How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches

How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches
If you’re a small business owner and you’re just a little bit confused on the concept of search engine optimization (otherwise known as SEO), you’re not alone. But there’s no need to feel completely lost–in fact, you might be happy to hear that to make use of SEO tactics, you don’t actually have to be a coder or master of marketing. Surprisingly, it’s pretty easy to learn the basics and implement some of the changes on your own. Below, we detail some of the ways local SEO differs from on-site SEO, and how you can start making local SEO work for your small business.

Local SEO functions differently

When working to get a website ranking, an SEO expert will generally come up with a detailed plan that covers a number of proven SEO tactics: Link building, content creation and syndication, image and on-page optimization, and more. From blogs to ecommerce sites, this works well, and it’s a tried-and-true method of working your way up the search engine result pages (SERPs).

But unlike blogs or ecommerce sites, small business websites generally represent a digital space that provides information about the actual “brick-and-mortar” store. A person who goes to a small business’s website already has a product or service in mind–they’re not mindlessly browsing for “gray pants on sale” or “blogs about healthy baby foods”. No, they’re looking for a plumber in Toiletville, and blogs or toilets for sale aren’t going to help them much.

So this goes to reason that when your company shows up in a local search, it’s because the person who is searching for you wants something locally–they’re not interested in what some blog has to say about plumbing or what Wikipedia has to say about it, either. They just want to find a plumber.

So that’s why it’s important that you focus on local SEO for your small business. It’s just not the same as trying to get an online store or blog ranking. Local SEO is its own animal.

Smart local searches will display pertinent information for your customers.

Because your local business is an actual storefront, people who are searching for you won’t just want to find your website. They’ll also want to know your business hours, how to get in contact with you, and they might even want to learn what others think about your products and services. You may have noticed that when you conduct a search for a local service, a map will display showing nearby businesses. You can then click to get information about the business, such as the business name, address, and phone number (NAP).

To get these important points of data to display properly in searches, you’re going to want to submit your business information to directories. There are a lot of online business directories, whether you’re aware of it or not: The Yellow Pages, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Google Business Places, Bing Places for Business, and more. For more information on specific directories, VR Marketing Blog has put together a helpful list of the top 20 places your local business should be listed.

Basically you’ll want to make sure that all of these listings display a correct form of your NAP. If there are duplicate listings on any directories, claim them and fix them to avoid the search engines thinking there are two locations/phone numbers/names for your business. If you find that there are inconsistencies in addresses or contact information, make sure you correct it. The search engines will pull up data based on what’s listed in directories–and you want your information to be correct so that your customers can easily find you.

The takeaway? Local SEO directories will help customers find you when conducting local searches, so you’d better make sure you’re listed in as many of them as possible.

Local reviews help you out in more ways than one.

An integral part of your local SEO campaign will be collecting business reviews. Google wants to display only the most important results to people who are searching for local businesses–so naturally, it will show those with more positive reviews first. Think of it as “social proof” that you’ve got what the people are looking for.

Of course, reviews don’t just help you show up on local searches. They’re also a great way to advertise your business on Facebook or other social media platforms. Entice your fans and followers with a coupon or special offer if they leave you a review. Sometimes, people just need a little push in the right direction before they get involved.

What you need to know: Local reviews are worth their weight in gold for your small business. The more reviews, the better you’ll appear to prospective customers, and the higher you’ll rank on the SERPs.

Connect with other local businesses for the best networking opportunities.

Local businesses are unique in that they get to establish roots in a community. Sure, there are competitors. And sure, you’ve probably never felt like promoting them before.

But if you connect with other local businesses, you create a wonderful networking opportunity for yourself. You can link to one another online, building your link portfolio to boost your presence on Google. You can run promotions and drive business that way. You could arrange interviews or work together to promote a cause and draw attention to your services. Gone are the days of trash-talking your competitors. Now it’s the age of co-promotion, and local businesses can really shine in this area–if you know how to play your cards right.

