Google and such are out to give you, their users, useful search results. This is one reason, why search engines are trying hard to distinguish between local businesses and businesses with no real “local” component. If we are looking for a restaurant or an optometrist, we are looking for an address in a certain region. Results that showcase businesses in different cities, states or countries are utterly useless at that point.
You have a local business? In this case you need to see to that your website and online activities focus on that fact. A good place to get started is Google MyBusiness. Secure your page and fill in all the necessary details. This is fairly easy and does not take a lot of time. What else do you need to keep in mind?
Local Search is different.
Google uses a different algorithm to search for local businesses than it does for other search requests. Reading through Google’s support documents, you will find that it states that “Relevance, Distance and Prominence” are the three factors that highly influence the ranking of your business. If you take a closer look you will find that a whole bunch of smaller criteria are adding up: Local Search Ranking Factors.
To cut a long story short: The most important factors are ratings, proximity and how much relevant information Google has on your business, e.g. via Google MyBusiness. Google values ratings that were placed directly via Google or a different large platform (think facebook, yelp, …) much higher than ratings that appear only on your website.
What can you do to improve your business’ ranking?
First on your list: Your company’s website. It should meet modern web standards, that is nowadays it needs to be responsive, that is easily accessible on all types of devices. Small smartphone screens as well as large monitors. In addition, you ought to secure your domain with the help of an SSL certificate.
Answer your clients’ questions
At best, your website helps your prospective customers to get an idea about who you are. And if they want to be YOUR customer.
Do you know what the most frequent questions of your customers are? This sounds like a simple question. In reality, many business owners do not have an answer to this. A good way to figure this out is to think about some of your current customers and remember the questions they had. Another good option is to publish case studies of customers. All of this helps your prospective customers to understand what you really do. At the same time, it might be valuable content to feed to search engines.
Cultivate local relationships
Another good way to gain relevancy is to commit yourself locally. Are there non-profit organizations you might be able to support in one way or the other? Is it possible to sponsor events, help organize a fund-raiser?
There might be a couple of other local businesses in your vicinity who are not your competitors. Maybe you could work together, craft a network to boost general visibility. This could range from cooperation to events you host together. Get creative!
What you should not forget, though: You need to share these activities on your website and in social networks. Write about it, talk about it. Not just once but regularly.
How important are social networks like Facebook?
Some SEO experts say that every local business ought to have a Facebook page. They say that people are more likely to by from companies they have gotten to know already via social networks.
Google also seems to use content from Facebook ratings for its Knowledge Panels. Which means that Facebook content could be an additional source to influence search engine ranking.
If all others are on Facebook, don’t I have to be there as well?
A Facebook page can make a big difference for your local business. But it’s also a lot of work. Especially small businesses often find it hard to allocate time for maintaining it. We believe it is important to think about who will be taking care of this Facebook page and develop a strategy. And if you get to the conclusion that there is no one who would LIKE to do it AND hast the time to do it, just really don’t do it.
We feel it is better not to have a Facebook page than to have one nobody takes care of. Imagine unanswered questions of prospective clients, nasty comments nobody ever reacted upon etc. This type of Facebook page is not inviting at all. And it definitely won’t boost your ranking with search engines.
In the end every entrepreneur has to decide for herself. There is no need to sell your soul, people crave authenticity. Showcase your company in way that feels trustworthy and inviting.
If Facebook isn’t for you you probably won’t be able to create a convincing Facebook presence. But maybe you take a lot of pleasure in connecting with people in your local community. Or your service is so outstanding that people rave about you and are more than willing to write outstanding ratings on Google.
But I am sure everyone will find her spot. Trust yourself and talk about it!