Getting your business website up and running is a huge step in this day and age — it simply just doesn’t make sense to not have one. However, even if you have the perfect domain name (your .com address) and fantastic products and services, you still have one big hurdle left that has served to confound, perplex, and frustrate business owners for centuries. How to get prospective customers to your “store.”
Sure, you can spam your Facebook friends with daily posts touting your business but when it comes to your target audience, the local customer base, you can’t just depend on word of mouth and “Shares.” You have to ensure that shoppers can easily find you online by optimizing your site and concentrating your efforts on quality search engine ranking for local listings.
Most people are quite surprised to learn exactly what all this task actually entails and unfortunately even the smallest misstep can produce less than favorable consequences. While we are well-versed in the ins-and-outs of how to rank locally on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), we wanted to provide this mini-guidebook to help you further understand the process.
The 3 Cs - Consistency! Consistency! Consistency!
You have to ensure that your business is represented accurately and consistently online and these days there is a much greater emphasis on local search. As many businesses have discovered, you are likely to be much better off concentrating your focus on smaller markets with location-specific keywords rather than search phrases targeting a wider audience.
However, with ranking in local organic search results, there is a cascade effect that you need to be aware of as there is a rather wide range of listing and review apps and websites that target local businesses for their users. While you may utilize a local listing site such as Yelp and manually create your free business profile, many of those sites will often trade information among themselves in order to provide more comprehensive listings to their users.
Unfortunately, this means that if any information is inaccurate on one listing site, it’s quite likely to be so in several other places. If you’re not directly submitting this information yourself or utilizing a professional digital marketing solution, it’s next to impossible to maintain an accurate accounting of where your business is listed, not to mention which listings are accurate and which are not consistent with one another.
Ultimately, Google determines your local search placement by crawling the internet to see where your business’ information is featured. It watches for inconsistencies throughout the data, the number of sites where you’re listed and those sites’ credibility.
Inconsistent listings are the most common detriment to rankings when it comes to what impacts local SEO the most — with 41% of businesses experiencing listing sites with inaccurate data of varying degrees. Another key challenge that 27% of companies face is duplicate listings and both of these aspects affect SEO, regardless of how well you have established the domain’s authority or how effectively you’ve optimized for search.
So now that you know that… what do you do?
First, you need to think about your business’ information and determine if any major components, namely your business name, address, and phone number (NAP), have changed recently. When it comes to determining rankings, Google focuses first on this information and what consumers are most likely searching for.
If you’ve gone through a rebrand or relocated in recent history, you need to update your business listings as soon as possible. Even something as simple as a spelling error can impact your local search rankings, so attention to detail is key. Unfortunately, even though half of all business owners are aware of inconsistencies in their local listings, they just don’t have the time to track and fix them because even if you know of a few inaccuracies, how can you be certain that you’ve identified them all?
One of the best options is to enlist the help of a marketing agency that will scour the top listing websites and apps for your business’ information and ensure that all of it is consistent. From social networks to review websites and blogs, your business will be accurately represented and build a greater SEO authority as a result.
Setting Your Sights on Site Citation
A local citation is any online mention of your business and this information can be culled from entries on social media platforms, local business directories, and of course apps & websites. Citations not only help internet users discover local businesses, but they also impact local search engine rankings. Thankfully, many of these citations can be actively managed in order to ensure data accuracy for your local business.
The key elements of a local citation are your company’s NAP (Name/Address,/Phone) but can also include a link or reference to a designated page of your website. In addition, citation’s may include some or all of the following components:
- Business Description
- Business Categories
- Driving Directions / Geo-Coordinates
- Hours of Operation
- Reviews / Owner Responses
- Links to Your Accounts on Other Social Media Platforms
- Payment Forms Accepted
- Company Attributes
- Email Addresses
- Fax Number
- Alternate Phone Numbers
Managing local citations is not only a bit tricky, but it can also be quite time consuming, and these days has become almost an art form. Local citations significantly influence two scenarios related to local businesses:
- They either positively or negatively impact local search engine rankings. The number of citations that your business accumulates, the accuracy of your data that is cited, and the quality of the platforms that your citations exist on all influence your local rankings. Many search engines Google gather data about each business and if they encounter accurate information, the SE trusts the validity of that data and this is believed to strengthen your chances of ranking well. However, if the data encountered is not consistent, then the trust is weakened and your ranking opportunities are diminished.
