Local search has become one of the more complex issues I deal with in my own business as well as the businesses I consult for and the websites that I build for them. “Critically important” is the term I use to describe local search to my clients who are serious about the investment they’re making in their new website or website redesign project. When it comes to planning and implementing a solid strategy for local search – an indispensable element of your overall SEO strategy – I have been making a clear point to the savvy client: Your online presence is much, much more that just a new website and some basic SEO.

Each business, each sales channel and each target audience requires unique attention to the needs of its own online presence. And while that vast subject is one that I recommend you read about and experiment with, there are 4 bullet point items that I talk about whenever I’ve got a client who has ears to hear.

1. Keep Your Business Profiles Updated

Is there anything worse than finding just the right search result and then discovering that the listed phone number, street address or email address is inaccurate? Maybe there are more frustrating things in life but this one has got to top the list of liabilities for businesses who neglect their online business profiles. Keep your business information up-to-date. Business name, address, phone number and email address are the must-have items. You’ll get extra brownie points for updating things like pictures and products.

2. Make Sure Your Website Is Impressive

Communicating your ability to solve your client’s problem is job #1. Doing this in a professional, memorable and simple manner is necessary.

This means no cut-rate, 3rd grade-ish, outdated, patchwork websites that convey a poor message about your professionalism.

Competition is another consideration here. “What are the other guys doing?” is a question you should always have the answer to. This includes knowing something about their website and overall online presence.

3. Make Sure Your Local Profiles Are Impressive

See #2 above. But also keep in mind that the variety and sheer number of local and niche-based search engines is simply too much for any sane business owner to manage or even delegate. In local search, particularly, the shotgun approach is not the best use of your time & money resources. As with the process for identifying your target audience, making sure your local search efforts are focused is a critical factor for your ROI; know who your audience is and target those places (local search engines and business listings) that they are most likely to use.

Locally speaking, are there pictures or written terms that you can use to build trust? Do you have pictures of recognizable locations, people, products or events that are related to your business? If yes, use them! The same thing goes for terminology or product/service names. Use locally known terms to help build trust and establish that fact that you are a reputable and local problem solver.

4. Get Customer Reviews

For most people, this means Yelp; it’s not the exclusive nor always the best place for all businesses to strut their stuff, but the concept is universal… Make people happy by solving their problem and then advertise that fact on the review sites. Positive customer reviews are golden and must be actively sought. For some businesses it may mean a more earthy approach – the good ol’ fashioned comment cards can be very valuable if you are able to self-publish your customer reviews.

People use reviews and ratings as one of the most important factors when deciding when and where to purchase something.

In writing out these quick bullet points for you, I am reminded that this topic can be voluminous and complex. But, in the same breath, I’d like to reiterate the value of seeking simplicity. Build a simple and easy process around these 4 steps, then add your own experience and research, and go!