Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2020. It was updated in 2022.
The Internet Never Sleeps & Neither Should Your Online Brand
“Market like the year you are in!”– Gary Vaynerchuk
Technology has always influenced the marketing of businesses. But few advances have impacted the business world as much as the internet. The further we’ve progressed into the information age, the more empowered buyers have become.
The modern buyer’s journey is all about the consumer having the ability to locate the information they need to make a purchase decision when and where they want it. They can do this thanks to the internet and mobile devices. The internet never sleeps, which means your company needs to be available 24/7.
Having a modern, conversion-centric website is absolutely essential. It’s your business’s virtual showroom that’s always hard at work… even when your physical location is closed for the day and you and your employees are off the clock. However, here’s something that comes as a surprise to many local small business owners: Your website is NOT the only important part of your business’s digital presence.
Make no mistake about it, your website is and will continue to be an integral component of your online brand. It’s the digital face of it. However, the online marketplace — much like the physical marketplace — is crowded with companies competing for the attention of buyers.
Think Like the Consumer
88% of consumers who performed a local search on their smartphone visited a store within 24 hours. — Google Mobile Movements Study (Source)
It’s not enough to simply have a website. To maximize traffic and win online, you must reach people when they’re at the highest point of intent… the time when they’re ready to select a business from which to buy.
Put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes. They’re ready to buy something you sell now. Most likely, they aren’t going to go directly to your website (or your competitors’ for that matter). They may not even know your company exists. If they’re like many shoppers, they’ll pull out their phone and search “(product name) near me/(current location)” to choose from the best options that are closest to them.
But people have short attention spans. They aren’t going to scroll through dozens of results. They’ll trust that Google will list the best options first. That’s the battle you must win… the battle to be at or very near the top of the list of results.
If you want your company to be found online, you’ve got to rank high in local search. How do you do that? You came to this article to find the answer, and you’ll have it once you finish reading in a few minutes.
As you make your way through this article, you’ll discover tools and techniques that will help your company get found in local search and keep traffic flowing to your website… and your brick-and-mortar. Not only that, but you’ll also learn what you can do to maintain your presence at or close to the top of search results once you get there. It’s a lot of work, but the ROI you’ll get from it will make it worthwhile.
5 Things You Should Have Done Yesterday to Get Found
For your business to get found online, you need an established presence on a variety of platforms. At the base level, there are 5 things that every local business should have done already. If you haven’t, you’re playing from behind and need to catch up quickly. As you improve (or establish for the first time) in each of the topics covered below, keep in mind that this is just laying the groundwork for your local search strategy. To outrank and stay ahead of your competitors, there’s MUCH more work to be done… and that will be discussed in more detail later in the article.
1. Claim Your GBP & Own It!
Google drives 94% of mobile search traffic. — NetMarketShare (Source)
Google is the undisputed leader when it comes to search. It’s important to take advantage of the local search tools provided by Google — many of them free. A critical one is Google Business Profile.
Google Business Profile – The account on which you manage your online presence on Google, including Search, Maps and Posts.
Google Business Profile (GBP) is the online listing for your business that you control and can use to tell your business’s story. But first, you must claim it if you haven’t already. “Claiming” is a verification process that confirms you are the true owner of the business. Once approved, you’ll have control of your account and be able to make edits and post content.
Some of the things associated with a GBP account are:
- Address & Google Maps listing
- Business hours
- Phone number
Here is a snapshot of our Google Business Profile for reference:
Tips for your GBP account:
- Fill out every field of your account
- Make sure your account is up to date and accurate at all times
- Respond to reviews
- Upload high-quality photos and create GBP posts frequently
2. Take a NAP… or 100 of Them
Before the rise of digital, business owners made sure their business was listed in the Yellow Pages. It was one of the first resources consumers would turn to when looking for a local business. Now, the Yellow Pages are online, along with hundreds of other business directories.
After your GBP account is established and filled out, the next key step to focus on is NAP listings.
NAP- An acronym for Name, Address and Phone. It refers to the way business information is listed on the web.
The NAP process consists of getting your business listed in as many online business directories as possible. This process is called building citations. The more citations you have, especially on highly used and trusted directories, the better your search engine optimization (SEO) will be. This means your business will have an increased likelihood of being ranked highly by Google and found by buyers.
