22 Nov Local Search: Why It Matters and How to Get Started
With the major search engines getting increasingly better at targeting search results to individual users, local online marketing should be near the top of any local business owner’s list of priorities. Local results get a large share of the real estate on search engine results pages (SERPs), so it’s worth the time to at least take some preliminary steps to help increase your chances of appearing on that all-important first page.
Here are five tips to start building an online presence that can get you closer to the top of local search results (and help move your competitors farther down):
1. Stake your claim on Google+ Local.
Google+ Local has become one of the most important factors in how easily information about your local business can be found online. In addition to the usual search results, Google has started to show Google+ business pages as well, increasing the exposure of businesses with those pages.
By taking active ownership of your company’s Google+ Local page, you’ll increase the chances that people searching in their areas for the type of services or products you provide will see your business in their search results.
To make the most of your Google+ Local, you’ll have to claim or create it. Here’s how to begin:
- Sign in to your Google account or create one if needed.
- Go to www.google.com/+/business and select Create a Google+ Page.
- Select your category: Local Business or Place.
- Enter your company’s phone number to search for it — if it already exists, follow the prompts to claim it. If it doesn’t, select Add your business to Google to create a new page.
- Continue to follow the prompts; once you’re done, and Google verifies the page, you’ll be able to go in and edit all of the information about your business.
2. Prominently display your local phone number.
While including your local phone number on your home page (or even every page) may not be a direct factor in optimizing your site for search engines, it’s important to get this right for a number of reasons. Foremost is that many visits to your site may be for the sole purpose of finding your contact information. You’ll want to offer your number in text rather than in an image so that people on mobile devices can easily click to call you.
3. Be consistent with the basics.
It’s likely your business website is listed on a number of online directories, even if you had no active part in making that happen. If that’s the case, it’s possible that the basic information about your company — name, address and phone number, or NAP as we say in the online marketing business — will be inconsistent across the various directories. Because Google uses these three bits of information as a reference check of sorts, ensuring there are no differences between listings increases Google’s “trust” in your business and your chances of ranking higher in search results. Take the time to see how your business is listed with the other major directories as well, such as Bing Local, Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local.
4. Start a blog and keep it fresh.
The benefits of maintaining a blog for your small business is a topic worth an article of its own, but for now, this statistic should suffice: According to HubSpot, small businesses that blog realize 126% higher lead growth than businesses that don’t. A blog can increase search engine traffic to your site due to the fresh content it holds and give you a valuable way for conversing with your customers. It can also help you keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers are interested in via tracking tools that show how many views each blog post receives.
5. Invite and participate in customer reviews.
The main goal of developing (and maintaining) a review acquisition strategy is to encourage positive online reviews of your business. There’s no substitute for the influence of third-party/word-of-mouth on decisions that buyers make as online ratings and reviews continue to proliferate across the web. By getting involved with reviews, you gain some control over what’s being said about your business online. You can offer rating or review methods right on your site, set up tracking of mentions of your business so that you can respond, and gather positive testimonials for use on your site. It’s also a great way to find out what’s working and what’s not about your service or product.
These are just some of the ways you can take advantage of the search engines’ increasing focus on local search results. Getting started with these online local marketing basics will take some time, but the return on that investment can be measured in more targeted leads and new customers for your business.
Chris Gregory is a managing partner and director of SEO at DAGMAR Marketing, which is a partner of Grasshopper Marketing and a leading local SEO and digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida. Chris is a Market Motive-Certified Master SEO and SEO Mentor, and has an extensive business management background in the network communications and business directory publishing industries. Connect with him: Google+ and Twitter.