Any business which provides services or products to a local population is normally thought of as a local business. Often denoted by the term, local business, a local business may be either a corporation or a sole proprietorship with multiple outlets located in a given geographic area. Examples of a local business may include a general contracting firm, such as Hanes, McDonald’s, Sears, Pier 1 Imports, or Reebok, or a privately owned gas station, such as fueling stations, convenience stores, supermarkets, shopping centers, car washes, or franchises.
A local business directory helps consumers locate local businesses in one of several ways. Online business listings are available for many types of local businesses. These online business listings, in turn, allow consumers to locate and conduct business with local businesses. Online business listings are usually free, although some directories charge a small fee to cover costs such as web hosting and maintenance.
Because most local businesses have less than a website, it is usually necessary to submit business name, address, and contact information to online business listings. This process usually takes less than twenty minutes, and results in the submission of business name, address, and phone number to an appropriate service. Most services also provide a means for the consumer to receive written citations. Citations are usually sent via regular mail, but may also be sent via email. Citations are not usually required when submitting business name, address, and phone number information to an online service. Most services offer a reasonable selection of citations for a consumer to choose from.
In addition to online listing services, traditional offline methods such as newspapers and telephone books still provide excellent local business listing and ranking factors. Offline ranking factors are often used as reference by potential customers when conducting local business research. It should be noted that traditional publications are constantly changing, so the information provided through offline ranking factors may become outdated quickly.
One of the challenges facing local businesses still experiencing a decline in business is location-based customers. A majority of local consumers prefer to shop using location-based criteria when making shopping decisions. Unfortunately, most local businesses are unable to establish a strong presence in certain shopping areas due to financial inefficiencies. While many of these factors are beyond the control of local business owners, they can still take advantage of proven shopping strategies such as using search engine optimization (SEO) to benefit from location-based customers.
Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local are three popular search engines that provide users with shopping options. These companies generate a large part of their traffic through Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local. Google Places is comprised of a custom-made local business listing that contains relevant business information. For example, a local business listed on Google Places could include location data, demographics, photos, videos, maps, and more to help customers locate local businesses. On the other hand, Yahoo Local and Bing Local allow customers to search for businesses by name or category.