Every small, local business owner needs to focus on raising their local search visibility. It’s how you get found by local customers and part of how you build your business reputation and pack your sales funnel with leads.
However, because it’s what every local business needs, local business owners face the difficult prospect of establishing a presence online in a competitive environment. You’re competing for attention with your local competitors, and this is a constant, unending battle. But don’t let that scare you off. There are some tricks you can utilize to make the process easier while leading to faster results.
Surefire Local’s tips on building an online presence
Reviews are vital to help build your local search visibility. Your review scores affect a number of different factors, including:
- Where you show up on Google’s Map Pack.
- The click-through rate of certain paid ads.
- How likely people are to hire your business.
Like any other business, people will not hire you if you have no reviews or online presence. Reviews provide great social proof from people that have used your service or bought your products. They help to reassure potential clients and customers that you are a business well worth buying from. They are also what’s known as UGC or User-Generated Content. Google adds more weight to this type of content and, of course, potential customers will put greater store in the word of existing customers than in what you say about your own business.
You have to put yourself out there to get your first couple of reviews and you then have to keep consistently getting them. It’s known that most people only look at reviews within the last four weeks to a couple of months when searching for a new company, so you do have to keep going. Many people will also refuse to hire a company that has less than a four-star average on their reviews, so this is important.
After the first handful of reviews, it does get easier. You’ll have experience with how and when to ask and you’ll be more confident in doing so after you get your first good reviews. You can also set up some templates to use again and again when requesting reviews or use marketing software, like Surefire Local’s marketing platform, to help you request and manage your reviews.
Don’t worry about how many reviews you have compared to other businesses in other areas. Some companies will always have more than others simply because of the nature of their respective industries. Just focus on yourself and get as many reviews as you can.
If you’re just getting started, make sure to beef up your reviews while you work on adding content to your website, Google Business Profile, directories, and social media. This allows you to at least appear somewhere in the search engine results while you build your content.
Think about where to request your reviews. Ideally, it’s good to collect reviews on your Google Business Profile (GBP), on review sites and directories, and on Facebook. You can also collect testimonials to add to your website, social media, and marketing copy.
Another important aspect of reviews is that you need to reply to them and acknowledge them, especially the negative ones. It’s not enough just to get reviews nowadays. People love to see companies respond and thank them for their reviews and it gives an excellent impression when new potential customers find you for the first time.
2) Directory Optimization
User experience is increasingly important for Google. In fact, you can see this in recent algorithm changes, such as Core Web Vitals. Your Core Web Vitals report helps you analyze and improve your web pages to get better results for you and your customers and provide a better experience. From Google’s own statistics:
“When a site meets the Core Web Vitals thresholds, research showed that users were 24% less likely to abandon page load.”
Ideally, you should make it as easy as possible for people to find you, so claim your Google Business Profile and get your business listed in as many relevant directories as you can. This gives you more entries in local search and general search engine results, resulting in greater visibility. Many directories allow you to list your services, add and ask for reviews, list opening hours, contact details, frequently asked questions, and more.
It’s important that you add high-quality images to your listings and to provide all the information your potential customers need to find you and get in touch.
While filling in the information on your directory listings, don’t forget to use SEO best practices. Add your most relevant keywords to your description, particularly in the first paragraph, but be careful to not overdo it. Write for your audience first, not for the search engines. You need conversational, easily readable, personable copy that includes your keywords naturally.
One other thing to be aware of is that Google will also ding you if you have inconsistent information across your business listings. You need to enter your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) consistently across every listing. Google and the other search engines want to provide the best possible user experience and if you have inconsistent listings where your NAP information is listed slightly differently, it’s much harder for Google to confirm that they have the right business and provide that information to their users.
Even something as small as writing your phone number differently or writing ‘Ave’ in some places and ‘Avenue’ in others can make a difference, so check every listing and make sure it’s accurate.
You can easily manage this with Surefire Local’s marketing platform, where you can instantly update both your Google Business Profile and over eighty business directories in one go.
