Category Archives: local seo

young woman searching for local businesses with good local SEO

6 BIG Local SEO Mistakes that Stand in the Way of Top Rankings

Believing a business can’t do anything to get to the top of local search engine listings may be the biggest local SEO mistake, but it’s definitely not the only misstep a local business can make. In reality, it’s just the start of a list of reasons why local businesses aren’t showing up in customer searches for local business service and products.

Not optimizing Google My Business

Google My Business is a free way to boost local SEO. It does come with some best-practices for optimization that get businesses to the top of local listings.

The first step is to claim the business listing, which is easily done with a postcard. Businesses with multiple locations should establish a listing for each site or store. The listing should be optimized with images, accurate name, address, and phone number (NAP), and business hours. This local SEO is on-going; businesses should continue to update the information and add pictures regularly. If this list seems to be cumbersome, it’s okay to entrust the process to local SEO pros.

Creating false Google My Business locations

This “more is better” black-hat practice can actually backfire and result in penalties that sabotage a business’ listings. In practice, the rationale behind this scammy local SEO mistake makes sense; some businesses believe that if they want to get found in every community around them, they need a location in that town or city. However, if Google finds the false listing (which they do), the result is a penalty that impacts all the business’ locations—and their position in local search engine results.

Not including an ask for reviews in interactions and marketing

Reviews are a big deal in local SEO. Listings on third-party review sites show up in local search engine results and play in part in consumer behavior. A study in Search Engine Land stated that almost 7 out of 10 consumers reported that positive reviews played a part in their buying decision.

Because the role of reviews in local SEO and sales, it’s in every local business’ best interest to include ask for reviews in their customer interactions and business communications. There are quite a few opportunities that businesses often miss: in follow-up e-mails after a sale, conversations with customers after a service is completed, in meetings with long-time customers. (A full list of ways to ask customers for reviews can be found in this local SEO post.) Every business should review their procedures and training practices to ensure that an ask for a review is a standard part of doing business.

Forgetting to monitor review sites

Positive reviews are a business goal, but not one that is achieved without some monitoring. Businesses should regularly monitor review sites and social media to try and resolve customer issues. This practice can turn a negative review into a positive review.

When businesses do find a negative review, they should ask the customer to communicate privately so they can discuss the details and resolve the issue. Though a business should sound professional, the tone of the communications should be empathetic and human.

Ignoring NAP

Name, address, and place is one of the top factors in the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors, which is why ignoring NAP in local SEO is a bad idea. Instead, businesses should make sure that the business’ NAP is the same in every citation on review sites, Google My Business, social media, and event listings. Every listing should have the same abbreviations (i.e. Ste. versus Suite) and phone number. Businesses with multiple locations should have separate phone numbers for each location.

Creating a slow website that isn’t mobile-friendly

Website search engine optimization is a major part of the search experience, making it a local SEO mistake to ignore it. Mobile-friendly sites rank higher in search engines, and make customers more willing to choose a business. A significant percentage of visitors won’t choose a website if it is not mobile-friendly, which is why businesses should ask a prospective website company if mobile-friendly is part of the package (and be wary if it is not).

A slow-loading website also negatively impacts local SEO. 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%. Both factors are key factors in visitors’ search experience, making it an important part of a business’ local SEO efforts—and a major local SEO mistake to ignore it.

customer on smartphone looking for local business that uses local seo

Small Businesses: 9 Local SEO Tips that Get You to the Top

Most small businesses can’t imagine getting over-the-top results from a small marketing budget. However, with online marketing, the smallest details matter, which is why these local SEO tips can get a local small business to the top of local search engine results. Of course, that top position in local search results won’t come overnight, but it does come with regular efforts (detailed in this checklist) and utilization of the latest local SEO tactics.  

Local SEO can get local businesses local customers who are interested in purchasing local products and services. Unfortunately, online marketing myths always seem to follow these successful marketing tactics; this list of do’s and don’ts of local SEO can give businesses the positive practices that reach local customers and the negative myths that inhibit marketing results.

Do optimize the business Google My Business site.

A Google My Business (GMB) listing is an important part of a local SEO strategy. A complete and optimized GMB listing isn’t just an effective way to get marketing results, it’s free.

