Monthly Archives: August 2019

magnifying glass on search engine rankings in Google

Local Businesses: How to Rock Rankings in Google

How do local businesses get customers to (and through) the door? Driving online and foot traffic is (or should be) the bread-and-butter of every local business marketing strategy. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including (but not limited to) email lists, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

The last item isn’t as tangible as sending out regular emails to customers or posting to social media, but it’s one of the most important ways to drive customers to your business. SEO is the process of getting to the top of search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases. For some businesses, this can be phrases like, “school backpacks for preschoolers” or “backyard grills.”

For local brick-and-mortar businesses, the focus on SEO results needs to be far more specific. After all, a person searching for flooring in Wisconsin isn’t going to contact a business in Ohio. For businesses with a specific target area (around their business or business location), local SEO is one of the top ways to ensure that local businesses are showing up in online user’s searches.

Statistics from Google, the most popular internet search engine, prove this marketing tactic to be successful:

Those statistics are based off of real online behaviors. When a person is looking for a product or service, they are going online to research products and businesses that provide the specific product or business. This could be an intensive process or an impulsive search online. Some of the research is done through voice search or typed-in keywords, phrases, and questions.

If a local business wants to be found in these searches, the business name and information needs to show up in search results. This can be in the form of tips and information, business-specific information, or lists of local businesses that provide a product or service (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “djs near me,” etc.)  There are numerous ways business can show up in searches; this list is just the start of a business’ targeted local SEO efforts (for more technical local SEO, contact local SEO experts).

Claim a Google My Business listing.

Online visitors need businesses that provide products and services. They look for them online, either by typing in or asking questions. An article on Forbes estimated that an average of one billion voice searches occur every month.

In a Google searches, the businesses listed as answers in those searches are often pulled from Google My Business (GMB). GMB is an online directory of local businesses.

To be included in GMB, business can claim a free GMB listing. To verify the listing, businesses need to enter a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add strategic content to your website.

High-quality, optimized content is a huge asset in local SEO. The content can answer questions or provide information relevant to searches about the product or service. Either way, the content must bring some value to the reader.

Years ago, this content would have to be 300 words and only text to be high in the rankings in Google. As search engines have evolved and the sheer amount of content has multiplied (exponentially), the stakes for content has skyrocketed.

Modern content needs to be optimized with keywords and topics relevant to online searches. This does NOT mean repeating keywords over and over, which is called “keyword stuffing” and is penalized by search engines. To be clear, the content not only needs to be optimized for search engines but also for the target audience. (Optimized content can be outsourced to professionals to get regular content that gets results.)

All content should contain images optimized for higher rankings in Google. These images should have relevant alt text and ideally would be a video that provides more value for the reader. While these images should be clear, they should not slow down page loading speed. Page loading speed is another Google ranking factor.

According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.

Claim directory and review site listings.

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). For this reason, business listings on review sites and online directories are a common result on search engine results pages (generated after a search).

Businesses should compile a list of online review sites and web directories relevant to their industry and claim listings on those sites. Every listing should have consistent information—even down to the abbreviations. The suite should be “Ste.” on every site, the same for “Rd.” and “Ave.”   

These sites also play an integral part in building trust with potential customers. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business. To earn those positive reviews, businesses should provide excellent customer service and make asking for reviews a standard part of the process. Every staff member should be trained to provide an excellent experience and ask satisfied customers for a positive review.

To make the process easy for the customer, businesses should look for opportunities to ask for reviews. This could include a link included in a follow-up email, a postcard included in a package, or an in-person ask from a salesman or technician.

Build a website with an optimized structure.

An optimized website is an integral part of every business’ SEO toolbox. To get high rankings on Googles, businesses must structure their website for search engines. In addition, an optimized website must load quickly, contain relevant keywords, never have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions, and contain no broken links.

