As a local business, you’re a valuable part of a tight-knit community of neighbors and other local businesses. You rely on both being part of the community to improve/expand your reputation and be the go-to resource by neighbors.
In other words, you want people to look to you for your expertise. That might mean you are recommended on a local neighborly website like Nextdoor. It could mean that a giant internet mammoth like Google thinks you’re the expert.
However you’re getting business now, there’s always room to improve it. The methods I lay out in this post will help boost your business ranking which puts you in front of more people when they search for you.
Local Search Is Different Than General Search
Google shows different results for searches that are likely to be local vs more general. That’s why Google will show different results for every person depending on many different factors.
If I search for an HVAC contractor in San Jose I will see very different results than if I search in Albany. So, how do you make sure Google knows to show your business when people search?
You need to optimize for two things in three different categories.
Optimize for what you do + where you do it.
And optimize for that in the following three categories.
- Get listed in business directories (Google My Business being the most important of them).
- Constant review and reputations management.
- A website built to rank locally.
So, if you’re an HVAC contractor, you’ll want to make sure that’s clear. You’re not just an HVAC contractor, though. You’re an HVAC contractor in Albany (or San Jose or wherever).
Make sure you clarify exactly what you do and where you do it. An HVAC contractor is kind of a general term, though. Go into more depth about what you do in the HVAC field.
People search for a lot of different things related to HVAC contractors. Make sure you’re thinking about all those things and covering them in-depth in each of the three major categories.
Check out what Google comes up with for all the terms related to HVAC.
Most of these keywords are important to optimize your content for. Varying your descriptions, explaining some of the services you cover and talking about some of the areas you serve are essential.
So, now that you have a general idea of what to write about and optimize for, where do you need to do it?
That’s what’s up next!
Each of the three categories is covered in more depth. If you pay attention to each one and revisit them often (at least monthly) then your business will start creeping up in local search rankings.
Prominent Directory Listings
The best things in life are free. That also goes for directory listings and local marketing.
The most important place to market your local business is also free. That is, it’s free for the basic level of getting listed and seen in local searches.
Creating a free Google My Business profile for your business is the essential first step. That is if you haven’t created one already. If you’re not sure, search Google for your business first. There’s nothing more harmful to your business than having multiple listings of your business.
Your Google My Business. (GMB) profile should not be confused with the free page they give you with your profile. It’s not a good website and only has the same information as your Google My Business profile. You can create it but don’t rely on it as your website.
Creating your free GMB profile will get your business seen in two extremely important places.
- Google search pages.
- Google Maps (app)
Here’s what each looks like on the likely spot where someone is searching.
If your customer opens up the browser on their smartphone and searches for heater repair, this is what they’ll see.
Google Maps is another popular method for searching for local stuff. Hey, why not? You’re likely to get directions anyway so why complicate things?
If you scroll past all the ads (and a lot of people do to the tune of 14-25% according to BrightLocal studies) then the first thing people stop on is the local results which are your (and your competitors) Google My Business profiles.
28.8-32.3% of searches head right for the business listings with most of the rest going to the organic search results (websites are still very important).
So, what’s the moral of all this?
Create your Google My Business profile and spend a lot of time getting it right. Google takes a lot of cues from other directories, though so don’t ignore everything else.
The second most important directory is likely Yelp in your market (if you’re in the United States). So, be sure you also focus on creating a good Yelp profile.
There’s still more beyond GMB and Yelp so don’t think those are the only two important directories. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you do. No matter what anybody tells you, directories are still important and do provide a lot of signals to Google on what’s important.
While people may not find your business on some of the other business directories, they do contribute to your overall ranking. Business information that’s accurate and consistent across important directories will boost your overall search performance.
That’s why business listings management is essential to getting more customers online.
Business directories are the first step to improving your rank. How you manage your listings after creating them is important. Part of the management process is getting reviews and managing your reputation.
Guess what? That’s what’s next on the list!
Constant Review & Reputation Management
Never stop working on getting more reviews for your business on independent third party websites such as Google My Business and Yelp. While you can’t ask for reviews on Yelp, you can let people know your business is on Yelp.
Where does that leave you for getting reviews?
Have a strategy in place that helps you along the process of getting more reviews and improving your reputation.
Do you follow up with your requests for review? You can request on Google, just not Yelp.