To optimize a business GMB listing, the business must first verify the listing. This can be done by requesting and entering a code sent by Google. To get the most out of the listing, the business should completely fill out the GMB listing (with these instructions for an optimized Google My Business from Search Engine Journal). For best results, small businesses should take this local SEO tip seriously and add their logo and product pictures, plus the business address (if applicable), website URL, business hours, and service area. (A local SEO service can also optimize the listing as part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy.)

Don’t believe that a bigger service area on Google My Business gets more results.

The Google My Business service area has become the source of many business’ misconceptions. Many businesses believe that if they make the service area bigger, they get higher rankings in all the cities and towns. Research has proved this myth not to be true. While online visitors can see the service area, a bigger service area does not guarantee higher rankings in the service area.

Do make review sites a top priority.

Review sites are becoming an important part of customers’ buying process. Even for local businesses that provide services, customers are using Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to choose the best business. Search Engine Land recently published a study that reported that more than 80% of all consumers trust reviews as much as an in-person recommendation. Bright Local published a consumer review survey that said that consumers would only choose businesses with more than four stars.

These local SEO statistics make this local SEO tip a priority for businesses. Instead of leaving reviews to chance, businesses should claim their listing, make sure all information is accurate, and ask satisfied customers for reviews. The ask can be done in-person or in follow-up communications (ways to ask for a review are included in this list). There are many opportunities for asks; a business should review their standard operating procedures and include the request in future employee trainings.

Don’t forget to monitor reviews.

Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t see review sites as an on-going local SEO tactic. This misconception is a risky stance. Instead, small businesses should monitor review sites (or contract with marketing pros with an automated review site monitoring system) and respond to negative reviews.

While it might be tempting to respond with angry comebacks to negative reviews, small businesses should respond with empathy and ask to take the conversation to a private conversation. This not only takes the discussion off-line, it also gives businesses the chance to resolve the situation to the customers’ satisfaction.  

Do make sure the NAP is consistent.

The building address is a significant part of every online small business listing—more important than many businesses realize. It is not only important to include the address, but there is also value in ensuring that every name, address, and phone number follow the same format on every site. The business name should be identical in every listing. A business’ suite should be abbreviated the same or written out, along with the road and other address information. The same goes for the phone number. While the NAP may seem like a minor detail, it is a minor detail that is worth utilizing in a business local SEO strategy.

Don’t forget about link building.

Link building is the practice of building links from other websites to the business’ website. In the past, this practice was linked to the black-hat SEO tactic of buying links. Often this black-hat tactic resulted in links to sub-par websites, which sabotaged SEO results for small businesses.

Modern link building revolves around getting links to reputable websites, resulting in reputable results. (Link building can be outsourced to marketing professionals for efficient results.) To search engines, link building is a third-party verification of a website. The third-party verification plays a role in how a website is ranked on search engines.

Do add local information to a business website.

If a business wants to be seen by local visitors, the business should include local information on the business website. The local information should be included in the original website copy and in optimized content regularly added to the site (produced by the business or content professionals).

In addition to local information, website content should never be produced without keyword research. Keyword research ensures that a website content is optimized for visitor search intent. Simply, this means that the content should be crafted with keywords used by the business’ target audience. This targeted online marketing approach increases website conversions because users visiting the site want to purchase the product or service.

Don’t bore website visitors with local, local, local…

While localized website content is an integral part of a local SEO strategy, it’s important not to alienate visitors by overdoing the localization. There are examples of this local SEO mistake all over the internet. Many businesses list cities or draft content with so much localization it sounds like an amateur produced it.

Do be social.

Social media may not be the first marketing tactic that comes to mind with local SEO, but it is an important part of every local business marketing strategy. Business social media channels reach customers interested in the business, and builds loyalty and engagement with customers. In addition, social media sites are crawled by search engines and, if utilized effectively, can result in an increase in website visits. For a full return-on-investment, business should select social media sites utilized by their target audience and regularly post relevant information.

businessman celebration successful market plan execution

Effective Marketing Plan Tips & Ideas that Get Incredible Results

Most business owners would agree that they want to reach more customers, but very few know how to craft a marketing plan that reaches potential customers. A marketing plan captures all those business growth ideas and gives a business a clear execution plan that achieves results. A marketing plan includes:

