It’s a competitive world out there, especially for small and medium-sized local businesses trying to establish their brands in their local communities. When it comes to attracting more local customers, your business should be harnessing the power of local SEO. Having effective SEO strategies in place and optimising your website to its full potential are the keys to improving your online search visibility.
Local SEO – Are you in Google’s local pack?
To help customers find local businesses in their area and give businesses more exposure, several years ago Google began featuring local businesses within its top local search results. This was known as Google’s ‘local pack’, in which it promoted 7 local businesses that had face-to-face contact with customers.
Google dropped its ‘local pack’ down to only 3 websites in 2015, and recently began experimenting with showing paid adverts, making the competition to claim a top spot on search engine results pages (SERP) even more intense.
With the top 3 websites on SERP generally receiving the highest organic click-through rates, having an effective local SEO strategy for your business has never been more important.
We take a look at 8 local SEO tactics that will help you to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERP) and help your business become a local household name.
Local citations are references to a local business’ name, address, phone number or website (NAP+W) on the internet. You can find citations on local business directories, websites, review sites and social media pages and they help people to find businesses in their local area.
So does this mean that the more citations you have online, the more likely it is for your business to appear in search engine results? Not necessarily, as your rankings are influenced by more than just the number of citations you have: they’re affected by the accuracy of the NAP+W information as well as the quality of the platforms on which your citations are found.
Getting your citations right has never been more important, with more and more people turning to tools like voice search for instant and reliable answers. 46% of voice search users look for a local business every day, so to make your business more visible to these new customers all of your citations need to be consistent on any sites you’re listed on. This means sticking with the same format or style of presenting your citations.
If any of your NAP+W data is incorrect, missing or isn’t listed online, this could lead to you losing out on potential customers and revenue, and have a major impact on your local search engine rankings. If search engines come across inconsistent NAP+W data, they are less likely to trust the information they have about your website and this could lead to lower search rankings.
Regularly checking your business’ listings and ensuring that they are accurate and consistent is an obvious solution, but this can be time-consuming especially if you have citations across the web. The good news is that you can use tools like Moz local, Yext and BrightLocal to help manage your business’ citations online and improve local search visibility:
- Moz local is a business listing tool that you can use to manage your business’ NAP on different search engines, online directories and apps. Another advantage to Moz local is that it also provides this information to the major data aggregators. Currently Moz local listings are paused in the UK.
- Yext is a platform you can use to manage your business’ NAP on various online directories. It automatically checks online directory listings and if it finds incorrect information about your business it will update and change this information. Yext also finds new listing opportunities for your business. There are drawbacks to Yext if you cancel your subscription, with changes made on the platform reversing to the incorrect listings and new listings made with the tool disappearing altogether.
- BrightLocal offers a flexible service and allows businesses to choose whether they would like citations submitted directly to sites or through automated distribution, or a combination of both.
Claim and verify your online business listings
It’s crucial for you to claim as many of your online business listings as possible on all the various platforms and directories that list local businesses. When you claim a listing, you are verifying that you own a specific business and have the authority to maintain its information online. Although the process of claiming your listings on different sites might vary a little, here’s what you can expect:
- Business listing sites will most likely ask you whether your business is already on their records, and you might be asked to enter a phone number or your business’ name to check whether there is a listing.
- If there is an entry for your business, you’ll need to review the information and make sure you correct any errors as well as adding missing information. You can also set up a new listing for your business at this stage, including details about your business’ name, address, phone number, website and anything else you think is important. Remember, it is vitally important that the information you provide is consistent with what is published on your website and on other platforms.
- Next, you will be asked to verify your business. Usually, you will have the choice of receiving an email with a verification link that you need to click on or a phone call where you will need to provide a verification code or pin that has been posted to your physical address to confirm that you are the business owner.
- Once your business has been verified, you will then need to wait for your listing to appear online – this can take anything from a few minutes or days to even weeks depending on the approval process.
