Many experts say that consumers and small business use the internet to find products and services and as a matter of preference about local businesses draw 82% usage of the searches. This means there is a lot of opportunity for local companies with high SEO orientation.
Recently I was invited to speak at a luncheon for local businesses who’s focus was the optimization of local web search. Out of all the information that came out of the event, are the following 10 easy things you can do today to optimize sites and content to attract local customers.
1. Claim your profile. It’s as simple as logging into Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local and walking through the verification steps which include a phone call or post card to verify your address. Don’t forget the Social Networks.
2. Upload Pictures. The local sites listing services like to provide their users with pictures of your business. To help ensure that they see some good pictures, upload your own. They don’t have to be professional photos, but they will represent your business so make sure they are very decent.
3. Control information across the internet. A big part of local search optimization and marketing involves obtaining information from other sites. Local listing aggregation services search the internet far and wide to find pictures, reviews and any information they can on your company. Submit your info to services like Localeze & infoUSA.
The downside here is that if something is incorrect on another site, it could find its way back into your local listing. If that happens, you have to go back to the source and ask them to fix the issue and then wait while the fix makes its way into local sites.
4. Ask for reviews. Most local sites,(not for Yelp), are fine with customer reviews. So do it. On your contact/thank you page, on invoices, on email communications, make a point to say “Hey we’d love it if you gave our business a review on Google/Bing/Yahoo Local.” These reviews, good or bad, make your business more creditable to future customers.
5. Bad reviews are good too. No company is perfect, so when users see all positive reviews, something looks wrong and they may actually choose a different company. Bad reviews are a part of any business and a few bad reviews can make the good reviews that much better. Obviously, you don’t want to encourage bad reviews.
6. Add local phone number. On your website, be sure to publish your local phone number in text vs within an image or not at all. 800 numbers may be nice, but the value of local prefixes pop out in local searches.
7. Have a full physical mailing address on all pages of your website, better yet, include a map on your site. Your address is important and it should be on all pages of your website to re-enforce your geographic location. A map will assist many users, be sure to include and point out parking. In congested metropolitan areas parking could make all the difference.
8. Think like the searcher/customer. What would your customers put in a search box to find you and buy your products?
Lets say you own an outdoor sporting good store; like hunting, camping, hiking and fishing. If a searcher puts put ’shoes’ into a search box, they probably aren’t a good match as it’s such a generic term. If they put ‘running shoes’ you’re still not a match as your sporting goods store doesn’t focuses on running. If they put in ‘hiking shoes’ then you want to target them.
Business owners often get caught up in popular keywords or keywords that will drive a lot of traffic and forget to focus on less popular keywords that have a higher probability of making sales. Be dynamic and flexible.
9. Multiple locations need multiple landing pages. Local sites don’t like a business having more than one local listing, but if the business has two locations, than that’s OK. However, you should ensure that each location links back to a page on your website that is all about that location and what it has to offer. Sending both local listings back to the same page, or homepage, isn’t ideal.
10. Treat Customers Right.. Everyone knows that they need to treat the customer right, but with social media, review sites and the ability for good, or bad, news to spread like wildfire, you need to treat your customers really good or “righter”. This includes online and offline customer service.
Local search takes into account information business owners put in their local profile, information it finds on other sites and information on the business’ website. Even what happens offline can be taken into consideration as customers may bring back those experiences in the form of online reviews.
Local search is it’s own unique entity as no one can control everything that appears on their local listing, but business owners can take steps to ensure that what gets listed is a good representation of the company. For more information, here is a list of local SEO blogs that we’ve reviewed in the past for TopRank’s BIGLIST with many, many more tips.