  • Summary of the business’ current situation (including product or service, current effective marketing tactics, challenges, etc.)
  • Target audience (including demographic specifics)
  • Future goals (makes these goals specific, such as social media engagement goals, website traffic, etc.)
  • Budget
  • Tactics used in future marketing efforts (i.e. social media, content marketing, advertising, etc.)
  • Marketing schedule (with party responsible for execution and clear deadlines)

Benefits of a Marketing Plan

  • A marketing plan provides focus so the targeted audience is reached.
  • Planning ahead allows for adequate planning and preparation (and avoids charges for rushed projects).
  • A marketing plan puts ideas into a document, so the business can regularly revisit the plan and make sure work is being done.
  • It allows a business to track results—and refine future marketing.

Tips for an Incredibly Effective Marketing Plan

Effective marketing plans are built, not given. The best marketing plan sets clear goals and outlines tactics that coordinate together to achieve those goals. As such, there are some clear marketing plan tips that businesses should use to create a coordinated and target effort that provides the best return-on-investment for the marketing budget.

Identify a target audience.

A target audience is an important part of effective marketing because it guides the selection and tone of future marketing. Instead of saying “everyone,” a marketing plan should specify the location (especially true for local businesses) and demographics of the target audience. A clearly defined audience can dictate the right social media channels that are used by the demographic. (The demographics of social media are outlined in this Sprout Social report.) If the target audience location is key, a marketing plan can demonstrate the need for solid local SEO services.

Set reachable goals.

Most businesses want to growth their business. The most effective marketing plans aim for growth, but do so with a set of annual attainable goals. As nice as it would be to gain thousands of social media followers, a marketing plan breaks the effort into step-by-step goals that get hundreds of customers in the target audience ever year.

Remember, that effective marketing is all about quality over quantity. For local businesses, reaching thousands of customers hundreds of miles away that can’t buy is a waste of marketing funds. Instead, it makes cents (pun intended) for local businesses to invest in marketing tactics that reach local customers that are in a position to purchase the business’ goods and services. A hundred local customers that can or may buy are more valuable than thousands of national customers.

Be realistic.

The crux of a well-executed marketing plan is to be realistic about the amount of staff available to carry it out. If a business wants to keep the effort in-house, the responsible staff member should be chosen carefully (with the right skills and expertise) and have the time available to devote to regular marketing efforts. All marketing passwords should be stored at the business. User profiles should be set up for the business, not the individual.

When there are not staff members available (or not enough time in the day), it may be time to outsource efforts. Just as when hiring a new staff member, a marketing firm should be chosen carefully. The marketing firm should be screened carefully and should be able to provide firm data that demonstrates the return-on-investment of every marketing tactic. For local businesses, the marketing firm should especially be able to demonstrate a clear expertise and have a track record of getting targeted results for local businesses.

Strategically choose tactics that fit with goals.

Targeted marketing requires targeted marketing tactics. This is especially true for small businesses who don’t have the staffing, time, or budget for large-scale marketing. Instead, businesses should choose marketing tactics that reach the target audience and provide the best return-on-investment.

Marketing Plan Ideas

An effective marketing plan utilizes marketing tactics that reach the target audience, though the combination of those tactics is different for every business. This list includes marketing tactics that build trust with an online audience and provide a solid return-on-investment.

Local SEO

Local SEO services set up a business online so that it shows up in searches by local customers. This marketing tactic involves multiple steps, such as claiming listings on online directories, building an optimized website, and creating and promoting quality content. The whole effort is a series of one-time and ongoing tasks that build trust with search engines and online customers. Because it is an ongoing process, it often pays off to outsource this effort to a local SEO service.

It’s also a marketing tactic backed by statistics. Another study published in Search Engine Land found that 78% of all local mobile searches result in offline purchases. Local SEO gets a business found in local searches, and builds continual trust with brand reputation management. Again, the latter is based off of online user behaviors. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

Content

Quality content attracts customers in two ways: through listing in search engines and via email and social media. Well-written content with well-chosen images establish a company as a local industry expert and the answer to customers’ problems.

