As the holidays approach, busy shoppers seeking special gifts will be using local search services including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, and Foursquare to locate businesses. Will they find you?  The answer to this question may have a lot to do with the success of your holiday sales season.

If your listing is inaccurate, misleading, or missing altogether, you may be losing sales to the stores whose listings shine. Use this checklist to review your listing and make easy changes that can help funnel holiday traffic your way.  Here are tips on how to drive online search for holiday sales this year:

  1.  Search for your business
    Ensure that your business listing appears correctly and consistently in each of the aforementioned location-based search engines. It should include your website URL and contact information—email and phone—as well as hours of operation, accepted forms of payment, and an accurate business description. Google My Business offers guidelines for ensuring that your business listing appears in Google’s new carousel-style local directories.
  2. Check from a mobile device, too
    According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 74% of adult smartphone owners use their phones to get directions or other information based on their location. Find out how your business shows up on mobile browser searches as well as on computers. Google and Foursquare offer a filter to find local businesses that are “open now”—a useful feature for mobile users on the go. An inaccurate listing could cause customers to pass you by during your open hours, or worse, to show up during the listed business hours and find a “Closed” sign.
  3. Confirm your business category
    Is your gourmet shop showing up in search results as a restaurant? Is your tea salon mixed up with hair salons? Neglecting small details when creating your business listing can confuse customers and risk losing sales.
  4. Choose the right photo
    Attaching a photo to your listing of your most popular merchandise is more likely to grab attention than a photo of your storefront. Research has shown that mouthwatering photos of food attract diners to restaurants and great hairstyle images bring women to salons. Choose a photo that presents your unique offerings, rather than your front door, to accompany your online business listing.
  5. Engage reviewers
    You can’t delete bad online reviews, but you can respond when appropriate, acknowledge mistakes, and offer apologies. Whatever you do, don’t argue with or refute bad online reviews, even if you know they’re out of line. Customers tend to side with other customers, not businesses. Some experts say a few bad reviews among many good ones are nothing to worry about—in fact, they can lend authenticity to all the good reviews. Use the bad ones as an opportunity to hone your customer service, and encourage your happy customers to write good reviews. Respond to those online too, with a friendly “thank you!”
  6. Consider a service
    If you believe your business could be showing up better in local online searches or you don’t have time or resources to ensure that it is, then get help. Online business listings management services can help you build and maintain your presence in local searches. Moz, Qiigo, Yext, Localeze, and Digital Sherpa are among the many online listings management services that cater to small businesses. Yahoo Local now offers businesses help managing their listings across 40 online platforms.


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