When working with small or local businesses, it’s often best to take a “bang for your buck” attitude.

They might not have the time or the budget to sink into a full blown SEO effort — and that’s OK, they don’t necessarily need one — so the best option is to focus on the things that can provide the best return for minimal investment. With businesses that have local presences, that means developing local profiles.

As we know, the SERPs on local searches (“Denver salon,” “Wichita McDonalds,” etc.) usually open with a prominent map of nearby locations. These local profiles are the key to getting on the map.

Google’s is “My Business” (formerly called “Places”), Yahoo’s is “Small Business” and Bing’s is “Bing Places.” Get listed on all of these, but you’ll really only have to focus on continually maintaining one of the profiles moving forward.

Why brick and mortars should be developing local profiles

This should come as no surprise: According to data released this year by the research firm comScore, virtually everyone searches for local businesses online (96 percent of desktop users, 81 percent for tablets and 79 percent of mobile users).

The important piece of information to take away from the study was that across all platforms, nearly half of the participants “were looking for a business they have never made a purchase from before.” Those were the “Toledo dog groomer” or “Hendersonville computer repair” searches.

That has obvious implications for local businesses, whose pools of potential customers are geographically limited to people nearby that are also interested in their products. Having a means to hook new customers is where they can get the most “bang for their buck.”

The good news is that getting onto local search is a relatively straightforward process.


How to get onto Google’s “My Business”

Google is still the big kahuna of search engines, so it’s worthwhile to focus your efforts there. Here are a few tricks to help set up your profile:

  1. Pay attention to the details

Make sure all of your address and contact information is correct and matches the information on your website. Google is notoriously picky about this — mismatched phone numbers or a missing “West/East” signifier on your street name can lead to hassles later.

  1. Fill in as much information as possible

This will not only help with getting the local profile verified, but it’s also helpful for placing relevant keywords into the local profile. Add images, links to social media accounts and any additional information that could help customers or potential customers find the business.

  1. Get reviews

Google has an interest in putting the most relevant search results in front of its customers, so it is going to give preference to local businesses with positive reviews (in Google’s eyes, these are the best businesses for the query).

Be conscious of Google’s reviews policy — don’t have employees review their own company, and don’t incentivize customers to leave reviews. They should be natural, honest and unbiased.

  1. Engage with reviewers

Once the location is verified, the account will have the ability respond to reviews. The owner can then thank customers for positive reviews and address negative reviews.

One of the bonuses from Google’s upgrade from “Places” to My Business is the local business integration with Google’s other products. You can now promote positive reviews onto your Google+ page.

The dashboard also allows you to track reviews across multiple platforms like Yelp, and you can even see how they are rating your competitors.

  1. Take it to the next level

Building an active location page is a quick shot to appearing prominently in the SERP, and taking advantage of the integration with Google Hangouts and YouTube are easy ways to do that.

If the business is also suited towards paid advertising, the My Business account will also seamlessly integrate with Google AdWords Express, a no-frills version of AdWords that allows business owners to create and manage paid advertising campaigns with little hassle.

The analytics suite attached to the profile also provides deep insight on who is looking for the business, and it can even provide data like where most driving directions are coming from.

  1. Bulk up

If the business has 10 or more locations, you can also save time by uploading locations in bulk.