If you’re a local business and you rely on foot traffic to make a living, there are two very important facts that we’d like you to know:
- 30% of all searches conducted in Google and Bing have local intent
- 50% of all searches occurring on a mobile device have local intent
That being said, you’ve got to do more than just list your business online, cross your fingers, and hope that you’ll come up at the top of those local search results.
Nope. You’ve got some work to do.
Thing is, it isn’t just about a #1 ranking. We’re not denying that a high ranking helps, but ultimately that’s not what makes your business successful. It’s about the why. Why do you do what you do? (Psst…this goes beyond making money). If you really want to make a difference and build a business that means something, you’ve got to be thinking about your customers first. Not just selling to them, but truly helping them. Ultimately, what benefits your customers will help build your brand, online visibility, and will certainly help you rank better online.
All you’ve gotta do is make some stuff part of your routine.
Build local relationships
One very important factor for boosting your local rankings is acquiring links from local websites. It’s important for Google to understand that you are part of the local community. That the people you actually know and serve like you. That you’ve been vouched for in the local space.
How do I do that, you ask? Here’s the secret.
Talk to people.
Seriously. You may already have some great local links coming from websites like the Chamber of Commerce, local media websites, as well as local partners or businesses who are colleagues that support you. This is a great start, but you want to be sure that you’re continuously acquiring links from credible local websites. So, make it a part of your routine to talk to people about what you’re doing as a company. That just may be something that would resonate with their customers, and bam, you’ve got a link.
Here’s an idea.
As you’re developing valuable content for your website, seek out other local businesses that you think are great. They don’t even have to compliment what you do, they just have to offer something cool that your local audience might like. Feature these businesses on your blog or website. Then, reach out and let those local businesses know that you’ve talked about them on your website. This will help start cultivating a relationship that could lead to many great things (like a friendship). Don’t just do it for the link. That will come later (and it may not come from them, but it will help to build your local brand).
In their free time, Nat, Courtney, and June love going to paint and drink wine at a place just outside of Fort Collins called Picasso & Wine. They enjoy it so much that they wanted to interview the owner and do a post about how awesome they are on the Mack Web blog. Picasso & Wine isn’t in the SEO or marketing industry. But we knew that it was something great to tell our local community about.
Once the blog post was ready, the girls let Picasso & Wine know that the post was live (get this, the girls actually picked up the phone and called them–gasp!). Once Picasso read it, they were so appreciative of the post that they invited the whole Mack Web team out for a night of painting and wine on them. Bonus!
We didn’t get a link out of it (but that wasn’t our intention). We had an amazing time, made some new friends, and we helped another local business out with a local link (from Mack Web). We’re working on paying it forward so that others do the same for us some day, too.
Earning links from good local businesses is all about being part of the local community. But you’ve got to make an effort at it. Make it part of your routine and seek out opportunities to help other local businesses. Make sure you use a combination of in-person contact as well as online. You can also make friends with local bloggers and influencers so that they want to write about your business and link to you. But they’re not going to do that if you’re not making an effort and doing great things.
Most of all, share the love. Be a good business and support other local businesses who are also doing good things. Your customers will appreciate it and so will your local community.
And get some reviews
Probably one of the most important tactics for boosting your local rankings is getting reviews. If you are a great local business with great people, products, and services, then this part should be a breeze. All you have to do is ask.
Asking your customers for reviews should be part of your routine. When your customers review your business online, it not only helps your local rankings, but it provides social proof to potential customers that you’re a great business that’s worthy of spending their money with.
Check this out. The Wright Life in Fort Collins has been in business for more than 30 years. They live, eat, and breathe sports. They sell all kinds of cool equipment for sports like disc golf, skateboarding, snowboarding & skiing, and even Hacky Sack.
Over the years, Wright Life has acquired 27 reviews in Google. This certainly helps them to rank above the other local sports store competition (who of course have fewer reviews).
By being a great business, providing great products, delivering great customer service, and caring about the Fort Collins community, Wright Life has earned all kinds of stellar social proof. Think about this though. If they’ve acquired 27 reviews just by being great over the last 30 years, think about how many they’d have if they had made asking satisfied customers for reviews part of their sales routine? Again, all you have to do is ask (and make it part of your routine).
Take the challenge. Set a goal to acquire 3 reviews a month from different customers and before you know it you’ll have some great testimonials and some great online reviews that serve as social proof for your awesome local business.
But wait. There’s more.
Try building a reviews page
To make this easier (and less intimidating for your customers) try building a page on your website that will help walk your customers through the ins and outs of providing an online review so that they know how to do it and what to expect.
For example, we built this review page for one of our clients:
The page walks the customer through the steps of submitting a review online to some of the more credible review sites like Google+ Local, Yelp, Yahoo Local, City Search, and Super Pages. The page provides step-by-step instructions for each review site with screen shots and all. This helps acclimate the customer to what they will see once they click through to actually write their review.
You don’t have to provide instructions for your customers for all of these review sites (choose a few that you want to focus on), but it is important to acquire reviews from diverse sources. Also, keep in mind that Google (and the other engines) put a lot of weight in the authority of the person who is submitting the review. The more credible the reviewer, the more weight the review holds (and the more it will benefit your rankings).
Remember that there aren’t any short cuts to acquiring solid reviews. Your goal is to earn authentic reviews of your business ongoing. Providing a page like this helps to facilitate the review process (gives your customers a URL to go to and instructions on how it works). Don’t forget to tell your customers that it’s there (make it part of your routine to ask).
Side note: You want the reviews to come from unique IP addresses. In other words, you don’t want to have a computer set up in your place of business where people can provide their reviews on the spot. Google might see this as spam (since all the reviews are coming from the same computer). You can provide incentives if you think that will help (gift card drawings, percentage off) to get your reviews.
Just do it
Clearly there are many more factors that contribute to stellar local rankings than I’ve mentioned here, but this is a great start. So challenge yourself. Make these things part of your routine. It’s going to help your business and definitely benefit your community.
But never forget that underlying all of these things is the understanding that you’re being the best you you can be. Integrating these tips into your routine will help you capitalize on all the great things you’re doing for your customers; they can’t replace that passion or that service. They’re the “plus” of what we call the Be Yourself+ Plan.
For as great guru Joss Whedon advises, “Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.”