If you are an existing business, or a completely new one, and you trade mainly in your local area, there are a few things you need to do to make sure that you get your share of the business that comes from online searches made for your product or service.
Why Are Local Businesses Different When It Comes To Being Online?
The main difference between local businesses and those which trade nationally or even internationally is the way in which they are treated by search engines, mainly Google.
Google has re-organised its main SERP, (Search Engine Results Page) to accommodate local searches as follows:
For this example I searched for “Yoga Teachers” – note that I did not specify a location this time.
In the above example, the ads show at the top, there are three of them this time but there can be up to four. You can advertise your business here using Google’s AdWords Service.
Next, you see the Google Map for the area in which the person making the search was located. In this case it was me and I live and work in east London so it has shown me the details of three locally based yoga teachers. They are marked on the map with the red “pins” and then listed individually below the map. Each of these listings has a link to the website and a link to get directions, as well as other information.
You will see that these map listings also show if there have been any Google Reviews for your service – these can really make a difference to how many clicks, and enquiries, you get. In the above example “Tammys Yoga” has two reviews whereas the others have none, this gives Tammys Yoga a distinct advantage over the other two and could well be contributing to the fact that her listing is shown higher up that theirs.
At the moment, this map listing is free of charge and is a valuable source of local enquiries. If you don’t appear in this list and on the map you could be missing out on lots of free enquiries in your area.
Below the map listings, well down the page, there are the “natural” listings – these are not paid for and you cannot influence your position in these listings by way of payment to Google. Your position in these lists are calculated by Google’s highly secret “Page Ranking Algorithm” which takes many factors into account when deciding which web page to put where. Improving your position in the natural listings is a complex area of expertise and not for the faint hearted. The process is known as SEO, (Search Engine Optimisation) and, although there is a lot you can do yourself to improve your chances of a high position, much of what needs to be done is better carried out by those who specialise in SEO and/or by the developers of your website.
For now, however, we will stick to the local element, the map listings and the map itself.
How Can You Make Your Local Business More Visible Online?
1) Get “Good With Google”
The most important thing you need to do is take make sure that you are “Good With Google.” It is very important that you have an up-to-date Google Account (free), and that you are properly set up on “Google My Business” – an online platform that covers all of your listings and other details online, including a page on Google+ – their version of a social media platform, also free.
Next, you should make sure that your business is referred to as often as possible by listing and directory websites. These listings, known as “Citations” are vital to establishing “authority” for your website. The more often you are listed on those other websites, the better. Citations are almost always free but applying for them can be time consuming and sometimes quite tricky and may be better left to a specialist.
Here are the top 10 citation sites that your business should be listed on – you can download our full list of 50+ citation sites here.
In the above table, the name of the citation site is on the left, in the form of their website address. The number to the right, “Domain Authority” is a metric widely used in the industry to determine how much authority a website has. Authority is a complex metric but, in essence, it reflects the quality and trustworthiness of the citation site and, in particular, that of the sites which link to it.
Check Your NAP
Your NAP, (Name Address, Phone number), is a vital piece of information in terms of local marketing. Take some time and go through all of your “properties”, i.e. online properties including your website, any ads you may be running and your citations as listed above and make sure that your NAP is up to date and consistent across all of those places.
Setup Your Google+ Page for your Business
Google+ is often overlooked by website owners who usually head off to Facebook, Twitter and possible LinkedIn first. That is a mistake however because Google, understandably, feature Google+ more extensively on their own roperties, especially on the search engine results pages, (SERPs).
If you register for “Google My Business” as described above you will already have a basic Google+ page setup. It still needs some work however, a main image for the header, a logo image, your opening times , phone number and the address for the website you want the page to link to.
It is important to post regularly to Google+ as Google includes those posts in its index and that could get you extra, free, local coverage. Google+ also links straight into your YouTube account, if you have one, to make it much easier for you to benefit from video marketing.
Review Your Reviews
Many people buy products and services from a supplier on the strength of what existing customers say about them. Google now shows reviews about your business on the information panel that appears on the right hand side of the screen when someone searches for you by name on google. They are also shown on your map listing, as shown in the example screenshot on the first page.
In the above example you can see that, in among the very positive reviews the business has picked up there is a bad review. This is often taken to be disastrous but it really isn’t. It is an opportunity to show that you are concerned about how people rate your business and the product or service you provide. So long as you respond to the review in a positive light and deal with the issue, other people reading that will be reassured that when problems arise, as they inevitably will, you deal with them and make things right. That will do you more good than any amount of advertising or posting on Facebook and elsewhere.