Here is a small sampling of the top online business directories on which to build citations (and there are numerous others you’ve never heard of before):
- Apple Maps
- Better Business Bureau
- Yellow Book
- Angie’s List
With NAP, your business listings must be both accurate and consistent. Accuracy is obvious, but you may not have realized until now that inconsistent listings, regardless of how minor the inconsistencies are, negatively affect local search efforts.
For example, don’t list your address as 123 E First Street on one directory and 123 East 1st Street on another or your phone number as 555-123-4567 in once place and 5551234567 in another. Keep it uniform across the board!
3. “Hey Siri, Find __________ Near Me.” They’re Asking… Are You Listening?
For your website to rank, you need to tell Google what it’s all about. This is done by utilizing “schema markup,” which is code put on a website to help search engines return more informative and relevant results to users. This makes it quicker and easier for Google’s “crawlers” to understand who you are and what you do. The schema markup, in essence, provides CliffsNotes of your website content.
Schema markup applies to all websites to help searchers who are utilizing the browsers on their desktops, cell phones and tablets. But what about people who search via voice?
More and more people are using voice-enabled devices. Not only that, it’s also becoming increasingly common for those devices to be utilized to research products and find local businesses. The time for optimizing for voice search is now!
How do you increase the likelihood that your business is found when someone searches via voice? Luckily, Google has you covered with its speakable schema markup.
Speakable schema markup- A Google tool that allows businesses to indicate content that is supported by voice search technology.
By utilizing speakable schema markup, you can highlight key content related to your business, make it easy for Google’s algorithm to locate it and, in turn, get better visibility to your target audience.
If your website has content that is relevant to local searchers and is equipped with speakable schema markup to help search engines understand it, you have an increased chance of being mentioned in the response when someone says, “Hey Siri, Find __________ Near Me.”
4. Get ’Em Talking About You
72% of customers won’t take action before they read some reviews. — Testimonial Engine (Source)
More than half of consumers won’t use a business if it has less than a 4-star rating. — BrightLocal (Source)
Today’s consumers greatly value input from their peers. That’s why the majority look at the reviews of a business and its products on Google (and other business review websites) before deciding whether or not to purchase. If several reviews aren’t available or if most of the reviews aren’t positive, they aren’t likely to buy.
Having numerous positive reviews about your business offers these benefits:
- Increased visibility on local search results
- Proof of credibility
- A way to stand out above competitors with few and/or negative reviews
- Free marketing & increased word-of-mouth referrals
You can earn positive reviews by providing satisfactory products and good customer experience. However, you will compile reviews faster by encouraging customers to provide feedback. There’s nothing wrong with asking, especially when you consider the impact on local search efforts. For more insight on soliciting reviews, check out “4. Request Reviews from EVERYONE (And Respond to Them)” later in this article.
5. Show Your Authority
75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design. – Stanford Web Credibility Research (Source)
88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. – Gomez
All the work you put in to build your online presence is done with the goal of getting people to visit your website to learn more about your business. Once you get them there, you want to prove that you have authority in whatever niche you fill and are the best solution to their needs. You want them to stay for a while, absorb knowledge and engage.
For that to happen, your website must:
- Look great
- Work great
- Be a digital version of your brick & mortar
- Be a “salesperson” that works 24/7/365
- Constantly evolve — You can’t set and forget your site. Frequently adding new pages and content to your blog benefits your SEO efforts. You also need to account for security updates and other maintenance requirements to ensure your site isn’t vulnerable to attacks and operates at peak performance in the ever-changing digital landscape.
People make up their minds quickly about whether or not they like something, especially when it comes to surfing the web. If a website isn’t user-friendly, visitors will bounce quickly.
Here are a few characteristics of a user-friendly website:
- Fast load times
- Responsive display (Site displays properly on desktop, mobile & tablet)
- Design that funnels visitors to relevant content
- Easy ways to convert
- Engagement opportunities for those not yet ready to buy
For a deeper look at user-friendly web design, read Here’s How You Can Improve Your Website User Experience…
Questioning if your website is up to par? Considering an update to your existing website to improve user experience or maybe even an entirely new site? If so, don’t start until you’ve read How to Save Time & Money on Your Next Website Project.