So what should you do? Figure out who the big names are in your area. Connect with successful businesses and find a way to form a positive relationship. Support one another online and watch your traffic grow.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

Back to Basics #18: When Should You Automate Updates?

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We’ve talked before about how you can take a load off your shoulders by scheduling your social media and blog updates. But, as with any automated services, there’s a point where you need to draw the line. Your followers and fans don’t want to interact with a robot, after all—they’re there because they enjoy what YOU have to offer.

So how do you know when to automate your blog posts and social media updates, and when to interact with your fans?

Automate for hours you aren’t awake.

Sure, it’s not the perfect time to post at 3 am on Twitter—not for everyone, anyway. But many businesses have customers who reside on the other side of the pond—and they’re awake during those hours. So it’s a good idea to schedule a few tweets to go out when those other eyes will fall on your page. As for platforms like Facebook and Google+, it’s best to figure out when you get the most interaction. For many people, the best hours are earlier in the day, local time. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily have to automate your updates. However, you might choose to do so if you know you’re going to be forgetful about it!

Going to be busy or out of town all weekend? Automate your updates.

Of course it’s ideal that you be around to interact with your fans and followers no matter how busy you are. But the reality of life is that we have to unplug every once in a while.

But just because you’re gone doesn’t mean that you can’t still engage your audience. By scheduling a few posts to pop out when you’re away, your fans will still be able to see what you’re up to, the content you want to share with them, and products that they might want to buy.

Keep a balance of 80/20: 80% promoting other people, 20% marketing your own products.

People don’t like to see a constant stream of advertisements coming from the accounts they choose to follow. If the only updates you ever offer are hard sales pitches, you’ll find that your social media presence and blog subscriptions are going to go nowhere fast. A good way to keep this balance is to schedule some retweets or shares during the day. This way you can be sure that you’re still contributing to discussions without coming off as overly sales-y.

Reuse old posts—schedule them to pop out at some time in the future.

What do you do with old blog posts? Well, as long as the content is “evergreen” (meaning that you could read it three years from now and it’d still be helpful), you can schedule the posts to pop out in the future.

For example, let’s say you write an article about cleaning your gutters yourself. This is probably the most useful in the fall, but that’s not to say it can’t be helpful at other times of the year! Posting it once every few months across your social networks can help drive traffic back to your site. By scheduling them in advance, you won’t have to think too much about it, or try to remember a few months down the road. It’ll already be ready for you!

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When should you NOT automate your updates?

  • When dealing with customer service–people want responses from humans, not robots.
  • When you have a fan or follower trying to get an answer to a specific question. For example, “How long is your sale going to be on?” shouldn’t elicit a response based on the fact that a person contacted you (i.e., “thanks for connecting!”), or worse—radio silence.
  • During a time of national crisis. Too many brands have forgotten to take off their scheduled tweets or updates during an unexpected crisis, and as a result, they came across as insensitive—even callous. Even if your company’s services have nothing to do with the crisis at hand, sometimes it’s just best to stay silent for a little while.
  • When someone follows you (this is primarily geared toward Twitter users). When you follow someone on Twitter and they send you an automated direct message welcoming you (or asking you to buy something), how does it make you feel? Annoyed? Yeah, it probably doesn’t really make you want to interact with the person. So don’t do this to your followers. Send a personal greeting if you like, but whatever you do, don’t spam them.

What do you think? Do you automate your posts? When should someone avoid scheduling updates? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #12: An Introduction to SEO Hosting

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In other Back to Basics posts, we’ve talked about the importance of SEO, how to implement simple SEO techniques on your site, and how to best work with an internet marketing company to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Something we haven’t gone into much depth about, however, is SEO hosting. SEO hosting is basically a term meaning your internet marketing company will optimize a website that they’ve built especially for your business. It doesn’t require a whole lot of participation from the clients’ end—you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you choose to be, really—but it does require patience and a basic understanding of what role a website plays in the SEO process. So in this post, we’re going to go over the basics of SEO hosting and hopefully help you understand how this process can help get your site ranking higher in the most popular search engines.

