The Latest Google Search Trends and the 5 Pillars of Online Visibility
People expect your business to appear across all channels and platforms they use to find and research local businesses. 73% of customer interactions happen away from your website. While your website used to be the core tool people used to learn about your company, in today’s world, your website only accounts for about a quarter of those interactions. The rest occur on platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, Google Search, and Google Maps.
Online visibility means maintaining your online presence across all possible platforms, and this task has become more complex than ever. That’s because your customers:
- Browse across multiple channels and platforms
- Use multiple devices
- Expect to be able to engage with your business at any time
The internet is constantly changing and evolving, which means your digital strategies have to evolve, too. The key, however, is to simplify the complex. Ask yourself, “What does Google look for in my digital footprint?”
The answer? Google wants to provide quality search results for its searchers so they will return again and again and view paid listings. This is how Google makes money. You can help Google return quality results when you offer content that’s:
- Relevant and frequent
- Cultivated across your entire digital footprint
People search with location in mind. As a business, there are five online visibility pillars you can (and should) incorporate into your digital footprint to increase the chances of getting found and becoming more accessible on Google Search and Maps.
How often are you publishing new content on your website, directories, and social media?
Where are you in relation to someone’s search? Does Google know you service the area that person is searching from?
Are your business hours set to open at the moment someone is performing their search?
Is what you’re creating valuable and useful? Does it provide answers to the questions people are searching for?
Do others link to your website as a source of knowledge and expertise?
When you look at these five pieces of information, it’s important to think about how the information will be displayed for searchers. Regardless of which device people are using to search on Google, there are four main tiers in local search results:
- Tier 1: Local Service Ads
- Tier 2: Google Ads
- Tier 3: Local Map Pack
- Tier 4: Organic and Local Listings
So, as you take this information in, what you need to decide is what you need to be doing to attract more customers? What’s the baseline you have to set up so you can measure results, and what do you continually need to work on? Your mission should be to find a strategy that helps your business appear consistently across all four tiers, and Surefire Local can help you with this. Here are some things to consider:
- Trust. Your brand becomes more trustworthy if your business appears in multiple tiers at the same time in a given search result page.
- Ads. Some people will skip the Paid Ads tiers altogether; others will only look at the ads.
- Star Ratings. Your star rating and the number of online reviews will greatly influence a person’s decision-making process. Sometimes this can be the sole deciding factor.
- Quality & Relevancy. The same goes for the quality and relevancy of content that’s available about your business across your website, local listings, review sites, and social media platforms.
Ideally, if you want to be shown in as many results as possible, you want to be doing a little bit of everything to get your brand out there.
How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Footprint
How do you build a comprehensive digital footprint to utilize these systems in ways that benefit your business? The key is to anticipate what matters most to your customers.
- Which promotion should you run on Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and Facebook Ads?
- What piece of visual content will you create next and spotlight on your Google My Business listing?
- What process and tools will you use to acquire more online reviews?
- How can you optimize your website and content for local and voice searches?
Google wants to help people find you, so you need to give the platform the information it needs so it knows who you are and what you’re all about. When you’re looking at your information online, it’s important to get the basic building blocks right when you’re improving your digital footprint. Here are some of the core pieces you want to make sure you’re managing so that, when Google’s algorithms go looking around the internet, they’re finding consistent, valuable information about your business:
- NAP (name, address, phone) and brand data. The more complete and accurate information is out there about your business, the more credibility Google and others will assign to your brand, thereby helping to boost your search rankings. Your information should be consistent in terms of information that’s provided and readily available (such as your business name, phone number, address, business description, business category, and services), hours of operation and holiday availability, spelling, and formatting.
- Directory listings. Think Yelp, Google My Business, and other third-party places where people can learn about your brand.
- Reviews. Reviews are a vital way people get to know your business from others who have also needed the same products or services they’re searching for. You want to get as many five-star reviews in as many places as possible. Additionally, you want to continue gathering reviews on an ongoing basis because recency is a key factor people consider when they’re reading reviews.
- Online advertising. Pay-per-click advertising can be a great way to attract people in your target market who are searching for the terms associated with your business.
- Google My Business. This is your “second website” because it really is that important in terms of how people find you online. We’ll dive into it more in just a second.
- Website. Everybody needs a website these days. Even if this isn’t the number one way people learn about your company, it’s ultimately vital to have a website as a foundation of your digital footprint.
- Content. Your web pages, blogs, and ads should all provide relevant information, ideally answering questions you know your ideal customers are asking.
- Social media. Your customers expect your business to be active and engaged on social media. If you’re not found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on, or haven’t posted an update in six months, people are going to wonder if you’re still in business.
When it comes to Google marketing for small business organizations, you should be doing at least a little bit of all of these things so that, no matter how somebody searches for the products and services you offer, your business is easy for them to find.
Google My Business: What You Need to Know
Learning Google My Business is critical. Google My Business is a Google tool that allows you to control how your business appears on Google Search and Google Maps. This directory listing contains a lot of information about your company and is vitally important to the attraction and retention of customers for small businesses. Some people will find your company via your Google My Business page after doing a service for your services and will call or contact you directly through the platform without ever visiting your website, so it’s crucial that your information on Google my Business (GMB) is up to date and accurate.