To review, the 5 items you just read about are key if you want to have any kind of success getting your business found online. However, the work doesn’t stop once you’ve checked them off your to-do list. If you really want to dominate in local search and keep your competitors at bay, there’s another list of strategies and tactics to employ.
7 Things You Should Continue to Do to Increase & Maintain Dominance
Getting your GBP account established and showing up in local search results is one thing. Climbing the ranks and getting found by more and more people is another. You don’t want to settle for average results. That’s obvious from the fact that you’re reading this article.
The following is a list of 7 things to do to your GBP listing if you want to improve your business’s ranking and keep it near the top for the long haul.
1. Make Your Pictures Worth a Thousand Words by Geotagging Them
Earlier, you learned that your GBP should be filled out completely. This includes adding original photos of your business that showcase it and tell its story. Geotag your photos before you upload them.
Geotagging- The process of adding geographical information to media in the form of metadata.
To put it more simply, when you geotag photos, you’re adding location information to them that can be found by Google. Because GBP listings are based off the exact location of businesses, the more location-specific information you can provide, the better.
Geotags give Google more business information to index. And the more information there is to index, the higher the business will rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are many online tools and apps that allow you to geotag images. One popular option is GeoImgr. Find one that meets your needs, and use it every time you’ve got a quality photo of your business you want to share on your Google Business Profile.
2. They Searched It… Now Make Sure You Show Up with the Right Keywords
For your business to be relatable to your target audience, it’s got to “speak their language.” This means your content must contain keywords they search for when they utilize Google.
Keywords- Words and phrases in content that define what the content is about.
Keywords highlight the value of the content. They identify what a web page or blog post is all about. Keywords go hand-in-hand with SEO, although you can apply the same logic to traditional forms of marketing as a way to resonate with targets.
To ensure your digital content is applicable to what your target audience is looking for, you’ve got to do keyword research. The goal of keyword research is to discover various forms of terms that people search related to a topic.
Keywords can be short — a word or two. However, you also need to think about long-tail keywords, which are search terms that are three, four or more words long and are very specific. For example, a regular keyword could be “local restaurant” and a long-tail keyword could be “seafood restaurant Chicago, IL.” The results of both searches will be similar, but the long-tail search will provide much more focused results.
Both forms of keywords are important and should be used in your content. Shorter keywords typically get a higher search volume, but long-tail keywords are more likely to provide results that are exactly what the searcher was hoping to find.
Another facet of keywords is to take into consideration the types of keywords your competitors use and how they rank. This type of research is called a competitor analysis. This task will give you an idea of the kinds of keywords you need to use to remain competitive. It also to enables you to think strategically about keywords your competitors aren’t using that you can capitalize on and use to gain traffic.
Google Keyword Planner is one tool you can use for keyword research.
A good starting point is to determine 10 core keywords. Once you have identified them, use them frequently in your content (but don’t oversaturate because you can be penalized for doing so). Keywords should be present throughout your GBP account and also on your website.
For more on keywords, read Keywords: Not Just for Google.
3. Become a News Source by Creating & Posting Content
78% of B2C marketers say they can demonstrate, with metrics, how content marketing has increased audience engagement. — Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs (Source)
Because the internet never sleeps, people consume content at a rapid pace. They are constantly on the hunt for more in an effort to be as informed as possible, especially when it comes to making purchase decisions.
It’s important to satisfy that hunger by keeping your content fresh. Don’t run the risk of becoming “old news.” Be a news source by frequently posting content consumers will find informative and entertaining about your business, products, services and industry.
Google Business Profile posts are built for this very reason.
Google Business Profile posts- A section of a GBP account to which business owners can post photos and text.
Google provides templates for various post types:
- Offer – To publicize sales, promotions and special offers
- Update – To share business and industry news and insight
- Event – To promote an event at your business
- Product – To promote a product or service offered by your business
It’s a good search strategy to update your website content frequently as well. This doesn’t mean changing what your core pages say, however. Businesses are encouraged to have a News or Blog page on which content is posted regularly.
