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Boost Local Online Visibility: A Simple & Detailed Guide to Promoting Your Business
Most businesses struggle to gain visibility and traction online.
As a business owner, you launch with high hopes for your new product, service, or idea, confident that it will resonate with your target audience. However, a few weeks in, you discover that drawing in customers requires more strategic effort than you initially thought, and your business is still an undiscovered gem awaiting discovery.
While this may be disheartening, every successful business has had to overcome this customer attraction hurdle. Your business will overcome it too.
Sadly, there are no shortcuts. However, those willing to put in the effort to grow their presence online will gain a robust competitive advantage.
This guide will provide your business with its first actionable steps to enhance visibility and establish online credibility, setting you on the path to long-term success.
Virtually every business should follow these steps if they have not done so already, especially new businesses.
Understanding How Search Engines Prioritise Results
Imagine you’ve just moved to a new town and you’re looking for the best local bakery. You don’t know anyone, so what do you do? You might ask your neighbours or people you meet for their recommendations. If multiple people point you towards the same bakery, you’re likely to trust that it’s a good choice and pay it a visit.
In the online world, Search Engine Optimisation (commonly known as SEO) works in a similar way. Just like people recommend businesses or services based on their experiences, search engines like Google recommend websites based on a set of criteria that make them trustworthy, relevant, and prominent.
In the context of search engines, trust is built through credibility. A website becomes credible when it provides accurate, reliable information. Google checks this through various methods, such as looking at the quality of the content, the security of the website, and more. In the same way you’d trust a bakery recommended by multiple neighbours, Google trusts websites that have proven their credibility.
Now, imagine if your neighbour, who is a well-known food critic, recommends the same bakery. That recommendation would probably carry more weight, right? Similarly, when reputable websites link to your website, it’s like getting a recommendation from a trusted authority. These links from other websites to yours are known as ‘backlinks.’ Google takes these backlinks into account, seeing them as endorsements that boost the website’s credibility or ‘prominence.’
Relevance and Proximity
If you’re looking for a bakery, a recommendation for a tire shop won’t be very helpful, no matter how trustworthy the source. Similarly, Google tries to match search queries with the most relevant websites. And just as you’d prefer a bakery that’s closer to your home, Google also considers the distance or ‘local relevance’ of a business when showing you search results.
Just as you build trust and seek recommendations in your day-to-day interactions with people and local businesses, websites strive to build that same kind of trust and credibility with search engines. Through SEO, businesses aim to appear as the most trustworthy, relevant, and convenient option for users, much like your ideal local bakery would in a small town.
Winning Visibility Locally
The term ‘Local SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation) might sound complex, but it’s simply a strategy that helps your business appear in local search results when potential customers are looking for services or products you offer. In this guide, we’ll break down the concept of Local SEO (and provide a step-by-step plan for beginners to navigate this essential aspect of online marketing.
What Is Local SEO and Why Does It Matter?
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the practice of optimising your website to rank higher in search engine results for local queries. This is especially important for businesses that serve a specific geographic area or have a physical location. The goal is to make it easier for people in your region to find you, both online and offline.
Impact of COVID-19 on Local Visibility
The COVID-19 pandemic has made Local SEO even more significant, as search queries like ‘where to buy + near me’ have surged by over 200% since 2019. Therefore, mastering Local SEO is now more important than ever.
Step-by-Step Guide to Optimise Your Local SEO
The Number 1 Rule
Make sure your business name on your website, social profile and any business listing is exactly the same. Also, make sure your business address and phone number are exactly the same across all platforms and listings.
Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business (GMB) is a free online directory and social platform provided by Google, designed to help local businesses improve their online visibility. Think of it as your business’s online calling card, where you can display crucial information like your business name, address, operating hours, and even customer reviews.
How to Use It?
– Create Your Listing: Register your business on Google My Business.
– Provide Accurate Information: Make sure your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are accurate and up-to-date.
– Add Visuals: Upload quality photos or videos of your business to build trust and credibility. Keep these up to date.
– Encourage Reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews.
– Utilise User-Generated Content: Allow customers to add photos or share their experiences.
Business directories are online platforms that list businesses in various categories and often provide additional information like reviews, ratings, and contact details. While Google My Business is one of the most popular platforms, there are numerous other directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Bing Places where you can list your business. These directories serve as additional channels to increase your online visibility and reach potential customers.
Important: Be careful with any 3rd Party products or services that aim to get your business more directory listings. The quality and relevance of each listing are more important than the volume of listings. Only use services where you have control of where your business is listed. Try to avoid being locked into monthly payments.
How to Use Them?
– Consistent NAP: Make sure your Name, Address, and Phone Number are consistent across all platforms.
– Target Audience: List your business in directories that your target audience frequently visits. Don’t just list in any old directory. Make sure business is listed in the appropriate section of the appropriate directories.
Local Research and Keywords
Think of a keyword as the search term that serves as a bridge between the user’s query and your business. For example, if you run a bakery in London, potential keywords could be “bakery in London,” “fresh bread London,” or “best cakes near me.” These are the terms you want to incorporate into your website and online listings to make it easier for search engines to match you with people looking for what you offer.
Why Is It Important?
Keywords are essentially the words or phrases that people type into search engines when looking for products or services. In the context of Local SEO, understanding which keywords are relevant to your business and your local area can be transformative. If you know what terms potential customers are using to find businesses like yours, you can optimise your website and online listings to show up when those keywords are searched.
