Category Archives: local online searches

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.

6 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Local SEO

customers looking at smartphone for local businessLocal businesses need local SEO. This isn’t an overstatement or an opinion. When a company’s local SEO efforts are sub-par, the company misses out on valuable opportunities to gain website traffic, leads, and sales. Fortunately, the effort doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it does need to be comprehensive and start with a few simple steps.

Confirm your Google My Business listing.

Think of Google My Business as a giant online directory filled with local business listings. When customers search for local businesses (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “antiques near me,” “furnace repair near me”), the search engine giant pulls the most relevant and local listings.

The process makes claiming a business’ Google My Business listing a top priority for companies wanting to improve their local SEO. The claiming process is free, but does need to be confirmed by a postcard sent to the business address. For optimal results, take the process a step further by optimizing the GMB listing or outsource the task of creating and optimizing to trusted marketing professionals.

Find more opportunities to ask for online reviews.

Online reviews are a key part of a local SEO strategy that gets results. Online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business are incredibly relevant to customer searches about companies, making reviews a valuable asset for local companies.

Most customers won’t leave a review unless asked—and companies have numerous opportunities to do so. The process of asking for reviews (and improving local SEO) starts with a complete evaluation of company standard operating procedures. Companies can ask for reviews via:

  • Electronic communications (i.e. company promotional emails, sales professional emails to clients, follow-up emails after receiving product or service, etc.)
  • In-person asks (i.e. cashier during check-out process, sales professional in follow-up meeting, technician after service is completed, etc.)
  • Paper ask (i.e. postcard with information to leave review with package, sales professional thank you note, etc.)

Monitor online reviews.

Asking for online reviews comes with a risk. This risk can be minimized by only asking customers that are satisfied, but the truth is that some customers leave negative reviews. While finding a negative review is never pleasant, negative reviews come with an opportunity. The key word here is “find.” Companies cannot seize on the opportunity to showcase their excellent customer service until they are aware of the review.

Negative reviews can be located with diligent online monitoring or via automated software (contact a marketing company for an automated monitoring option). The latter option makes companies aware of every review so they can respond (to both negative and positive reviews). When the review is negative, companies should respond promptly without getting defensive. Instead, companies need to acknowledge the issue and offer to discuss the matter privately (through electronic messages).

A company employee should be designated to answer and resolve the matter (if possible) to eliminate the chance of the inquiry falling through the cracks. This employee should be chosen carefully and should be trained to respond using the best customer services practices. If the customer’s issue is fully resolved to their satisfaction, company employees can ask for the customer to remove or revise their review.

Embrace the latest online search trends.

The way people find products and services online is continually evolving. Companies wanting to get online customers need to utilize this information when optimizing their online presence. Online consumers are using voice search and mobile devices for their searches. More than a million voice searches are done every month, according to this Forbes article. The amount of searches on mobile devices surpassed searches done on desktop devices years ago.

This information is invaluable for businesses, but only if used correctly. Companies should construct websites optimized for long-tail keywords, with a structure built for search engines, and with optimized media (video and images). These basics are only part of developing a website that shows up in online searches. A marketing professional can help fill in the gaps and ensure that every website element is optimized for the latest search trends.

Make it clear online the business is local (or has locations).

One of the most important aspects of local SEO is to make it incredibly obvious that the business is local or has multiple locations—without compromising the customer experience. The effort should start on a website with the location clearly spelled out on the Contact Us page, multiple location pages (if the business has more than one location), and on other optimized website pages. In addition to a clear location, businesses can also benefit from localized content and local links.

This effort comes with an incredible attention to detail. Companies should take extreme care to ensure that the name, address, and phone number is exact on the website and any other online listings. For example, address road should be written as ‘Road’ or ‘Rd.’ in all listings.

List the business in local online business directories.

Local online business directories are a powerful—and strategic—local SEO tool. The first step is to research local business directories and select the right “online phone books” relevant to the company. This comprehensive list of online directories is an excellent start (and can be used by a company or as part of an outsourced local SEO campaign). When filling in the listings, make sure that every name, address, and phone number are exactly the same. Consistency is key; all listings should include the same suite number and label (‘Ste.’ Or ‘Suite).

(Easy) Local SEO Checklist

customer on tablet and smartphone using local seoMarketing a business online for local customers is hard. Marketing a business online for local customers is easy. A business can view marketing either way, especially when sifting through information about getting a business found in local searches. The effort is definitely worthwhile; the statistics about local search certainly prove that local SEO pays off.

Marketing a business online is not a one-time effort. It’s an on-going effort that requires regular effort and expertise. This checklist breaks down the effort into a checklist that can get a business started managing their local marketing—and getting results.

Google My Business Profile

___ Search for any pre-existing Google My Business listings

___ Claim Google My Business listing

___ Add as much information to the GMB listing as possible, including service area and hours

___ Include photos and brand logos

___ Use the code listed on the postcard to verify the GMB listing

___ Keep business hours updated

___ Respond to customer reviews

Quick tip: Google tends to favor listings that are relevant to users’ searches. Make sure the business listing is as complete as possible to ensure that the listing is relevant to potential searches.

