chance that consumers will find your business - not your competition.

The top search engines... Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft's MSN... all have specific content about local businesses that will appear when a consumer is searching for a local business. Don't rely on your website alone or a standard search engine advertising campaign to drive customers to your site.

You also need to make sure that your business and all your contact details... business name, address, phone, fax, e-mail and website URL... are listed with the top search engines.

Each search engine has a similar, online process for submitting your contact details. The online forms for submitting your local business details can be accessed at:

Google - Google Local Business Center
Yahoo - Yahoo's Add A New Business
Microsoft - MSN Local Listing Center

Prior to the Internet, most people turned to the local Yellow Pages to find a local business. Now, the Yellow Pages have moved online at www.YellowPages.com. You can advertise your business on the site, but a basic listing for your business is free - Yellow Pages

Once you've listed your business with a variety of local search guides, there's still plenty that you can do to market your small business online. Your customers may already be saying good things about you online, and you can use that positive feedback to generate more business.

What are your customers already saying? Yelp.com is one of the largest sites for consumers to review local businesses. You should check Yelp to see what your customers are saying. Once someone has reviewed your business, there's a lot you can do on Yelp. You can add photos of your business. You can register on Yelp and use the site's private messaging service to respond to your customers' reviews.

But, when you're using Yelp, there are a few things you should also keep in mind. Don't lash out at negative reviews. Yelp is all about community, and with a simple click of a button the person that you chastised can easily tell many of your potential customers exactly how you responded. In addition, you should not review your own business unless you clearly state that you're the business owner and you're offering additional information.

If you decide to dive into the Yelp community to interact with your customers, here's a detailed FAQ about how local business owners can work with Yelp - Yelp Business.

Craigslist? More than 25 million people use Craigslist in the U.S. every month to find local information... items for sale, job listings, etc. It's free for you to post information about your local business on Craigslist. But take note... to make sure that your Craigslist post isn't "Flagged" by readers, make sure that you read there policies, review all the Craigslist categories and post your information in the correct category.

This is just a few of the online resources to list your local business and increase the visibility of your small business to local consumers.

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