According 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.
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).
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.
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.