Put your local business on the map with Google My Business
To maximise your local business’ visibility online and verify that you are a legitimate company, you also need to claim your Google My Business page.
Google My Business is an online business listing directory that is free for business owners. As the most widely used search engine, Google is an important gateway to growing a business’ presence and reputation online. Having a Google My Business is a must to boost your local search rankings. If your website is optimised in the right way with schema markup (see below) you might even find your business appearing in the coveted top 3 local results:
When claiming your business page on Google, you will follow a similar process to that above but there is one big difference: Google only allows the owner of the business to claim their page (some listings allow management by third parties), although Google recently announced the launch of its Google My Business Partners Program where agencies will be able for the first time to manage client GMB pages. You can add lots of detail to your listing such as your address, business hours, categories, forms of payment you accept, your business’ logo and images of your business or products/services. Recent additions even allow users to post questions to business pages.
This information then appears across Google when someone searches for your business, including on Google Maps, and the knowledge graph, seen here on the right of the SERP.
Build up your black book of contacts
One of the simplest ways of getting the word about your business and services out into the local community is by attending networking and business events. Going to different events held locally and nationally gives you the chance to establish your business’ presence and build links with other local business owners and potential customers.
Networking allows access to a much wider network of contacts through the new people you meet. Someone you speak to at an event might be in need of the services your business offers, or maybe they will be able to refer your details to colleagues. You can also use networking events as opportunities to ask for advice from other local business owners, especially if you are just starting out or are thinking about moving into another market.
There are lots of events that take place around the UK, and you can use sites such as FindNetworkingEvents.com to find those in your region. It’s worth keeping an eye out for events held by professional associations like local chambers of commerce, conferences in your area, or breakfast community meetings. You may even have the chance to contribute or speak at a local event, which will help with new connections and raising brand awareness.
Make your brand a local household name via social media
Social media should be a core part of your marketing strategy when it comes to growing your brand. It is all about creating an online identity for your brand and reaching your target audience through content that will encourage them to interact with you and see you as a leading local business. Social media is also usually one of the first places people look for reviews on businesses, so keeping on top of your accounts online is key.
Not every platform is appropriate for all businesses, so it is wise to be selective about which platforms work best for your business and tailor your marketing approach to the users on each platform.
Here are some effective and quick ways of building your business’ social media following:
- Review your social media accounts – take a look at who is connected with you and what kind of platforms are used most by the customers you’d like to target. Set up more social media accounts if you find there are other platforms that could benefit your business’ goals.
- Research your competitors – this will give you an insight on what kinds of posts are getting the most engagement, which can help to inform your social strategy.
- Connect with the contacts you make from networking and business events.
- Update your business’ information and images – all of your social media pages should have up-to-date contact information for your business, including a logo and a summary about your business.
- Find interesting and relevant posts to share with your target audience – this can include sharing your own content or that of other users such as links to articles, web pages, images, graphics and videos. Engaging with other users’ content also encourages them to return the favour and share or comment on your content, extending your brand’s visibility.
- Use paid advertising to generate business leads – sites like Facebook and LinkedIn give you the option of running paid campaigns. They are an effective and relatively cheap way of getting your business in front of a wider audience. On Facebook, for example, you can run local campaigns where you can pinpoint the areas you want to target as well as the age, gender, job role and interests of your potential customers.
Social media campaigns require careful thought and planning to ensure you get the most out of them. Whether you need help devising an effective social media strategy or running local campaigns, Search Solihull can offer advice and support that helps you stand out from the local competition. We can help you plan and run campaigns that generate leads for your local business, increase your followers and promote your brand.
Online Reviews – The Key To Getting Noticed Locally
To celebrate the end of the working week, you decide to go out for dinner on Friday evening and are in the mood for trying out somewhere new. You start looking for restaurants in your local area online and find a few interesting options, but since you haven’t been to any of these places before you read some reviews to find out what other customers thought about the food and service.
From the reviews, it’s clear that there is one restaurant that is outperforming the others and that happens to be the one that you choose to go to. Without consciously realising it, a few online reviews have influenced your first impressions of restaurants in your local area without you even having to step foot in them.
