Have you heard? Local search marketing is all the rage. Last week, we unveiled 25 of the best blogs on the ‘net to help you learn what you need to know to succeed with your local SEO strategy. That’s great, you say, but where do I begin? What sites should I be using? Are there tools and apps that are must-haves for my local search marketing plan?

When have we ever let you down? Because some of you probably don’t know where to start, where you should focus your efforts, or how to even begin to narrow down the thousands of sites across the Web that publish local business listings, we thought we’d steer you in the right direction. So here it is: The most essential websites, tools and applications that you need to catapult your local SEO strategy to success.

First, why should you care?

  • 30 percent of search queries have a local focus.
  • Half (50 percent) of all mobile searches are local.
  • More than one-third (35 percent) of U.S. users use search to find local businesses.
  • 88 percent of users who conduct a local search on a mobile device will visit that business within 24 hours.

Gone are the days of using the Yellow Pages to find businesses in your area. When’s the last time you picked up a phone book? It’s much easier to hop on Google or Bing and type in your city name and a business category or business name to find what you’re looking for.

Local SEO is often more affordable when it comes to PPC costs. And, it’s easier to get first-page visibility in the local search results than in the general, organic results. If you’re not yet capitalizing on the power of local search to drive visitors to your website, the time to start is now.

How to Find Keywords for Your Local SEO Plan

  1. Google AdWords Keyword Tool – That’s right. The same tool you’re using to find keyword possibilities for your standard SEO strategy works just as well for local search.
  2. Google Trends – While Google Trends is designed to help you find out what’s trending on the web, it’s a great tool for finding local SEO keywords because you can view the results and trends for the past few years in a graph.
  3. Google Analytics – Check out the search phrases that have been leading visitors to your site. You might be surprised to find that there are already some local search modifiers that are being used to find you. Capitalize on them!
  4. Local Marketing Source Keyword Tool – Local Marketing Source offers a free-to-use keyword generator tool designed specifically for local search.
  5. 5 Minute Site – Another free tool to help you discover valuable local search terms. This one is pretty comprehensive, with the ability to remove specific cities from your search, opt to include state abbreviations and more.

Social Platforms Important for Local Search

Social media is an increasingly important component for local search marketing success. When you’re implementing your local SEO strategy, you want to create local business pages on as many social networks as you can. At a minimum, make sure you have a presence on:

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Foursquare
  5. Google+
  6. Yelp

Why do your social networks matter for local search? Because Google and other search engines are incorporating status updates in their search algorithms. Having a business page on the largest social networks can improve your visibility and help users find your business through search.

Websites and Apps to Create and Manage Local SEO Listings

There are hundreds of other websites to help you get the most from local search marketing. Here are just a few that can help you set the foundation and create your local SEO road map.

  1. GetListed.org – Not sure if you have a Google+ Local Profile or local business listing?  Enter your business name and zip code to find out where your business is listed on Google, Bing and other major search engines.
  2. LocalEze – Find out where your business is listed, manage your listings from within the Localeze platform and distribute your listings across the web.
  3. Yext – Monitor reviews, enhance your listings with photos and other media, instantly update info about your business and track your local search results with Yext.
  4. Whitespark – Try it free, or choose from multi-tiered service plans depending on the complexity of your local search needs. With Whitespark, you can discover and monitor local SEO citations, run a competitive analysis to see which citations your competitors have that you’re missing out on and much more.

What Now?

Great, you’re thinking. So you know where to go to find keywords, where you should have social business profiles and have some tools to find out where your local business listings are appearing across the web. You even have tools to help you manage and submit your listings to major search engines. But where exactly do all those local business profiles appear?

Whether you’re using an application to submit your business listings or you’re planning to do it manually, it’s nice to know where you should be showing up. HubSpot recently published a list of the 50 Business Directories for Local Marketing—while you’ll find a few familiar faces here, such as LinkedIn and Yelp, there are dozens of others that you should be paying attention to as well, such as CitySearch and of course the obvious—YellowPages.com.

Finally, there are dozens more websites in different niches and industries that will help boost your local SEO, such as Houzz.com for the home improvement industry and Active Rain for real estate pros. Because it would be impossible to list them all here, we’ve done something a little different. Here are the top ten gurus in local search and SEO you should be following on Twitter. Follow these folks and you’ll be sure to find out about all the latest local search tips, techniques and websites for just about any industry.

  1. @localSEOguide
  2. @mblumenthal
  3. @GooglePlaces
  4. @davidmihm
  5. @localhound
  6. @paulj
  7. @BIAKelsey
  8. @chriswalker
  9. @4LocalSearchNow
  10. @localsplash

What did we miss? What are your favorite tools for local SEO? Who do you follow on Twitter for the best local search marketing tips and news? Share your favorites with us in the comments. Otherwise, get localizing!