The more I speak with local business owners regarding the obvious benefits of a strong online presence, I’m realizing more than ever that even though there’s a plethora of information at our fingertips outlining the basic steps one could take to aid their business prosper online, most still don’t have a clue to what is actually needed to achieve search engine victory… With that said, let’s take a step back, keep it simple and outline 5 beginner do’s and don’ts that anyone can implement regardless of your skill level with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Online Marketing to help your business achieve ultimate Local SEO success.
The first thing you need to realize is the obvious disconnect you as the local business owner has when it comes to your customers…I know, you know your business better than I do, but I think that’s just the point! The way you would search for your own products and services online is most likely very different than how your potential clients are searching. We call this the “keyword gap.” This is defined as the gap between the keywords you believe your organization should be found for in the search engines versus the keywords your prospects are actually using to try to find the products and services you sell.
1- Keyword research: This is the basis of any online strategy. It’s all about the keywords. Not just any keyword but what people are searching for TODAY to find your specific products and services. There are dozens of great tools you can use. Google’s keyword planner for one is where I would start. Don’t know how to use it? CLICK HERE! If time is luxury you just don’t have, then hire a professional Internet Marketing Company to do it for you. These keywords will be the foundation of your onsite pages, blogs, social media post, videos and all forms of content. You can also use Social Media to find out what people in your area are chatting about, what they’re looking for and what interests them.
2- Google my business: All local businesses that wants to show up in local search must register their business with Google my business. In Google Local Results, the search results that show the business’ name, address, phone number and map is referred to as a 3 Pack (formally 7 pack). Do me a favour and take it a step further. Optimize your Google my business page with a short business description about your company and how it can help solve a need for your potential end users. Use your keywords in the description and link them back to the proper pages on your website. Don’t forget to add great pictures and claim your page. Google will send a postcard to your business address to verify your business. When received, login and enter the code provided by Google. This will let Google know that the business address is legit.
3- Citations: Citations are defined as ‘mentions of your business name and address on other webpages’. Get your business on industry specific and high value business directories like Yelp or YP. Citations are a key component of the ranking algorithms in Google and Bing. When comparing apples to apples, businesses with the most quality citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations. Citations are also a great way of validating that your business is part of the community. Citation building submission services like Whitespark are a great an economical way to speed up the process and help you build quality citation for local SEO.
4- NAP: N.A.P stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. Make sure your NAP is consistent across all your local directory listing and that they’re present on your web pages in text and not image format. It’s believed and most likely a guaranty, that Google cross-references your NAP information across your local directory listings to make sure your business is legit. Google takes this information into account when it determines which businesses they will show in local search. What should you take from this? Well, search engines are very detail oriented; make sure your NAP is consistent and exact across all your directory listings if you want a chance to rank locally.
5- Reviews: Here is where quality and quantity counts. When referring to local SEO, reviews left on your Google+ business page are the most important. How do you get reviews you might be wondering? Well, you have to ask! Most will have no problem leaving a negative review if they are dissatisfied with your service or products, but positive reviews are a little harder to come by. Remind your customer that by leaving a positive review, they are helping grow local business, which benefits the community as a whole. Reviews will affect your rankings in local search. Businesses with more positive reviews will see higher rankings in the local map pack. These reviews are also seen by the searchers which in returns affects which businesses get clicked on… Would you click on the business with 15+ positive reviews or the one with none?
Now that we have looked at, what in opinion are the 5 most important rules to implement when working towards this prestigious position in the 3 pack, let’s look at 5 don’ts that will certainly kill your chances of ever being seeing in the local spotlight.
1- Moving: You’ve worked hard at growing your business online. You’re ranking for prominent keywords that are driving in quality leads. So much so, you need to expand. You decide to relocate! You changed the address on your website to reflect your new location and know you noticed you’re not showing up for the searches you use too…What about those dozens maybe hundreds of citation you built over the years. They all need to be updated to reflect your change of address. Get on it… Inconsistent NAP will tank your local search results. Here’s a great little check list from Search Engine Watch on 9 things you must update when moving your business.
2- Duplicate content: Before going any further on this topic, take 2 min and watch this video by Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam team explaining the true meaning of duplicate content. If your site contains multiple pages with largely identical content, you must remove it or better yet take some time to write new content around these web pages. This might also be good time to consider hiring a Digital Marketing Professional to analysis your site and make the necessary keyword recommendation.
3- Building Google+ business pages for locations that are not your true address: Your mothers’ home address is not a business location! Maybe you have a business address but want to service other communities, smaller cities or boroughs. You cannot create Google business pages in a particular geography that does not have a legitimate NAP. Even thought you might have found a way to get it verified, in time Google will find out and the ramifications will be devastating. Possibly removing you from the search results altogether. Use a precise, real and accurate address to describe your business location. Do not use PO boxes, or mailboxes located to a specific address.
4- Bad reviews: Bad or negative reviews on your Google+ business page will certainly hurt your chance of rankings for local SEO. According toMOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. The only true way to ensure positive reviews is to provide quality service to your clients at all times. If you have had a negative review, I recommend you get familiar with the culture surrounding online review sites, and see how others have handled them. Never go on the defensive! Now would also be a good time to lean on your satisfied clients and ask for those positive reviews. It will get the negative ones pushed down the list and ultimately increase your star rating.
5- Not mobile friendly: By know I’m sure you realize that having a mobile friendly website is no longer a luxury but a necessity, yet you still haven’t made to switch. Let me remind you why this needs to be a priority. It’s estimated that over 50% of searches are conducted on mobile devises. You have a brick and mortar location and your potential clients are searching for your products and services “on the go”. As of April 21st 2015, Google implemented a major algorithm changes affecting searches conducted on mobile devices. Google will give ranking preference to those with mobile friendly websites. Therefore if your site is not mobile friendly, preferably with a responsive web design, chances are you’re not being found. For more information on Google’s Mobile friendly algorithm change, check out our blog “ Mobilegeddon Happened and I’m Still Standing- So You Think!
In conclusion, taking the time to educate yourself and implementing these basic dos and don’ts will without a doubt catapult your rankings in the local sphere. Although, there’s a certain amount of complexity even with the simplest of these tactics and do require time and patience, you’re best chance for success will always be to hire a professional Internet Marketing Company with the skills and a proven track record for success.
If you have any question, drop us a line. Our WSI Certified Internet Marketing consults in Ottawa are here to help and we’d be thrilled to take the time and walk you through our proven methods for achieving online success.