SEO Hosting: What is it?

As mentioned above, SEO hosting applies to websites that are built using current search engine optimization techniques. This includes anything from blogging using strategic keywords to optimizing images and videos through detailed “alt” descriptions, captions, and names. If you sign up with a web design company and request that they also manage your site, you should be aware of their content marketing practices before you agree to any long-term relationship. Do you know if they’re optimizing your site for you? Or are they just using stock text and photos without customizing the content? As a small business owner, it’s important that you get involved with your internet marketing/web design company, because unfortunately, there are far too many stories of small business owners completely trusting their marketing team without understanding the basic marketing process, only to end up being cheated out of thousands of dollars because they didn’t know how to tell if something was going wrong. By learning a bit more about SEO hosting and how it works, you can avoid being stuck in this situation yourself.

SEO Hosting: Do you need it?

Even after learning the basics of internet marketing and getting a grasp on how SEO hosting works, you may be asking yourself if you even need these services. And, to be fair, it can be a very big project to undertake, and perhaps it seems as if it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Well, it is a big project to undertake. But you can’t afford not to do it.

Because the truth is, if you want your website to be found by potential customers or clients, you’re going to have to learn how to play the marketing game. And if you don’t have the time, desire, or motivation to do so, there is always help available—so really, there’s no excuse to not be involved with SEO hosting in some capacity, even if you aren’t managing it all yourself. After all, you want improve your chances of showing up on the first page of Google and other popular search engines. You need to deliver a great web experience to each of your site’s visitors. You must engage on social media and create a positive atmosphere where customers and clients feel like they can really get to know your brand. And all of these things are extremely important to your customers, so it’s well worth the time and cash investment.

So long answer made short? Yes, you need SEO hosting, and it helps to understand the basics of the process at the very least. No excuses!

SEO Hosting: Who should I look for?

There are a lot of companies that offer SEO hosting. You can find web designers who will optimize your site from the get-go as well as internet marketing companies that can take over the process with an existing site, even if you’ve had your domain for a long time. And don’t worry if you have had a site for many years and haven’t begun learning about SEO yet–it’s never a bad time to create a marketing strategy, and the sooner you do so, the better off you’ll be.

It’s also important to know that SEO practices change all the time. Google (and other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo!) adjust their ranking algorithms frequently. What that means is what works for SEO hosting today might not work in a month. Those who specialize in search engine optimization are quite familiar with this aspect of digital marketing and will diligently read about upcoming changes on a regular basis, as well as implement new strategies when the time comes. Someone who doesn’t keep up with new developments in the internet marketing world isn’t someone you want to work with—in fact, they could jeopardize your hard-earned rankings. Google often penalizes sites that abuse older SEO practices, so make sure you and your web design team/internet marketing company are working together to develop accepted, effective practices and you’ll be good to go.

SEO Hosting: Where can you find it?

A great place to start looking for SEO hosting is with trusted internet marketing companies. Of course we’re going to showcase our talents here, but there are a number of places you can go to find experienced marketing experts to work with your company. The most important part of this process is determining what your goals are. For example, do you need to start a new website? If so, then you’ll have to consider whether you want to hire an SEO hosting company or a marketing company and website design company separately. Do you want someone to take over the marketing of your existing website? You can still choose an SEO hosting company to make sure your site’s design and implementation is in accordance with best SEO practices; or, you may simply choose an online marketing company to help you with content production, local listings claims, and social media management. You can get involved with the process or monitor it as you see fit. Just make sure that you know who you’re working with and what your goals are before you begin and you’ll get the best results.

