Great news for “go local” businesses: more than 85 percent of brand engagement by consumers is through local listings, web pages and search results, Search Engine Land reports. More than 60 percent of people research products online before purchasing, according to Nielsen research, so there are plenty of opportunities to turn a local search interaction into a purchase. Here’s how.
Take Control of Google My Business
With Google searches accounting for nearly three-quarters of all search engine queries, building a local search strategy with Google is essential. Google My Business is a business feature for brick and mortars to use to showcase hours, add photos, respond to user reviews on Google and more. When customers search for a business using Google or Maps, the Google My Business result is prominently shown. Proactively managing this result can help a business control how it appears to users who search.
Some best practices to keep customers engaged when they interact with a Google My Business listing include:
- Add eye-catching photos to a listing
- Thoughtfully read and respond to user reviews to show that your business cares
- Keep hours up-to-date
- Complete your listing with accurate contact information and a website
Use Google My Business insights to see how customers are interacting with your brand, such as if they’re requesting directions, visiting your website or calling you from the listing. Data like this can help you optimize customer interactions, such as leaving directions in a voicemail greeting, or making sure you train more staff members to answer phones and complete actions on calls. You can also see which photos are most popular, where customers are requesting directions from and more.
The more reviews a local business has and the higher-rated the reviews are on Google, the more likely a business is to appear in top results for general searches, such as the top three restaurants that appear for an “Italian food Denver” search, reports Denver digital marketing agency AlphaMind Studios. Make sure you mention how great it’d be for your happy customers to leave you a Google review, and post a call to action to review your business on Google to increase your number of high-quality reviews.
Get on More Local Directories
Depending on your industry, there are many other search directories you should have a presence on. Think beyond local. For example, someone might search, “Phoenix plumbing companies Angie’s List”, pairing a nationwide directory with a local city in a single search.
HubSpot has a good comprehensive list of 50 online local business directories to consider. In addition to optimizing listings on other general search engines like Bing and Yahoo!, consider creating and managing business profiles for these sites:
- Yelp: In December 2017, Yelp had an average of 77 million desktop unique visits. This review site has categories ranging from doctor’s offices to hotels. Managers of pages should respond to reviews, since some users may remove a negative review after a positive interaction with a page manager.
- Facebook: Facebook is continually evolving its local search functionality, and with more than 2 billion global users every month, it’s a formidable player in local search. Optimize a Facebook business page with keywords related to your business and industry. Pay attention to and respond to user comments and reviews, and make sure all contact information is up-to-date. Use a call to action button like “Contact Us” to make it easy for Facebook users to get in touch with your business.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is not just a social network for B2B enteprises. With more than 545 million users, LinkedIn is a site visited daily by professionals from diverse industries. Companies can reach this wide audience by optimizing their company pages and posting engaging content on their feeds. This helps to increase visibility across the network and gives users a way to get in touch with businesses on a more personal level.
Additionally, be sure to search for “[local business directories] + [your industry]” to see top sites related to your business. Online yellow pages sites and industry-specific review sites like TripAdvisor can be beneficial for your business to have a presence on.
Use your website analytics tool to see where your referrers are coming from. This can help you learn if updating a page on a local directory or improving your review management on a certain site is beneficial.
Best Practices for Local Search Management
While customers are powerful in that their reviews are trusted and can influence peers, local businesses can also follow best practices to improve local search standings. Consider these techniques.
- Optimize your pages. Take the same care with local listings that you would your own website. Properly brand your pages with correct business spelling, accurate address and directions, the correct hours you’re open, a phone number and email address that work, etc. Write detailed descriptions that include keywords related to your business to increase your likelihood of being found in searches.
- Claim vanity urls. On sites like Facebook where you can create a custom url with your brand name in it, do so. This makes you more searchable in search engines and helps you protect your brand.
- Respond to reviews. In person, you may live by the philosophy that the customer is always right. Consider the same principle online. Some customers will leave negative reviews because they’re angry and want your attention. If you respond honestly and in a caring way, you can help to increase their satisfaction (and they might possibly remove the negative review), plus, you signal to other customers that your business cares about its clients.
- Add eye-catching photos. Sites like Yelp and Google My Business allow business owners to upload photography. This is another way to optimize your page and make it stand out to searchers.
- Solicit more positive reviews. Use in-person compliments or email messages praising your business as opportunities to form a relationship with customers and ask for further support on review sites. For example, if someone speaks well of you in your store, hand out a card listing links to your review sites and ask them if they’d consider reviewing you online. You can also promote your review sites on your own website, in email marketing, on social media posts and other places online. Search Engine Land reports more than 70 percent of consumers will leave a review when they are asked.
Some businesses hire public relationship companies to protect their reputation in newspapers and other publications. All businesses are able to proactively play a role in their local search reputation, by participating on sites, connecting with customers, and positively promoting their brands.