Many people think that local search is only beneficial for big enterprise clients that have hundreds of locations, and who will see more astounding results from bulk data syndication and consistency across citation sites and directories. While this is true to a certain extent, there is also great value for small businesses to find in jumping on the bandwagon too.
If you have one shop, or a small limited company with 5 locations, you can also optimise your local listings to see great results and better performance. Not only will it ensure your visibility and accuracy across the web, but it will also hand you the resources necessary to analyse your data, pulling insights and behavioural trends to learn more about your consumer. This will then give you the ability to plan intelligently and draw insightful trends, adding to your entire marketing strategy.
Today, I want to focus on three key points that small business owners should focus on when optimising their local listings. Your main aim should be to get your local listings on Google in the 3-pack, as this is the site that gathers the most traction in the local search channel, and so demands the most attention and focus.
1. Getting Visibility & Accuracy across the web
For small businesses, it is very common to see local listings remain unclaimed and floating around search engines such as Google and Bing. Unlike large enterprises, where the task is almost impossible to do manually, small business owners have the ability to claim and optimise their local listings on the few sites that have significant importance.
To truly get the most out of optimising listings, small business owners should also look to syndicate their data to major citation data aggregators (such as Factual and HERE); by being visible across a large network of sites, you are confirming to Google that your business information is correct and you have consistent data across the web.
2. SEO – focus on your title and meta descriptions
Titles and meta descriptions are editable HTML elements on your webpage that show up as text in search results. You should use the character limits wisely to ensure that you have the highest chance of a customer clicking through the search results.
Most importantly, titles and meta descriptions should be within the character limits for each (50 to 60 characters and 160 to 200 characters respectively). This is so that in the search results your title and description tags are not cut off by ellipses (…) removing important information about your business. Secondly, you must keep your title and description tags very specific and compelling; do not waste this space with page names, rather use relevant words that will entice the searcher to click through the result. Use location specific words if you are targeting consumers in a specific area, making sure to use unique keywords to grab their attention.
So small business owners, a few small tweaks to the titles and descriptions on your webpage, may gain you a significant amount of real-estate on the search engine results pages. Optimise these and you will increase the likelihood of consumers clicking through (whether it be to your website, to get directions, or to call in-store for further information).
3. Reputation Management
As a small business owner it is becoming increasingly important to proactively and reactively manage your local presence online. Many new consumers rely on others’ feedback on places they have visited, restaurants they have eaten at, and so forth – most people nowadays will check a restaurant’s star-rating on Google before booking a table or making their way there. It is becoming a habit for consumers in many industries, especially the foodservice industry.
Reactively Responding to Reviews
Small business owners should focus their attention on responding to reviews on Google and Facebook, as these two sites are go-to’s for past customers that want to leave a review after a visit to the location. Since these sites are pre-dominantly used by past customers and are the most popular with new customers searching for reviews, small business owners should log in regularly to their Google My Business and Facebook pages to keep up to date and respond in real-time to reviews – good or bad. Engaging with happy customers, or repairing a relationship with an unhappy customer, will reflect positively on your reputation.
Proactively Responding to Reviews
Many companies these days invest in review management tools (such as Trust Pilot), which not only aide in managing reviews but also prompt past consumers to leave a review for the company.
Small business’ may or may not have the budget to invest in such tools just for review management, but as it is becoming such a huge element of the consumer journey, it is highly recommended that owners’ look into alternative in-house options they can utilise to increase the number of reviews left by consumers. A couple of options may be to take the consumer’s contact details (such as an email address) at the till-point, or for the bill in a restaurant to include a space for the customer’s email address to be left.
Whichever way you handle the reviews (whether just reactively or both) it is important that they are being dealt with at all. Showing that you care for your customers reflects positively on your business, and securing a good reputation on your local listings will mean you again have a greater chance of moving up in organic rankings and encouraging potential consumers to click through the listing to make an action.
So all in all, small businesses don’t need to get lost in the crowd when it comes to local search. It is possible to create an online presence that is acknowledged on major search engines, GPS navigators and many more vendors, by following the above steps. At DAC we offer LPM (Local Presence Management) for companies of all sizes – should you have any questions on how we could get your small business’ local listings optimised, call 0203 866 4210 and we’ll be happy to help.