Regardless of how a consumer finds you, as they progress down their purchase journey, they’ll most likely visit your website. This means your website is an opportunity to position yourself in your community and highlight your unique selling propositions (USPs) to motivate people to do business with you.
Your website also serves the important function of making your business relevant to search engines. Besides being viewed by potential customers, your website is also read – aka “crawled” – by search engine bots that store and index the content of your site. They do this so they can later decide where and how to show your site on search engine results pages.
This is why it’s critical to have a website as a foundation for your online presence. It lies at the root of local search engine optimization (SEO). However, having a website isn’t the only factor at play.
Local SEO Strategy Is More Than Just a Website
Local SEO refers to all the things you need to do to stay visible as your customers progress along their purchase journey.
Think about it. Your customer journey doesn’t start when somebody lands on your website. These days consumers take a winding path across search, paid advertising, social media, and offline marketing to decide where they want to do business.
According to Think with Google, five actions generally proceed a purchase, namely a consumer will:
- Use a search engine
- Visit a store or other location
- Visit a retailer website or app
- Visit a third-party website or app
- Use an online map to find a location
As a local business, you want to make sure you show up at each of these touchpoints – and local listings are an important part of how you accomplish this.
Local Listings Play a Crucial Role
The point of local listings, also called citations, are to build relevance for a website regarding its locality. According to the 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, citation signals are among the top ranking factors for local search.
Search engines use online citations to gather as much information about your business as possible, so they can understand it and how it might relate to people’s searches. The number of listings, the accuracy of the data, and the quality of the directory site all help the search engine to build a picture of your business and where it operates. This, in turn, increases your likelihood to rank well in relevant local organic searches, maps searches, etc.
10 Ways Local Listings Win You New Customers
Local listings are a powerful way to build your online presence and position your business to appear in as many places as possible. That way, when potential customers are looking, no matter where they look, you’ll have a chance of being found. Think about it this way. Your website is only one listing, one chance at being found. It’s like a needle in a haystack of listings on Google. You’ll have a far greater chance of getting found by having more listings.
Here are ten of the ways local listings can help win you new customers:
- Your customers are looking online for the services you offer. As I just mentioned, the more places your business appears online, the higher your chances are of getting picked.
- They look for verification of your credibility in places other than your website. Reading about your reputation and qualifications on your website (controlled by you) is one thing, but having your A+ reputation backed up by social proof on listings (controlled more so by your customers), the better.
- Online searchers are ready to buy. There’s intent to buy when someone is searching online. Whether that’s to plug up a hole in their roof, fix their HVAC system, or schedule an eye doctor’s appointment to refill their order of contacts.
- Listings help establish your local online presence across zip codes. As you establish more location-based content around your online presence, Google, Bing, and other search engines gain a better understanding of your entire service area, not just your business address – 1 in 3 small businesses are not even trying to win local business through Google (DigitalCommerce360)
- You can gain a competitive advantage over those who don’t have listings. Maintaining an accurate and consistent online presence is not easy, and many either don’t understand the value or don’t have the skill and knowledge to do so – 1 in 3 local businesses still have not claimed their Google My Business listing (Hartzer/Starks)
- Listings help your business rank in Google’s Local 3-pack. A major factor in whether or not your business is listed in the Local 3-Pack is based on the health score of your listings – 25% of the ranking for Google’s 3-Pack comes from Google My Business content (Moz)
- Correct information online can vault you ahead of the competition. Finding the phone number of a local business only to call and find out the number is no longer in use puts a bad taste in your mouth. It also opens the door to you winning prospective customers because you’re there to answer the phone when they call. Listings that have a star-rating and images, even when appearing farther down the page, will outperform listings that don’t higher up the page in search results (SearchEngineLand)
- A consistent online presence means higher rankings everywhere. By taking care of your local listings, you show Google that you know what it takes to maintain an accurate online presence. That trust leads to higher rankings across the board.
- Better chance of getting recommended in voice search results. Voice search results end with a single recommendation. Not managing your online information and listings correctly means you will never get found through voice search – 1 in 5 mobile searches are currently being conducted via voice search (Google)
- Updating your listings consistently will make them perform better. Many will stop at just claiming their listings and go no further. The real value of local listings lies in using them on an ongoing basis. Whether it’s adding a new photo or video, updating the featured message, or adjusting business hours, any new content will boost rankings.
