While it is becoming difficult for local businesses to improve their search engine results, it’s still possible. At the time of writing, Google’s staggering fine at the hands of EU Trade Commission shows the fights being fought on behalf of local businesses in the digital market.
Google were hit with a $2bn levy due to ‘unfair use’ of their Shopping service, which the Trade Commission argued was drowning out local businesses from across Europe by filtering them from search engine results or censoring them in favour of sponsored listings.
It’s another story that seems to indicate that digital marketing is a fat cat’s game – the bigger you are, the bigger your audience, and thus the more page one results that search engines will want to give you – but it’s not the whole story.
Here are MNA Digital’s 5 top tips for local businesses to improve their search engine results and getting more traffic to your website..
1. Focus on long-tail keywords
The biggest mistake a local business can make when trying to improve their search engine results is trying to target the most popular keywords and search terms. When it comes to your site content, you should instead target the most relevant keywords to your business.
Long-tail keywords are usually 5 words or longer, and combine many different elements. They are often questions, such as “how to improve search engine results” or “why search engine optimisation is important”. They can also be phrases with geo-modifiers, such as “hairdressers in Wolverhampton city centre” or “24-hour plumbers near Cannock”.
Against bigger businesses, trying to compete with generic industry or service keywords is close to hopeless, but it also wouldn’t give you many quality hits anyway. The lack of specificity and clear intent means you wouldn’t know who was landing on your website and whether your content or services are relevant to them.
Long-tail keywords with detail that show exactly what the user is searching for are the kind of keywords you want to rank for. As an added bonus, they are easier to compete on, meaning you are more likely to convert those searches into website hits.
Working with a combination of different phrases and predicting how your type of customer will search for your services is a far more smarter, and ultimately lucrative, approach. It will help you get in front of the people who want to buy, not just browse. The more guided the search term, the further along a user is on their purchase journey.
2. Make your contact information as accessible as possible
Search engines are only interested in giving the most relevant search results as possible, that link to trustworthy websites full of clear, relevant content that’s easy for visitors to understand.
An important element for search engines when choosing which websites to rank highest, especially if there are millions of option, is location information. Before the customers can find you, you need to make sure the search engines can.
Clear, easy-to-find contact details will rank better in search engines, especially if they have a map function or an option to create a business listing with them. The more information you give search engines, the more likely they will make you a search result for local keywords.
To put this into action, make sure your address, phone number and email addresses are up to date on your website. If you operate in multiple locations, make clear listings for each location on your website.
You also need to update your contact information on business listing sites, such as Yelp or TrustPilot. This includes industry-specific ones such as RightMove for property, TripAdvisor for travel and hospitality, etc.
The difference that clear contact details make could be make-or-break. For example, Google in particular offers a predictive search keyword that every business should be aware of. It will offer to add “near me” on the end of many searches that they believe refer to local websites or companies. The “near me” function draws up the closest businesses to the user’s location based on the contact information it can get. Not having your contact details on your web pages for search engines to find could deny you many search results.
3. Improve your metadata
Metadata are the titles and descriptions you use for your web pages, images and embedded videos.
When you use a search engine, you find that search results show a link and a small blurb underneath it. The link is a title tag. The short blurb is a meta description.
When you hover over an image or video on a webpage and see a short sentence or paragraph describing it, that is also metadata.
Metadata is also used on social media, on sites such as Instagram and YouTube. If someone looks for your account on a search engine, the titles and descriptions of your posts will show up as search results on a search engine.
While many local businesses will put maximum effort into their standard site content, including their blogs and product listings, they forget to put the same efforts into their metadata.
This small but crucial element contribute a lot to search result success by helping your click-through rates. If your title tags and descriptions sounds appealing, are grammatically correct and clearly states exactly what you can offer and to whom, you’re more likely to win the click from the user.
Unlike your standard site content, keywords won’t make your metadata perform better. The positive to take from this is you have more freedom with what you can write, instead of being restricted by the keywords your site content uses!
4. Get your review aggregates up
Search engines want to recommend the best answers to a search query as possible. If someone searches for a competitive keyword, reviews help search engines decide which webpages should be the top results.
For example, if a user searches “Italian restaurants near me”, the top search results will be restaurants with the highest review aggregate that are also as close to the user as possible geographically. If an Italian restaurant is 3 miles away and has a 3-star rating, but there is also a restaurant that is 7 miles away with a 5-star rating, the second restaurant will have the top search result ranking.
In a study by BrightLocal, it was discovered that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This highlights how online reviews can affect the reputation of your business, so make sure to regularly check the reviews you get on any business listings you use, including the search engine business listings.
If there are any negative reviews, you can politely enquire as to why the user was dissatisfied, but only if you think there can be some resolution. If you come across any reviews that use profanity, make threats towards you and your staff, or seem fake and/or like spam, contact the listing’s website team to ask for the review to be hidden or removed.
5. Pick attractive images and make your ownership of them clear
High-quality images of your premises, staff, signage and products will make a user more likely to trust your business over others, thus improving your brand reputation.
On search engines, you should make sure any images that you have credit for link back to your web pages, and appear in search results for your business. Images are also used in search carousels, which display as a block of search results for users. If you’re the only result with a grey box, it’s less likely your page will be clicked on.
Ensuring your images link back to you in search engine results also helps promote your business if your images are shared or used. Ask for credit and a backlink to your web page whenever you discover your image on a social media feed, such as on Pinterest, in a blog or featured in the news. This is especially important if any users are making purchase decisions based on your imagery. They are more likely to make their purchase with you if they can see that you are the source of inspiration.
Recap: How local businesses can improve their search engine results
Being aware of what search engines look for from your website and how to make sure that you offer the best user experience on your website can seriously help you boost your search engine results and maintain your presence on page one.
If you’d like to find out more about improving your search results further, check out our selection of articles on SEO below, where you can read about more specific tips and tricks you can use to improve your search engine rankings, as well as read more about some of the subjects covered here.
MNA Digital specialise in digital marketing for local businesses, if you’re looking for no-nonsense advice speak to a member of our team today. Simply call 01902 319 730 or request a call back here.
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