- They either positively or negatively impact potential customers. While accurate citations help people discover your business and can result in transactions, inaccurate citations can misdirect customers, resulting in a loss of reputation and revenue.
Lastly, there are 3 types of local citations:
- Geo/Industry-Specific Platform Citations - In addition to building your listings on the major local business platforms that serve your industry, you can seek to build business listings on websites that are specific to your unique industry and geography. E.G. websites of professional associations and guilds or chamber of commerce websites.
- Major Local Business Platform Citations - You can create citations on a variety of important local business data platforms designed specifically to publish this type of data. Core platforms include Google My Business, Bing Places, Infogroup, Acxiom, and Localeze/Neustar and local citations can be created on popular social media platforms and review-oriented sites like Yelp and Facebook.
- Supplementary Citations - These citations can either be intentionally developed or earned based on merit and public interest/sharing of information on a wide variety of publications, including; apps, news sites, blogs, maps, government databases, and more.
Getting Reviews on Local Search Engines
As a business owner, you know full well that your reputation in an invaluable asset - what people say about your business matters, and that's especially true when it comes to what customers are saying online. You should always listen to feedback and this means monitoring your online reviews.
While online reviews may seem like a small piece of the puzzle that encompasses your online presence, every day more and more shoppers rely on review websites to help them decide which services or products to purchase - in fact, up to 93% of customers say that their spending decisions are influenced by online reviews.
Online reviews are important for a number of factors and have significant impacts due to their ability to affect:
- Local Search Engine Ranking
- Clickthrough Rates
- Purchasing Decisions
This means online reviews are as critical to your local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy as much as building citations and on-site optimization are. And there is another factor to consider in this area - your response to reviews.
Many of your customers will not only read your local reviews, but they will also seek out negative ones to see the complaint and how you handle it. Failing to respond at all, especially if you appear to engage with positive reviews, not visibly attempting to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction, arguing with reviewers or any other negative-type interactions will definitely impact clickthrough and buying decisions.
The review apps & websites are in the business of providing their users with the most up-to-date and accurate information in order to help them with their buying decisions. The more relevant information that they provide, the more consumers will turn to them again and again.
Start with the right review sites - go to Google and simply type in [Your Industry] + Reviews and check out the businesses listed on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP). You can also move your mouse over the leading search results on that page and you'll see two arrows pop-up. These enable you to access what Google calls the "Knowledge Panel" for that particular business and you can look at the sites listed under "more reviews.”
Tip - Do a web search for your business/location/industry specific keywords and use the same trick above to determine where the top listed companies’ reviews are generated from.
However, before you start writing your business profile on these sites, you need to ensure that you are fully aware of each platform’s review policies and abide by them. E.G. Yelp strictly forbids you from soliciting online reviews and will act swiftly if they detect something fishy but many other platforms don't forbid this practice at all, so you need to take the time to educate yourself.
Some helpful review tips:
- Include links to your review profiles on your business website.
- Create print material that lists the various sites that customers can review your business.
- Train your employees to "make the ask" for reviews when checking out customers.
- Request a Find Us on Yelp sticker and place it prominently.
- Set up a service like Google Alerts to get notified every time your business is mentioned online. This allows you to be able to take a more proactive approach to your online reputation management.
Local Ranking Done Right
Whether you need a complete website design, help with ranking locally, website hosting, or lead generation and marketing automation, 51 Blocks has the perfect solution for you. Contact us today and we will use our proprietary solution to not only immediately start working on your local rank, but we’ll also identify the marketing channels that work & expose the ones that don’t, communicating with you completely along the way.
Your time is invaluable to you and with 51 Blocks you can hand off those duties to true professionals with proven results.