Rising in the Ranks – Tips on How Local Businesses Can Improve Search Results
Ask any brick-and-mortar business owner whether he or she thinks that online marketing is complicated, and you are likely to see an expression that’s a mix of exasperation, desperation and hope. As consumers are moving away from traditional media sources, they’re increasingly flocking online to find out where to go, what to eat and what to do. With smartphones in our pockets at all times, we have new access to online services to the point of addiction – in fact, mobile data usage continues to double every year. Roughly half of the 7.5 billion local searches are now on mobile devices, as well.
So with mobile exploding and the number of apps and directories continuing to grow, local business owners are pulling out their hairs trying to figure out what will drive additional customers through the door. Being discovered just isn’t as simple as it was before.
Do you know how many local business websites show up on the front page of a Google search (hint: there are 10 results per page)? You might just find that the answer is 0; take Italian restaurants as an example. Even if you narrow the search to focus on specific cities, towns and neighborhoods – “Charlotte Italian Restaurants,” “Morristown Italian Restaurants” or “Soho NYC Italian Restaurants” – you are likely to find the same result
Search pages are dominated by local publishers (like New York Magazine if you’re in New York), directories like Yelp and Google’s own directory that’s known as Google Places (or Google+ Local). Getting found online now means that you have to understand exactly how to dominate on these sites, particularly on Google Places.
It starts with claiming and optimizing your Google Place page. Simply search for your name, click your marker on the map, and when the profile comes up, then click “Manage This Profile.” Google will either call your number or send a postcard to verify your business. As soon as that is done, make sure to fill your profile with photos, videos and hours. Add search keywords that matter in descriptions and services, and make sure that you are categorized correctly.
Next, claim and optimize as many other directories as you can. Over half of local business listings have errors, and 16 percent of customers will go to a competitor as soon as they encounter bad data. Run a free directory report to see where you stand. It’s critical that your information is consistent online so Google knows that it’s correct – whether it’s publishing the business name, address, phone number, events, announcements and/or deals.
Update your website to include keywords, like your neighborhood and city, and put your address in the footer of every page. This helps to tell Google that your website is, in fact, local. And if you want to get really advanced, add local schema code (it’s actually quite easy).
Lastly, make sure you have a marketing platform that shows you how and where you rank, as you can’t improve what you can’t measure. If you need some expert guidance, download this free local SEO guide and subscribe to the LocalVox blog or other great blogs in the space like Local SEO Guide or Search Engine Land.
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About Trevor Sumner
Trevor Sumner is the founder and president of LocalVox, an integrated local, social and mobile marketing platform that helps to drive online customers into brick-and-mortar sales by pushing brand messaging to every local touch point including social media, mobile, search, a network of publishers and e-mail newsletters.