Is Your Business Failing to Reach Local Markets?
If your response to that question is “It isn’t Kate, we do a great job of Local Search,” that’s fantastic and I am genuinely pleased for you.* In fact, I’d love to write a case study about you, if you would like to share your story? If you aren’t sure what the question is about, read on and I’ll explain.
Local Search is Hard and it’s Even Harder for Big Businesses
Until recently, the return on investment (ROI) has just not been clear enough to build a strong business case. Individual locations have muddled through; behaving like small businesses; creating a random selection of Google+, Facebook and Google Maps listings. It might have created havoc with the branding and messaging but it has never become a top priority to fix it.
The thing is that getting good rankings in Local Search really, really matters because we need to tap into our potential customers’ micro-moments. The times when they are looking for exactly what we offer and they are just nearby…
I was in Bicester at the weekend, searching for green gloss paint and I wanted to take it home with me that day… I grabbed my mobile phone and I looked for “diy store near me” on Google Maps and on Google search… Those are the moments when an effective Local Search strategy means that that person finds your shop. If your shop isn’t in the list OR if it's listed as "closed", it doesn’t stand a chance. Get onto Google or Apple Maps. Then, and only then, do you have a chance to sell to the person wanting to buy paint in Bicester on a Sunday afternoon.
Did I get my paint? Yes I did (hurrah!). Did I buy it from a retailer that was listed? That's an interesting question because Homebase was listed but not B&Q. I eventually got my paint from B&Q because I saw it down the road as I turned into Homebase and, I didn't find a colour I liked in Homebase. However, if B&Q had been on a different road, I would have gone home empty handed.
Why Am I So Bad at Local Search?
The principles don’t change, whether you are optimising for a multi location business or a single local property. Start with great SEO on your fast, mobile-friendly website, then move onto Local Search. This lovely Local Search checklist from Moz will guide your through the key steps. For example, you need to have clean “NAP” data, you need a website that reflects your location and your people, you need listings with the main data providers used by Google, Apple and Bing. Also you need accurate, verified Map listings, you need local search citations and you need customer reviews.
Time to Get Better Local Search Results
If you follow the Moz Checklist, you can see the huge amount of work involved. It’s time-consuming and requires tenacity. It’s not a one-fix job. Google has changed dramatically in recent years and continues to play around with Local Search so you need to keep your eye on the ball. If you don’t have the resources, that’s probably why you are finding Local Search hard.
To make matters worse for you, there are plenty of unscrupulous businesses with pushy sales people. They typically offer “quick fix” “something for nothing” deals but tie you in to 12 month contracts. These are, at best, a waste of money and, at worst, they will damage your business. I was chatting with other professional SEOs recently and we all agreed that alarm bells clang in our heads whenever a sales person pitches with “My contacts at Google tell me…” Very few of us have the ear of anyone at Google, either in the AdWords team or the Search team.
Enterprise Local SEO - the Extra Challenge
If you work for an enterprise-level organisation you will also know about the added complications you face. Local Search doesn’t offer any real economies of scale. That’s as true for me as it is for you. It’s a time-consuming, meticulous task whether you manage 1 location or dozens of listings, dozens of sets of reviews, dozens of citations. There’s also the added challenge that each Google My Business (GMB) account (1 per location) should be connected with a unique page on a website. “How can I possibly achieve that?” Is a perfectly valid question to be asking yourself right now. Luckily for you, there is a solution.
Considerations for Enterprise Local Search SEO
- Control. I still remember the challenges that came with being responsible for a family of websites across multiple locations throughout the UK and EMEA. People adding content, changing listings and setting up their own versions of anything and everything imaginable. In this situation you need a clear message that says “We need you to help, here are our guidelines, let’s work together.” We help clients develop messages they can share with their teams to help everyone understand the importance of following the policy.
- Managing multiple Google My Business listings is time consuming. There’s good news on this front, thanks to Moz Local. Despite its limitations for the UK market, this is going to be a great investment for Enterprise Businesses. A single location where you can manage all your GMB listings will make life infinitely easier.
- It can be hard to write great localised content will support each of your locations, providing it’s unique. How can anyone write uniquely about opening hours or services of 20 different branches of an accountancy firm? We use a process to uncover relevant content for each location which includes stories about the local staff, local fundraising, local events you’ll be holding. You can even write about other, non-competing businesses in the local area. This can be a fun way to get people in a location to buy into the process, take pride in their page and can support your efforts to keep control.
- Help people find each of your locations on your website. You need to make it easy for humans and Google. The advice to make each location available in the main navigation or in the footer doesn’t work if you have more than 5-10 properties. For you, a store locator widget will be the answer but think before you buy. It must fit your website technology, work brilliantly on mobiles, allow search by city as well as postcode and, coming back to point 3, you need to be able to create a customised landing page for each location within that widget.
Are You Ready for Hyperlocal Marketing?
As you can see, Location Landing Pages are a massive investment for your business, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of locations. You and your team could try to write all the location pages if you want total control. However, it is really hard to be creative about a bunch of people in Barnstaple if you’re based in Inverness and have never even been to Devon! Local knowledge makes Location Landing Pages much easier to write. When you talk to your local audience about the things they know and understand, you create a human face to your organisation. It’s the start of a relationship.
We help clients develop a process for developing Location Landing Pages. Your staff in each location are the ones who know their clientele and know their locality. They are the ones who can share the anecdotes about great customer service moments or tell you which local charity they would like to support. Which local businesses or landmarks are dear to people’s hearts. With this information at your finger tips, the pages are easy to write and incredibly easy to optimise. With this information, your landing pages begin to warm up the shopper before they come to your premises.
Thanks to your investment in getting great Local Search rankings and your local marketing messages, you should now have more visitors to your business. Customers who are sales ready. To ensure your return on investment (ROI), you need to turn an eye to adding to their basket size and encouraging repeat visits.
Time to Get Hyperlocal!
This is where Hyperlocal Marketing begins. Along with making sure every customer has a great experience in your premises, with friendly staff and easy-to-find products or services, you can now do much more, with Beacon technology.
For example, if you want to measure the impact your Location Landing Page has on conversion rates, you can track this by using cookies and beacons. You could even test the effectiveness of different versions of your Location Landing Page by seeing if conversion rates change when you change the landing pages. You can track the differences in response depending on whether or not someone has been to your website from their mobile device before they walk into the store. From pushing out different messages, offering vouchers and encouraging mailing list sign ups; Hyperlocal Marketing is a great add-on to your Local Search Optimisation.
If you aren’t familiar with beacon marketing, I was blown away by it when I was invited along to Casey Markee’s training on Hyperlocal Marketing.
It’s time to stop being terrible at Local Search! Enterprise level business have a great opportunity to invest in getting exceptional Local Search Rankings and achieve their ROI via Hyperlocal Marketing. We’re excited about it for our clients. I hope you are excited about it too.
* As you sound like a Local Search whizz already, you might enjoy this fun Local Search Expert Quiz from Moz. Bear in mind that a couple of answers are now “wrong” because of recent changes at Google. See if you can spot them and let me know if you beat my “Pro” score.
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