Your GMB profile should include as many details as possible about your company, including:
- Business name
- Business description
- Phone number
- Business category or industry
- Locations that you serve
- Business hours
- Products and services
How Local Directory Listings Impact Your Visibility
More location citations equal more visibility. Any profile or place your business information is “listed” or found is a local listing. The more listings you have, the greater visibility you’ll have in local search. Google uses local listings to determine how trustworthy your location is and ranks you accordingly in local search. There are hundreds of local directory listings out there, and that may seem overwhelming, but Surefire Local has tools that can help you manage them all at the click of a button. The more listings you have built out online, the more likely you are to be found when someone performs a search related to your company’s offerings.
Bear in mind, we understand that not all of this is easy. Although maintaining your website and overall digital footprint does require a bit of work, the effort is critical in maintaining good standing with the search engines. Remember, your website is the home base of where people are going to find you, so you need to keep it updated and accurate at all times. This means, ensuring the following elements are always correct:
- NAP: Name, address, and phone number
- Call-to-action form at the top of your home page
- Mobile-optimized and loads quickly
- Updated consistently with new content
- Customer service should be top-of-mind
- Incorporates local structured data
You want your website to evolve as your company does. Maybe you offer seasonal promotions or provide certain services that need to be removed at times. Make sure you’re constantly updating your website as your company changes so you give customers the current picture of who you are. Calls-to-action are vital, and you’ll want to have as many of them as possible. Make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to contact you when they’re ready to act on their desires to learn more about your business.
Content is King
The more information you’re giving people, the more you’re proving that you do what you say you do. In other words, people will feel more secure in their decisions when they can see that you’re a trustworthy source that can offer experience and expertise to their problems. Content adds credibility and trust to your digital footprint. It’s all about infusing your digital footprint with relevant and recent information that your prospective customers can’t find anywhere else. Consider incorporating the following types of content into your website, blog, and social media posts:
- Google My Business Posts
- Blog posts
- YouTube videos
- Social media
- User-generated content
You also want to be sure to incorporate location tags so Google knows where you offer your services. You can add these on check-ins via social media, content titles and headers, file names, meta descriptions, and events. It’s all about proving to people that you are who you say you are, and photos and videos are a great way to build that kind of trust.
Social Media is Vital
Social media is becoming more and more entwined with your digital footprint. Your customers want to engage and build a relationship with your business. Social media platforms have high domain authority, so they often appear high in organic search results. 79% of people in the U.S. have a social media profile, and many have multiple accounts with various different platforms. If you want to meet people where they are, you have to be on social. Interact with people on social media; talk to them about the experiences they’ve had with your company. This can help you sell more products and services to them down the line, while simultaneously attracting new customers who are watching the ways you interact with your audience.
Google ads help you target and reach quality prospects who are searching for your services online. There are several variations within Google’s offerings:
- Google Search Network. This is based on demographic and geographic targeting. It includes text ads, responsive text ads, and Google Local Services.
- Google Display Network. This is based on demographic, geographic, and contextual targeting. It includes audience-based displays, responsive display ads, and remarketing.
- YouTube Advertising. This is based on content, demographics, and remarketing targeting. It includes TrueView ads (pre-roll, in-roll, non-skippable, and bumper ads), video discovery ads, and in-stream ads.
Google Local Service ads amplify your local reach at the very top of local search results. They allow you to attract higher-quality leads by getting your business to show up at the most relevant times. They come with Google’s stamp of approval, which makes them more trustworthy than many other search result options your potential customers might be seeing. They’re paid-placement ads that require a background check and should always include a click-to-call option. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) ads, these are pay-per-lead ads. Bear in mind that the availability for placement varies widely by industry. This type of ad works well for people who need help immediately, such as plumbers or roofers who can repair unexpected storm damage.
Microsoft Ads (Bing)
Microsoft Ads allow you to broaden your reach beyond Google. It’s an interesting option because not as many people will go to Bing over Google, but you can use that to your benefit. It’s not as competitive as Google and offers you different audience demographics. With Bing, you’ll have access to reach searchers on Microsoft, Bing, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, and other sites that are powered by Bing. The Microsoft Search Network covers 38% of the U.S. desktop search market, which translates to 46.4 million people who are not using Google. The lack of competition means many ad options are a bit cheaper on Bing than they would be on Google. You can have a much smaller ad budget running on this platform and still get great results.
Oneline reviews provide the social proof your digital footprint needs to be effective. One of the best ways to improve your online visibility is to maintain a high star rating on the most popular review platforms. You should be trying to get reviews on sites with high domain authority, such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Strive to get at least three to five new reviews each month, and be sure to respond to new reviews within 24 to 48 hours.
Did you know that 97% of consumers aged 18 to 34 read online reviews to judge local businesses? Or how about the fact that 48% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written within the past two weeks? There’s a lot of weight put into reviews, and you want to be sure you’re on the right side of things when your future customers start reading about your brand. A simple 1-star increase can equal a five to nine percent increase in revenue. Never stop asking for reviews.
