Consider these: according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 81% of local businesses with an online presence reached new customers during last year’s holiday season, leading to an increase in sales and profitability.
And yet, according to several experts, many local businesses have little (or, God forbid, no) web presence. SCORE, a nonprofit association backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, agrees: only 53% of local businesses have a website, they say, and of those 53%, only 5% are mobile-optimized.
Strange, huh? Well, it’s strange if you consider what Internet browsers are searching for. 43% of all Google’s search queries are local, says Search Engine Land, which means 1 in every 3 searches is a search for a local business. More importantly, of those searches, 78% result in an offline purchase, meaning for every 4 searchers, 3 enter a local store and buy something.
So the message is clear: web searchers want their local businesses online.
If you’re a local business, if you want to grow your local presence, we have some advice. You must have a website, and you must have it optimized. And with these 5 tips, it will be optimized.
1. Accurate Web Content
Imagine you are your customer. How would you Google your local business? Perhaps you start with the business name, city, or address. Or, if you didn’t know the business’s name, maybe you start with the products and services your business offers. Either way, you start with a keyword, or string of keywords, that properly direct searches. We can call these local keywords, keywords that place you on a map, that geographically direct customers to your brick and mortar store.
Local keywords must be accurate. This means correct phone number, address, and operating hours (PAH).
According to a study by Localvox, many make PAH mistakes. 60% of local businesses don’t have their phone numbers on their websites, they say, and 50% have seen listings for their businesses that are not accurate.
So double check your web content. Google your business. Make sure you know where your local business is listed. Don’t let an online directory, or a search engine, misstate your hours.
You may also want to create a map to help customers find your store faster. Though it sounds complicated, creating a map is actually quite simple. Go to GEO Site map Generator. Click “start” and fill in your business’s name and address. Once you’ve create your KML file, download it to your computer and upload it to your website’s root folder. Last, add your websites GEO Sitemap’s URL to Google webmaster tools (under configuration > sitemaps).
2. Mobile Responsive Website
A mobile-optimized website–that is, a website that looks good on a smartphone or tablet–is one of the best ways to improve your web presence. That’s because nearly everyone uses their smartphone or tablet to search for local businesses. In fact, 70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search.
So if you don’t have a mobile-responsive website, if your desktop website doesn’t fit the screen of a smartphone, make this a priority.
3. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Ratings
A quick way to improve your web presence is to encourage reviews of your business. You can do this through many review sites, but definitely sign up for the more well-known (and trustworthy) sites, such as Yelp and Tripadvisor.
When you signup, again, make sure your profile is complete and accurate. Then, once you’ve completed your profile, add Yelp buttons and widgets to your website (both mobile and desktop).
The more positive reviews you receive, the better your business looks. But don’t fret if your business receives negative reviews. Though, surely, you want good reviews, poor reviews tell you what you can do better. Respond professionally, change accordingly.
4. Social Media: Google+ for Businesses
Social media can certainly help strengthen your local presence. But choose wisely: you don’t need to be on every social media site, and depending on the size of your marketing team, you probably shouldn’t.
Every social media site has a function, has an audience. Know which social media site fits your local business by knowing which sites your customers are active on. In the beginning, you can discover this by signing up for four or five social media sites. Then, depending on which ones receive more attention, you can redirect your focus.
Though you’ll eventually find the right social media sites for your business, we recommend Google+ to all local businesses. Google is primarily a search engine, and Google+ ultimately serves this end. Every local business that has a Google+ account, then, will directly enhance their SEO, making them more discoverable. Google+ also offers plenty of tools to reach customers, from photo sharing to community organizing (“circles”), local businesses can foster relationships and start conversations.
5. PPC Marketing
Google, Yahoo, and Bing all offer pay-per-click advertising. PPC ads will appear on the pages of relevant search results, usually somewhere near the top. They are, of all things, signposts to your business.
But just as a signpost is only as good as its symbol, PPC ads are only as good as their words, their keywords. You must choose the right words, words that people actually search, words that center on your product and service.
With so few local businesses having websites, you can get a head start today. If you want a competitive advantage over other businesses (franchised or not), if you want to improve your local presence, follow our five tips. If one of these tips worked for you, let us know. We’d love to hear your feedback.