Own your local search presence

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There are nearly 2 trillion searches being performed on Google every year. That’s approximately 5.5 billion searches that take place every single day.

Given the stat that 60% of all searches happen on a mobile device and of those, 50% have a strong local intent, we can argue that nearly every search has some degree of local intent. This means individuals are seeking out products and services “near them” or “by them.”

Even if your business serves customers on a regional or national level, the impact of local SEO can be very positive for your brand. Let this be a primer for a few of the elements you can take action on immediately and start to take back your local search presence.

What matters in local search?

The local search landscape is much different than that of national or international search. As mentioned previously, a large percentage of searches have local intent, and the bulk of that reasoning is attributed largely to the smartphones we all carry around.

According to Moz’s 2018 Localized Organic Ranking Factors, the biggest signals are links, proximity, reviews, site content, business categories, aggregator sites, citations and the naming conventions you’re using to describe your business. If this all sounds like a lot of complicated elements, you would be correct. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to take immediate action on and improve your presence in the local space.

The Local Search Ecosystem graphic

Photo via Whitespark

Don’t get caught up in the intricate details at first. To begin, let’s focus on what you can and cannot control as it relates to local search.

What you cannot control

The two majors that you have either limited or no control over is proximity and reviews. Proximity is the distance the searcher is from your location, and the closest to the pin wins. It does not matter what you do or how great of a presence you have if your business is not within close proximity of the person who is searching.

Next up are reviews. While you can have some influence and encourage reviews, you cannot control what people say about your place of business. This is why it’s vital to work on your customer service at every level as it takes just one person’s poor interaction with a customer to bring your reviews down.

What you can control

Fortunately, there are a good number of elements you can control for your brand. Starting with name, address, phone number (NAP) — the goal is to come up with a strategy that uses the same naming conventions for Google, Facebook, Yelp, local chambers of commerce and any other place your brand is listed online.

Use your brand’s actual given name and not one that is “spammy.” As much as you would like to position yourself as the “top” or “best” in what you do, stating it where your business name should be is a big no-no.

Make sure the address used in your Google My Business listing is the same that’s used in Facebook, Bing Places, USPS and your own website.

Next, take a look at the content you have developed for your site. Reviewing it to determine if you are even referencing the city or region you do business in or are located in can be an easy indicator that you might have some homework to do. Again, you are encouraged to not be spammy and develop five different pages for each city you do work in. This again is viewed as a big no-no and will never get you anywhere.

If you have multiple locations that are spread out geographically, make sure those cities and listings are represented and follow the same protocol and maintain consistency throughout. Keep in mind that with multiple locations comes the challenge of duplicate listings. Auditing each address and location will help you keep track of any duplication, as ultimately you want one listing per location. Let’s not add to any confusion that Google might have about your business.

Categories

Within sources like Google My Business, Facebook, etc., there are categories that your business can be associated with. While these categories will vary by source, you want to select the ones most relevant to your business.

The primary category you select in most of the citation sources often will be the most important, so choose wisely. If you are a pizzeria — as alluring as it is to place yourself in the Italian restaurant category — that should not be your primary. Pizza restaurant is your primary, and then perhaps you start to explore the ancillary categories that have the most relevance to your business.

local search categories examples

Courtesy of BlackTruck Media + Marketing

Photography

Businesses with photos have 35% more click-throughs to their site than those without, according to Google. Invest in some nice photography of your office, its exterior, interior and even the products and services you sell. It really can make a difference and is an easy identifier for people to grasp where you are located or what it is you do.

Reviews are the new word-of-mouth

Reviews are absolutely the new word-of-mouth for businesses. Many consumers trust online reviews just as much as those given to us by a close friend. Gathering reviews does not have to be hard, but you need to start somewhere. Simply making the ask is the first step. One of the best ways is via personalized emails that can be sent out to your customers after service or interaction with your business. It’s human nature that we like to be thanked, and doing so in an email or outreach to your customers provides both the opportunity to do so and seek a review.

Google review example

However you go about making the ask, just keep in mind you cannot and should not solicit for those reviews. Do not offer up a gift card or discount for a review. This sort of action goes against the rules of engagement for many sites like Google and Facebook; if caught, your brand could be penalized for it. Play it safe.

Respond to all of the reviews you receive, even the bad ones. Showing that your brand has empathy toward others can really impact your brand’s presence down the road.

There are services out there that can help facilitate these reviews. While there is an investment in them, if you are concerned about your brand reputation and communicating with your customers, they can be well worth the price of admission.

While this can feel like a daunting task, start with what you can control. Look for every instance of your brand and its listing online for signals that can help guide your next steps. Solidify your brand name, business location, and ensure it is properly used across all sources.

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