Businesses with multiple brick and mortar locations naturally benefit from having a physical presence in the communities they serve. What many multi-location business owners don’t realize is that having physical locations also greatly benefits your online visibility in local search results as well!
Local Search and Your Business
You may be wondering what the big deal is about being visible online for local search results. As a local business you depend on word of mouth referrals in the communities you serve; but do you really want to put all your eggs in that basket? After all, you likely know already that customers are often times more likely to share a negative review online or by word of mouth than they are a positive one. It’s also true that even after receiving a referral for your business from a friend, your prospects are likely to go online and do their own research. Are prospects finding your business when they search Google for a local business that can solve their problem?
The great thing about digital marketing is that nearly every aspect is highly measurable. You don’t have to believe me when I say local search is important for your business; just ask Google. Using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you can see for yourself how many people are looking for your products and services each month in the communities you serve.
Here’s an example of a few Google keyword searches just in Bucks County where our BankBound team is located:
This tool is a great way to see what local interest exists online for your services, and which months those local searches are happening. By using this simple tool, you’ll quickly see that a lot of local prospects are searching Google each month for your products and services.
Utilizing Physical Locations Online
Google uses hundreds of variables to determine which local businesses will show up in search results for various queries. The most important aspect of local search engine optimization is making sure your website is the most relevant resource for people in need of your services. For starters, take the time to make sure your website is informative, easy to navigate, works well, and showcases the features and benefits of your services.
Next, put your physical addresses to work for you by claiming and updating your business listings across other powerful websites. If you search for your business by name you’ll likely see a ton of websites in search results that have information about your locations. Claiming and optimizing these listings takes time, so I’d suggest starting with a few of the most powerful sites out there: Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook Locations, YellowPages, Manta, and Bing Local.
Depending on which industry your business is in, you may want to focus on more industry-specific sites. A good way to identify which directory sites are most important to your business is to search Google for the ideal keyword phrases your prospects might use when they need a solution. Next, search Google for your business by name to see which other websites show on page one of Google besides your own website. Finally, you can search for your top local competitor by name to see which directories are showing for their brand in search results. Take the most popular websites from these three searches and focus your attention on claiming and optimizing your business listings there.
Local Citation Best Practices
When you do begin claiming and optimizing your business listings across various online directories, keep these best practices in mind:
- Make sure to record your login credentials and use a generic company email address in case the person claiming your profiles leave your organization or you need to update any the listings in the future.
- Above all else, make sure your name, address, and phone numbers for each location (NAP) are consistent and accurate (use a local number when possible, and make sure to avoid using tracking numbers).
- Fill out each profile to completion, including photos, hours, business categories, and any other fields offered.
- Include a link back to the appropriate page on your website (ideally, you should have a page on your website for each physical location of your business).
- Don’t rely on the big data providers like Yext to make sure all your listings are claimed and correct, they typically make a mess of your listings in my experience.
As a local business owner, physical locations are absolutely a unique advantage both online and offline. Any national competitor that tries to move into your market will not have the benefit of being featured in Google’s Local results (Google Maps) without a physical address. As a local business owner, make sure you’re showcasing your business locations on your own website, but also on other important websites that receive visibility in search results. Over time, your local optimization efforts could produce more business referrals than your existing customers!