The key is to produce optimized content that positions the content in relevant customer searches and results in clicks on social media and in emails. For the effort to be successful, the content needs to be regularly posted and relevant to the target audience. Content creation should also involve keyword and search intent research and end with a promotion strategy that reaches the target audience. For regular and strategic content creation, a calendar with topics, deadlines, and responsible parties (either in-house or by a quality content firm) should be crafted and maintained.

Social Media

Social media is a marketing tactic that requires strategic planning and execution. The effort starts with selecting the right social media channels based on the target audience and continues with regular posts relevant to the industry and audience.

This marketing tactic is about more than just selling products. Social media also gives businesses the chance to showcase their involvement in local causes, showcase projects and achievements, talk to their customers (with excellent online customer service), and gain positive reviews that show up in online searches.

The latter two elements of social media are often overlooked by businesses. Prompt and excellent customer service is an interaction that can result in sales and loyalty, though it needs to be delivered promptly. For this reason, businesses should select experienced staff members for the responses and establish a system for response and follow-up.

On social media and online review sites, positive reviews are earned; however, businesses are passing up on a chance to earn more customers by not asking for them. There are many opportunities for businesses to remind customers to leave reviews, which is why businesses should incorporate the asks into existing marketing pieces and customer interactions. The effort should be a comprehensive business effort with every staff member trained to deliver during service delivery.

Website Optimization

A well-built, easy-to-use website is worth its weight in gold, both in the eyes of customers and search engines. The website is a business’ chance to tell their story and provide an optimal customer experience that builds customer trust.

Statistics prove that a mobile-friendly, fast website is worth the effort. A study in Search Engine Land found that nearly 60 percent of all searches are done on a mobile device. 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%.

In addition to these important parts of the customer experience, captivating images, website content, and an easy-to-navigate website all play a significant part in converting visitors to customers.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics IF executed correctly. Email marketing starts with a list of recipients interested in the business services or products. If the recipients are not interested, the email is going to go to the trash; this is a key reason why buying email lists is not an effective way to build an email list.

Instead, businesses should ask for e-mail addresses with incentives or during interactions with customers. Businesses can ask for email addresses on the website, during the buying process, or at meetings. To continue to grow the list and maintain interest, all emails should be drafted with a subject line that gets noticed, content that is valuable to the customer, and high-quality media that connects with the recipient. For best results, email content should be coordinated with other marketing tactics in a coordinated marketing calendar.

smartphone search by local customer finding local business

What (Really) Goes into Local SEO that Works

One of the best marketing choices a local business can make is to invest time and effort in local search engine optimization (SEO). Local SEO is a powerful tool for businesses that want to get found online in searches by LOCAL users. These efforts generate website visits, e-mails, in-store visits, and phone calls.

The effort to get found online does provide value, both in online and in-store visits. Search Engine Watch reported that Google said that half of all local consumers head to the store after doing a local search online. Google also stated that more than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Other local SEO statistics also prove the value of this online marketing tactic.)

However, don’t let the term “generate” make local SEO seem like a passive marketing effort. Companies can’t sit back and wait to be found online.

Local SEO is an active and comprehensive marketing effort that never ends. This online marketing effort is a combination of one-time and ongoing tasks. While that may sound contradictory, some local SEO services, such as building a website or claiming a listing on a review site, are a one-time effort. Other items on the local SEO checklist, such as publishing optimized content and asking for online reviews, need to happen on a consistent basis for best results.

A stellar local SEO effort is complete with every item checked off the local SEO checklist. Because online marketing is also continually evolving, businesses need to stay up-to-date on the latest SEO practices that get results (or consult with local SEO pros).

But what really goes into local SEO that works? What do all those technological terms mean?

The list of off-site and website tasks breaks the local SEO process down—giving businesses the short list of what needs to happen.

