Many people search online to find and evaluate local businesses before patronizing them.

In fact, when seeking out services such as pest control, home maintenance and personal services, up to 80% of people use Google or another search engine to check out and compare competitors.

An important first step in getting local folks to pick up the phone or walk through your door is to claim and verify your business in the Google local business center at www.google.com/local/add.

Make sure your business listings are accurate and up-to-date with various data providers such as InfoUSA, Localize and Yellow Pages.

Also ensure that your business is properly categorized in Google Maps.

Search engine spiders crawl the Internet daily looking for keywords and word associations.

Be sure your site has relevant content and a high keyword density ratio.

Use local place-names (city, state, region), nicknames and words with local appeal in your key phrases.

References on other websites and e-zines help boost your Google appeal, as do both inbound and outbound links. Testimonials, customer reviews and other online mentions can enhance your Google ranking and attract the attention of would-be customers.

Revise, update or add to your site regularly. One way to do this is with a blog page that allows customers to interact with you.

Answering questions, dispensing professional advice and resolving problems position you vis-à-vis your competitors and are great conversion techniques.

Consider using coupons on your website to promote your products and services. They are good tools for conversion and a reliable way to track business generated by your Google listing.

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