If you’ve been in business for yourself for more than a few weeks, you’ve likely gotten a phone call from someone talking about your internet listings, how terrible they are, and how they can magically fix them for you. If you’ve been in business for more than a year, you’re so tired of that phone call you’re probably ready to crush your phone between your molars every time you answer another unrecognized number and hear the first sentence of the pitch again.
Most SMBs that have been around a while have put some kind of marketing plan in place and are likely working with a digital marketing agency to deal with all aspects of online presence. If you’re working with a reputable agency, and in a business where your target market is in any way geographic, some solution has been put into place to deal with the consistency of your business name, address and phone number on all the business listing sites across the internet. If there is no solution in place, or it hasn’t’ been addressed, you might want to ask why. But this isn’t meant to tell you that need to deal with it, likely you have already heard that a million and a half times. This is to help you better understand why.
Common Local SEO Communication Errors
Let’s go over a few things about Local Search first, and clear up some common mistakes in communication and thinking. First and foremost, the purpose of local SEO, is not “to improve your business’s position on Google Maps.” That is one of the desired outcomes, one of the benefits, but this strategy is so often tied to “maps position” that business owners often mistakenly purchase “organic SEO” and “local SEO” as if they are buying one thing to improve maps position and another to improve visibility in the organic results.
WRONG. The purpose of any search engine optimization plan is to improve the quantity and quality of visits to your site from non-sponsored sources and improve the results of those visit. In other words, to get more people to call you and do business with you. The work that is put in is geared toward improving your visibility online in front of people who are likely to do business with you, but focusing on that rather than the purpose causes business owners to falsely measure success.
Optimizing Your Entire Digital Footprint
When thinking about a plan to optimize your digital presence, first, remember to think about it that way — not “optimize my website.” Second, think about your market which is who you are trying to sell to. If your market is local in nature, you are going to want to optimize your entire digital presence for local search. Your market is local if people come from a limited geographic area to do business with you, or if you travel to service customers in a limited geographic area,
What Is Local Search?
Local search refers to a type of search on the internet and it is gauged by the intent of the searcher, not by what area of results you are trying to show up for. If the searcher conducts a search that is local in its intent — if he is looking for something ‘around here’ — it is a local search.
A search can be explicitly or implicitly local. A searcher may tell the search engine explicitly that he is looking for something local by naming a geographic area or simply saying something to the effect of “around here” or “near me.” It’s very important however to remember that local intent may be implied because of what is searched for. The search engines are smart enough to know that if you’re searching for a nail salon, you don’t’ want to see results from a thousand miles away.
When we say “Local SEO” we are understanding that your target market is local, and that a major factor in the quality of a consumer finding you in his search results is how close that consumer is to your business. We are looking at optimizing your entire online presence to prove that you are the right business to display. A consumer looking for what you sell would need to be close enough to realistically be a customer. See? Not: “Position 1 in maps for “Search A, City B.” Instead, continued improvement in the number of consumers who see you anywhere in their search results when they are looking for what you do and are in your service area.
How Consistent Do I Need to Be?
The factors that impact a business’s visibility in local search are wide ranging and constantly changing. One of the tactics we always use to prove that you are a good result for a consumer looking for, say, a nail salon near Arlington, TX is to ensure that everywhere you are listed, the name of your business, the address, and only one local phone number are the same on every listing on the internet. We check the consistency of your NAP — Name, Address, and Phone Number. What you often don’t hear, perhaps because NAPW just isn’t’ as good an acronym, is that the website link on all those listings must be consistent as well.
WHY? WHY is that so important? What if I want to use a tracking number in some places? Is it such a big deal if in one place I’m listed as Arlington Nails and another I’m listed as Arlington Nail Salon? Who cares if it says 123 1st St on this listing and 123 First St on the other?
What does Google Want?
To understand why it’s so important, first think about what the search engines like Google are trying to accomplish. What does Google really want?
Google wants you, the searcher, to find exactly what you are looking for the first time, every time you use Google to look for something. Google wants you to believe that the easiest way to find anything is to use Google. Every time you use Google and find exactly the perfect result with all the information you need without having to dig around, it reinforces this belief. Every time you have to dig around, it increases the chances that you might use something else next time. Google doesn’t’ want to take that chance.
Trust and Mathematics
Google accomplishes this by constantly tweaking and improving their search algorithm which decides in what order to display results that are relevant to your search. If it finds two results that seem equally relevant to a search, it needs to decide which source of information it trusts more.
How do you get a math equation to trust you?
Why would a math equation whose sole job is to ensure that the first listing it showed someone searching for a “Nail Salon near me” was:
A.) Actually a nail salon
B.) Still open
C.) Definitely at the address listed
D.) Likely to answer at the phone number listed and accept a reservation?
(There’s an “E.” – “has a good reputation online,” but that’s a story for a different blog)
Think about it this. THE ALGORITHM CAN’T REALLY READ. So what is it doing? It’s analyzing data. It’s looking at groupings of letters and numbers, comparing it to other groupings of letters and numbers, and comparing that to information it has filed away, applying scores to everything. So it TRUSTS by comparing, scoring, adding, subtracting.
A Tale of Two SMBs
Now look at the tale of two nail salons. Each is exactly two miles away from Katie who just asked her smartphone “OK Google, where’s the nearest Nail Salon?”
Nail Salon one calls itself by three different names across all its listing. Similar names, but different. That salon has three different phone numbers listed in its listings: a land line here, manager’s cell phone there, a tracking number on their Arlington Chamber of Commerce listing. A few of its addresses list a suite number and there are some spelling errors in the street name. If you read it, you would understand. But there are just a bunch of slight differences.
Now Nail Salon two has made sure that every single listing, every single social profile, every single mention of the salon everywhere on the internet has exactly the same name, the same address and the same phone number, and every listing links to exactly the same page on the same website.
Which business would you expect a cold, lifeless, heartless, extremely complex and efficient math equation to trust more? That’s the one it will display first.