Small businesses know just how difficult it can be to attract new business to their physical location. It’s tough to run your business and manage your marketing efforts at the same time—just one more ball to juggle with the rest of your responsibilities.
Many businesses don’t realize how much potential there is in the Internet, and even if they try a few online marketing campaigns, if they aren’t successful, businesses abandon Internet marketing altogether.
As someone that works in online marketing and sees the power of successful strategies first-hand every day, take this advice: don’t give up on the Internet. According to marketing research, more consumers trust the Internet to help them find local businesses in their area and learn more about them.
With these tips, you can cash in on consumer trends with a few free and easy online tools that will boost your search engine results and get you noticed on the web:
Help Google Help You: Google+ Local
Google is one of the biggest, most widely-used search platforms on the Internet, and they provide a number of free, simple features you can use to promote your business directly to search engine users that are actively looking for your products and services.
Google Search is a product first and foremost, and that product depends upon the quality of data Google has. To make sure that they have the highest-quality data, Google invites businesses to put themselves on the map with Google Places for Business—which recently became Google+ Local.
In just a few minutes, you can boost your small business’s visibility on the Internet by providing Google with some basic information about your business. The more you provide, the better your results will be.
To get started, sign in with a Google account and go to Places for Business. From there, you can follow the prompts and either fill in your business info or claim your business from public listings and provide Google with more valuable information about your services and your brand.
You can be as sparse or as thorough as you’d like with your business’s information, but keep in mind that the more thorough you are, and the more you optimize your Google Places page with good keywords and search-sensitive information, the better your results will be.
Once you’ve completed this, your business will soon be fully discoverable across Google Maps, Google Shopping, Google+ Local, and many other Google Search products.
Use Customer Review Sites to Your Benefit
Marketing research shares a lot of insights into the weight consumers give to business reviews online: 72% of consumers said that online reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations, and 52% of them said that positive online reviews about a local business make them more likely to pay it a visit.
This points to one conclusion: online reviews are becoming more popular, and more consumers are referring directly to the Internet to seek out local businesses.
The strategy is very clear here: make these customer reviews work for your business. That doesn’t mean you should spam fake reviews of your own business all across the Internet, and it doesn’t mean you should use these review sites to slam your competition—those are bad practices that can get you blacklisted on Google Places and can destroy your good name as a reputable business in no time.
Instead, encourage your customers to leave positive reviews online. You can’t force customers to really do anything, but if just a handful of them leave positive reviews on the Internet about your business, those will become valuable testimonials that will encourage more potential customers to pay your business a visit.
Localize Your SEO and Content Marketing Strategies
The last major tip is a little obvious, but it’s surprisingly overlooked in practice: localizing your search engine optimization with region-specific keywords and place qualifiers.
If you take a look at your website analytics and the data tells you that you have lots of customers searching for you from a particular city or region, you should include that area by name in your keywords. If you find that visitors are hitting your website with a search term paired with a city or state name, optimize your online content for that particular city/state name.
Simply including city and state names with the keywords you’re optimizing for on-site is a simple, easy way to increase your visibility in those areas. Search engines will associate your keywords with the regions you’re optimizing for, so when someone within your area searches for your services, your business is more likely to rank higher due to that association with both service and regional relevance.
These are just three of the many ways you can use search engines and other online services to boost your local business, attract more qualified visitors to your website, and turn them into customers more easily.
Do you have any other good local SEO tips?
Boutique Shopping Photo via Shutterstock
Besides Google there are many directory listings that help. While its important to have Google Local page since it comes up on Google Maps you should also enter your site into many other sites like Bing and Yahoo.
Local SEO is only getting better. Now more than ever it’s very important to make sure that your company information is consistent across the major directory sites and that your Google Plus page matches. These are important trust factors and make sure that you’re 100% complete as well.
Like you said above, I always tell businesses that the first step to ranking locally, is to claim your Google+ Local page. It is the most crucial step and it is fairly easy.
After that I would start looking at ways to get your Name, Address, Phone (NAP) distributed out across the web.
I always recommend that companies have their full address displayed on every page of the website and then, depending on the competition, set up localised landing pages for each City/Town etc.
Local SEO is a challenge and an opportunity as a niche for those that can figure out how to succeed. There are many more tools out there today then just a year ago for succeeding in Local SEO. Moz makes a great tool for Local.