It can seem daunting to treat your business as a news source. You do have a business to run, after all, and will have limited time to focus on content creation. For this reason, it’s recommended to put together a content calendar. On it, list the news, events and promotions you want to post about so you’re always planning ahead. If possible, have the copy and photos finalized prior to the posting date so you don’t have to rush to complete it before it’s due. It’s much easier to stay on top of content creation when you’ve got a schedule in place as opposed to working on the fly.
For a more in-depth look at GBP posts, read If You Aren’t Taking Advantage of This Free Google Business Profile Feature, You Should Be!
4. Request Reviews from EVERYONE (And Respond to Them)
Reviews provide a stamp of approval for your business. And when potential customers are checking out your business for the first time on Google Business Profile, seeing a long list of positive reviews from previous customers will give them peace of mind that you are a business they can trust.
How do you increase the number of reviews posted to your Google Business Profile? Some will happen organically as a result of outstanding products and customer service. However, there’s no shame in soliciting reviews… especially when the results are so beneficial to your business.
Here are some ways to ask for reviews:
- In person when someone buys in-store
- With a request printed on a receipt
- With a callout on your print or email newsletter
- Using a social media ad or post
- Via text message
To make it more convenient for your customers to leave reviews, you can use a review link generator like Grade.us or Whitespark. This enables you to create and share a link that will take customers right to your review section where they can provide feedback.
It’s also very important to respond to reviews of your business, especially any negative ones. This shows consumers that you value customer feedback and care about resolving any issues they had. Just remember to remain professional at all times. Responding in a lackadaisical or angry manner will give you a negative reputation online.
5. Open the Lines of Communication with SMS/MMS
When most business owners think about the ways shoppers can communicate with them today, they think of the two big ones — phone and email — and perhaps some lesser-utilized options like website contact forms, chatboxes or social media messages. One that is frequently overlooked is text messaging (SMS/MMS).
It’s actually pretty obvious when you think about it. How do most people on the go communicate these days? By texting! People have become more reluctant to speak on the phone… especially with people they don’t know. But texting can be done quickly and easily. In fact…
85% of mobile users prefer SMS messages over emails or calls from businesses. — AT&T (Source)
SMS/MMS is a good tool to have in your marketing toolbox because:
- It’s the most utilized mobile device feature: At least 97% of smartphone owners text regularly. — Pew Research Center (Source)
- Users don’t need a smartphone or internet connection
- There’s no app to download or new program to learn
- It’s a one-on-one form of communication
- It outperforms email: 97% open rate, 36% clickthrough rate & < 5-minute response time for text vs. 22% open rate, 6% clickthrough rate & > 90-minute response time for email — Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions Inc. (Source)
Bottom line, if you’re looking for an effective, user-friendly way to market that your competitors may not be utilizing, text is definitely one to try.
6. Understand & Monitor Your Reach
How do you know how well your local search optimization efforts are working? By monitoring your reach. This means getting a snapshot of your ranking authority in your area. Your ranking will vary based on your SEO strategy as well as the location of the person performing the search.
You obviously want to rank at or close to the top of results in the immediate area around your brick-and-mortar since those are searchers closest to your door. Your ranking authority will naturally get less and less the farther away the search is from your business location. Your goal should be to maintain your strong presence near your location and make as many inroads as you can for the fringe areas of your territory.
First, you need a way to monitor your reach. There are multiple services available that generate a map overlay showing your ranking authority in your local area. Here’s an example of a “geogrid” image:
Whatever tool you choose, utilize it frequently because search engine results change constantly as Google’s algorithms work to provide the most relevant and up-to-date information to users.
Staying on top of the changes by monitoring available reach data will ensure you are ready to react with an appropriate strategy to stay ahead of your competitors.
7. Sit Back & Watch the ROI
As you fine-tune your marketing, it’s critical to identify key reporting metrics to help you determine your ROI. A commonly used metric is average cost per sale. For example: Jasper’s Restaurant has an average ticket total of $30.
There is also average conversion rate of leads. Let’s say you get 100 leads (calls, walk-ins, inquiry emails, etc.) each month. How many of those leads become new customers/orders? Keep in mind that it’s common for this to be a somewhat low number. This metric isn’t an exact science, so it’s ok if you just come up with a general estimate. Just remember to consider every interaction — even if it’s a simple customer service call or vendor call — into your percentage.
