Local Online Visibility: Five Areas of Focus

What could more local visibility do for your business? Consider this:

Hopefully you're paying attention to this trend.

Needless to say, local online exposure is now imperative if you plan to grow your business. It's also getting more competitive. To get a grasp on where to start, here are the five major components to focus on:

1) Citations and Directory Submissions

Major search engines routinely index local content from hundreds of sources. Ensuring your business information is consistent, regularly attended to, and optimized across the web is critical to your local search ranking. Make sure your business name, address, phone ("NAP"), plus website and primary business category are consistent across the web. Track down your existing listings and fix them. Create new listings and add as much enhanced content as possible.

Focus on building valuable citations throughout the web. Citations are basically mentions of your business from a quality source along with another piece of supporting business information, such as your NAP.

Local search flow at a glance

Google's local algorithm uses a variety of sources for information verification, and weighs these signals to determine which businesses are most relevant for any given local search. When you create citations and fix conflicting data you essentially boost your online "certificate of trust."

Remember to:

  • Fill out profiles 100%
  • Add lots of photos (have at least 10 ready to upload)
  • Keep content fresh (update Google Plus Local page monthly)
  • Seed major data aggregators
  • Normalize NAP according to Google MapMaker guidelines
  • NAP consistency is a must!

See: A Recipe for Local SEO

2) Customer Reviews!

The vast majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations -- positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Customer reviews also play a significant role in local search rankings. Good reviews from established local users become the gift that keeps giving!

Google+ Review Summary

Review building tips:

  • Aim for 10 or more Google+ Local reviews
  • Target review sites Google is indexing for your local competitors
  • Build reviews steadily over time
  • Think circular: encourage reviews beyond just Google+ Local & Yelp
  • Respond to reviews

See: 10 Customer Review Building Tips for Google+ Local

3) Domain Authority of Website

Increasing your domain authority can have a significant on your chances of ranking in local search for your most important terms. Make sure the website is user-friendly, locally optimized with unique and rich content, and coded to communicate properly. Search engines routinely crawl local sites for important business data.

Website

Site factors which can positively impact local ranking:

  • Business name, address, phone on every page (normalize and use Schema markup)
  • Optimizing Title Tags (include city, state, and keywords)
  • Lots of unique & locally optimized photos (i.e., geotagged, keyword meta-data, etc.)
  • Connecting website and company G+ page with rel="publisher"
  • Service area businesses: having a page for each area you serve
  • Regularly updating content on location pages with geo-specific keywords

4) Local Ads

Running locally targeted AdWords campaigns on Google offers some of the highest Return-on-investment (ROI) in online advertising. These ads appear in local search results, Maps (maps.google.com) and prominently on mobile devices when prospective customers search for your products and services.

Ads give you the best chance to reliably appear in the first page of local search results and are the perfect complement to existing organic web listings and local listings.

Local advertising must-do's:

  • Focus on dominating niche geographic areas
  • Set a budget to compete without breaking the bank
  • Utilize long-tail keywords
  • Have a robust list of negative keywords
  • Extensions, extensions, extensions
  • Create both desktop & mobile ads
  • Monitor search term activity

5) Social

A growing number of businesses are engaging with customers via social media, and for good reason. For many business types, having a robust social presence is now a must. From a local visibility standpoint, one of Google's primary ranking signals measures a business's "relative popularity." Social metrics (e.g., +1's, Likes, shares and comments), similar to the quantity and quality of citations (as discussed earlier), factor into this category. Social signals (think of them as citations) can have a pretty big impact on your local rankings and overall success on Google+ Local. The rise in mobile and social search options will only further drive measurable social-local engagement.

Google+, Facebook and Twitter have millions of subscribers searching and interacting every day. Participating on these platforms will connect you to this active online world. Leverage social media to better engage with your customers, promote specials, and provide updates about your business. But be prepared to commit to at least a few minutes a day (or 1-2 hours a week) interacting and producing fresh content.

Make sure to keep current with updates in all of these five areas. Taking advantage of new technologies and opportunities while adhering to best practices will be what sets you apart from your local competition.