With over 50 years of combined experience in the internet marketing industry, Internet Local Listings is a trusted source for SEO hosting across the US and Canada. Some of our specialties include: ensuring local listings are consistent and clearly listed across the internet; writing custom, optimized content to help your listings rank better; and designing and optimizing websites for all of our clients (although we offer premium packages for those who want more control over design and content).

So if you’re ready to take the plunge, click here to learn more about our SEO hosting services with our new sister site, MyBusinessSites.com, or visit our contact us page and send us a callback request. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs at your convenience.

Has your Business Claimed an SEO Business Listing (US)?

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Have you claimed your SEO business listings? US businesses must be listed correctly across the internet for the greatest impact on traffic.

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, it’s absolutely necessary that your small business is listed consistently, clearly, and correctly across the internet. In order for your customers to find your store (or at least obtain your contact info if you work from a private address), they must be able to find your business listing on every search engine. If some of your customers use a search engine other than Google (and trust us, it’s guaranteed some will), a different local listing will appear by your name. So as you can see, you only make sure your listing is correct on Google, you’re going to run into some problems down the road. In this post, we’ll talk about the “3 C’s” of your local listing: Consistency, Clarity, and Correctness.

Make sure your small business’s SEO business listing is consistent.

Have you changed storefronts? Has your address changed in the last year or so? Did you just lease a new office? If you have, then you’re going to want to make sure that your new address is listed everywhere. You might change the address on one listing, while leaving another listing with the old address. And, unfortunately, if you start confusing the search engines with multiple addresses under the same business, you run the risk of hurting your rankings. This isn’t to say that you can’t have multiple addresses under the same business listing, however: If you run a business with three locations in your local city, you can specify this in your Google Places for Business page and make sure that all of your stores will be found.

So before you post your SEO business listing, make sure that:

  • You’ve gone through the proper channels to make sure that your business has an address listed.
  • That the current addresses are listed across a number of sites.
  • That your address is hidden properly if you need to hide it. Make sure it is hidden across all listings if this is the case!

An SEO Business Listing must be clear and easy to understand.

You’ve probably seen it before: A restaurant has a description on Yelp or Google, trying to entice customers with their eclectic menu and exciting happy hour. But the listing is full of gibberish, words are misspelled, and random nouns are capitalized because… well, who knows why? All of this takes away not only from the professionalism of the company, but from the ease of reading as well. Customers are less likely to visit your establishment if they can’t decipher what you’re trying to tell them. Therefore, you have to ensure that your business listing is clear and concise. Tell your customers that you have a great happy hour, and tell them that you’ve been in business since 1983 and have the best burgers in town—but you don’t need to list your whole menu and ramble on about every little detail of the atmosphere. Let your customers become interested through your description and find out for themselves how great you are when they visit.

Before you let your listing go live, be sure to do the following:

  • Check to see if your listing is too long. You might be interested in sharing every detail of your business, but your customers just want pertinent information.
  • Make sure you’re clear in your listing: Is everything spelled correctly? Have you clearly stated where your establishment is and what it provides for its customers or clients?
  • List all the information you’d want to see when you search for a service. Hours of operation, address, phone number, website, email, and a few sentences about how wonderful you are should all suffice.

Above all, make sure your SEO business listing is correct.

You can have your address listed across all major directories and listings, and you can write the best description in the world for your company—but if you have incorrect some information hidden in there, it’s all for naught. And, even worse, fixing an error of this magnitude is a pain. Before you press “submit” on any of your listing forms, make sure that you list all your most important information correctly. A great tip is to make a list before you start. What do you think is most important for your customers to know? Make sure to include it on you listing. If something can’t actually be listed, make sure that you provide a phone number or another way of contacting you so that customers can still get a hold of you if they have questions.

Before you press submit on your business SEO listing, make sure:

  • You’ve made a list of all the information you want to include for your business.
  • You’ve spelled everything correctly and included your most recent company info.
  • You’ve filled out complete information and no partial addresses, phone numbers, or business hours!

