7 Ways to Dominate Local Search Results and Grow Your Business More Quickly
While most local search marketing tactics cost nothing but time to implement, many small businesses still haven’t done all they can to dominate local search results. Here are seven easy – and free – ways to improve your position in local search results, so you can fill your pipeline with new leads more quickly, attract new customers and grow your organization.
While many small business owners will claim that word of mouth is their best marketing, statistics show that as many as 97% of consumers1 now use online media to research – and search for – local businesses, products or services. What’s more, nearly all of them (94%) click on organic search results2 (not paid listings).
In fact, in a recent press release, Steve Marshall, director of research for BIA/Kelsey noted that the internet “has become an integral part of consumers’ local activity… the data suggest we’re at an inflection point where the balance of power in local shopping is shifting to online.”
It’s never been more important for a local business to ensure that local consumers looking for the type of services or products they provide can find them online. For small business owners worried that getting found online means finding more money in their budgets for marketing, here’s some good news: The price for many search-optimization tactics can be paid in time (not money).
No PPC Budget? No Problem: 7 Free Ways to Get More Local Search Traffic
1. Lay Claim to Your Profiles and Directory Listings
You may not have a lot of money for online advertising and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, but there are many listing and directory sites that do! Be sure to lay claim to your business listings in the major search engines as well as by creating business profile pages on social network sites, especially Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook.
There are many other business listing and business professional profile sites where you can add business profile and contact information that can show up in local search results; such as, Manta, ZoomInfo, Yext and even review and rating sites like Yelp and CitySearch (see #6 below).
In addition, your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or other civic organizations and business networking groups may all have web pages that include listings of local businesses. There may also be industry association or industry trade publications that provide online directories whose results turn up in online searches.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of sites – with some quick typing you can easily have these knocked out in an afternoon.
2. Think Like Your Ideal Buyer Types
You know a ton about your business; however, members of your target markets probably know far less about your industry, products or services. What’s more, most don’t know technical terms, jargon and other insider slang that you might be tempted to use online.
Spend some time using Google Adwords to research keywords and phrases (you can use the research part of Adwords for free). Keyword research can give you a better idea of how many times people search for given keywords or key phrases that pertain to your business or to businesses in your city, and will also suggest other phrases that you might not have thought of, which you can incorporate into your web pages, social media updates and other digital content.
Be sure that your web pages include key words and phrases that less-knowledgeable prospects might use in online searches when looking for businesses like yours. It’s also important for your web site’s pages to include the name of your city, neighborhood, business development, shopping center and other key terms that consumers might include in searches.
Finally, remember that you cannot make it easy enough for prospects to find what they need when they arrive on your web pages, social media profiles, blog and other digital properties. Make sure your phone number, address, hours and other contact info (click to call, email, etc.) are big, bold and easy to spot.
3. Re-Optimize Your Web Site
No matter how perfect a web page was when it was published, every web site needs continual scrutiny and updating. For one thing, search engines make updates several times a year to their algorithms; often these changes come along with new instructions for web site administrators in terms of “best practices” to help a web site get found more easily in online searches.
When it comes to search results themselves, do you know what title and description will be displayed when your business does show up in search engine results? It’s usually going to be the meta title and meta description. These elements are not text displayed on the actual page, but in source code (HTML), so it’s important that you know how to change them (and how important they can be to getting someone from search to ‘click!’)
- Re-optimize web page meta title and descriptions – every page of your website should have unique meta tags
- Review and (if necessary) update on-page content to help with search
- Make sure most – if not all – of your web pages have some sort of call to action and a form that helps you collect contact information and makes it easy for prospects to get a quote or request more information about your business
- Add icons with links to your social networks to encourage site visitors to follow you online
- Incorporate a subscription form (or link to a form) on every page of your website for followers to subscribe to email updates
4. Add Original Content to the Web
Original Digital Content Rests at the Heart of Local Search Success: Among Forbes Magazine’s top content marketing trends predicted to dominate 2014 by Jayson DeMers was this one: Location-Based Content Marketing Will Provide Huge ROI for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses. Noting that “GPS-enabled smartphones will increasingly utilize location and personal-preference information to provide flash deals based on a user’s current location,” Demers goes on to say that “Brick-and-mortar storefronts that fail to adopt location-based content marketing strategies will see sales decline as their competitors cannibalize those sales with location-based flash deals, offers, and coupons.”
Digital content can come in the form of additional web pages, landing pages, email newsletters published to the internet, blog articles, press releases and even social shares. In addition to content that is about your business, share other types of content online that your target markets might be interested in; such as, local content, local human or recreational interest stories, news about local events, schools or organizations, local “best of” lists that feature other businesses or destinations near yours, lists of ideas for tourists or local residents, etc.
5. Be More (Strategically) Social
Social media and resultant clicks, likes and shares play a big role in getting traffic to your website. Social signals also have increasing importance to search engines. This SearchMetrics Ranking Factors graphic shows how their testing found social signals impacting Google search results.
At a minimum, your business should have business pages set up on Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook (and Twitter and Pinterest, depending on the make-up of your target markets). Google+ activity (content shares, links, etc.) could be especially beneficial to your placement in search results. For instance, your social media followers are likely to see your business results in online search on their first page, thanks to social search.
Once set up, you can easily administer updates to your social networks using free tools such as Hootsuite, which make it possible for you to schedule a continuous stream of social updates to your networks each day. This leaves you free to run your business with the peace of mind of knowing that you are keeping your social profiles active in order to keep your brand in front of fans and followers and grow your influence online.
6. Request and Manage Online Reviews Reviews and ratings play an increasingly important role in influencing consumers to try a business or its products and services. In fact, someone searching for a business like yours could even find your business as a result of arriving on a CitySearch, Yelp or similar review directory service.
It’s important for you, as a business owner, to be aware that your reputation can be affected (as well as search results) by the number and type of online reviews that your customers leave. Additionally, you have the ability to proactively invite satisfied customers to go on Yelp, CitySearch, Google+ Pages and similar sites to leave positive reviews for your business.
If you do come across a bad review, you will usually have options to respond or even help to make amends for a customer who may have had a bad experience at your business. You can also choose not to respond to a bad review, or you can report a review that you believe to be falsified in some way to the site administrator for review and removal.
7. Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Knowledge is power! There is no better way to evaluate your online search engine placements and presentation than to do your own online search for your business, your products, your services, businesses like yours in your neighborhood-city-county-state, etc.
Conducting a periodic search for mentions of your business (or you or other professionals in your organization) can help you find any inaccurate or false information on review sites, directory sites and other online content that can negatively impact your placement in search engine results.
By evaluating your brand identity online, you will be able to revitalize your website by re-optimizing web pages for search, updating social and directory profiles, managing online reviews and ensuring that your digital marketing strategies align with the newest best practices for search.