While I was at SMX East last week I had the opportunity to sit in on the SoLoMo Landscape session (my liveblog) that was taking place there. The goal of the session was to look at the convergence happening among social media, local search and mobile, and discuss how small business owners could take advantage of it. Gib Olander, Gregg Stewart and Siva Kumar all spoke on the panel and offered some really interesting tips about the evolution that’s taking place and how we could benefit as SMBs.
Why should small business owners even care?
Because, according to Gregg, we no longer have a choice as the Web and mobile have officially gone local. Consider:
- One out of every five searches has a local intent.
- One out of every three mobile searches has a local intent.
Customers are going online to find information about the businesses that exist 15 miles from their doorstep. If you’re not there, you don’t exist.
Of course, one of the biggest elements driving this trend is social media. We’re checking in, we’re using coupons and we’re interacting like never before with the businesses that exist right in our neighborhood. With that comes an opportunity for SMBs to engage and capitalize on the SoLoMo revolution.
What can you do to make sure you’re taking advantage of SoLoMo? Here’s where every small business should start.
1. Claim and Optimize Your Basic Listing Information
You’ve heard this before. The first part of developing a Web presence is taking the time to claim and optimize your listing. Well, it’s true.
During his presentation, Gregg noted that local search’s foundation is really about listing management. It’s about claiming your online listings and doing the due diligence to make sure that they’re accurate and consistent, especially your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). When it comes to listing optimization, you want to focus on four things.
- Accuracy: Ensure your listing contains the correct information.
- Distribution: Disperse listings to multiple distribution channels.
- Signal Strength: Make sure listings are accurate and identical across multiple channels.
- Enrichment: Add additional information and features to listings, if applicable.
Once your listings are claimed and accurate, optimize them by using your exact business name, choosing the proper categories, uploading media and making sure you’re using keywords wherever applicable. Gib Olander noted in his presentation that sites like Yelp are using the metadata you include in your listing to determine whether you’re relevant to a user’s search or history. That’s why it’s so important that small business owners take the time to completely fill out their listings. The more you give, the more these sites have to use.
2. Ask Consumers for Ratings and Reviews
There’s been some controversy lately about whether or not third-party reviews still matter for local search ranking. This was a result of Google recently deemphasizing third-party review information in favor of its own. Many asked if this meant that Google no longer valued third-party citations or that non-Google reviews are less valuable.
No. Not even a little bit.
Google may be promoting its own content over others, but that does not mean that these reviews or citations are any less important. You still need to be diligent about asking consumers for ratings and reviews of your business because, as much as we’d like to think that happy customers will flock to our pages and leave us reviews on their own, the data shows that they won’t. Gregg noted that only 23 percent of consumers have left a rating or a review and that only 6 percent identify as being active in that behavior. Consumers are looking to reviews to help them make purchasing decisions; they’re just not as proactive about leaving them as they should be. That puts the burden on the business owner to ask for that reviewing behavior.
3. Engage Users Through Promotions
This is often where social really begins to come into play. Because consumers are actively searching for great deals and coupons, SMBs have a powerful opportunity to capture someone who may not have a specific business in mind when they’re doing a search. Consider getting involved in sites like Yelp, FourSquare or Gowalla, which will help you provide that incentive for a user to give you a shot. Sometimes a coupon for checking in is all they need to start a relationship with you.
Siva noted in his presentation that customers prefer to do business with companies they view as “friends.” According to Siva, stores that have more than 100 fans often see a 7 to 8 percent higher click-through rate than those that do not. They also have a 125 percent higher conversion rate. If you don’t have a Facebook fan page, get one. Create the account and start accumulating followers from people who shop at your store. This will drive social relevance to you over time.
4. Monitor All Local Search Sites to See What’s Being Said
With social media, local search and mobile all coming together, it’s vital that you’re monitoring the relevant local search sites and that you know what’s out there about your brand. Whether it’s a conversation you need to enter, a customer service problem you can solve, or an inaccurate business listing that needs fixing, you can’t resolve it unless you know it’s there. Part of being a responsible small business owner means using a tool like Google Alerts or something more sophisticated like Trackur to help you monitor the conversation around you.
By following the advice laid out above, small business owners can help themselves take advantage of the SoLoMo revolution currently taking place.