If you are running a local business and want to ensure that your website is driving foot traffic, then it is imperative that you have a strong and solid presence in local search results. And, remember, a local business is a business that has face-to-face contact with customers or a physical location/storefront.
Now, with local search, your business literally does not exist online if users are unable to find you. This is just the way it works in today’s day and age.
When people use search engines to search for a local keyword, it is more likely that they are looking for a specific product or service. This is why local search conversions are generally higher. It is also why you must make sure that your local search engine marketing is sufficient.
All the basic SEO 101 techniques and tactics need to be used. You need to ensure that your user experience is up to par and your on-site optimization needs to be on key. You also need to be creating top-notch content and building high-quality links. These types of fundamentals will help you rank high for local search keywords. However, there are some additional steps that you can take to help set yourself apart from the rest of the pack and strengthen your overall local SEM strategy.
Local Business Listings
Ideally, your first stop should be at local business listings. You want to make certain that your local business is in all the big-name directories, such as Yelp, Yell, Thomson Local, etc., in addition to industry-specific directories. You may already have existing listings, so it may just be a matter of claiming your local business and taking ownership of it.
It is recommended that you create a spreadsheet so that you can keep track of all of your local business listings. This will save you a lot of time and effort, as you won’t have to worry about forgetting or repeating entries. It will also help ensure that you remain consistent with your data across all of your listings (more on this in just a bit).
It is important that you remove any duplicate entries because it is confusing to customers and Google if there are multiple business listings.
You also want to make sure that you are thorough when you are adding or claiming your business listing. Just keep in mind that there are some directories out there are considered spammy and you don’t want to be a part of them, as they can have a negative effect on your SEO. If you can’t tell whether it is a spammy directory, you will want to use Moz’s Open Site Explorer, or a similar tool, to check the spam score.
Google My Business
While it is true that Google My Business is a specific business listing directory, it is probably THE most important one so it gets its very own section within this article. When dealing with Google My Business, here are a few points that you will want to remember to implement:
- Use a verification process when claiming your business.
- Make sure to include the most accurate and up-to-date information: contact information, hours of operation, and location details.
- Select a few of the most relevant categories to best represent your business.
- Make sure to add up-to-date branding, such as photos of your premises and logos.
- Only use high-quality photos
When you provide information on your listing, you must ensure that it is accurate and comprehensive, as this is the best way to strengthen your profile and enhance your chances of being featured in the three-pack on Google’s SERPs.
The concept behind NAP consistency is extremely simple and can be understood be individuals with very little to no knowledge of SEO. NAP is short for Name, Address, and Phone number. In some cases, you may see it written as NAP+W, with the W being short for Website address.
It has already been mentioned that consistency is important across all business directories, and this is where that consistency comes in. You must make sure that the information that you plug into your profiles on your directories is the same on every single one. So, if you change locations, your number changes or you perform a rebranding, you need to change the information on every single listing to ensure accuracy.
To do this, perform a search of your business name and go through all of the listings. Begin a spreadsheet and track your progress so don’t that you don’t backtrack.
Reviews have the ability to make or break a business. Reviews cannot be ignored. They are actually utilized as ranking signals by search engines, especially when it comes to Google My Business reviews.
While it is true that reviews are important for local rankings, they are also crucial for click-through rates. According to one study, nearly 75 percent of consumers report that positive reviews help them find a local business more trustworthy.
You know that it is important to provide top-notch customer service, but what else can you do to ensure that you have control over your customer reviews? The goal isn’t to get family and friends to write positive reviews for your business, as this isn’t the way to get things done. Instead, the key here is to add a gentle nudge and to manage bad customer experiences before they reach the review stage.
In addition, it is important that you keep a close eye on rules and regulations for all review platforms. There is a good chance that each one will have its own policies regarding how customers are asked for reviews and how you can respond to them.
Keep in mind that you will get a negative review at some point in time. Sometimes it may be spam, or a personal enemy, or even a bitter competitor. Whatever the case may be, there isn’t much you can do about it. However, just remember that one negative review won’t deter customers from your business. The best thing that you can do is to simply encourage happy customers who have had a positive experience with your business to start posting reviews. This will help push that negative review down and get your average start rating back where it belongs – up!
Most review sites will allow businesses to reply to customer reviews. This is the perfect opportunity for you to explain what happened. However, you have to take care in how you do it. Due to this, it is a good idea not to do it yourself and to get someone who is not too close to the situation to respond. It is important that you always remain calm and professional. The best way to manage your negative customers and enemies is to kill them with kindness.
If your website does not currently feature location pages, then it is time to get them because you could potentially be missing out on a prime opportunity to get target relevant locations. For each location where your business currently operates, you should create a dedicated page for it. This is far easier than creating a unique URL for each location because you want to include location-specific information – and as much of it as possible.
In locations where you have a storefront, you want to add an interactive map as well as images, as these will improve the page. If you don’t have separate URLs, consider adding case studies and testimonials that are relevant to the individual locations.
This can help assist you on making each location page unique and avoiding duplication. It can be difficult to differentiate copy, but if you do it right, these location pages can have an incredible positive effect on your search engine marketing strategy.
As soon as the location pages are done, you need to finish things off with schema markup. If you’re new to everything, this can seem a bit daunting, but it is far easier than it seems. In fact, schema markup assists the search engines in understanding the jest of what your site is about. For local information, this is very important since it assists spiders as they crawl your website (especially the location pages).
According to one specific study, pages that have schema markup will rank approximately four positions higher in SERPs. If that isn’t a good enough incentive to use it, we don’t know what is! So, take the time to learn about schema markup and use it to your advantage because there is a good chance that all of your competitors aren’t using it.
It isn’t difficult to get your local search marketing strategy up to par. By following the aforementioned tips and the general SEO rules, along with hard work and effort, it won’t be long before you see those top spots in the SERPs belong to your local business as well as an increase in conversions.