Category Archives: local search engine listings

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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.

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.

How to Get Better Reviews for Your Business (and Better Local SEO!)

business team excited about positive reviews and better local seoBetter online reviews are better for local SEO and better for business. Statistics prove the statement true; online reviews play an important role in building trust with potential customers. Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business.

Search engines are also rewarding businesses for excellent reviews. Review sites are an integral part of a comprehensive and effective local search engine optimization effort. Fortunately, getting reviews—specifically positive reviews—can be easily integrated into existing operations, though it does require a strategic approach and implementation. The effort also may require outsourcing for a complete, optimized online presence.

Select review listing sites relevant to your business.

The list of online review sites may vary slightly for every business. Businesses need to select local directories and review sites relevant to their industry and their audience. The list is long, but can include significant sites like Google My Business, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Manta. (Local SEO experts can assist with the process of selecting sites and planning a comprehensive local SEO strategy.)

The first site, Google My Business, should be on every business list and should include a complete profile. This guide from Search Engine Journal details the process to an optimized Google My Business profile. Once completed, the process for getting reviews that can complete the profile and build trust should be established.

Review business standard operating procedures for opportunities.

There are numerous opportunities for businesses to ask for reviews and deliver the service that generates positive feedback. Every interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to earn satisfied customers. Make staff members aware that they are part of the process, and that negative reviews can be left by customers at any time.

To elicit positive reviews, try to ask satisfied customers shortly after a good service delivery. This can be done by the salesperson who follows up, the staff member who delivered the service, or by a manager who contacts the customer to gauge the level of satisfaction. Customers typically respond to in-person requests. (A more in-depth list of ways to ask for reviews can be found in this post.) Once the opportunities are identified, assign the task to a specific staff position or party to ensure consistent requests for reviews are made. If the ask for reviews is made electronically, be careful of making the ask for a review on the review sites. Some review sites prohibit asking for reviews on the website.

Customers appreciate when the process to leave a review is simple, so take steps to make the process as easy and convenient as possible. If the request is made in person, send the link the customer’s e-mail after they have agreed. For businesses with an automated survey system, follow up survey responses with the link for a review. In the same way, include shortcuts to the company’s review sites in electronic communications, on the website, and on business social media sites.

Include review asks in training protocols.

The process for identifying and requesting reviews should be included in the procedure for training future staff members. For example, future sales staff should be trained on follow-up procedures that include the request for reviews. If the process is part of the registration process, train future staff on procedures for identifying satisfied customers and requesting reviews.

Another part of asking for reviews is responding. Companies should respond to every review and train the staff responsible on the correct ways to deliver excellent customer service to negative inquiries. Responses to negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service. If the resolution to the negative review is simple, respond publicly with a comment. For more in-depth matters, respond to the customer with private messages. If the matter is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, ask the customer if they would be willing to change their review.

2019 Online Search Trends Businesses Should Know (and Use)

ground on tablets searching for local businessesOnline consumer behaviors are always a concern for business owners. If they’re not, they should be.

A targeted marketing plan revolves around those behaviors. To reach customers, business owners should continuously be asking, “Where are our customers online? How can our business engage with them? What means are they using to find our business?”

In general terms, the list includes local search listings, social media, and review sites (read more about how customers find businesses here). The first tactic, local search engine listings, is one of the most significant and studies prove it. According to Google, more than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during an online search.

To get the full benefit of this information, smart business owners and managers (or their trusted marketing firm) not only understand the significance of search engines but apply the information to their marketing. Specifically, there are four recent internet search trends that should be on business’ radar and utilized in a comprehensive online marketing strategy.

Voice Search

According to Forbes, an average of one billion voice searches occur every month. That number is impressive, and demonstrates a growing internet search trend. Consumers are using their devices to find the answers to their problems. Voice searches make life easier for consumers, meaning the amount of voice searches are only going to rise. The one disclaimer follows the old adage about putting all one’s eggs in a basket. While businesses should adapt efforts to voice search, traditional search engine optimization tactics should still be utilized for maximum results.

The application: Businesses need to consider the enormity of voice search when producing online content. Online content doesn’t need to be oversimplified, but it should be written with relevant terms in the same way consumers speak. The major search engines recognize this rising search trend and factor voice-friendly content into rankings. This effort should be coordinated with efforts to improve local search engine optimization since, according to Google, nearly a third of all searches are location-based.

“Near me” Searches

The combination of the explosion of mobile device usage and voice search has resulted in an increase of “near me” searches. This category of internet search trends refers to any search relating to a location near the consumer, such as “near me” or “restaurants Madison WI.” The majority of these searches originate from mobile devices. Many of these local searches result in sales. Google says these consumers are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.

The application: Businesses need to invest in local search engine optimization tactics (as detailed in this post about ways to get businesses found in local searches). This effort includes a complete Google My Business profile and update listings on review sites and local directories. Of course, local SEO only goes as far as getting consumers to the business website. A comprehensive SEO effort should include an optimized and fast-loading website that converts consumers into customers.

Question and ‘How to’ Searches

Website content is an effort that search engines and consumers appreciate. The effort should start when building a website with optimized content and continue with a regular content marketing production calendar. Regular, high-quality website content is a factor in search engine rankings and should be an important part of a business marketing plan. Content should be produced to fit the business sales cycle and recent internet search trends. Recent Google articles have indicated that consumers are using the internet to find answers, making ‘how to’ and question searches a top priority for businesses producing quality content.

The application: Businesses need to develop a comprehensive marketing plan with a custom content marketing calendar. All content should be produced with a clear deadline, posted regularly, and be generated with the latest internet search trends in mind. If there is a lack of staffing or expertise, these efforts can be outsourced to a quality content marketing firm.

