Local SEO holds out a priceless opportunity for your business. It will allow you to promote yourself to local customers currently looking for what you offer. It ensures that potential customers see the right thing — AKA your business — at the right time.
How can you reach out for this golden opportunity? You can increase your visibility by claiming your business in search engines and by creating complete listings on all relevant online directories.
We all know what search engines are, but what are online directories? They are profiles that contain a description of your business, contact info and, eventually, customer reviews.
Having correct information in search and in directories increases the effectiveness of local SEO so that you can get the best benefit. Below, we’ll dive into the importance of visibility, how to increase it and the benefits of doing so.
The Importance of Online Visibility
The internet is the go-to when it comes to the search for new businesses. It’s common knowledge that a lot of folks head straight to the search bar of their choice when on the hunt. However, many business owners fail to realize that search engines aren’t the only popular tools for this.
There are also countless online directories, some of which have several thousand users. Some well-known ones include Yelp, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor. There are general directories for all sorts of businesses, as well as for specific types of businesses.
No matter what, though, your business needs to be on all relevant and trusted directories. You should also claim it in search engines. (More on just how to do this later.) This way, your business will show up regardless of what tool a person uses to search.
If you take the time to make yourself more visible, your credibility will increase. That is...if you maintain accuracy and consistency. Why is this so necessary? Read on.
The Importance of Accuracy and Consistency
Obviously, you want potential customers to have correct information about you. This includes your business name, address, phone number and website (NAPW). They’ll need the correct information to do business with you.
Inconsistent info across directories can cause confusion and lead to failed attempts to contact you. Ultimately, it equals wasted opportunities.
Another reason that accuracy and consistency are essential is a bit more subtle. When a person searches for a local business, search engines and apps use location data to provide the best, most relevant results. But if data is incorrect or inconsistent between sources, you risk your business not showing up at all in search results.
Inaccuracy and inconsistency are bound to confuse and deter potential customers. In reality, it could prevent those individuals from ever seeing your business listing in the first place.
Claiming Your Place
So far we’ve established the basics of what you need to do. That brings us to the how.
You’ll want to claim your business on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other popular search engines. For one thing, doing so will give you more control over your image and reputation. Presenting yourself professionally and having complete, accurate and consistent business listings can go a long way.
So, how do you claim your business in search engines? It’s really rather simple. Take, for example, Google. Using Google My Business, you can create an all new business listing. It should be complete with contact info, a unique description, your business category and hours. You can also include pictures if you’d like.
The same goes for creating listings with the appropriate tool for each search engine.
What if your business is already listed from consumer information, but simply unclaimed? Most sites have a claiming option either near the top of the page, in the header or in the footer. All that’s needed then is to fill in the missing information.
As for directories, you’ll also want to see if there are any existing listings resulting from customer reviews or customer-provided information. One simple way to do this is by typing your business name into Google or using a free online visibility tool like Social Local or Moz Local.
If there are existing listings, then you have a good place to start. You now know which sites your past and prospective customers likely use. If not, do a little digging. Look at where your competitors are listed and where they receive the most engagement. This’ll give you an idea of what sites might be worth your while to focus on.
Then, it’s just a matter of providing your info.
Confirmation. In either case — with search engines or directories — there will usually be some sort of verification process. This could be as simple as an automated call or text to confirm the listed phone number. However, sometimes, there’s a more extensive process like talking to a representative or receiving a postcard in the mail.
What Difference Will It Make?
If you take steps to improve your online visibility, you can expect to enjoy several benefits. Like what?
As mentioned before, being easy to find online reflects well on your business. It says, “We want you to find our business. We want to be the ones to give you what you’re looking for.”
Being invisible online, on the other hand, gives a bad impression. Consider an example. Think back to the last time you shopped for something specific online. As you scrolled through pages of products, which ones did you click on for more information? The ones with pictures or the ones without? Probably the ones with images. Why?
We tend not to trust what we can’t see. In the case of our online shopping example, we might think, “Why don’t they want me to see any pictures?! Something must be wrong with it!” Online visibility could be compared to images. A lack of visibility is usually a warning sign, while a strong online presence promotes trust.
Higher Conversion Rates and ROI
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, local SEO is highly targeted. You’re not attempting to find and sell to people who care nothing about what you offer. Instead, you’re placing yourself in front of people who have shown that they care by performing a search for your kind of business.
This means that your efforts are worth more because there’s a much better chance that people will become customers — sooner rather than later. This means a greater return on your investment in local.
For example, say that you run an ad on Google. It appears with results unrelated to your business. Likely very few people who see the ad will show interest at the time and will convert. In contrast, if your business shows up in the results of a local search, you gain the attention of people actively looking for what you offer. It’s far more likely that these people will show further interest in your business.
One study found that 50% of people who performed a local search visited the physical business location within one day. Once in the store or office, the chances of making a sale increase. After all, the majority of the 50% wouldn’t waste their time and gas if they weren’t serious about finding the right product or service. Surely, you’d jump at the chance to potentially convert one out of every two online leads.
If online reviews weren’t trusted, sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List would be nowhere near as popular as they are. If your business is listed on such sites and has received positive reviews and ratings, you have a major advantage.
Of course, you already know the positive impact that this can have on people who find you online. They may contact you and make a purchase. However, there’s another benefit. Word-of-mouth.
When your online customers have a positive experience, they’ll share it with others. And, as everyone knows, personal recommendations are pure gold. Online visibility can carry over from the realm of the web to give your business extended reach.
After claiming or creating a listing, you will be notified of the latest activity related to your business. This includes notifications when a new review is posted. You can keep tabs on anything that might affect your brand — positively or negatively.
These can help you to make improvements and confirm what's currently working for you. You may even receive insight into how you stack up against competitors in the eyes of your customers.
As you can see, increasing your online visibility is well worth the investment of time, effort and, in some cases, the money needed to maintain listings on certain sites. You can add to your credibility, make more conversions and reach more people than otherwise possible. Why turn those benefits down?
If you haven’t begun to tackle this task yet, it would be wise to start focusing on local SEO as soon as possible. Why not start today?
You can take the first step by finding out how your business currently appears on all directories. All you have to do is plug in your site. Armed with this helpful information, you can then figure out the best place to start with making improvements.
This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. If you were to focus on just one listing a day, you’d have a stronger online presence in no time. Ready to get started?