Does local search engine optimization have you feeling frustrated beyond belief? Do you feel like you are doing everything you can to rank well in the seven pack and and blended local search results, but you just can't get there?
In this follow up post to my webinar yesterday, we are going to quickly address the big problems that most small businesses face when trying to play in the local search space. There are three of them:
NAP (Name, Address, Phone)
This isn't going to be a post on how to optimize your Google Places page, but once you are optimized, how to make sure you get some visibility and rank high in the search engines.
Name - Address - Phone Number (NAP)
Having different addresses and phone numbers tied to your business across the web is a huge problem if you want to rank for local keywords. What's even worse is when small businesses trying to do seo think that all they need to do is focus on their Google Places Page (you know, since Google is where it's at) and ignore everything else, most often leaving dozens of business profiles with incorrect information out the on the internet just waiting to cause them problems. So, let's talk about how to fix this problem.
Start With Your Website
First off, you need a dedicated page on your website for every location you have. On those pages you need your official business name, your official address, and official phone number. You need to decide here and now how you will format those so they can be formatted the same across the web, meaning 123 North vs 123 N.
Once you have your business information standardized on the page, you should mark it up with the proper schema. For those who don't know, schemas are html tags that webmasters can use to mark cup their pages in ways that are recognized by the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing). The engines rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, ultimately making it easier for people to find the web pages they are looking for.
There are many schemas that you can use to mark up your website, but if you are a local business, there is a schema you can use to mark up your business data to show the engines that you are indeed a local business and this is your address and phone number. You can find the schema for this here: http://schema.org/LocalBusiness
After you have your individual location pages set up on your website, you need to make sure that each of your major maps pages are created, optimized, and officially claimed. These are the big three (Google, Yahoo, and Bing). Make sure when setting these up that you use the exact same address and phone number that is listed on the related web page so there is no confusion to the search engines.
Major Data Providers
What most business owners don't know is that there are some major data providers online who have information about your business, then share with with many other smaller sites. These data providers are Infogroup, Acxiom, and Localeze. If your business data is incorrect with at least one of these provers, your data is most likely wrong in many places across the web. When this happens, it confuses the engines and makes you not look legit so it is vital to get your data cleaned up with the data providers first and they will in turn push that correct data down to the many sites online.
For those who aren't familiar with citations, citations are to Google Place Pages as links are to web pages. They are a credibility factor which helps your page rise above your competitors. Citations are external web pages that reference your exact business name, address, and phone number. So the question most local businesses have is, how do I get these?
Truth be told, it used to be really easy to find citations and acquire them. You used to be able to go to a competitors place page and find the majority of their citations listed at the very bottom. All you had to do was go to those sites and set up your company profile and BAM! you had some citations. A he problem is, few months back Google made some changes to their Google Places pages and they pulled that data. This caused search marketers and local businesses to have to get creative to find their citations.
To get started, I like to start with my favorite citations sources. They are Manta, Yelp, Judy's Book, Merchant Circle, Insider Pages, Kudzu, City Squares, BOTW Local, and Hot Frog. In about thirty minutes you can have eight solid citations sources to help get you on your way. After that, I like to do some competitive research.
The way I do my competitive research when trying to dig up citation source is by looking up my competitors in the search engines by their address or phone number. When you do this, it will generally show you loads of web pages that reference their address or phone number, well, these are citations of course. You can then go to those same sites and get the same citations as your competition. It's not hard, but it does take some time.
I also like to use tools to help me find and acquire my citations. My favorite tool by far is the Whitespark Local Citation Finder. My buddy Darren Shaw has built an excellent tool to do most of the leg work for you when it comes to citations. They have a free version and a pro version (which is worth the monthly fee and no I'm not getting an affiliate commission off of this) so you should check it out.
When it comes to ranking high for local keywords, reviews are huge! Reviews not only build trust with the search engines, but also with your potential and current customer base. So the big question is, how do I go about getting these reviews?
First and foremost… ASK and make it super easy for your customers to leave you a review. Believe it or not, if your customers are not socially savvy, they probably won't bother going online to give you a review. It's just not going to happen. So when do you ask?
Ask For Reviews At The Point of Sale or Service
Hey "customer name" don't forget to review our product once you tried it. You can give us a review at (insert your favorite review site). When you ask, you might also hand them a flyer that gives them a URL to the web page where you want them to review your business. You could also print them on receipts and circle it with a highlighter. The point is to ask and make it stand out.
Ask For Reviews Via Email
Asking for reviews via email is money, if you do it right. The hardest part is, you must build the email list to be able to email them. For most brick and mortar stores, this is the difficult part.
To build your email list, you should incentivize the opt-in. Give your customers a coupon for some percentage off their next purchase or give them something for free. This will entice them to give you their email address.
After you have built your list, you should then segment it by type of email account, then craft an email campaign for each type of email and send them to the appropriate place to leave a review. For example:
Gmail --> Google Places Page
Yahoo Mail --> Yahoo Local Listing
Hotmail --> Bing Local Listing
Remember when I said you need to make it easy? If they have a gmail account, they are logged in when they read your email, therefore they are logged in when they click on the link to take them to your Google Places Page and they can easily drop a review. See… money!
The last few ways to get reviews is by using package inserts if you ship product and asking by adding badges to your website.
That pretty much wraps up the summary of my webinar yesterday. I think the recording should be up either today or some time early next week. Thanks to everyone who attended and everyone who read this follow up post. If you have any additional recommendations on how to overcome these three big problems, please feel free to drop a comment below.