Review Sites

___ Strategically select review sites that are pertinent to the business (choose from this list of review sites from Search Engine Journal)

___ Claim business listing on review sites

___ Develop a strategy for eliciting positive reviews

___ Review customer interactions for chances to ask for reviews

___ Add an ask for reviews to customer follow-up emails

___ Include ask for reviews to staff training

___ Add link to review sites to all promotional materials

___ Use review monitoring software to monitor sites for reviews

___ Develop protocol for responding to negative reviews (or outsource to professionals with experience)

Quick tip: If possible, ask satisfied customers for reviews (use this list of ways to ask for business reviews). Be careful about asking for reviews on review sites, which may be prohibited by the site.

Local Directories

___ Compile a list of directories that are relevant and valuable to the business (Use this list from Search Engine Journal as a resource)

___ Search directories to see if there is an existing listing

___ Correct incorrect information on existing directories

___ Completely fill in existing and new listings on local directories

Quick tip: Make sure that the information, tone, and visual aspects of the listings are consistent.

Website Optimization

___ Build a website with structure designed for search engines (i.e. simple and optimized URLs, schema markups, speed, etc.)

___ Make sure the website is mobile-friendly

___ Write optimized content for the target audience (and search engines)

___ Select and optimize website images

___ Create an easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate website

___ Optimize site navigation

___ Use testimonials (like from social media) on the website to build trust

___ Request website crawl to get website indexed

___ Use website traffic monitoring tools to gauge traffic

___ Research topics and keywords to generate high-quality, optimized content

___ Add high-quality, optimized content to the website regularly

___ Utilize local website optimization for reaching local customers

___ Monitor rankings and traffic and address any traffic drops or ranking issues

Quick tip: Outsource parts of the process for a comprehensive online marketing strategy that gets results and follows website trends.

6 Ways to Get Your Local Business Found Online

come in we are open sign hanging on a window door outside a local business trying to drive online customers inDriving traffic to your local business is a marketing animal all its own.  It’s true: If you’re a brick-and-mortar business that needs customers to walk in the door, or contact you for a quote, the nuts and bolts of your online marketing plan should be geared differently than an e-commerce website; after all, you are trying to drive people to your door—literally.

Website Optimization

If you look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”  When applying this to getting your business found online, optimization is the process of making your website as friendly for search engines as possible so you get to the top of search engine results.

An optimized website starts with a well-built website, structured for search engines.  Ensure that your website has an easy-to-navigate menu system and adequate loading speed, both for optimal user experience and search engine credit.  The next step is adding optimized content, written for search engines and customers.  Make sure your contact information is clearly included on your website for customers and search engines to use.  Use compelling images on your website optimized for search engines and to get customers’ attention.  If this all sounds good, but you have no idea where to start, entrust your website creation to a good web design business.

SEO Technology

Search engine optimization (SEO) technology, provided by a reputable SEO firm, is one of the most effective online marketing tools for businesses looking to attract local customers. One of our clients, a local print company, was positioned at the top of search engines just a week after utilizing our SEO technology. Their results were localized, with their company showing up in cities and towns search results within 30 miles of their location, including a major metropolitan area. Better search engine results have meant more digital exposure for their business, and stronger opportunity for online conversions.

Mobile Marketing

The amount of mobile devices is steadily increasing (and isn’t going to slow down any time soon), and it’s time for every business to take notice (search engines do).  No matter what the demographic of your targeted audience, build a website that is mobile-friendly with an easy-to-read format and navigation system.  Since your aim is to drive customers to your store, make it easy for customers to call, email, or find your address on your mobile site.

Social Media

Social media has four key advantages for any business trying to get customers to the door:

  • A business’ social media page is often listed in search engine results;
  • A solid social media page gets your audience’s attention and gets them in the door with specials, examples of your work, reviews, and information (without overselling);
  • A social media page full of positive reviews can reinforce your potential customers’ review of you.
  • Social media gives your customers an easy and convenient way to start a conversation with you or contact you.

To ensure that your social media site is geared toward driving customers to you or your website, create a complete social media profile with your website address and contact information.  Respond to their messages and inquiries promptly.  Don’t delete negative comments or questions; instead turn it into an opportunity to showcase your stellar customer service skills. To learn more about creating a solid social media page, use these social media tips to get started.

Review sites

Use common internet review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to your advantage.  Fill out a complete profile on top review sites and ask your customers to post feedback after their experience with your company.  If you have multiple locations, you may have to create numerous profiles.

Content Marketing

Search engines look for fresh, updated website pages with relevant content.  Customers search for entertainment and answers to their questions.  Successful content marketing fulfills both. One of the most effective content marketing tools is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless.  A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. The latter term means you add content to the blog on a consistent basis—without gaps in posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business—and get you found online and on a road map.