Local SEO is hard and if you own a business in a large city and you’re aiming for a top 3 maps business listing, then it’s even harder. You can spend many stressful hours tailoring every little aspect of your site, trying to achieve this and lose your sanity along the way wondering where you’ve gone wrong. An important thing to do to retain your sanity is to be realistic and confront a few honest truths.
One of those truths is that no one knows with full certainty, how, or who will make it into the coveted area for any given search query.
Why is this?
While there are lots of things you can do to influence your chances of ranking in the prime location, those results are influenced by things completely beyond your control.
One of the primary ranking factors is the location of the individual making the search as well as the user preferences based on previous experiences.
For instance, an individual could run a search for ‘best cafes near me’ in one location, and one block away that same query could return completely different results. Using the same example, if the individual has been to other cafes in the area and rated them highly (without having visited yours) then theirs again could favored.
With the element of the unknown and uncontrollable working against you, you need to project manage the situation to ensure you don’t spend a excessive amount of time on something that might not be attainable in the first place.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of five of the top things that you can do that will help compete on the local front without your focus being purely on the map results (although implementing these five tactics will go a long way towards helping you rank in the map space).
1. Establishing a Reputation Through Reviews
The modern-day consumer is a savvy, well-researched individual who more often than not, will look through customer reviews/feedback on any product/service/experience they are considering.
Establishing a solid reputation through websites and platforms that are important and relevant to your business is therefore critical.
Relevant platforms might include TripAdvisor, Yelp, Bookings.com, FourSquare etc but whatever the main platforms are for your industry are, you want to be on there. You should also focus on getting reviews through your Google My Business Listing as this is often the first port of call for people who are searching for your business.
This not only means a job well done of course, but being proactive in encouraging your customers to submit their positive experiences. This might be as simple as having a small sign near your point of sale letting people know you are present on the platforms. It might be getting staff to remind customers of the same. You may even want to use your email marketing as the means to encourage engagement.
The only thing to avoid is inappropriately incentivizing customers to review (by offering them a discount or some payoff for doing so). This is universally seen by the platforms as bad practice and will often result in your business being penalized for doing so. In any case, if you’re doing a good job with satisfied customers, they shouldn’t require too much encouragement.
2. Engage in Social Media
Social media is a great way to engage with current, new and prospective customers for your business and these days, is a standard expectation as a way of representing your business.
Not only is it a great way to connect with your local customers, it’s a great way to get broad exposure and acquire new fans, followers and connections. You can do this organically or via targeted paid campaigns with great specificity.
With your new-found followers, you’ll find social media as a great platform to share a lot of information about your business that might otherwise be challenging via a website or through organic search results. Your new products, new discounts, upcoming events will instantly appear on their social media feeds without them having to seek it out.
3. Don’t Dismiss Online Directories
Another way many people find out about businesses in their local area is via online directories.
It’s easy to think that everyone uses Google and nothing but. The actual situation isn’t quite so clear-cut.
Whilst Google does dominate, it has the onerous responsibility of crawling the entire internet and sometimes returns results that aren’t precisely relevant and/or misses some that are if the sites have been poorly optimised.
An online directory, therefore, becomes more targeted and specific, and the good ones are very easy to navigate which is why people turn to them.
Much like review sights and social media platforms, it’s important to be placed in whichever ones are relevant to your business. It’s also important that your name, address and phone numbers (NAP) are consistent across all the directories you submit too. It takes a bit of effort and research but you’ll find it is time well spent, and in the end, will also help your chance of ranking in the local map prime area.
4. Connect with the Community
It’s very easy to get a form of online tunnel vision when it comes to thinking about ways to promote your business but you should always remember that people don’t live their entire lives on the internet… well, not yet anyway.
Nothing beats connecting with someone on a personal level than with a face-to-face interaction so it’s absolutely in your best interests to involve yourself in the community and be seen.
Some ways in which to do this is to attend local markets or trade fairs (if appropriate to your business). You’ll create hundreds of different personal engagements in doing so which will in many cases lead to more at your usual location.
Another thing to consider is sponsoring a local event or charitable cause. If you can show your business cares, then the community will be more likely to care and support you. These types of events also get great engagement on social media giving you great content to post and share and will generally make you feel pretty good too!
5. Create Some Local Content for Your Website
If you’re wanting to establish yourself in a local sense than the easiest place to a stake a claim for this is on your own website with some focused content. Tell your own story and explain why your neighborhood and community are an integral part of your business. Is it part of the origin of your business and if so, how? Has your locality influenced or is represented in your products in some way? Are you using local products or suppliers?
If these things feature it should be very apparent on your website. It may even be worth having a blog section where you can elaborate on these aspects in greater detail with standalone pieces. Once again, you’ll also be able to share this content on social media and show everyone just how important your location is to your business.