Fortunately, there are tools you can utilize to help you monitor your interactions. For example, you can implement call-tracking software. The software will assign unique phone numbers for each marketing tactic used, which enables the service to record reporting metrics for each phone number that was called so you know exactly which tactics are generating response and which ones aren’t.
You can also set up your reports from your various accounts to include these other key metrics:
- Calls from GBP
- Website visits
- Driving directions used to navigate to your business
- Post engagement/clicks
- Number of reviews
The hardest part is the initial work of determining the metrics and the tools to measure them. But once they’re in place, all you need to do at the end of each month is just access the data, maybe do a few calculations and analyze the results. Fine-tuning as you go will get your business to a spot where your marketing is working well for you and you just need to watch the ROI roll in.
Don’t Have the Time, Expertise or Desire to Do It Alone?
Think you have a good grasp of the things you need to do to increase and maintain your dominance in local search? Ready to work these tasks into your schedule and flex your marketing muscle? If so, you can stop reading here, and we wish you good luck!
But if your answer is a resounding, “No!” don’t worry; that’s actually the expected answer from most local small business owners.
Of course you are concerned about not having the time to do everything presented in this article. As a local business owner, you’ve got enough to keep you busy throughout the day. And since you’re reading this article, you want to become EVEN BUSIER, which will leave you with even less time to learn, implement and continually optimize your local search authority. And let’s face it, marketing is challenging enough for professionals who live it day in and day out, let alone busy business owners who have a laundry list of tasks to manage already.
With our “Get Found” service, we take care of ALL the tactics outlined above PLUS ongoing management. All you need to do is share some details with us, request and respond to reviews and provide some new photos.
To get started, contact us and then complete the following assignment:
Assignment Step #1: Claim & Provide Access to Your GBP
If you’ve already claimed your GBP account, you just need to provide us with access. Here’s how:
1. Sign in to your GBP account.
2. Choose your location
3. Click “Users” in the left navigation
4. Click the “Add” icon on the upper right side of the box and click “Invite new users”
5. Enter the Location ID number we provide you with
6. Use the drop-down menu to choose the “Manager” role
7. Click “Invite”
8. Notify us that you sent the invite so we can verify we have access
If you need help claiming your account before going through the steps above, let us know and we’ll help.
Assignment Step #2: Give Us Your NAP
Provide us with the name, address and phone number you want to list for your business so we can build hundreds of local citations for you. After reading this article, you know how important consistency is, so double-check to make sure the business information you provide is accurate and formatted EXACTLY the way you want it because it will be listed that way everywhere.
Assignment Step #3: Provide a List of 10 Keywords You Think Your Buyers are Searching
We will analyze your competition, look up the demand for the provided keywords and focus on the top 5. This will provide a solid foundation on which to build.
Assignment Step #4: Take Photos
Compile a good-sized collection of photos to be added to your GBP account. We recommend having 50 photos available:
- 15 interior shots of your business
- 15 exterior shots of your business
- 10 shots of your employees
- 10 shots of your equipment
Quality is key. If you have good photography skills, you can use your own smartphone or digital camera. Otherwise, you can hire a local photographer to take the photos for you.
Assignment Step #5: Provide a List of Promotions & Details
Earlier, it was mentioned how you can create GBP posts for promotions. If you have existing documentation of planned promotions, share that with us. Otherwise, you’ll need to create a document first. We need full promotion details, dates and supporting photos so that we can effectively showcase each of your upcoming promotions.
Assignment Step #6: Let Us Prove ROI
Provide us with access to the reporting accounts you utilize (Google Analytics, GBP, Facebook Business Manager, etc.) and let us take it from there. We’ll generate monthly reports and share the results so your marketing continually improves and your ROI continues to increase.
Help Google Business Profile Help You & Start Seeing Results
You want assurance that your business will be front and center when consumers are ready to buy… whenever that may be. By clicking on and reading through this article, you’ve gained information about the steps you should have already taken and the steps you will need to take now to maximize the usefulness of your Google Business Profile account.
The tools and techniques, when implemented correctly, will improve your standing in local search results and help you stand out from your competitors. Did you ever think that Google Business Profile would play such an important role in getting traffic on your website and people through the door of your business?
Start optimizing your Google Business Profile today, and the results will soon speak for themselves.