Back in the mid-1990s when I first began building websites for local businesses, no one gave a hoot about local search rank. There was a slew of search engines out there. Each was like its own telephone directory for websites and they were only capable of searching for specific words and returning as search results the sites where they found those words. Website owners were told to stuff keywords on their web pages so the search engines would find them and the Wild West of black hat search engine optimization was born.
By the early 2000s Google had come along with new algorithms and like the Northwest Mounted Police began to clean up the Wild West that was the world of search engine optimization. Everyone wanted to get their site ranked on the first page of Google and the entire SEO industry revolved around promising their clients that they could get their sites up there.
That might have been possible for small or mid-sized businesses at one time but not anymore. Today, you’ll only find big businesses and large corporations ranking on the first page of Google.
We’ve all read the stories about brick and mortar stores shutting down and moving their sales online and if your small to mid-size business exists in this retail space you too may be thinking of making the move to online sales. It’s not a bad idea to incorporate online sales in your sales mix but recently, it was reported that for every $10 spent online $4 of that goes to Amazon. With these behemoths like Amazon gobbling up big chunks of the retail pie, how can a local business survive? How are you going to beat the giants in the search engine game?
Gone are the days when you can keep an ‘I’ve been around for years and everybody in town already knows about me’ attitude or pretend that a bus shelter ad is going to be enough to keep your phone ringing or to keep feet walking through your door. Yes, a billboard or ad will remind people that you exist and word of mouth is still the best form of advertising but these days, after someone sees your ad or someone tells them about your business, the first thing people do is to look for you online (and when they do, they are probably using their Smartphone).
So that brings us back to figuring out how to improve our search engine rank. We know that we’re never going to wrench that coveted number one spot from the big guys. They want to be king of the heap and vie with each other for the number one spot on Google. Well, let them fight over that and while they do that, we can turn our attention to someplace where they are not. As Sun Tzu said: appear where you are not expected.
Today’s savvy local business owners know that their efforts are best spent focusing on local search rank. By improving local search ranking, brick-and-mortar stores can have their businesses appear in the Google 3 Pack.
If you haven’t heard about Google’s 3 pack (Google’s Local Pack), go to Google and search for any service in your area. Whenever you search for something that is local to you, you’ll see three local businesses appearing on top of the search. This is what I’m talking about. Since 46% of all searches on Google are local searches, you need to get your local business to appear in that box!
So, what can you do to improve your ranking in Google 3 Pack?
1. Start with Google My Business
In order to improve your local search engine ranking, the first thing you need to do is claim and verify your local business on Google My Business listing. Setting up your business on Google My Business improves your chances of showing up in Google 3 Pack, Google Maps, Local Finder and organic ranking as well.
Sign up for a free account on Google My Business and provide the information about your business that will appear once you get ranked on Google 3 Pack. You can manage your open hours, address, phone number, services and other useful details.
2. Get Positive Reviews
If you wish to improve your ranking and increase your online conversion ratio, you must gather positive reviews from customers.
However, it’s not easy to gather positive reviews, as most customers are not interested in writing reviews. You must encourage your customers to leave a positive review about your services. Consider emailing them or sending SMS messages for reviews.
Most importantly, offer top quality customer service that will compel your customers to leave you a positive review! At least 58% of consumers said they have recently (within the past five years) begun leaving more and more online reviews based on customer service. So, the better your customer service is, the more positive reviews you’ll get from customers.
3. Sign up for Other Online Listings
In order to increase your local search engine ranking, you must sign up on other online listings sites as well. Get started by signing up on Yelp. Yelp is great for business listing as it allows customers to leave reviews and can help you build a strong online presence.
Sign up for other listing sites as well such as Bing Places for Business. The more online presence you build the more your local search engine ranking will improve.
The Bottom Line
The competition in the online realm is tough, but if you play your cards right and put your efforts in the right direction, you can stay in the game, and even on top of it! Here at New Media Managers, we have the tools you need to manage and synchronize all of your online listings, generate and respond to online reviews, and engage with your customers on social media. Let us help you start following these tips today and improve your local search engine ranking to attract more customers to your business.
Bonus – Make sure you are Mobile-Ready:
Earlier I said that people are most likely using their Smartphones to look for you online. That’s why it’s imperative that your website is mobile-ready. Have a look at this infographic by Go-Globe to see what I mean.
Infographic by- GO Globe Hong Kong
History of search engines: https://bit.ly/2HBf42z
The online retail space gets scarier and scarier for everyone that isn’t Amazon: https://bit.ly/2yHGH84
What You Need to Know About Google’s Local Pack: https://bit.ly/2vh6Mu1
Barbara-Anne is the owner of New Media Managers, a boutique digital agency in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She founded New Media Managers to help overwhelmed local business owners, like you, protect and manage your online line presence so you can get more customers, serve your existing customers, and keep the customers you already have.