12 Awesome Stats that Prove Local SEO Pays Off

group of friends looking for information on smartphonesDigital marketing is like a speeding freight train. Along the way, digital marketing trends pop up and evolve; some disappear down a dead-end track, never to be seen or heard again (good-bye cloaking). Smart company owners and managers jump on board at key stops, putting the right trends to work and reaping the rewards of a strategic digital marketing plan.

Local search engine optimization, both on-site and off-site, is a digital marketing trend that’s here to stay. The reason behind the long-lasting nature of local SEO is that it’s based off real consumer behaviors.

Think about it. People look for answers to their problems online. Often, those answers are products and services. Sometimes those answers are information. All of this information can be found online, making online searches a key source of leads and sales for local businesses. Smart local business owners are investing in a solid local SEO strategy (more on how to kickstart a local SEO plan here) based on statistics that highlight key consumer behaviors.

Consumers are using local search to find businesses.

Key takeaway for businesses: Every effort (either in-house or by outsourced experts) should be made to get into local search listings, such as claiming listings on Google My Business, review sites, and local directories.

Mobile-friendly websites are important part of website optimization and customer conversions.

Key takeaway for businesses: Business websites need to be optimized for search engines and consumers. An optimized, fast, and mobile-friendly site is not optional for any business who wants to get higher search engine listings and convert visitors into sales.

Positive online reviews play a key part in customers’ buying decisions and search engine rankings.

Key takeaway for businesses: Online review sites play an important role in earning customer trust and a solid local SEO effort. Businesses need to take steps to claim listings on review sites and create a comprehensive in-house strategy of asking for reviews from satisfied customers.

How to Get Your Business Found on Local Searches

woman on smartphone looking for local businessAccording to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search” (Search Engine Watch). The statistics demonstrate an ever-growing consumer trend. Potential customers are searching for products and services online. Local businesses are showing up in the search results—or are they?

Those businesses that aren’t showing up in local searches are missing out on a HUGE opportunity. Search Engine Watch went on to note, “Google says these people are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.That statistic is even more mind-numbing because Google processes more than 2 trillion internet searches per year.

Fortunately, a lost opportunity doesn’t have to remain that way. Local businesses can step up their local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and get included in local search listings. In many ways, local SEO is easier now for local businesses than in the past when national brands dominated, however it does take a concerted effort. Here’s what local businesses need to know AND the local SEO steps that turn a missed opportunity into more sales.

Google My Business Profile

Google My Business is used by the search engine giant as an online business directory. Google My Business profiles, especially those confirmed and updated, show up on maps and search results. Specifically, Google My Business listings show up when online viewers search for local products and services. The best part of Google My Business is that claiming a business profile free. There is only caveat; according to their policy, business profiles can only be claimed by the business owner.

How to get started: Follow the process to claim the business’ Google My Business listing; there is a short waiting period involved because Google needs to send a postcard to the business address. Completely fill out as much information as possible, including the address, business service and product information, and hours. Use this article from Search Engine Journal as a guide, or contact experts experienced in optimizing Google my Business listing and knowledgeable in local search engine optimization.

Review Sites

Online reviews are a valuable asset for businesses. Reviews on popular websites like Yelp, Manta, and the Better Business Bureau and social media play a significant role in building customer trust. These sites are also likely to come up during searches, such as when potential customers are researching local businesses. It’s important to note that in a business’ quest for positive reviews, there is some risk involved. Along with positive reviews, customers may also leave negative reviews. When and if this happens, contact a firm with automated software for monitoring websites and follow these steps for responding to negative comments. Negative reviews are actually an opportunity for businesses to showcase their prompt and excellent customer services.

How to get started: Obtaining positive reviews is a two-part effort. Visit popular websites and claim the business listing (or contact an experienced marketing firm to tackle the task). Pay attention to the fine print; some of these websites prohibit asking for reviews on the website. However, companies can develop a multi-channel strategy for asking for reviews. For example, in-person staff can be trained to ask for online reviews. Asks can also be included in customer e-mails and other marketing materials (this list of ideas to incorporate into current operating procedures can help).

Local Directories

Think of local directories as a modern-day phone book. Many of these online phone books are used by online viewers to find local businesses who provide products and services. Search engines, noting this consumer trend, include these online phone books in search results, making them a high priority for businesses wanting to get found in local searches.

How to get started: Don’t take a haphazard approach to listings on local directories; complete and accurate listings are vital for success. Entrust the effort to the experts or research local directories (this article from Search Engine Journal can help). Compile a list of directories that are relevant and valuable to the business, then determine if the business is listed on the sites. If there is no listing, follow directions for completing a business listing.

Website Optimization

A website is the only place where a business can truly tell their story, making it a valuable marketing tool. Businesses should optimize their website during the building process and regularly throughout the life of the website. During website building, the website should be structured for optimal speed and search engines. For local businesses, pages should be added that use local optimization technology. The technology ensures that the website is listed in organic search rankings initiated by online users around a specific location (or locations).

Websites should also be mobile-friendly; this is not an option. Search engines value mobile-friendly websites and regularly added content, both of which are signals that determine the order of listings on search engine results pages. The latter can be achieved through strategic and high-quality content marketing.

How to get started: When building a website, business owners should employ staff or firms knowledgeable in website optimization. For continual optimization, high-quality, optimized content should be added on a regular basis. (Use these tips to produce relevant, quality content.) An experienced staff member can be tasked with compiling a marketing calendar for content—and meeting deadlines—or the task can be outsourced to an experienced content marketing firm.