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Get Thee To Thy Local Portal

Sharon Fling

Are you listed on your local portal? If you're a local business or have local business clients, what are you waiting for? But first of all, what the heck IS a local portal and how is it different from every other portal we've heard about?

"Portal" is one of those buzz words that gets bandied about a lot online. It's simply a website that acts as a doorway or guide to a world of information, such as Yahoo! or MSN.com.

The problem with these kinds of portals is, the "world" of information about any one topic can be overwhelming. Who wants to sort through thousands of results to find the few gems you're looking for?

That's where the specialty or niche portal comes in --specialized portals about a specific topic. These are also called vertical portals, or "vortals". Don't laugh, it's true, look it up in Google.

So, a local portal provides information and website links of interest to residents of a specific region or area. In other words, it's a virtual gateway to community members -- just the kind of people the local business owner wants to reach.

There are several types of local portals:

Broad network portals such as Yahoo! Local http://local.yahoo.com, CitySearch http://www.citysearch.com, MyCity http://www.mycity.com, and AreaGuides http://www.areaguides.net; these well-funded sites are slick, but are often viewed as "outsiders" and face increasing competition from local portals designed and run by local organizations.

Vertical portals (vortals) such as www.servicemagic.com (local services), www.MountainZone.com (outdoor sports enthusiast), www.Etera.com (gardening), and (ahem), www.geolocal.com (bringing "brick-and-mortar" business online).

Community portals such as http://www.sanjuanislander.com, http://wallowa.net, etc. Also included in this group are country portal sites, which provide links to local portals. Examples: www.uk-portals.com and www.localsites.ca You can see how the portal business is exploding.

While the broad network portals are rather expensive -- as much as $200/month or more -- vertical portals for your business niche will probably be more reasonable. As for community portals, there are plenty of reasons to get your business listed on every one you can find.

It's much easier to be found on a local portal than a regular search engine or directory. Better to be 1 of 5 listings returned for a keyword search than 1 of 50,000.

Many local portals are just getting started or still trying to reach critical mass so they can start charging for listings. Get in first and you may be able to get listed for cheap, or even free.

Many newspapers, broadcast stations, and Chambers of Commerce maintain local portals or city business guides. To find a chamber of commerce anywhere in the world, go to: www.chamberofcommerce.com

Also, do a search on your city, state/province and country name, plus one of these terms: business guide, city directory, or local portal. You're bound to find more than one for your region. Get into as many as possible -- you can never be listed on too many portals.

The people most likely to visit local portals are ... locals. You can't get much more targeted than that. Many analysts think that local portals are the future of the web, and will eventually turn out to be the most profitable sites of all. The unique content, personalization, and interactivity typically offered by local portals make them the perfect starting place for local consumers.

And the next step for local portals may be to offer even more useful content and services: high school and Little League scores, church bulletins, local government services, etc. When the web makes it easier for people to accomplish day-to-day activities, it will become an integrated part of daily life. If you want to be there when that happens, get thee to thy local portal...pronto.

About The Author:
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and creator of GeoLocal.com, the web's largest resource for using the Internet to promote small local business online. Visit www.geolocal.com and subscribe to GeoLocal's free Tip of the Week.


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