Strategies to Improve Your Local Search Rankings and Become More Accessible Online
Let’s look at some specific strategies you can use to be found more easily online.
1. Local Service Ads
First off, double-check if you’re in an industry that can set up a local service ad. Search for your services and location on Google and see if any ads appear at the very top of the search results page displaying a green Google Guaranteed badge. If you are, you can just go online and search for Google Local Service Ads and start the first step which is to create your profile. This is where you’ll set up all that basic information, like your name, address, and phone number. It’ll connect you to your Google My Business profile so you can create your local service ad dashboard and profile. Once that’s done, you need to get verified. To do so, you’ll need to submit your certificate of liability insurance for the customer to Google. From there, you’ll need to pass a background check. This is true for both the business and the business owner. Once you’re approved, you’ll need to have your budget ready. You’ll start to get qualified leads from Google, so you’ll want to know how much you’re willing to pay per lead and in total, before your budget maxes out.
Your rankings on Local Service Ads will be decided by four main factors:
Google Local Service Ads have an impact on voice search rankings. As voice search grows, Google Assistant responds with Google Guaranteed providers first in spoken results. When Google’s done a background check on you and knows you’re who you say you are, the platform is more likely to send people your way when they look for words or phrases that are related to the kind of business you conduct.
2. Google Ads
While local service ads are single-focused in purpose (get more inquiries), Google Ads are multi-faceted. You have to think about what goal you’re trying to accomplish with your ads. Are you trying to get leads? Attract traffic to your website? Build awareness of your brand? Based on what your goals are, you want to set your ads up differently to target specific groups of people at different phases in their search patterns.
When you’re setting up your ads, you want to pay attention to a few key things. First, diversify your ad budget for maximum reach and positive ROI. In doing so, you’ll advertise across multiple channels to reach a wider audience in more moments. You’ll also attract different people who are searching in different ways and learn which demographics prefer one channel over another.
When you’re building Google Ads, in addition to other factors, you want to target your ad rank score. This is basically Google’s take on what you’ve set up, accompanied by a qualified score number that indicates whether you’ve followed the search engine’s guidelines or helped customers. If you get a high score, your ad is more likely to rank better, which means greater visibility, clicks, and customer growth.
Factors that influence your ad rank include:
- Ad copy and CTA quality
- Landing page quality
- Context and location of the person’s search
- Ad extensions
As you create ads, you need to leverage your brand power by incorporating relevant keywords, calls-to-action, and social proof.
3. Local Map Pack
Once you go through Local Service Ads and Google Search, you get to the third section, which is the Local Map Pack. This is where your Google My Business page information shows up, and you’ll also see a little map at the very top that shows where you are based on the information you’ve provided to Google.
What determines your visibility in Google’s Local Map Pack? Great question! Here are some key elements the search engine considers when it’s deciding how to rank you in the Local Map Pack:
- Google My Business signals
- Link signals
- Review signals
- On-page signals
- Citation signals
- Behavioral signals
- Social signals
Getting started with Google My Business
If you have not yet claimed or created a Google My Business page for your company, please go and do so today! This is one of the biggest things that can help your company show up online. Google can also create GMB pages for your company that you don’t have any control over, so it’s important to check-in online and make sure you’ve claimed your business and are telling people what you want them to know about your company.
Be sure to establish your service area on GMB. You can add up to 20 service areas, so start with the closest and largest and work from there. Make sure you add a primary category that best matches your business. You can also add several secondary categories. Make sure your business hours are always updated, and always ask for reviews.
Use the Questions & Answers section to your advantage. You can seed questions without needing to wait for people to ask questions. Use questions you’re asked frequently to start seeding your Q&A page.
4. Organic & Local Listings
This is where your blog, website, and local business directories will show up in organic searches. Anything that’s unpaid that Google is just showcasing because it fits the recency and relevancy algorithms is important here. It’s important to understand that if you want to grow your organic rankings, it takes time. There is no overnight fix, and continuous improvement is critical. Improvement begins by building a strong foundation.
When Google is deciding which pages to show in local search results, here are some of the building blocks they’ll look toward as they evaluate your business:
- Usability. Easy and straight-forward site navigation to guide visitors where you want them to go
- Crawlability. Proper sitemap to help Google crawl your website pages
- Mobile. Optimized for phones and tablets, and easy-to-read fonts
- Speed. Fast-loading page interactions and optimal image sizing
- Hyperlocal. Location schema and structured data built into the site code
- Content. Relevant, FAQs, and links
- Copywriting. Short and easy-to-read copy that’s delivered in a conversational writing style
- Branding. Colors, personalization, and visuals
Partner with the Leading Local Marketing Software Company
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Our mission is to help local businesses attract customers and grow profits efficiently using a single, secure all-in-one platform that turns you into a marketing superhero. We provide you with the software to take control of your online visibility but guide you every step of the way with our experienced digital marketing experts, online training sessions, videos, and tips.
Reach out to our team to get started!