Today, 82% of your potential customers research online with their smart phone, PC, tablet, or in-car GPS before making a decision to try a new restaurant, buy a car, choose a doctor, general contractor, or shoe store within a 20-mile radius by typing in something like; "Italian food Santa Barbara" or "best general contractor in Phoenix", according to Comscore.
Being on the first page of local search results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo gives your business its best opportunity to enable high-value customers to find your local business first. In fact, a recent study by Chitika, an online advertising network, found sampling over 8 million clicks, that over 94% of users clicked on a first page result and less than 6% clicked on a second page result.
Your business first, doesn't mean your website first either. Today, the highest valued search results are those that display reviews and ratings such as Google Places. With 7 out of 10 online consumers trusting online reviews, it's very important to drive and monitor quality online reviews.
Breaking down the first page of search results
Let's examine the search results for "best general contractor in Phoenix". In this example we searched with "private browsing" settings turned "on" so our results weren't affected by our own historical search behavior.
In the most simple terms, Google, Bing and Yahoo all choose results in a similar fashion which prioritizes what's displayed based on prominence, relevance, and proximity. The results are then organized by paid ads, places, and organic results.
Interestingly, of the 10,400,000 results Google delivered for our search term, 17 positions on the first page were organic results. (Organic search results are listings that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to being paid advertisements.) Seven of those were from Google Places and 10 were links to other websites. Of those ten links to other websites, only two were direct links to a business website. All other links were to search portal directories which had the strongest prominence. All results were related to the proximity of the search by including the term "...in Phoenix".
Think of it, if you are one of the two general contractors in Phoenix who's direct website was included within these results, you had a 0.00000019% chance of having 94% of potential high value customers finding your business first.
This is why developing a solid Local Search Optimization plan is critical in today's competitive online search results space for your businesses success.
How to optimize your business for local searches
Of course the easy answer is to hire us. It's what we do, so that you can do what you do. But if you're determined to do it yourself, we'll give you some direction.
First, and most importantly, find or create your Google Places page and do the following:
- Claim your business
- Make sure Name, Address, Phone (NAP) are correct
- Add a description about your business while including the best relevant keywords
- Make certain to select the appropriate category and keyword tags
- Upload images and a video about your business
- Ask customers to leave reviews
Then, go out and find as many search portal directories as possible — in the hundreds. For instance, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Yellowbot, Manta, Local.com, Internet Yellow Pages, Judy's Book, Angie's List to name a few.
Claim and owner verify the sites when possible and upload your images, business description, and NAP. Make certain your NAP is exactly the same as your Google Places NAP. The reason is, Google considers this a "citation" adding validation to their listing. In addition, listings which have complete and congruent information increase the prominence and relevance of your Google Places page.
Continue to do this on an ongoing basis. A trending of citations relative to your business has higher relevance to Google than a one time blast. If you hire us, we'll also include reporting so that you can see where your competitors are listed and make certain your presence is their too, in addition to places where they are not listed, which will increase your prominence in search results.
Keep in mind, most of these search portal directories are businesses too and their model is to sell you higher levels of services. While many of these enhanced service have value, evaluate on a case-by-case basis which, if any, you would like to subscribe too. But understand by increasing your businesses profile online, you will in turn be receiving sales calls.
Create your social media pages
Social media channels such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, and Foursquare are powerful tools for you business when utilized and integrated into your marketing plan. Not only can you have a conversation with your customers and gain valuable insight to improve your business, they influence search results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo's new search algorithms.
Evaluate your website on page LSO
- Set up if you haven't already a google analytics account for your website so you can monitor what's happening when people visit your website.
- Make sure your page titles include the city and primary category people search for.
- Be certain your body copy reads well while including relative keywords and location in the text.
- Have an H1 header tag that includes the category / keyword and location best suited to your business.
- Keep content fresh with a blog, don't leave your website alone. Make regular updates and content changes.
- Include ALT Tags to images on your site with relative keywords people may search for.
- Insert a short meta description and keywords into the HTML on page along with unique page descriptions throughout the site and include Geo tags with the GPS coordinates for your business.
- Make sure to have a contact form on your site.
- And if none of this makes sense, hire a good web development firm that specializes in on-site SEO.
Create a mobile site
With our Identity site this is done for you, but make sure to have a mobile site that recognizes when users are on the phone instead of their PC. Ideally include easy to navigate buttons with directions and one-click phone number.
For competitive markets create a pay-per-click campaign
Set yourself with a Google AdWords account and create a budget and campaign to pay for display advertising.
Drive reviews about your business
Send emails and have printouts with QR codes available to make it easy for happy customers to leave you reviews on your search portal directory pages like Google Places, Yelp, and others.
Monitor what customers are writing about your business, make sure to look across all review sites where people have commented about your business and respond promptly to negative reviews and push positive ones to your social media channels.
By signing up for our reputation management option we provide an easy to use dashboard that aggregates all reviews posted in one easy place to manage.
Many local business owners feel overwhelmed by the technical hurdles to ensure their business is found online and have done little more than putting a website up. Which today is like printing a brochure and then storing in the supply closet and distributing to the select few that already know of your business.
The good news is that by getting there first, your business builds prominence over those acting later. Take the initiative and reallocate the marketing budgets once allocated for the Yellow Pages and display print advertising and invest in your local search presence. It will bring measurable success to your business.