Wednesday, July 9, 2014

11 Ways to Dominate Local Search

Smart business owners understand the importance of search marketing as a lead generation tool. But sometimes it feels like Google is always changing the rules.

How is a busy business owner supposed to keep up?

Well, business owners who want more customers can follow these tips. They will help you put together a local search marketing plan that will deliver targeted leads that are ready to buy.

It's not as hard as you think, but before I get into the details, let's discuss...
Why You Should Care About Local Search

Did you know that four in five consumers use search engines to locate nearby products and services? Straight from Google’s own research, here are a few more reasons you should invest in a local search marketing campaign:

- 70% of U.S. households use the internet to make decisions when shopping locally.
- The majority of searches performed via smartphone are local.
- 56% of smartphone searches are local in nature, as are 51% of in-store searches.
- Consumers who conduct local searches are further down the purchase funnel. Within one day of a local search, 34% of consumers who used a computer or - - tablet to look for information visited a store. That figure is even higher for smartphone 50%
- More local searches lead to a purchase within one day compared to non-local searches (18% vs. 7%)

On average, local searchers are more prepared to act.

11 Ways to Dominate Local Search
If you want to capitalize on local search, follow these tips.
  1. Claim your listing—Create or claim your local listings on Google Local/Google Places, Bing, Yahoo Local, Foursquare and other local directories and review websites. You can use to see your existing citations and any listings you may be missing.   
  2. NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) — Your NAP should be consistent across the web. You (or your webmaster) can use schemas to markup HTML pages to make a website easier for search engines to "read", in turn making it easier for potential customers to find you in search results. Use your local area code phone number as your primary phone number on your Google+ Local page.
  3. Reviews—Customer reviews build the trust and authority of your business. Encourage customers to leave their reviews at the appropriate site. Some popular ones are Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor, CitySearch, Urbanspoon, and Switchboard. 
  4. Don't ignore mobile—The majority of local searches occur on a mobile device. Optimize your site for mobile.
  5. Citations— A citation is any mention of your business--link or not. A "structured citation" is any listing of your business in an online local business directory. Examples include, HotFrog, and Best of the Web. You want to have consistency with your citations. Some tactics for getting citations include getting listed on directory listing sites, membership listings of associations and organizations, yellow pages, white pages, and local chamber of commerce pages.
  6. Consistent categorization—When you create your Google+ Local page and other profiles, make sure to select the proper category associations. Keep the categories consistent across platforms.
  7. Optimize site content—Your Google+ Local page should link to a page on your website. The title tag on this landing page should include your city and state name. You’ll want to make use of location-based keywords in your site copy. You should also set up individual landing pages for businesses with more than one brick-and-mortar location. Service area businesses should have city-specific landing pages. Create pages with testimonials, customer stories, or FAQs. 
  8. Social signals—If you have profiles on any social networks, then make sure that your branding and messaging is consistent across all platforms. Google+ authority, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc. may have an impact on your local search rankings.
  9. PPC ads—PPC advertising is a great way to get immediate visibility and instant traffic. Geo-targeting can be effective for small businesses, and lets you advertise with a smaller budget. Radius bidding can help you reach customers near your location and rank higher in local searches.
  10. Keywords—Take some time to find the exact keywords your customers use to find you. This will likely include the "head" term as well as more specific "long tail" keywords.
  11. Images—You should upload high-quality photos of the place of business. You can also experiment with using video. Aim to get listed on Google Local Carousel as data shows an excellent click-through rate and conversion rate for businesses displayed in Google’s Local Carousel.
Ultimately you have to find a way to stand out and impress customers. This will translate into great local search rankings on Google and other search engines.
About the Author
Anthony Sills’ work can be found at American Express OPEN Forum, Copyblogger, Infusionsoft's Big Ideas blog, and elsewhere. He specializes in writing for B2B software and SAAS companies and startups in the tech sector. You can always reach Anthony via social media.

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