Do you respond to your reviews?
How long do you wait to respond to reviews?
Are you missing reviews and therefore missing out on responding to them?
These are all things you need to think about with reviews and managing your reputation online. Your reputation is everything. A good reputation will help you rank higher in searches, therefore, being seen by more customers.
A bad reputation will send you right to the bottom and keep you there.
You don’t need a perfect 5-star rating but you do need something in the 4’s. In fact, a rating in the high 4’s is more trustworthy than a 5-star review. Why? Because an average rating of 5-stars looks suspicious, kind of like it’s fake and manipulated.
Using a good reputation management platform can help increase your ranking significantly. If you ask for a review once and only ask for a general review then you’re not likely to get many good reviews.
If you ask for a review and remind your customer a few times, that’ll work much better. Even better yet? Guide the feedback your customer’s leave by asking them to let people know what service/product you provided.
If your reviews are littered with valuable keywords and location information then Google is going to eat that up.
We’ve built a review management and reputation management platform that makes it easy for you to ask for reviews and automate all followups. Not only that but it monitors for reviews and lets you respond to them right from one dashboard.
The complexity and importance behind managing business listings and reviews well makes a single-source platform extremely valuable.
But that’s not all there is to get more local customers!
As mentioned a few other times, websites are still important IF they’re done well. Not just any website will do, either. Let’s get into what’s important to help your local business get more local customers.
Well-Built Localized Website
Websites are still an essential part of ranking online. Not only that but customers actually do look at them. In fact, a lot of your customers are likely looking at (or looking for) your business website.
Are they finding the information they’re looking for or are they going to your competitor frustrated?
If you don’t have a good website or are relying on a basic, unhelpful Google My Business website then you’re failing your customers. You might as well point them towards your competitor.
Here’s an interesting bit of information that might just show you how important your business website is still.
Only 8% of consumers never look at websites when choosing which local business to use.BrightLocal Study
That means a tremendous 92% of consumers ARE looking at (or for) your website before choosing you. If you don’t have a website or your website is lacking (yes, it does matter) then you could move the needle a lot towards getting more customers online.
This is only taking into account the direct impact your website has on customers. There’s more to it than simply “are customers looking at my website?”
Google pulls information from a lot of different sources. Even how it determines how to rank your business in Google Maps and in the local search pack depends on a lot of different sources.
Your website is one of those sources.
A website that’s well optimized for local searches is at the root of ranking well in local searches.
You have to be able to answer these two questions confidently.
- Are customers finding the information they want and need about your business on your website?
- Is enough information on your website that search engines (Google specifically) know a good variety of what you do and where you do it?
If you can’t confidently answer resoundingly YES to both of these questions, work on them. A well-built custom website and localized website can improve the rank of your business and get you more customers.
A good website that’s built for local search will provide Google with ranking signals that will help boost your Google My Business profile too. Businesses who have a well-optimized local website far outperform business without a good website.
Bad website = bad ranking and unsatisfied potential customers. Good website = improved ranking signals and customers who are confident they know what you’re all about.
Local Small Business Marketing Trio Summed Up
Marketing your local business is complex. A website alone isn’t a silver bullet but nothing in life is. It takes an effort in each of these three categories to get more customers online.
We’ve dedicated a lot of resources and research to learn how to marketing small businesses locally. That’s how we arrived at this trio of strategies for marketing your local business.
We’ve also built tools that allow you to effectively and easily achieve each one with less effort. Loclmark is a local marketing tool that combines the first two, directory listings and review/reputation management.
It all started with our affordable web design service. We’ve grown up with local digital marketing at our core and it all starts with a good website.
We saw websites were either too expensive for a small local business or poorly executed (DIY websites such as Wix or Weebly). That’s why we created Loclweb. To provide affordable websites that are built specifically to help local small businesses rank better in local searches and get seen by more customers.
Whatever method you go about performing the three methods this article focused on, don’t leave anything out.
- Get your business listed on local directories (GMB is the most important).
- Ask for reviews, follow up, and manage your reputation actively online.
- Build a great local website that provides more info and details about your business.
Local marketing is essential to your business’s success. Make sure you focus on these three and don’t leave anything to chance. We’ve put together this important strategy for small business marketing. With this 3-step strategy and local marketing bundles it will be easy and affordable for your business to attain and manage all three.