Off-Site Local SEO Checklist

  • Claim, verify, and optimize a Google My Business listing. (One-time)
  • Ask customers for company reviews, which are also an integral part of local SEO. (Ongoing)
  • Update online review sites and directories with the (exact) same name, address, and website URL. (One-time)
  • Update Google My Business listing with posts. (Ongoing)
  • Engage with customer comments and reviews on Google. (Ongoing)

Website Local SEO Checklist

  • Build a well-structured and fast website with optimized content. (One-time)
  • Follow Google best-practices for a website with https. (One-time)
  • Optimize website pages with relevant keywords, headlines, and topics relevant to the target audience. (One-time)
  • Make a website mobile-friendly (important for search engine optimizations and website visitors). (One-time)
  • For businesses with multiple locations, create a separate page for each location. (Be careful not to duplicate content, which can incur a penalty). (One-time)

Locally Optimized Website Content Checklist

  • Add local, focused content to the website regularly. (Ongoing)
  • Select topics and high-volume keywords relevant to the target audience. (Ongoing)
  • Optimize content with keywords (without keyword stuffing). (Ongoing)
  • Include keywords in headline, meta tags, and URL. (Ongoing)
customers on smart phone and laptop looking for local businesses

7 Local SEO Myths to IGNORE

Local SEO can get a business more customers and sales. Local SEO myths don’t.

These online marketing statements sound black-and-white, but reality is not always that simple. As business owners try to sift through information about local search engine optimization (SEO), it’s easy to get caught up in the truths and untruths. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the latter; those outrageous local SEO myths that stand between businesses and results.

Let’s start with the worst local SEO myth.

SEO is junk.

This is an online marketing myth that has been around for a long time (and honestly needs to go away). It has its roots when black-hat search engine optimization tactics stopped working and results were not immediately obvious.

Recent search engine optimization statistics prove the opposite to be true. SEO is here to stay, and local SEO is a proven way for local businesses to be found online. These online marketing tactics utilize the latest online trends to build trust online. In local SEO, the goal of these tactics is to get a business found in online searches for local businesses and solutions.

All a company needs to attract Google’s attention is an optimized website.

A website built and created for readers and search engines is only one part of a strong optimized online presence—but only a part. In addition to a website, businesses should also utilize marketing tactics that meet their goals. A local business should also complete a Google My Business listing, maintain a strong social media presence, request and monitor reviews, and employ other online marketing tactics (use this full checklist of local SEO tactics) that target customers and search engines. (Find out more about how reviews play a HUGE part in getting a company found online.)

Adding keywords and cities throughout a website makes it rank better in local searches.

To be clear, the term “optimized” does not imply that a website should be loaded with keywords, local cities, and the business address. To the contrary, a website stuffed with keywords is actually a black-hat on-site SEO tactic that earn a Google penalty. In addition, loading every page with cities and location information can deter potential customers and make a business look like amateurs. Instead, businesses should build an optimized website utilizing the latest online trends and SEO tactics (or contact SEO professionals that can).

Google My Business listings are optional.

This local SEO myth is partially true. Google My Business (GMB) listings are completely optional. Business may even still get high rankings without a GMB listing. The key word is “may.” However, for a business serious about attracting local customers, verifying and completing a GMB listing is an essential part of a strong local SEO presence. A completed GMB listing guarantees that accurate information is used in search engine listings; to be clear, however, not all the information included may show up in listings, though customers have access to the filled-out information.

A bigger service area on Google My Business yields bigger results.

Many businesses are under the impression that if they designate a large service area in Google My Business, they get ranked in all the cities within the service area. The truth is that potential customers can see the service area and see how far a business travels, but the information does not guarantee high rankings in search results in all the cities within the service area.

Content is only for big businesses.

The one tactic that has continually proven to be an important part of a strong SEO presence is high-quality content (even through all the Google algorithm updates)—and it’s not just a tactic for large businesses. High-quality, optimized content produced on a regular basis is well within small businesses’ reach and their budget. Content marketing also comes with other benefits because content can be used for other promotional purposes. To get high-quality website content, businesses should designate the task to a marketing employee or outsource the effort to professionals with a proven track record.

There is nothing companies can do about reviews.

Negative and positive reviews are not—entirely—a random occurrence, though positive reviews on review sites are an important part of local SEO.  Though businesses cannot control when customers post, asking for and responding to reviews is an effort that can managed on a daily basis.

Because positive reviews are an important part of building trust online, businesses should evaluate their daily interactions with customers for chances to ask satisfied customers for reviews. This can be done by sales personnel at a follow-up meeting or during the checkout process. When reviews are posted, businesses should monitor social media sites and review sites to ensure that all reviews receive a response and customers are satisfied with their service.

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.