With these tips, you should be able to create well-rounded, effective, and helpful SEO business listings. Your customers want and need accurate information—and as a small business owner, it’s your job to make sure they get it. Your accurate listings will also make sure that your site (or at least your Google Places for Business page, if you don’t have a website) ranks higher in searches. You can’t go wrong with these strategies!

As always, if you’re simply too busy to manage writing content, listing your sites across the internet, or updating your website/Google Places for Business page, you can ask Internet Local Listings for assistance. We have over 50 years of combined experience in the SEO industry and would be happy to help you with whatever services you need. From social media marketing to building you a custom website, we have the skills and expertise necessary to get your small business site visible on the internet. Call or fill out a contact form today for more information on your services—or feel free to start building your own SEO business listing using these tips! Be sure to subscribe for more updates.

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Back to Basics #9: Local Listings for Small Businesses with no Physical Address

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Do you have to show your address to be found on Google?

In Back to Basics #6, we covered the importance of small businesses being listed across local directories such as Yellow Pages, eLocal, Brownbook, Manta, White Spark, and others. This process is easiest to do for those businesses that have a brick-and-mortar store: A boutique, hair salon, supply store, or car repair shop, for example. But what if you’re a contractor working from your home or you provide virtual shopping services? You don’t want to list your home address because you live there and want to keep that information private—so will you still be able to list your business effectively so that your customers can find you?

Listing your business without an address: Not as difficult as you think.

The great news is that it’s perfectly acceptable to Google to list your small business without an address. Now, this isn’t to say everyone should do this—first, think of your industry. If you have a store, you will want to make sure that your customers can find you; in this case, it’s a pretty straight-forward decision–leave your address visible. If you are a mobile notary or car washing service and you have a small office but you also serve your clients away from the office, you may choose to indicate that as well. If you work from your own home, it’s understandable why you would want to keep that information private. So as you can see, it all depends on what you deem to be the best for your particular set of services.

Once you’ve made your decision to keep your small business’s address hidden from Google, the next step is filling out your listing. In the next part of this post, we’ll discuss filling out your Google Places information.

Filling out your Google Places Page information

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Google will provide an option for you to hide your address if you don’t want to list it.

As you can see, when you set up your Google Places page, you have the option to check a little box that says you deliver services to an address. This would be the choice that you would want to make if you wanted to hide your address. If you also serve people from an office, you can select the “I also serve customers at my business address” box to show that you do both.

You can find all of this information on your Google Places page when you edit your address. It can easily be changed whenever you choose—so if you make a mistake or want to come back later and change things, it’s simple to do.

Hiding your address on other local directories

As we discussed, Google isn’t the only place you’re going to want to list your business. Other places such as SuperPages, HotFrog, Localeze, and eLocal will also have options to hide your address. When you claim your business listing, you can opt to leave off your address to ensure you keep your private information private. You may have to do some more searching on these sites—it’s not always apparent right away where these options are.

Now, in the past, there has been some debate as to whether Google will penalize any business that hides their business. Some articles claim businesses that provide services such as plumbing MUST hide addresses or risk disappearing from search results; others claim that every home-based business must keep their address visible or risk disappearing from search results. But these are now old articles, and this system has been in place long enough that it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue anymore.

The important point to remember here is that some business owners need to hide their information for safety or privacy reasons. This should not interfere with your rankings, and it is certainly not intended to be a way to punish small business owners who want to keep their information private. It’s there to protect you—so if you want to keep that information hidden, do not be concerned about it affecting rankings.

Getting assistance with local listings for small businesses

Whether you do or don’t want to hide your business’s address, Internet Local Listings can help you ensure you’re making the most of your listings. We ensure all data is optimized for your industry and listed correctly across all the most popular directories. If you have concerns about privacy, we’d be happy to work with you. After all, everyone should be able to rank on the first page if they work hard enough for it—whether or not they have a physical address to list. Give us a call at (888) 770-3950 or fill out our contact form today to get more information on our services. Let us know what we can do for you!