How Your Listings Impact Your SEO Visibility
There are three main ways that local listings affect your SEO.
- They reinforce your NAP information: Consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) data across the internet signals that your business information is accurate. This, in turn, makes search engines confident in providing that same info to their search users. Widespread inconsistent NAP information is a red-flag for search engines and can lower your rankings in local search.
- They expand your site visibility: Local directories are a common way that users search for local businesses. For example, a lot of people turn to Yelp to look up local dentists or Houzz for home improvement professionals. Having a listing on these sites is another way to get your business in front of potential customers.
- They increase website traffic: People who click on your directory listings can be redirected to your website. This organic traffic signals to search engines that people find your site to be relevant, which can help improve your SEO.
How Can You Maintain and Improve Your Visibility?
One of the single most important steps you can take to strengthen your local SEO strategy is to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Currently, Google commands 88% of the search market in the US, so it is no exaggeration to say that these days, there is no local SEO without GMB. Without a business listing for Google, you’re effectively invisible to customers who are searching online for products or services you provide.
Once listed, your business is eligible to show up in the following ways when community members search for businesses like yours.
- On Google Maps: A pin will appear on the map for every one of your listed locations.
- In the Local Pack: The Google Local Pack is a curated list of local businesses that appears under a Map result. If you’re one of the top three most relevant results to the search topic, your listing will show in this space, bringing extra attention to your business.
- On Google Search: A large “knowledge panel” with information about your business will show at the top right side of Google’s first research results page.
Creating and optimizing your GMB listing helps your business to rank better in local search results, making it easier for people to discover your business. Moreover, the benefits of creating a GMB profile extend beyond boosting your search rankings. For example, it allows you to interact with customers online via reviews and a Q&A section. These are great tools for building social proof within your community – an important factor for successful local marketing.
Google makes it pretty easy to set up and claim your GMB listing. However, there are some specific things you need to do to optimize your profile to strengthen your local SEO. You can learn more in our free step-by-step guide on how to get started on Google My Business.
Conduct a Citation Audit
The next step in using local listings to maintain and improve your local SEO is to perform a citation audit.
The nature of the internet is that your businesses will likely have some existing citations. For instance, online directories can use information about your business readily available online to auto-generate a listing without you even knowing about it.
As you might expect, at least some of these listings will be incorrect. Some might have the correct business name but the wrong address. Or the right address but with an old phone number. Others may have partial information, such as just a business name and address, but no phone number at all. In some cases, a directory might even have your contact information assigned to a different – but similarly named – company altogether.
Modern search engines try their best to pull their info from trusted sources. However, if you have too many of these incorrect listings floating around online, it can cause problems. Indeed, surveys have found that 80% of consumers say they would lose trust in a local business if they saw incorrect or inconsistent names or contact details online.
You can use Surefire Local’s free Business Listings Tool to check how your business appears on over 70 websites and directories, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, eLocal, and more. It allows you to easily understand the health of your business information online and identify listings containing bad information.
A lot of smaller directories get your business information from these larger data aggregators. So, by confirming and updating your citation on these core sites, the correct information will then trickle down as smaller directories refresh their data. It means you can potentially update dozens, even hundreds, of inconsistent listings in one fell swoop.
Create More Local Listings
Once you have your GMB profile optimized and your NAP data cleaned up on major directories, go out and claim more listings. Each one helps to reinforce your site’s trustworthiness for local SEO and gets your business in front of more potential customers.
However, citation quantity isn’t everything. You want to create more local links in the right places. For example, say you only operate in Seattle, WA. Having a citation appear in a local business directory for Philadelphia, PA won’t do you any good. What you want is to create links in directories and websites relating to Seattle, Washington state, and the Pacific Northwest. These local listings create a context for your website, signaling to search engines that your business is rooted in a specific location.
Leverage Local Marketing Software to Effectively Manage Your Online Listings
At Surefire Local, we understand that you don’t have a lot of time to spend on creating and updating online listings. The Surefire Local Marketing Platform offers listing optimization tools designed to help you build a trusted, cohesive brand across 70+ websites and directories. It helps you to rank higher in local search results in a consistent, cost-effective way.
You can also request and respond to online reviews, publish content, and manage your online advertising – all through one, centrally located platform. Request a demo for more information on how we can help you improve your local SEO strategy and digital marketing efforts!