Reviews are a powerful tool that can improve your search rankings, build your business’ reputation online and get you noticed within your local community. Since 68% of customers form an impression of a brand by reading just 1 – 6 reviews, within a matter of minutes a potential customer might have already decided whether or not your business can meet their needs.
To boost your local SEO and grow your customer base, you should be asking customers for reviews on your business and service. You should also be monitoring review sites for reviews that you haven’t asked for. The more positive reviews the better, but if you come across any problematic reviews it is a good opportunity to answer them and use the feedback constructively. The best places for reviews are your Google My Business and Facebook pages. With correct schema markup in place, these reviews can also show on search engine results pages, creating a positive call to action. Many people also turn to social media sites for reviews on businesses, so having reviews on your Facebook business page can make a big difference. You can also use third-party sites like Trustpilot and Feefo to gather and manage reviews from customers, which can also be linked to search results.
Schema Markup – Helping You Stand Out From The Competition
Schema markup (also known as structured data markup or schema.org markup) is code that you can add to your website to help search engines better understand the content on your web pages, and therefore provide users with more accurate results.
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Yandex created schema.org in order to have a universal form of structured data markup that all search engines can understand. Different types of markup exist for various categories of content – you can find a complete list of what can be marked up here.
By using schema markup you can define what certain elements on your web page mean, such as your location, reviews, opening times and the services you offer. Adding this type of structured data also enables search engines to extract the relevant parts of a web page and display them in the form of rich data in search engine results pages (SERP).
Rich data – or rich snippets – refers to extra information that is added to search results to help users find what they are searching for, such as images, star ratings, opening times and product prices. The type of rich snippets shown in SERP depends on the content of your web pages and of course whether you have used schema markup.
For example, if your business sells gardening products some of the rich data pulled from one of your web pages could include the star rating for a product (if previous customers have left reviews), a price, an image and stock availability:
Giving users extra details about your products and services through schema markup can seriously boost your local SEO and increase organic click-through rates as some big brands found:
- Rotten Tomatoes saw a 25% increase in click-through rates on web pages with schema markup
- Food Network reported a 39% rise in traffic to pages with schema markup
- Rakuten found that users spent 1.5% more time on their pages with schema markup
Search engines want websites to use schema markup because it makes it easier for them to understand the context of your web pages. This is why Google created its Structured Data Testing Tool, which helps you to check whether your schema markup has been implemented correctly.
All you need to do is insert the URL to one of your web pages in the box that appears when you open the testing tool and click on run test:
Google will then show you your website’s code and schema markup as well as any errors it has picked up on.
Make a lasting impression with title and meta description tags
When you search for a service or product online, the first thing you see is a list of hyperlinked titles and mini descriptions that are trying to entice you to click on them. These are called title and meta description tags, which are like small adverts for each of your web pages that promote your products or services. They are important for SEO and well-written title and meta tags can make the difference between driving leads to your website or someone simply scrolling past your website.
You can customise title and meta description tags for each of your web pages, but there is a limited space in which you can really sell your business to users. When creating meta titles and descriptions:
- Have a different title and description for each web page that is an accurate statement of what you are selling or promoting – this gives users an insight on whether your business can meet their needs before they even click through to your website.
- Keep meta titles between 50–60 characters and descriptions should be between 160–200 characters – titles and descriptions that are too long tend to get cut short by search engines, which replace the remainder of the text with ellipses.
- Have a specific keyword (or a keyword phrase) that you would like to target and place the keywords as close as possible to the start of your title and description.
- Reach local customers by including in the description, the area where your business is based, a phone number and the locations that your business covers.
Getting your local business in front of a local customer base takes a multi-channel approach, which is something Search Solihull specialises in. With years of experience in online and offline marketing, we can create tailored strategies that will make your business a local leader.
We’ll be happy to talk through your business needs on 0121 288 4439 or feel free to send us a message and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible.