Most shoppers today are either doing research online before they buy, or hunting for information on a mobile device so that they can locate a place of business. So, if you have a business that gets most of its sales from within a 50 to 100 mile radius, and if your focus is on local customers, it’s more important than ever to be easily found in search engines.
According to research from Google, online information encourages people to shop locally. Not only that, but “…71 percent of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research say their device has become more important to their in-store experience.”
Here are seven ways you can improve your visibility in local search results:
1. Include your address on your website. Make sure the physical location of your business can be easily located by visitors to your site by making your address prominent. Some businesses put it on a separate contact page, but others go one better and include the address in the footer or header of every site page. Including this information on your website also increases the chance your business will be properly associated in search engines with your geographic location.
And don’t forget: make sure the information is accurate. If you’ve moved or closed a location, update the information. Include phone and email contact information as well. A map with directions is also a nice touch.
2. Claim and complete your “Google My Business” listing. Google is the powerhouse of search engines. Luckily, the company provides a means to get your business listed for free, using “Google My Business.” The great thing about Google My Business is that it’s integrated with the main Google search engine, mobile search, Google+ and Google Maps. So no matter where people are searching in Google, if you’re listed in “Google My Business,” your business has a shot at being found.
If you haven’t claimed your listing, go do it now at www.google.com/business. Or take a few moments to review and update your existing listing for accuracy. Add photos, such as a mouth-watering picture of your chef’s special dish, as they can appear in your listing and help spur interest.
3. Don’t forget Facebook! Facebook, with more than 1 billion active users every month, is another powerhouse. The social media site has been implementing a variety of features to connect consumers with local businesses. Be sure to do the following, at a minimum, when it comes to Facebook:
Set up a Business Facebook Page. A Page gives your business a presence on this massively popular site. Keep the page updated to engage with customers and your community.
Complete the address/location information on your page accurately.
Monitor reviews and ratings of your business. As the page owner, you can comment on reviews. Don’t argue with people, but do take the opportunity to thank the reviewer or correct any obvious factual inaccuracy.
Finally, consider the other options that Facebook offers, such as sponsored posts.
4. Claim other listings. Google and Facebook may be immensely popular, but they’re not the only game in town. There are other places where your business may be listed. Use the free checker at Moz Local (www.moz.com/local) to see how your business appears on various directories such as Foursquare, Bing, and directory sites.
Moz Local also offers a paid service (currently $84/year) to keep all these meticulous listings up to date from one central dashboard. It can save time and ensure consistency.
5. Leverage the power of YouTube with how-to videos. One way smart businesses are attracting customers online is through how-to videos. According to Google, how-to searches on YouTube grew 70 percent year-over-year between 2014 and 2105. So take advantage of the trend and create a how-to video related to your business.
6. Post on social media. You may not realize it, but active social media accounts can lead people to your business through search. Take for example, images posted on Pinterest. Very often these “pins” will appear prominently in Google’s image search. Tweets from Twitter also appear in search. So figure out which social platforms are most popular with your audience and post interesting images or information there.
7. Encourage online reviews. Ask satisfied customers through post-sale emails, comment cards or simply a spoken message at the register, to recommend your business via online reviews. The location-based elements of search engines today often surface recommendations and reviews of people your customers know. The more reviews online and the more social connections your business has, the more likely others will find your business. Don’t fear the online review, leverage it!
This column was provided to the Vancouver Business Journal by Dylan R Benadi, Comcast Business account executive for Portland & Southwest Washington. He can be found online at www.linkedin.com/in/dylanbenadi or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.