For businesses trying to attract consumers through their door (whether that door is real or virtual), success starts with a strong local search strategy. Customers are searching for solutions online – and with every marketer fighting for the first few spots on Google, making sure your business ranks organically is essential.
We’ve identified seven steps to optimize local search efforts and start capturing volume and leads from Google’s search engine results pages (SERP).
Step 1: Optimize your website
The way Google “understands” what your business is and how it functions is by crawling the website you submit. This is how it sees your business information, the types of products and services you offer and the landing page you want to direct users to in order to capture lead data (and hopefully sell your products/services!). Here are a few steps to ensure your website is setting you up for success.
- Include a “Contact Us” page featuring the complete name, address and phone number of each and every one of your staffed locations. If you have 10 locations or fewer, the complete name, address, and phone number of each should be in the site-wide footer element.
- If you have 10 or more locations, ensure you have a store locator and store pages for each location
- Use Schema markup for your location data. Ensure your phone number is highly visible on your website and clickable on mobile devices
- Ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent everywhere it is mentioned on your website
- Make sure all location pages are linked to from a high-level navigation menu
- Ensure your website is properly optimized for mobile (we recommend using responsive design)
- Enable customer reviews right on your site, to ensure accurate listings in SERP’s
Step 2: Submit data to Google My Business – and manage your citations
A huge part of showing up in local search is making search engines feel confident that your business is indeed where you say it is and that it is currently operating. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by submitting your business data to the Google My Business portal and engaging in proper citation management. Citation management means optimizing any mention of the name, address and phone number (NAP) of your business online. It can be hugely time-consuming, especially for multi-location brands – who will likely benefit from working with a local search partner – but regularly making sure that all websites have your NAP properly displayed will reap huge benefits.
Step 3: Invest in local SEO content
Putting time and energy into creating content that will help potential customers through their journey to purchase is paramount. Some ideas include:
- A robust FAQ section
- A blog featuring content about your business and topics relevant to your customers
- Videos and images (making sure they are properly tagged and optimized for search!)
- Location-specific specials, deals and content
- Staff bios
- Links to organizations your company supports (and ask for link backs to boost SEO!)
- Interviews from experts in your company or field to establish expertise in your industry
Step 4: Manage your reputation
These days, people trust online reviews almost as much as they do personal recommendations. This means every marketer should be looking to solve the four obstacles of reputation management: how to generate reviews, how to monitor reviews, how to analyze reviews, and how to respond to reviews. There are a lot of different ways you can go about this and if you are a single location or have a small footprint, accomplishing all of these steps manually is very doable. For multi-location brands, however, the use of a local search partner with a host of review monitoring modules will be wisest. These platforms can help you:
- Solicit reviews via email and SMS
- Monitor reviews from around the web
- Break down reviews into sentiment buckets, which will help make each review more actionable
- Respond to reviews from a central portal
Step 5: Clean up duplicate listings
Duplicate listings, or instances of your NAP showing up more than once on a site can hurt your SEO. It’s key to find and remove duplicates. This is not the same thing as suppressing duplicates, which will not lead to building long-term listing equity. You can delete duplicates two ways:
- Manually – this works best for SMBs who can search a couple of locations max on all of the sites that could have duplicates and work through merging or deleting them.
- Automatically – this is done through a local search partner. By utilizing tools, API’s and paid partnerships, duplicates can be detected and cleansed.
Finding duplicates is best accompanied by “active management” which means having a human eye looking for duplicates that pop up.
Step 6: Get social
Social media for a local business can be a real windfall if done properly. It can help bridge the gap between customers and your business and create a sense of community with your brand. Below are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your social media.
- Create a social media strategy centered around
- Connecting with your customer base
- Communicating with your customer base
- Coordinating with your customer base
- Determine which social media platforms are popular among your user base
- Share user-generated content
- Remember that your job is to help others, not to sell to them. Work to identify opportunities to be helpful, whether that’s answering a question, offering a resource, or brightening somebody’s day
Step 7: Kick ass in the real world
No amount of online SEO can combat poor real world experiences. All online representations of your business are mere reflections of offline realities. If you are providing wonderful products and customer service in the real world, it is not going to be hard to carry that over to the digital world. Keep in mind that hiring great employees, exceeding customer expectations, training staff appropriately and truly caring about the customer are the biggest keys to lasting success.