By MICHELLE THOMPSON
Digital Marketing Strategist, Crawford Strategy
You know you’re a local business, but does Google?
Our digital lives now connect us to the physical world, and more and more people are turning to their smartphones to find local businesses. In fact, the number of “near me” searches performed in the United States doubled from 2015 to 2016 and has increased 21-fold since 2012 (see below).
With an influx of tourists and visitors, Greenville businesses can capitalize on this growing trend by ensuring they are sending the right “local signals” to Google.
How to Send the Right “Local Signals”
Google takes three main criteria into account when determining which businesses to display in local search results: physical location, relevance, and prominence.
1: Physical Location
The easiest way to improve the appearance of your business in local search results is by ensuring Google has a clear understanding of your physical location, starting with your website.
Your business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP for short) should be clearly listed in the footer, as well as on the Contact Us page of your website. Since search engines can’t crawl text in images, it’s important to make sure your NAP is written in plain text.
In addition to websites, Google frequently looks for business information in directories, as well as on social media. Having a consistent NAP across all listings on the web is key in building trust with search engines.
Finding and making directory updates can be extremely time consuming, especially for organizations with multiple branches or businesses that recently relocated. To save time, consider investing in a local search engine optimization (SEO) campaign with a marketing agency that includes directory updates as part of the engagement.
Pro Tip: If you have both a toll-free phone number and local number, always default to using the local phone number in online directories.
It’s not enough to simply be local. You also have to be relevant, and one of the best ways to showcase relevancy is with a Google My Business page.
Google classifies local business into several predefined categories. When creating a Google My Business page, make sure Google understands your business by selecting the appropriate category (or categories) it falls under. The categories you select will directly impact how your business appears in local search results.
Example: A full-service marketing firm like Crawford Strategy would select the “marketing agency,” “public relations firm,” and “advertising agency” business categories.
Pro Tip: With categories, Google is essentially telling you what search terms will trigger local search results for your business. Use this as an opportunity to improve SEO by incorporating category phrases into your website copy.
Even if you do everything right and send all the necessary location and relevancy signals to Google, there is still a chance that your competitors will outrank you in local search results. If that is the case, you may need to improve the prominence, or popularity, of your business online.
To improve prominence, consider investing in digital marketing strategies designed to increase your presence on the web, such as getting more online customer reviews, improving audience engagement rates via social media channels, and growing referral traffic from trusted sources.
At the end of the day, Google loves to personalize search results and prefers to show listings for local businesses whenever possible. Make sure it’s your business that customers are seeing.