The Google Local Business Center is a tool that enables business owners to more effectively connect with customers searching on Google for information about local business. It puts business owners in control of their business listings and helps them to provide information about their businesses that is authoritative, helpful, and, timely.The Local Business Center (LBC) is even useful for businesses that do not have Websites as Google’s LBC makes it possible for them to use the local business listing as their presence on the Web.Signing up for an account with the LBC – and adding or claiming your local business listing – should be a top priority for your business for five key reasons:1- Your Customers and Competitors’ Customers Search Google to find Local BusinessesThe Google Local Business search engine – which you can find at either local.Google.com or maps.Google.com (maps is, by far, the more popular of the two) – gets an average of more than 50 million unique visitors every month.That’s a lot of people searching every month for, among other things, local businesses to buy from.And although it’s advisable to sign up for local business accounts at Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines, a Google Local Business account should be your immediate priority because Google is the runaway leader in local business search market share, with more than double the local business search market share of maps.yahoo.com, maps.bing.com, and yellow.pages.com combined.Please note that all links, images and videos can be found on the author’s Website – the address for which appears in the Resource Box of this article.Of course, in spite of Google’s best efforts to promote the LBC – and the utilization of maps.Google.com – there are many millions of people who still use the google.com Website, even when searching for local business information. And, as you’ll learn in the next section, that gives local businesses an opportunity to capture some space at the top of Google’s “traditional” Web search results.2- A Google Local Business Listing Can Take You to the Top of GoogleGoogle’s launch of universal search in May 2007 meant that content from Google Images, Google Local/Maps, Google Video, and so forth could be integrated into its “traditional” Web search results pages.This means that Google can – and often does – serve up local business listings as part of the Web search results even if location is not specified (it appears that Google’s search algorithm is able to detect “local intent”).It’s increasingly common to find Google local business listings on the first page of search results – often at the top – as the “Google Local Business Seven-Pack” (a reference, obviously, to the fact that Google displays the top seven local business search results in a cluster of seven).Alternatively, Google may display a search query box at the top of the search results page that asks searchers: Looking for local results for keyword?Either way, a Google Local Business listing can put a business on the fast-track to a coveted position at the top of Google’s search results that may have been impossible to capture otherwise.3 – People Who Search Google for Local Businesses Take ActionA Google-sponsored, comScore.com study that looked at the importance of search in influencing offline buying behaviour found that 25% of searchers purchased an item directly related to their search queries, and that, of those buyers, 37% completed their purchases online while an even greater 63% completed their purchases offline following their search activity.The study results underscore the fact that a Google Local Business listing is not only effective at driving traffic but, more importantly, it is effective at driving traffic that converts.4 – The Advent of Google Local Search for MobileAs they continue to become more sophisticated and the browsing experience continues to improve, access to the Internet via mobile phones will continue to rise. In fact, Gartner predicts that access to the Internet via mobile devices will overtake PCs by 2013.Google has clearly understood for a long time the synergy between local search and the mobile Web, as some key developments suggest:· Google’s July 2005 acquisition of Android Inc, a manufacturer of software for mobile phones (which started triggered speculation that Google was looking to dive into the mobile phone market; the acquisition also eventually led to the development of the Android mobile operating system)· Google’s September 2009 launch of an improved Local Search for Mobile allows users to, among other things, “star” search results on their PCs and have them automatically appear on their mobile phones; it also allows users to search by browsing local business categories without typing (the video on the author’s Website offers a brief introduction to the functionality of Google Local Search for Mobile)· Google’s November 2009 $750 million acquisition of mobile advertising company AdMob (on the heels of a five-fold increase in mobile search traffic over the previous two years)· Google’s December 2009 distribution of Favourite Places decals to more 100,000 of the most sought-out and searched US businesses on Google.com and maps.Google.com (see the video on the author’s Website for details on Favourite Places)· Google’s January 2010 entry into the mobile phone market that finally ended years of speculation about Google’s plans for the mobile phone marketNaturally, Google will continue to innovate in both the local search space and in the mobile web search space. The key takeaway is that the businesses that get on board early will be the ones to reap the greatest rewards. And it all takes to get on board is to visit the Google LBC and claim or add your local business listing.5 – The Google LBC is Easy to Use and It’s FreeIf you’ve already got a Google account, you can simply sign in to the Google LBC and get started right away. If you don’t have a Google account, all you have to do is sign up for one (you can sign up on the LBC sign-in page).The video on the author’s Website offers a brief walk through of the easy process for signing into the Google LBC and claiming (or adding) your local business listing.As Google continues to promote local search, usage of local search by consumers will only increase. And considering that consumers who employ local search are buyers, don’t you think that you should sign up for Google’s LBC and get your local listing working for your business today?