Bing’s local search tools and features don’t get a lot of airplay compared to Google, but that could – and should — change after today’s launch of an entirely new local listings tool for business owners. It’s called the Bing Business Portal and it has some features that should make Google Places green with envy.
The first thing to know is that it replaces Bing’s old Local Listings Center. The new URL for the business portal is www.bing.com/businessportal. On first visit, you’ll be able to either A) create a new Bing business listing, or B) manage your existing listing.
How to Add a New Bing Business Portal Listing
Step 1: Basic Business Info
The process for creating and claiming a new business listing is fairly standard, but there are a few unique things to know.
The form begins with the standard Name, Category, Address, Phone, and basic contact info. Bing’s category selection doesn’t seem as fully realized as Google’s right now.
Down near the bottom, though, are fields for your Facebook and/or Twitter profiles. I love this. I argued more than a year ago that Google should add this to Place Pages; they haven’t.
The Bing form also has a special field at the bottom for a company logo, which should not be confused with photo uploads — those are separate. On the right side, Bing also lets business owners list additional phone and/or email addresses for specific purposes or departments.
Step 2: Business Specialties
Here’s where it gets really cool. After choosing your category, you can also choose several business specialties. It’s similar to choosing multiple categories in Google Places. But Bing includes a set of sliders where the business owner can indicate which specialties are most important.
The sliders will always add up to 100%; as you make one specialty more important, the others become less important. This is a brilliant idea and something that many small biz owners will appreciate.
Step 3: Free Mobile Website
More uncharted territory here: Bing is offering free mobile websites as part of the Business Portal. It includes a QR code that small biz owners can use in their advertising.
As you can see, the form talks about “products,” but I was able to add services like “SEO Consulting / $250 per hour” to my test listing. Restaurant owners can use this to build out a mobile menu with prices. It seems pretty flexible. The website includes three “tabs” — your products, a “call” button, and an “address” button. There’s even a cool preview tool that lets you see what it’ll look like. (The middle section is blank because I never uploaded a logo.)
Step 4: Photos
Even though you may have already uploaded a company logo, there’s a separate step for attaching up to nine photos with your Bing local listing.
Step 5: More Business Details
This is where you write a business description (which, by the way, seems to allow for a lot of text), indicate the hours that you’re open for business, position your marker correctly on the map and more.
Step 6: Verify Your Listing
There’s a help graphic that lists three verification types: phone, email and snail mail. But the Bing Business Portal FAQs only say that phone and snail mail are options. (As I was setting up this test listing, the only option given to me was “Verify By Mail” — I don’t know why.)
If Bing’s claims are true, verification should be faster than with Google. If you choose snail mail, Bing says a letter should arrive at your address within 3-4 business days. It’ll include a PIN number to enter into the Business Portal to complete verification. I’m guessing that phone verification is immediate, as it’s been with the old Local Listings Center.
Deals, Downloads and Delegation
More cool features:
With a verified listing, the QR code is available for download at any time via the Business Portal. There’s also a full Window Sticker with your company logo and the QR code that can be downloaded (and printed).
Small business owners can create several different types of deals right in the Bing Business Portal — from free offers to a percentage off or a dollar amount discount. Deals can be offered in a limited time range, and they can either be printable coupons or mobile deals that customers collect by using their phone.
The deal editor lets you see your coupon or mobile deal as you make it. Daily deals can be published to your Bing business listing and also to Facebook – a nice touch. And businesses offering deals will be highlighted on Bing.com search results. Bing says deals should be published within 48 hours after they’re made.
This last feature is a welcome one for us search marketers, and something that Google still doesn’t offer. Business owners can invite others (like their local search consultant) to have access to the Business Portal. There are extra controls, too, like allowing the invited user to have content editing power or the ability to add even more users.
The Bing Business Portal is a big step in the right direction for Bing and local search. There are some features that Google Places offers — such as setting a service area or (very basic) usage data — that Bing isn’t providing right now. But there are several others that Bing is offering exclusively or just doing better than Google, like mobile website creation, the focus on deals, and the ability to authorize additional users.
Bing says the Business Portal is a beta product, but it’s off to a pretty solid start already. In many ways, it’s already better than Google Places. Now if only Bing had the traffic that Google can offer, right? (Well, they are making progress.)