Own a brick and mortar business? It’s crucial for customers to find you online, but it’s just as important that they find you on Main Street. Lead them to both destinations with powerful and effective local search listings.
First, stake your claim
The purpose of a search engine is to help users find what they seek, regardless whether you’ve invested a cent in search marketing. To do that, they crawl the web looking for relevant keywords and URLs, and infer from these clues what your web site, and the business it describes, are all about. They may summarize what they find, creating a de-facto business listing for you.
That’s great news, but what’s less inspiring is the result: a listing that you have no direct control over which may contain irrelevant information, lack critical details, or be dead wrong. That can’t be good for business! Instead, take control of your business listings – and there’s no better place to start than Google My Business.
Use Google My Business
If you don’t have a GMB account, get one. It takes less than three minutes and opens the door to controlling how your business listings appear in Google searches. Make sure your name, address, and phone number are accurate, and that the description of your business is engaging and informative.
GMB listings can include photos as well. It’s a good idea to make these attractive, personal and fun, displaying what your brand is all about and not just what the front of your store looks like. Don’t get me wrong: you should include a photo of the storefront too – mobile users may use it to identify your business on the street. Just don’t end your brand story there.
You may think every one of your locations is identical, but it’s unlikely your customers feel the same way. Any unique attribute you can highlight about your various locations will help make your listings pop. Consider unique services offered, use one-of-a-kind photos, list unique attributes and so forth. Customer ratings can also vary by location; it’s generally a good idea to include them and routinely ask customers for reviews.
Beyond Google, get your business information on other major directories, including Bing Places and Factual. Next, focus on the location pages you host on your own website. All the points above regarding search engine location listings apply to your website’s location listings as well, so you should include
- The location’s name, address, and phone number
- Title tags and meta descriptions unique to that location
- Location-specific content such as photos, staff information, news, and testimonials
- An embedded Google Map
- An embedded Google Street View
- A verbal description of how to navigate to the location
- Comments and reviews about the specific location
Structured URLs structured data
In addition, the URLs leading to your website’s location listings are crucial. URLs basically come in two flavors: dynamic and static. Dynamic URLs are often driven by the search trigger, button click, or simply the database behind the content, and change unpredictably. Static URLs don’t, and are better for SEO for this reason.
There are other tactics to use to make your URLs SEO-friendly. Among them: use shorter URLs, use keywords in URL, omit stop words, keep the directory structure simple and more. One key aspect is relevance, which is why for location pages, it’s good practice to include the street address in the URL. Something like “https://mywebsite.com/locations/malta-ny/159-main-street.html” should work fairly well since it uses plain, human-readable language, is fairly short, and includes the word “locations” to give context.
Another way to help search engines get your location listings right is by using structured data markup, or “schema markup”, which provides Google and other search engines the context and structure they need to easily interpret what a page’s content is all about – and even how to display it on SERPs. There are a number of free schema markup testing tools, as well as tools to help you create your own schema markup.
The value of backlinks
Finally, it’s a good idea to ask other local businesses to link to your web site (assuming they’re a business in good standing in your community). You can link to theirs in return. Google and other search engines interpret these links as indicators of your business’ credibility, and therefore relevance, to local searches.
If you’d like to know who is linking to your site, consider the free backlink checker at openlinkprofiler.org. Check your list like Santa checks his, noting who’s naughty or nice. Respond to negative links and ask site owners to correct or remove them promptly.
Following these steps will open the door to more effective local search results, helping your business gain more traffic on your website and through the front door of your brick-and-mortar stores.
Open Your Door to Local Search
was written by me, Greg Norton – also known as webzenkai. I’ve got more than two decades’ experience building effective websites and powerful email campaigns that yield results. Feel free to contact me regarding this article or anything else you find on this website.