Lastly, never, ever go without a Google Business Profile. This is a free directory listing provided by Google and they set a lot of store in what’s on your business profile and how complete it is. Without a complete GBP, you have very little chance of being listed in Google’s Map Pack, which gives you much higher visibility above your competitors. If you haven’t already claimed your GBP, do it now.
Make sure that your primary category reflects your main service offerings, and complete every section thoroughly, using relevant keywords. Look at your GBP from an outside view, as if you were your own customer. Look at what you can see and what sort of impression it creates. Does it fit in with your brand? Is there anything missing that customers would want to know?
Do a thorough check of your GBP and your online presence to make sure you’re being consistent with your NAP and creating an excellent first impression wherever customers find you.
3) Website and Content
Having authoritative content on your site is a necessity. Content should meet Google’s best practices.
Start with your audience and think about what sort of content they’d want to see. What questions do they have? What problems and pain points do they have?
If you don’t already have buyer personas for your audience, then now is a good time to get them done. Dig deep into your audience’s preferences, likes, and dislikes. Constantly monitor your analytics and statistics to find out what types of content they prefer. Look at how they speak, and what language and jargon they use, so you can create content that appeals to them.
You’re then in a great position to generate authoritative, useful content that’s helpful for your audience and establishes you as an expert in your field.
Again, don’t forget to use SEO best practices here either. Add keywords to your titles and meta descriptions, use alt text for images, and include them naturally throughout your content.
Your website should also be easy to use across numerous devices and platforms. If it isn’t, then not only will your site traffic statistics suffer, but your leads could drop as a result. People often shop on their mobile phones or tablets rather than laptops or desktops. They might use any browser from Google Chrome to Safair and Microsoft Edge.
Your website should be well-designed enough that anyone can view it on any device, with any browser. People should be able to find what they need and, if you offer online checkout on your site, they should easily be able to add items to their basket and checkout smoothly and easily.
If your site is slow or too many features don’t work on a particular device or browser, you’re potentially losing a large section of your audience. If a site is slow to load or glitchy, people won’t hesitate to switch to the competition.
Remember, Google is always looking for businesses that make things easy for people. Make sure your website is easy to navigate, load and use.
4) Social Media
As a local business, you should put yourself out there and create social media profiles for your business.
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are the largest sites right now. When choosing social platforms, again, go back to your audience research and find out where your potential and current customers hang out. If you’re just starting out, it’s perhaps best to start with one main platform and do it well, before adding another. Bear in mind how much time you have for marketing and social media, compared with running your business, and how big your team is to be able to devote time to more than a couple of social media platforms.
As with acquiring reviews and creating content for your site, consistency and relevance are key. Keep posting on a consistent schedule and use software to make life easier and schedule your posts ahead. People want to see an active and vibrant Facebook page, not a page with no posts for months and then a couple of videos. They want to see that your business is active and attractive with good engagement.
Make a plan for your content and your social media and work out what to post and when for maximum impact.
5) Competitor Research
When building an online presence, you should use a platform that lets you see where you stand compared to your competition. Digital marketing should be seen as a war for obtaining the greatest amount of space online, whether it be in search engine results or on social media.
You need to constantly research your competitors and keep in touch with what they are doing and what their own online presence is like. You don’t want to be left behind or caught on the hop with new developments in your space because you didn’t keep an eye on the competition.
Competitor research is just as important as audience research. You can gain insights into how they are performing online compared to you and how long it will take you to catch up with them. You can see how they are engaging people on social media, and you can also analyze where they aren’t doing as well and where you can do better.
Your competitors take customers from you, so do what you can to make sure you appear online as often as possible.
Manage it all via one platform
Surefire Local’s business intelligence marketing software can help you manage all aspects of your marketing, from acquiring and replying to reviews, managing your content, and your social media, to competitor research and your own reports and analytics. Why not book a demo to see our platform in action and find out how it can help you in building an online presence that really brings in your ideal customers?