How to Do It?
Analyse Competitors: One of the first steps in understanding which keywords to focus on is to look at what your competitors are doing. Use SEO tools that can show you which keywords your competitors are ranking for. This can give you a good idea of what terms you should also be targeting.
Keyword Modification: Once you have a list of keywords, consider modifying them to better match user queries. Adding phrases like “near me” or “in [Your City]” can make your keywords more locally focused. For example, instead of just targeting “bakery,” you could target “bakery near me” or “bakery in London.”
Local Specificity: Don’t forget to include local landmarks or popular neighbourhood names in your keywords. For example, if your business is near the London Eye, you could use keywords like “bakery near the London Eye.”
By performing local research and focusing on keywords, you can better understand what your target audience is searching for and how to make your business more visible to them. This process helps you tap into the local market more effectively, making it easier for potential customers to find you when they need your products or services.
Customer reviews are a cornerstone of online credibility and can significantly impact your business’s success. By actively managing your reviews, you can influence customer perception and gain valuable insights.
Customer reviews serve as digital word-of-mouth, providing social proof that can greatly influence purchasing decisions. According to research, 82% of customers read reviews before making a purchase, highlighting their importance in the consumer journey. Reviews not only give potential customers an idea of the quality of your products or services but also contribute to your business’s online credibility and trustworthiness.
How to Use Them
Ask for Reviews: Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. Encourage satisfied customers to leave a review by making the process as easy as possible—provide links to your review profiles, or offer QR codes that they can scan to leave a review instantly.
Incentivise Reviews: Always ask for a review in the first instance. However, if you are struggling one effective way to gather more reviews is by offering incentives. This could be a discount on a future purchase, a free sample, or even entry into a competition. Make sure to clarify that the incentive is for a review, not for a positive review, to maintain ethical standards.
Engage With Customers: Responding to reviews can not only improve relationships with customers but also demonstrate that you’re an attentive and caring business owner. Whether the review is positive or negative, a well-crafted response can turn a satisfied customer into a loyal one and potentially defuse a negative situation.
Showcase Reviews: Don’t just let your reviews sit on third-party platforms; showcase them on your website, social media, and even in-store if applicable. This can further amplify their impact.
Analyse Feedback: Reviews can also be a valuable source of feedback. Are there recurring complaints or praise for a particular service or product feature? Use this information for continuous improvement.
Content and Endorsements Strategy
Imagine your website is like your construction firm’s local office. To make your firm popular in the community, you need two things: a solid portfolio of your projects (that’s your ‘content’) and endorsements from local businesses (these are your ‘backlinks’). The stronger your portfolio and the more people vouch for you, the more clients will want to hire you for their projects.
How to Do It?
Create Content: Think of this as showcasing your best construction projects that resonate with your perfect client. Write articles or blog posts that discuss key issues or the types of materials best suited for the particular job or local climate. For example, you could write a post about “How to Choose the Right Materials for Home Renovation in [Your City].” Make sure this content is relevant to your potential clients, so it attracts people who are genuinely interested in construction services.
Build Backlinks/Endorsement Links: Imagine if a well-known local architect or a satisfied customer recommended your construction services to others. That’s what backlinks do for your website. You can get these by writing guest articles for architecture websites, participating in local construction or business events, or getting mentioned by local influencers in the industry.
Ask businesses you’ve worked with to include a link to your business on their website. For a construction company, you could ask for your business link to be included in any announcement about your work. For example, a school opening a new extension may include information about the work on their website. Ask them to include a link to your business in this article.
Another example might be a Construction Management company that always contracts your services, and ask to be included on their website as a trusted partner.
Finally, make sure to ask industry bodies you are a member of to include your business on their website.
Checklist for Boosting Local Online Visibility
This checklist is meant to be a simplified guide and should be used in conjunction with the detailed steps for maximum effectiveness.
[ ] Register your business on Google My Business.
[ ] Ensure your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are exactly the same across all platforms.
[ ] Identify relevant keyword that your customers a likely to be searching for
[ ] Check competitor keywords by looking at the page titles and subtitles and identify common words and themes
[ ] Incorporate these keywords into your website content
[ ] Set up a system for gathering customer reviews.
[ ] Respond to customer reviews, both positive and negative.
[ ] Showcase customer reviews on your website and social media platforms.
[ ] List your business in relevant online directories (e.g., Yelp, Yellow Pages).
[ ] Ensure consistent NAP across all directories.
[ ] Only target directories that your audience uses. I.e. Don’t list you dental practice in a shoe Shop Directory
[ ] Create content relevant to your customers and service area (e.g., blog posts, videos).
[ ] Build backlinks by collaborating with local businesses and participating in local events, requesting online endorsement from past clients happy with your work. Include your business in any online articles your clients produce about your work.
[ ] Regularly update your Google My Business listing with new photos, offers, etc.
[ ] Re-evaluate and adjust your keyword strategy as needed.
Are you lost?
A well-planned Local SEO strategy is not just an optional extra; it’s a necessity for anyone aiming to draw in the local crowd. Remember, SEO is a long-term investment. It may take time to see the fruits of your labour, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial efforts. If you’d like help with you own website and online strategy, please reach out me email@example.com