The evolution of Internet search—the shift to voice-activated search, the expected merge of desktop and mobile algorithms, etc.—presents some promising opportunities for small businesses to get noticed—by the search engines and by the people using the search engines. If you invest in enhancing your locally focused SEO, you could be one of the local businesses rewarded with increased foot traffic, leads and sales from mobile users looking for something in their neck of the woods to meet their needs.
Here’s how to get the search engines to show your local business some love:
Complete, Current and Optimized My Business Listing
Google is, of course, not the only search engine, but it is, by far, the most used and trusted search engine. So, the local search results most commonly seen are those in Google’s “local pack”—the three businesses pinned on a map immediately below paid ads and linked to Rich Cards. (Rich Cards, btw, are the information blocks that contain the business name, location, phone number, hours, images, etc.…the info blocks that many users never click beyond to get to your website because the info they need was already presented to them courtesy of Google).
To get your business to appear in the local pack, you absolutely must have a Google My Business listing. Most businesses already know that much, so to boost your chances of making it in the “top 3” list, your My Business listing needs to be:
- Complete—every field filled out and all the opportunities to make your listing visually appealing capitalized on…so make sure you’ve got quality images of your business and a virtual tour if possible. You can add a separate link to an online booking/scheduling system if you have one, and there are advanced options for businesses with multiple physical locations to ensure the nearest location pops up for each searcher.
- Current—keep your My Business listing fresh by adding posts (like blogs) and encouraging reviews from your satisfied customers (although, even reviews from unsatisfied customers can work for you if you carefully manage your reviews. Learn more about review management here).
- Optimized—if you’ve seen the back-end of your My Business listing, you’ll see there’s not a lot of room for keywords or any of the other SEO techniques applied to webpages. But you can still optimize your My Business listing by:
- Carefully selecting your category(ies)
- Incorporating keywords in your posts
- Optimizing your Adwords (if you use paid advertising)
Keeping your My Business listing complete and current means you need to check it frequently to see if there are reviews that need responding to, make changes in hours or locations, post about special events or promotions, etc.
Presence and Popularity on Local Review Sites
Google isn’t the only online platform where customers can review your business. Yet, Google values the information about your business left on other review sites, like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon/Zomato, etc. So, you need to make sure your business is present on relevant review sites. And, while you are working on making your products and services “speak for themselves,” you can encourage online popularity by publicizing where and how your customers can leave a review and encourage them to do so after each purchase or visit (and there are lots of auto-reply apps that do that for you so your task-list stays manageable).
Every review site has a slightly different process to get your business on its roster and verified. The first step is go to their websites and hunt for links where you can add a business. Then, just follow the directions.
Google works smarter, not harder. So, it will pull information from other review sites, ratings, ecommerce platforms, etc., but only if it knows that information is there. And you (well, SonicSEO.com, actually) make sure Google knows what external information there is about your business using structured data.
Structured data is metadata added to your webpages/website that tells search engines what and where to pull additional information about your site, your business, your products, etc. It’s nothing users actually see—they just see things like:
when your business pops up for their local searches.
Content Optimized for Local Search
Mobile users are savvy searchers. Because they know their phone is already acting as a small GPS locator, when they use “near me” in typed or spoken searches, the results should be businesses within walking or short car-trip distance.
If mobile users are not in the same area that they want to search for local businesses, then they are likely to use “cityspeak”—the colloquial way of referring to different parts of a city—to find closer results. For example, even non-native New Yorkers know that to search the whole city for pub food or movie theaters could send you on a pricey cab ride to get from one end of the city to the other. So, you need to search “hyperlocal” as in “greasy spoon restaurants in the Bronx” or “Long Island community theatre.” In Albuquerque, geographic specifications may include Uptown, Midtown, North Valley, East Mountains, Northeast Heights, etc.
Using these modifiers in the copy on your website can help search engines match your local business with searchers looking for products and services in your neck of the woods (or, desert).
If you need help getting your local business better visibility in local pack results, contact us.
* Actual search engine results presentations vary by industry. The samples provided reflect are representative for service industries with listings on review platforms, such as Google, Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc.