With the ever-increasing popularity of local search, it’s highly important for businesses to do everything they can to be found within their own communities online. Landscapers, roofing companies, bake shops, doctors, lawyers, scooter dealerships, and wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube man retailers, along with countless others, are all types of businesses whose target market is their local area. The following tips will help your customers find you on the web — even if you don’t have a website yet! (Amazing, I know)
Google’s Local Business Listing algorithm is very much different from the traditional search algorithm. What this means is, your local listing rank does not depend entirely on your website rank. For example, take a look at this:
Notice the first local search result for “italian restaurant atlanta” is Alfredo’s, but the first and second organic search results are totally different.
While reading this article, some of you may find yourselves saying, “This is common sense type stuff”, and you’re right — it is! But the fact is, you wouldn’t believe how many businesses don’t have these simple things taken care of on their listings.
By using these tips, you will improve your local business listing in the eyes of your customers, and simultaneously improve your rankings.
1. Claim your business!
The first thing you have to do is find (or create if you can’t find) your Google Local Business Listing. This is one of the most significant things you can do to help your local search presence.
Open a new tab in your browser, go to Google Maps and search for the name of your business and the city/state where your business is located. When you find it, click on the “more info” link next to the title. In the top right corner of the listing, you’ll see another link that says, “Business owner?”. Click that link and follow the instruction on the page to claim that business as your own. You can also verify the information at this point, such as the address, phone number, etc… which bring us to the next tip.
2. List your local telephone number and not an 800 number.
It’s important to list the local telephone number for your business as the main contact number. Not only do your customers really like this, but Google likes it too.
Some businesses may be using call tracking services as a way to maximize their advertising ROI; this can be a good idea when dealing with traditional mediums, but can be detrimental to your online presence. (For a more technically in-depth read on call tracking and local SEO, check out David Mihm’s article over on SearchEngineLand)
Thankfully, there are other effective ways to track calls. Optimize Atlanta, along with the majority of the search marketing industry, recommends making sure the receptionist is asking every caller “How did you hear about us?”, and logging the information. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it gets the job done.
*Note: The same local contact number that you’re using for the local business listing should also be used everywhere else on the web.
3. Make sure all information matches everywhere on the web, and is correct.
This is critically important for local SEO. All of your contact information on the web must match the contact information on your site, and your local business listing. For organic SEO purposes, links are vitally important to ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPS). For local SEO, citations are vitally important. Citations are essentially any mention of your business + contact information on the web. Making sure all of your citations are correct will not only boost the ranking of your local business listing, but it will also make it easier for your customers to find you in places other than your site, such as directories.
There are a variety of things that can happen to cause your information to be wrong, such as:
- You’ve recently changed offices
- You have a new phone number
- The name of your business has changed
- Another business has a very similar name to yours
- You share a building with another business (suites, co-ops, etc)
- You’re a newer business, but the previous tenant also had a business at the same location
- Human error
This list could go on and on. The important thing is, it can be fixed.
If you have a unique business name, it will be easier to find all of the places that mention you online; you can simply do a search for your business name and scroll through the results, clicking and updating any incorrect addresses or phone numbers. Look for directories such as Yellowpages, Superpages, Yelp, Citysearch, and any other online directory that might have your business listed. Also look for Chamber of Commerce listings, Meetups, and any other organization or group you might be a member of. Make sure the name of the business, address, and phone number match exactly on all of them.
If your business has a more common name, you might have to manually check the sites listed above, along with any other sites that you can think of who may be promoting your business.
4. Take the time to make sure your listing is in the proper category
Another thing you can do to appease your customers and Google is list your business in the appropriate category. I’ve seen car dealerships listed as repair shops, community banks listed as mortgage brokers, and so on. It’s true that the dealership probably has a repair shop, and the community bank undoubtedly handles mortgages, but that is only a portion of their business. Make sure your listing highlights all the main products and services your business provides. Spend a little time creating a really solid listing.
5. Ask your customers to give you feedback
How do your customers perceive you? Are they happy with their service? Would they recommend you to their friends and family members?
It’s easy to find out, just ask them to give their feedback online. They don’t even have to go to your site or listing, Google aggregates reviews from all over the place and imports them directly into your local business listing for all to see. You could even offer some incentive for posting reviews, such as 10% off the next purchase, or a free draft beer with the next slice of pizza.
The bottom line is, potential customers love to see reviews. It’s easy to get a good idea about a business by reading what other people have experienced already; it builds trust and manages expectations. If I read 4 great reviews about a specific pizza bar, I’d feel pretty confident that I could go into that pizza bar and get great food and service, and maybe a free beer. The same thing goes for law firms, fitness clubs, and any other business that serves the public. It’s the modern day testimonial, but you know that it’s (usually) not a fake.
The key to remember about reviews is that it’s the volume of reviews that counts more than the content. Your goal should be to get as many reviews as possible from your customers. Now with that being said, you don’t want more bad reviews than good ones, so make sure you’re taking care of your customers. This also gives you the opportunity to improve your service by reading suggestions and recommendations from the very people who use it. That’s invaluable information.
- Google Gives Local Search A Boost (smallbusinessmavericks.com)