Local clients are moving online at a breathtaking rate. There are more mobile phones on the planet than there are toothbrushes and televisions.1 Half of the United States is on Facebook, and 20% of Facebook users purchased something because of ads or comments they saw.2, 3 Online reviews influenced 70% of consumers’ buying decisions.4 With all this data illustrating what most business owners know intuitively, what’s a local business to do?
By focusing on three areas, your skin care facility can be present in the majority of places where your client is looking. Remember: If you’re not there, your competition is.
When local searchers are looking for you, their search will probably start with Google. The Google algorithm (a fancy word for a big mathematical equation) is not just one algorithm. In any given search results page, there are multiple algorithms at play. There are the traditional or organic rankings, paid listings and map listings. Depending on the nature of the search, there are videos, photos and products interwoven with the main search results. So what does it take for your business to be No. 1?
You can buy it. Google, Bing and other online sites sell ads to show up at the top of the listings before the regular, organic listings. Ad prices vary depending on the industry you are in and the competitiveness of your local area. Paid search ads are a great way to gain access to your local market and spend a lot of money without much accountability. If you are going to spend money on paid ads, have a mechanism to track their effectiveness by using web forms, call tracking numbers and coupons. Your Web developer can modify your website to track where people came from, what they searched for and on which page of your site they chose to take action.
What about the free listings? There are two ways to show up at the top of the page in local searches. One is in the traditional organic listings. The other is on the map. To get on the map, you must display your name, address and phone number (NAP). This information is critical in ranking local searches. Your business information appears in hundreds of online references. Ensure that your NAP is consistent in all of those sources, including the following.
Where do you start? As with any marketing endeavor, it’s important to fish where the fish are. But before you get started, you have to know what your name is. The fact is that many long-term businesses can have multiple versions of their name out there. Typically, a local business is started in the name of the owner. As it grows, it adopts a brand. You can publish versions of your name that include corporation marks, such as LLC. Once you know your name, stake a claim.
Start with Google maps (maps.google.com). Make sure your NAP matches the most authoritative version. Select appropriate categories. You only need to choose one of Google’s recommended categories; the others can be descriptive of your business. However, the standard is that they should be what your business is rather than what you do. For instance, you may be a day spa or an esthetician.
From there, work the list while maintaining the consistency of your NAP. Once done, perform some searches in your local area for what you do. Identify where your competition is listed, and see if you can get a listing there, too. Whenever possible, try to include images, videos and any special features about your business. Getting started is the hard part. Once you take control of your NAP and focus on your local listings, you’ll be surprised how quickly you find yourself moving up the list.
Founder of Search Influence, Will Scott has been working online since 1994. Search Influence specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), paid search management and social media.
(All accessed July 24, 2012)