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When people are looking to do business in their local community, they turn to Google to find a vendor who is nearby. This can be any business from retail shops, restaurants, plumbers, and even local marketing agencies. Most SMBs require a strong local presence, but how is this done online? The answer is Local SEO. Let’s take a look into the 5 areas that all small-and-medium-sized businesses should be focused on if they want to succeed in this space.
If you have a business, chances are you already have a “Google My Business” (GMB) listing. Even if you never registered for GMB, Google creates one for every business they can find. That’s great, right? Well, yes and no.
You see, even though Google may have created a listing for you, you have no control over the information they display for your business unless you “own” the content on your GMB listing. Important info like the correct name, address, phone number, hours, events, specials, etc. can be controlled by you but only after you have signified that you’re the legitimate owner or manager of the business. Google will send you a postcard (yes, good ol’ snail mail is still good for something) with a code that you will have to come back to Google and enter to get admin access to your GMB. Once you have that, make the appropriate edits and add photos, posts, specials, coupons, events, etc. to make your GMB active. The more you add to your Google My Business, the more likely you will show up in the top 3 results on the “Map Pack” when someone is searching for a business in your industry.
Have you every noticed that when you Google a business by name, more-often-than-not, a listing comes up on the right side of the screen that has important information about that business? What you’re seeing in “The Knowledge Panel” and it gets the information from the Google My Business listing. This is why it is so important for every business to own their own listing. If anything is wrong in the Knowledge Panel, it could affect sales and your reputation.
The Knowledge Panel shows important and timely information about your business, including hours, driving directions, FAQs, and so much more. Make sure you keep your GMB up-to-date and active so people see your Knowledge Panel as helpful.
Anytime someone is looking for a service or product within a geographic area, Google returns a map with the 3 most relevant businesses nearest the searcher. How does it know your geographic area? If you’re on a smart phone, it is based on the GPS co-ordinates of your phone. If you’re on a desktop computer, it gets this information from your IP Address.
The Map Pack is very important to local SEO. Think about a local search result you’ve done recently. The first thing Google shows you is (up to) four text ads at the top of the page. Shocker: this is how Google makes their money. Ads are an important part of a digital strategy as well, but we will leave that to another blog. Next comes the all-important Map Pack. Google thinks so much of the Map Pack that it is above all of the organic listings! If I am looking for the best BBQ restaurant “near me”, I expect to see three BBQ restaurants within an easy drive from where I am currently located. But why does Google choose to show those three out of the seven near me? This is why an active “Google My Business” listing is so important. The first thing that Google considers is geography, but after that, they want to know that the business is actively engaged with consumers online. The more you can do on Google My Business the more likely you will show up in the Map Pack over businesses who don’t engage.
Have you ever Googled for a local plumber, only to notice that most of the organic listings (below the ads and the Map Pack) are taken up by these directories? Try it sometime! If your business isn’t showing up in these important directories, then you’re missing an opportunity to be seen when a searcher clicks on that link to Yelp or Home Advisor to find what they are looking for. Make sure that your business name, address, and phone number are correct in all directories. Google also takes that into consideration when ranking the validity of your website.
What people say about you ties in with everything that we’ve already discussed. Reviews are seen on the Knowledge Panel, in the Map Pack, and on Directory sites. The only way that you can respond to Google reviews is if you own your Google My Business listing. Google wants to ensure that searchers are getting good signals prior to dealing with your company. That is why they rely so heavily on reviews. Think about it: when was the last time that you made any major (sometimes even minor) purchase without first looking at reviews. If you don’t have a process to request and respond to reviews, get one now.
Managing all of these important factors in Local SEO takes a lot of time, patience, and know-how. If you feel you need help putting together a strategy to win against your competitors with Local SEO, contact us. We’re more than happy to discuss ideas with you and help your business succeed in this very important part of your online marketing strategy.