By Dennis Hung
When you’re trying to promote your business online, it can be tempting to go for the biggest keywords so that your company becomes a national phenomenon, but chances are that’s jumping the gun just a bit. Particularly when you’re just starting out, local SEO rather than national can be a business owner’s most powerful tool.
While it’s true that having the number one slot on a Google results page can put your name in front of millions of people, the farther down you are in the ranking, the less likely anyone is to see your website. The top result from a Google search winds up getting 32.5 percent of the traffic—that’s one in every three clicks. The second result gets only 17.6 percent, and the third receives 11.4 percent of traffic. According to one study, 91 percent of people did not go beyond the first page when looking at search results. With the default settings, Google shows about 10 results per page, meaning that 91 percent of people won’t see your page unless it’s in the top 10 results in the nation. For a small organization that’s still trying to make a name for itself and trying to compete with huge, long-standing companies, this task can be nearly impossible.
Small businesses that focus on local SEO, on the other hand, have a distinct advantage. Local SEO houses far less competition with significantly more effective results.
Capitalize on the Local Pack
Whenever a user searches for a business nearby, Google separates a few of its results into a “local pack.” At the very top of its results, Google will show three of the top-rated businesses near the user, set apart from the rest of the results. This typically only happens with local searches, such as “best fast food restaurants in Dallas” or “top pool builders near me.” Making your way into these local results can catapult your business to the very top of the pack and benefit from the extra traffic those early listings bring.
Give Clear, Accurate Information About Your Business
Location is one of the most important factors in making it into the local pack, but that doesn’t mean that you’re sunk if your physical location is a little bit farther away. Google feeds on information, and making the data potential customers need readily available can improve your rankings, as well as your chances of getting noticed.
There are several places that will house information about your business, such as its name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. Make sure that you are consistent across all of these. That doesn’t just mean have the same address, for example—where possible, you should have the same spelling of your address. The same goes for your business name. Keep a close eye on your listings and get your business listed in key directories, such as yellowpages.com and yelp.com. Not only will this increase traffic based on customers finding your information through actively searching the directory, it will also improve your search results.
Own Your Profiles
Whether you create the profiles or not, your business will likely show up on review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews. Take ownership of those profiles and use them to your benefit. Make sure all the information they contain is accurate. If someone leaves a review for your business, take the time to respond to it, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s positive, thank them for the positive review and subtly encourage them to return and to tell their friends. If it’s positive, use it as an opportunity to improve your business. Find a way to address the complaint and, if possible, make it right. By no means, however, should you engage in a negative way. Invite them to take the discussion online and do what you can—within reason—to satisfy their needs.
If a customer seems happy with your service or product, encourage them to go online and leave a positive review. Online reviews can have a significant impact on your website’s rankings online, and every positive review helps. It’s not only the average ranking that has an effect, though—the number of reviews matters as well. So it’s not just a matter of getting a few people to give you a five-star review and then sitting back. Having customers regularly leaving positive reviews will give you much better results.
Sure, it can be tough to be a smaller business surrounded by enormous enterprises, but people like the personal touch a local shop can offer. Keep providing superior products and service, and people will keep coming back. Local SEO can get your name out to the world if you use it right, so be sure to allocate the necessary time and resources to make your business a success.
Dennis Hung is an entrepreneur and business consultant. He has spent most of career consulting for businesses in North America on how to improve their business technology, social media and digital marketing.