As Chris Silver Smith explains at Search Engine Land, Microsoft’s Bing Business Portal features a “beta” interface through which you handle your business details. It replaces the Bing Local Listing Center. If you want some information about the service before adding your business, you can read the FAQ.
To star using the interface, you’ll need to find your listing. Bing Business Portal will ask you to enter your business name (required), address, city, state, and zip code, and then press the search button to see if Bing already has information about your business. If you enter only your business name, be aware that Bing will insist that you also enter either your city AND state, or your zip code.
Once you’ve entered this information, Bing will return a listing to you if it finds one that matches. You can then click the claim button. If it doesn’t, you can add a new listing. Smith notes that “having a business owner claim a listing helps to validate the information and establish that the business is active, helping increase ‘trust ranking’ factors.” Remember that search engines hate to show stale information to searchers – and businesses fail all the time. If a business owner has claimed their listing, it may show the search engine that the business is active, and could lead to a more prominent position in the search results.
Once you’ve claimed your listing, you need to check the contact information it displays. Make sure it’s correct. At a minimum, it needs to include your name, address, and phone number, in addition to your website’s URL. If you choose to include an email address, treat it professionally – check and answer the messages it receives at least once a day. Otherwise, customers will think you’re ignoring them, and go somewhere else.
Next, if you can, you should at least consider adding an image to your listing. Smith notes that for Bing Local searches, “higher-ranking businesses appear to more frequently have images associated with their listings!” He was careful to state that this could simply be due to the fact that listings with images are always claimed listings, and they could be ranking higher for that fact alone. Correlation does not equal causation, after all. Smith uses a Bing search on “intellectual property attorneys Chicago, Il” as an example. The first listing past the ads is a box with a map and five options; when I clicked through, I noticed that the top two and the fifth ones included images.
As a potential customer, I think I’d be more inclined to take the next step with a business that includes an image. If users conduct a search on Bing Local (rather than a general web search), those images actually show up next to the relevant listings, drawing the eye and making you stand out. As a searcher, if I don’t know any of the businesses listed in my search, and distance isn’t a huge factor, I start looking for anything that catches my eye and makes it stand out. Including an image is one approach that can help attract eyeballs; there are others you can use as well.
Smith notes that Bing Local business profiles include a small red “open” sign icon, and he thinks it’s possible that “businesses might be a little more likely to rank better during times when they list themselves as being open, particularly in mobile search.” I haven’t seen this icon in the wild myself, but that could be because the businesses for which I’ve searched haven’t included their hours of operation. This might be an argument to include yours; that icon will surely catch a searcher’s eyes!
Other things will catch a searcher’s eyes as well. If you’re a restaurant, for example, you can include a menu. You can also integrate with OpenTable if you take reservations. This will enable a “reservations” link to appear on your profile page in Bing.
You can also add deals to your local listing. Smith notes that Bing seems to be picking up Groupon offers and adding them to local listings. They’re not the only ones showing up, either. In my local area, we receive Valpak mailings once a month that include coupons for local businesses; they’ve recently started doing online coupons as well. Ritter’s Ice Cream showed a link to one of these when I clicked on the option for “deals” under their Bing Local listing – of course, I searched for ice cream locally on Bing purely as research for this article! If you’d like a little more certainty that a link to deals will show up for your local listing, you can set something up through Bing Group Deals directly within the BBP interface.
If you want to be spotted as much as possible, check the categories under which your business is listed. Make sure they’re correct for your business, and add more that make sense. Smith also suggests that you add “Specialties,” as Bing seems to treat them like categories or subcategories. So if you’re a photographer, you may be able to add wedding photography as a specialty. (I haven’t had the chance to play with the interface myself, so you’ll need to experiment).
Smith recommends that you develop local citation sources to show up well, such as YP.com, Superpages.com, Yahoo! Local, Manta, Judy’s Book, and others. He believes that vertical directories may also work, so get yourself listed in one that’s appropriate to your business: FindLaw.com, Contractors.com, etc. I would further suggest, when possible, that you try to get rated and reviewed on sites such as Citysearch, TripAdvisor, Judy’s Book, and others; Bing clearly pulls from these sites. In my ice cream experiment, a star rating appeared below several businesses next to a link; when I clicked through, Bing showed me the reviews, with a note on who wrote them and where they appeared. In at least some cases, I could even click through to read the full review.
Of course, some of your customers might have already reviewed your business. Now that you can be found more easily in Bing Local, you may see more customers, more reviews, more business – and more profit. And you can get all this from a small investment of your time with Bing. Good luck!