Ever since the Venice update, local search started growing increasingly more complex.
Today, borders between traditional and local search are completely blurred. Everything is a blend. Simple “10 packs” or “7 packs” are now a thing of the past. Location prominence stopped being all that it takes to win.
Nobody knows how the local ecosystem will change in the future, but we do know that every business with a physical presence needs to find its place in it.
Local search is serious business. Businesses need to reshape their local strategy as local search evolves.
Here are 11 steps you can take to get more out of your local search presence:
1. Broaden Your Horizons
It’s not just Google Maps anymore. Spam doesn’t last. Cheap tricks don’t work. It’s time to market. Think about marketing campaigns that could bring you a step closer to search independence.
Ironically, these type of campaigns (for example, business events) will help your local search visibility in some way. Google wants to show the most popular, talked about business in town.
Be that business offline – as well as online.
2. Organize And Participate In Events
No need for gala dinners here. Organize a free seminar at your office. Promote it by asking your customers to come. Distribute fliers. Get friends to come. Notify all local news outlets. All of them have an event section anyway.
If you do this, you will get a bunch of citations, while actually doing some offline marketing. And
Tie every bit of your business and marketing operations to the web:
- Ask people to review your business in your e-mail signature.
- Ask people to like your Facebook business page.
- Put your domain on all your vehicles.
- Create an online referral program etc.
3. Advertise Offline
Offline advertising offers enormous benefits for your online marketing efforts. Local radio, TV stations or newspapers still have a relatively significant reach. These types of campaigns don’t have to have a dramatic direct impact to be useful.
They can increase your brand awareness. Increased brand awareness further leads to increased search volumes of keywords related to your business name. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on your website traffic, as well as conversions.
4. Measure Everything
You should measure everything. Collecting web data has never been so easy. Google Analytics is completely free and most small and medium sized businesses will never use it to its full potential.
Tracking phone became easy, as well.
Tools like LogMyCalls and CallRaill are fairly easy to install on most websites and will satisfy most small business needs. To be absolutely safe with tracking numbers, make sure that your tracking numbers change in an image format.
Spend a little time to figure out what to measure. Find out which metrics are really important for your business (like number of calls/leads, coupon downloads or reservations). Every local business should do this. Traffic is not cheap.
5. It’s Not Just About Consistency
Local search game in Google Places Plus Local used to be won and lost on the consistency and number of citations. NAP consistency still plays a major role in your local search success, but local blended search is about more than that.
In addition to being consistent and ubiquitous in the local search ecosystem, you need to have a website that is the best it can be in terms of search engine optimization, as well as conversion optimization. In addition to that, you need the following:
- a dominant presence in your local blogosphere;
- a strong presence in significant (non-Google) local search platforms (like Yelp);
- a prominent placement in your industry websites (like Avvo.com for attorneys);
- favorable reviews in different platforms (builds credibility and search visibility);
6. Reputation Management Is Important
A bad reputation will ruin you. It’s that simple. To avoid this, improve on delivery (of whatever your business does) and customer service. One disgruntled customer can inflict serious damage to your bottom line.
The truth is – disgruntled customers can happen to anyone. You should be prepared for that by:
- Monitoring the web. Google Alerts will do the trick for free. For some extra functionality and power, you can look into trackur.com.
- Fixing what’s wrong. Do everything in your power to make it right. Apologize. Offer refund. Send flowers. Ask for forgiveness. Never enter into a conflict with a customer. That is a suicide mission.
- Foster positive mentions. This could be a part of your review management operations.
If you see a positive mention of your products or services, express gratitude. This will help you get more positive mentions which will to some extent neutralize the bad ones if and when they come.
7. Embrace PPC
If you know how much it costs you to acquire a new customer, you should know what’s the maximum amount you can afford to pay for a customer.
Can you get a customer on budget using paid search? If you can, there is no reason why you shouldn’t spend a million dollars a month on PPC.
In some industries (legal or financial services), PPC can rob you blind in a matter of days.
Here are a few resources that will help you master local paid search.
8. Localize Your Content
If you have a physical location, you should have local content. Sounds simple? Your goal is to drive interest of your local community/region/state, but also to get that sweet, sweet local search traffic.
You can do both by producing and marketing lots of awesome local content.
Answering these few questions will help you localize your content:
1. Is there any doubt about what your business does and where when someone lands on your website? There shouldn’t be!
2. Can you produce content that will make your local market talk about you? Sure you can! Very comprehensive historical study of home prices in a town would be something that you could do as a real estate agent. Create content that will also help you establish you or your business as an authority.
9. Perfect Your Mobile Game
Search is turning mobile, local search especially.
Do you have a mobile version of your website?
Does it perform?
Mobile websites are not a luxury – they are a must have. Tools like bmobilized.com and dudamobile.com can get you a mobile website in minutes for under $10. Your conversion rates will thank you.
10. Go Industrial
When time is an issue, tools and data aggregation services can help. Local search tools like Whitespark can not only help you find citations, but also manage the citation building process.
Data aggregators like Axciom, InfoGroup and Localeze are either free or inexpensive for small businesses with a limited number of locations.
11. Get Educated
Local search is the most volatile segment of search. Changes happen quickly. Google is getting better but it’s still full of bugs, bad at communications and customer service.
That’s why you should set aside some time to keep up. I suggest frequenting this forum, reading what David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal and Nyagoslav Zhekov , Linda Buquet write.
Also attend LocalU if it’s close. That is probably the biggest bang for your buck as a small business owner and a smart investment if you are a service provider.
Implementing these steps will bring you closer to maximizing your local search visibility and increasing profits.