Back to Basics #6: Why Small Business Listings are Essential for Local Businesses

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As a small business owner, you know how important your local customers are.

Note: If you’re an internet marketing expert, this post will probably not be of much help to you. But you can feel free to check out our other marketing tips and tricks here, or learn about our internet marketing services here.

If you’re a beginner, we welcome you to read our Back to Basics series to learn more about internet advertising and small business marketing.

And be sure to follow our blog for posts delivered to your inbox!

 

Today, people search online to find their favorite businesses—whether they’re looking for a new place to eat dinner or they need to find a reputable salon, they’re far more likely to use a popular search engine to browse through their options than they are to do offline research. After all, with access to a computer or a smart phone at nearly every moment of the day, there’s no reason for people to locate a phone book or a business directory just to give you a call. It’s a waste of time! (And, while we’re at it, a waste of trees and ink!) For small business owners, this means all company information must be made available across a wide range of local listings online to ensure customers can find your site.

As of June 2014, nearly 69% of global searches were conducted on Google. That’s a huge number! But you may be wondering why Google is the top choice for most users. There are other search engines out there, so what gives?

It’s really quite simple. When someone searches for a local business or service, Google combines relevant search data with maps, store hours, site information, and more to create a virtual company profile. It’s visually appealing and easy to use. You can find exactly what you’re looking for with only a few clicks.  If you don’t have your business listed with Google (or across any other major small business listings online), you run the risk of your potential customers going to your competitors rather than your store.

So here’s the fast and hard truth: small business listings are essential to the success of your business.

Especially for companies who have a lot of competitors. Even if your company has been around for years and has a lot of word of mouth advertising success behind it, you need to be listed online. It’s simply the easiest and fastest way to appeal to new customers. Furthermore, even old customers might want to look at your website, look up your phone number, or take a peek at your store hours, and the best way to find those is through small business listings on Google.

Don’t believe us? Here are a few facts that will definitely change your mind:

59% of consumers use Google every month to find a good business. And of these consumers, over 70% value what they find in the results. This data can’t make it any more clear: if your business doesn’t show up in a local search, you’re missing out on people who are not only trying to find businesses like yours, but you’re also missing out on people who are very likely to trust your listing and stop in to your store. Consumers are looking monthly—be there for them.

74% of searches for small business listings take place on Google. Consumers are choosing to look through Google before any other online listings–There are even different listings available for your business depending on your country! And yet, Google dominates the searches, so you need to be absolutely sure you’re listed on this search engine powerhouse!

Claim your small business listings on Google to give yourself a competitive edge. By claiming your listings on Google, you give yourself a huge advantage over your competitors who haven’t done so. You can not only link to your site, but you can add pictures, let customers leave reviews for you, and improve the likelihood that your business will be found when customers search for products or services related to your business. It’s just common sense!

But Google isn’t the end-all, be-all of small business listings.

The success and prevalence of Google is obvious in this situation. If you do not get listed across Google, you’re doing your small business a disservice. But there are other places people look, too: Superpages, Yelp, WhiteSpark, Manta, eLocal, Brownbook, Yellow Pages, and many more. It can be time-consuming to make sure you’re listed consistently across all directories. Furthermore, it’s helpful to have your content optimized to ensure people can find you under your choice of keywords.

At Internet Local Listings, we’d be happy to help you out with this entire process, getting you listed across all directories and small business listings. Whether you choose to use the info you’ve found here and give it a go on your own, or you’d like us to help you with your marketing efforts, we hope you’ve enjoyed this article in our Back to Basics series!

 

Read more Back to Basics for Small Businesses:
1. What is SEO?
2. What is Social Media?
3. What is Organic Ranking?
4. Why Your Company Needs a Digital Marketing Firm
5.  Blogging for Beginners