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If you run a local bricks-and-mortar business, the most important online marketing you may ever do is claiming your local business listings. In fact, if you don't claim your listings, someone else could--and that might be a disastrous thing for your business.
This proved to be the case for Rene Bertagna, whose 40-year-old Washington D.C. restaurant went out of business because he didn't interest himself in his online listings. No one else claimed his listings, but he should have.
While a competitor may have sabotaged his business, Bertagna could just as well have been a victim of a well-meaning customer who simply got the information wrong. That's because some of those listings are openly accessible to anyone for editing. All it takes is one person with incorrect information and access to the Internet, then your business is in trouble. That's why it is so important to claim your listings and ensure their accuracy.
RELATED: 11 Ways to Dominate Local Search
What Is A Local Business Listing?
If you've searched for a business on Google Maps, then you've likely seen descriptions of those businesses when you found them. Those are local business listings, and they often include business hours, address, and full contact information. Without them, many businesses simply could not be found online by people searching for them. But Google isn't the only place online where local business listings can be found. Other places include:
- Angie's List
- Merchant Circle
And there are many more. You can get a more comprehensive list of local business directories at CinchLocal.
How to Claim Your Google+ Local Listing
Before you try to create your own local listing at Google, try searching for your business to see if you already have a listing. If you search for your business and a Google+ page or Google Maps listing shows up in the search results, click the "claim your listing" link and verify the information for accuracy.
If, after searching for your business, you do not find your business in Google, then head over to Google My Business, sign up for an account, and choose a verification method. Google allows you to verify your business by postcard or by mobile phone number. After verifying your business, you can then edit your information, add a Google+ brand page, and manage your business profile in Google's search index.
How to Claim Your Facebook Business Page
Did you know Facebook creates a business page if someone checks into a place that doesn't have a page? And anyone can edit those pages.
If you have a personal profile on Facebook, go to the search bar at the top of the page and type in the name of your business. If your business is listed, you should find it there and be able to claim your business page. You can get more information about the claiming a business page process on Facebook's Help pages.
However, you can create a separate business page for your listing and manage that one too. Just go to Facebook for Business, scroll all the way to the bottom, and click the "Create a Page" link. Then you can choose the type of business yours is and create your own business page.
How to Claim Your Yahoo! Local Listing
Yahoo! was one of the first places local businesses could get a listing, but how they list businesses has changed a bit over the years. You can establish your local business presence on Yahoo! with a basic listing or purchase an enhanced listing.
Yahoo! makes it easy to claim a listing that is already there. Just create an account and fill in your business information. In Step 3 of the process, Yahoo! will let you know if a listing already exists for your business. Just click "Claim a Listing" and you can claim an existing Yahoo! Local listing for your business. The first thing you should do is check it for accuracy.
How to Claim Your Bing Places Listing
Bing Places is the equivalent to Google+ Local in that, if you have a listing already, then your business will appear on Bing Maps just as your business listing will appear on Google Maps. However, unlike Bing Places, Bing doesn't have a social network like Google+ to make managing your entire presence online easier.
Head over to Bing Places and search for your business by geographic location. If you find it, Bing will walk you through the steps to claiming your listing.
Claiming Other Local Business Listings
There are a ton of business directories online. Not all of them are all they're cracked up to be. You'll probably want to stick to the most popular ones—the well-trafficked and most valuable directories for citation purposes. Those sites are listed at CinchLocal under the heading "Best Local Directory Citation Sites."
In general, if you stick with the top 10 directories listed on that list, then you'll be off to a good start. The most important thing is to claim your listings and to ensure they provide searchers with accurate information about your business.
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