Astoundingly, almost three-quarters of all Americans have a smartphone. The growing amount of smartphones should be a key part of every company’s marketing strategy. According to Google, almost half of all mobile users are frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. This trend is reflected by Google, which include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

customers shopping for products found online

Top Local Marketing Tactics that Earn Your Business (More) Sales

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get more local customers is online. This isn’t a misprint; the local customers down the street from the business or the customer driving around doing errands is on their computer and smartphone right now looking for information (mobile usage statistics show the latter to be especially true).

With that being stated, don’t throw away those postcards or signs just yet. After all, local marketing is the process of using tactics to reach local customers around the business. Rather, businesses should integrate traditional marketing tactics with online strategies that drive customers into the business in-person or via phone or message. Think of the process as connecting with a person who is walking by on their phone and doesn’t look up.

Effective local marketing campaigns target many potential customers on their phones and computers and convert those visitors into customers. The key word “effective” comes with a marketing plan that integrates tactics into a seamless series of strategic online and in-person interactions with potential customers. While all that sounds like a mouthful, it basically revolves around a list of social media posts, e-mails, and other tactics that reach potential customers.

Those communications should be focused on driving local people to the business location, website, or social media messages. To be effective, most businesses should use all or most of the one-time or ongoing tactics listed below; the exact list of tactics included in the marketing plan that gets results is different for every business.

Be part of the community on social media.

If a business wants to be seen as local, the business needs to show they are local. This tactic is a great way to build awareness and loyalty within the community. Businesses can sponsor local events, host events, and promote local causes and events on social media. One note: this is an effective tactic IF the business chooses the social media site (or sites) that has users from the local community and in the business’ targeted demographic.

This effort is not just about showcasing what the business is doing. It’s also about sharing news about community events (such as holiday events) and publicizing local causes. In addition to information and company promotions, businesses should regularly share photos and videos of company volunteering days, company-sponsored events that benefit a local cause, and posts from local organizations that the business endorses. These social media efforts need to be regular to be effective; if the business cannot maintain a regular schedule of relevant posts, the effort can be outsourced for best results.

Completely fill out the Google My Business listing.

Google My Business (GMB) is an online directory that the search engine uses to answer online visitors’ questions. GMB listings show up when visitors ask to see “flooring companies near me” or “coffee shops near me.”

To show up in those search listings, businesses should claim their Google My Business listing. Claiming the listing is free, but it does require entering a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add the business information (exact information) to online review sites and directories.

Accurate information on online review sites and directories is an important part of showing up in online searches. When checking and entering information, businesses need to make sure that the listings are the same on every suite. Even road and suite abbreviations should be consistent.

When choosing online review sites and directories, businesses should start with popular sites like Yelp and Manta. Depending on the industry, businesses may want to consider listings on other sites as well.

Start asking for reviews.

According to a recent report, more than three-quarters consumers report that they research businesses before purchasing. An easy way to build trust with online visitors is to have a review or social media site full of positive reviews. The best way to get those reviews is to ask.

Businesses staff can ask customers during almost every interaction, such as at the checkout or in a follow-up communication. Signage and marketing postcards placed in packages and bags can also be an easy way to request a product or service review (a full list of ways to ask for reviews can be found here). To make the review process easier for customers, salesman and managers can also send follow-up emails with satisfied customers with links to review sites.

Build an e-mail list.

E-mails are a form of marketing with a huge return-on-investment. However, email marketing is not effective without a list of recipients interested in the product or service.

There are several ways to ask for e-mail addresses, both in-person and electronically. Salesman and checkout staff can ask customers if they would like to provide an e-mail address during the sales process or in follow-up communications. Automated e-mails sent after a completed transaction can provide a link where customers can sign up to receive electronic communications. On websites and on social media, businesses can ask customers if they would like to opt-in to their e-mail list. These ideas are just a few of many ways to build an e-mail list; there also a few tactics to avoid so customers are not driven away with unwanted e-mails.

Once a solid e-mail list is built, the “trick” that gets results is to draft an e-mail with information that the recipients want to read. The subject should get the recipients’ attention and make them want to read the contents. Businesses should include strategic call-to-actions (i.e. “for more information,” “click here for…,” etc.) that make it easy for recipients to interact and with the business. Every e-mail should include links to the website and social media sites.