Have you ever searched for a local business or shop online? You are not alone, there are plenty of others out there looking closer to home for what they want. Appearing for these queries requires local search optimization, and it’s vitally important to the success of your business.
Location, Location, Location
It doesn’t matter where you’re based, you need to be found in the search engines if people are searching for products and services in your area. Even though the global village is getting bigger, many people still want the convenience of getting their goods and services locally.
Being Found by on Local Google Searches
For most local searches, Google now shows map listings with (usually) at least 3 businesses listed. Obviously, placement in this list is highly coveted and the strategies that I use to rank businesses well in local results are the subject of this article.
Take Ownership of Your Google+ Local Page
Many local businesses already have a Google+ Local (what used to be called Google Places) page, but often these have been automatically generated by Google and are not managed by the business itself. Click here to find out how to setup your Google+ Business Page.
There are a number of advantages to claiming your Google+ Local listing, including being able to link it to your website, add pictures and videos, update contact information and write a nice detailed description mentioning the products and services you offer.
If your unclaimed listing is already showing up in Google search results, click on the listing and you will notice a “Manage this page’ button towards the bottom. This will take you through the verification process, which usually involves requesting a postcard with PIN number or an automated phone call to your business phone line to make sure that you are the authorised business owner.
If your listing isn’t showing up, or you’re not sure if Google has an automatically-generated listing for your business, you can try creating a new listing. If Google finds duplicate details in their system, they’ll ask if you’d like to manage the existing page rather than creating a new page.
When you’re managing your Google+ Local page it’s best to include as much information as possible because Google tends to favour fully completed listings. So be sure to add pictures, videos, opening times, contact information and anything else you can possibly cram into that page to give Google exactly what it wants.
Establish a Process for Obtaining Reviews from Customers
It should be the goal of every local business to try and get as many reviews from their customers as possible. Getting your customers to leave reviews on your Google+ page is a great way to boost your local visibility and attract more clicks to your site.
The main obstacle for most local businesses is actually creating a system for collecting the reviews. Early on they might ask a select few customers for a review on their page, then every so often they’ll do another spurt of requests, but in most cases they don’t have a fixed repeatable system in place, seriously limiting the number of reviews that they collect.
Creating a system doesn’t have to be hard work to either build or implement. In fact, with a little creativity, it can even run automatically. For example, if you have followed my advice you will already be collecting customer information for your database, so as part of your email marketing sequence of your early automated emails can be a simple request to leave a review along with a link to your Google+ page, Tripadvisor page, Trustpilot or any other review site that you are targeting.
If you’ve dealt with a customer who is particularly happy with your service, or you have gone out of your way to help a customer and want to make the most of the goodwill that you have generated, why not ask, “If you think we have done a good job for you, would you be willing to leave a short review on our Google+ page (include your link). It really helps us to grow our business and show potential customers what sort of service we offer.”
If you or your team follows up with customers or clients after the sale is made, ask for a review. If you sell or deliver a physical product, drop a “Will you review us?” postcard in with each purchase.
However you decide to ask for your reviews, focus on making it as easy as possible for your customers to leave them. Google+ page URL’s are long and difficult to type correctly, so you might want to consider making a reviews page on your website which has links to the different review sites you want to direct your customers to.
Create Pages on Your Website to Target Each Location
One of the main challenges for local businesses that target a number of different local areas is including enough quality and relevant content to their websites to target each individual area.
For example, you might offer a wedding planning service to a number of different counties around your local town or city. Your challenge is rank the business in an area outside of where your business is located.
However, because you would be competing against actual local competitors situated in the towns and cities you are targeting, there are some things that you should never do. One of these things is a Google+ Local ranking. Unless a local business has an office (or virtual office) in each town, it is extremely unlikely that the Google+ page will show up on maps far outside it’s area. In this case, organic SEO and Pay Per Click advertising is useful.
To combat this and target organic SEO in this instance, you could set up pages on your website targeted at each local area. These pages will be optimised for the area and include plenty of locally relevant content.
So, for the wedding planning business for example, you could set up a page for each of your different target areas and write a guide to getting married in that particular area or best locations for photos just as an example. You can use links to different local wedding venues and suppliers and write about the different styles of weddings popular in each area. The result would be a set of highly optimised pages targeting a very wide area, but with focused locally relevant content.
So if you need to target lots of local areas for your business, work out which sort of targeted content you can create which will be genuinely useful to each of the local audiences.
Putting this content on distinct pages will give them more chance of ranking well in each area, and also builds more affinity with your audience. Remember that with SEO, your main website index page isn’t the only page that can rank. All other individual pages can also rank for separate terms.
How Local SEO Will Help Your Business
Get found by local customers online
Gain more traffic from customers searching for your location
Increase your conversions
Raise your local profile
Enhance your branding
Get more people contacting you in person (phone/in store)
Optimising your site so you’re found locally will help boost traffic and conversions hugely. It will also increase your foot traffic and encourage more people to get in touch personally.
Local Search Results on Mobiles
Last but not least, think about the number of people searching on the move. Mobile technology and mobile Internet have been a game changer. More people are searching when they’re out and about, providing you with a great opportunity to attract new custom on the move. It’s true and we can help them to find your business. You can check if your website is mobile friendly with the help of one of my older posts.