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Ditching the Toll-Free Number for Local SEO

May 12th, 2009 | | Local SEO

Toll-Free numbers have been a boon for marketing agencies for years.  They are cheap, trackable and highly tantalizing for customers to use.  However, in the realm of Local SEO, making toll-free numbers available on your site may hinder your positioning.

Local SEO is for Locals

Great pains are made for Search Engines to keep their content relevant for searchers and keep spammers and junk sites out of the search results.  Whereas the Search Engines had been about worldwide/nationwide results, the last few years has seen a growth in using results based around the searcher’s location.  This has been a great opportunity for local businesses to compete against larger nationwide chains with strong branding.  If most of your benefits come from organic or ppc results, don’t strive for Local SEO.

Pumping Up the Unique Characteristics of Local Businesses

Local businesses have had to scrape by on a their meager marketing budgets to compete against the big box store that erected a massive temple of commerce across the street.  The websites of these big boxers are usually the shopping portals that will make sure any product is available online or offline.  But one thing they lack is community uniqueness and it can be as simple as a phone number.

Toll-Free Will Cost You More

Getting listed in those map results is a third arena for seo.  The first being organic, the second being sponsored ads, the third being this annoying map that seems difficult to rank high inside.  The map results algorithm has changed over time to include different things for measuring.  The map results for google use to be based solely on the location of the city center or zip code you typed in with the desired search term.  Now, it includes things such as reviews, content, in-bound links and phone numbers to weigh its importace.  The elements that seem more important will take more testing to figure out but a local phone number carries enough weight to consider. A unique local number carries a lot of weight considering the area code is a “free” call for people in that area code.  It’s free to them and no one else.

Name It and Claim It

If you own a business with several locations, then you need to claim your business listing on Google and Yahoo with unique numbers for each business.  If you feel that you need toll-free numbers for tracking, consider Internet Phone providers, like Nuvox, they can provide blocks of local numbers for you in your area code to track your efforts.  Use these numbers to track the local yellow page directories.

Use What Works, Drop What Doesn’t

Since this is a blog, I will share unique information about yellow page directories.  Using an extra local phone number for different yellow page ads will give you clear information on which phone books to advertise in, if any at all.  After one year, we found that using Yellow Book actually had a tremendous amount of traffic for one client.  This was a surprise and kept us from dropping it.  Next year we will see how the other phone books perform and have a heart-to-heart with each yellow page sales rep.  It’s harder to prove anything with only one number, toll-free or local.

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