Make the Internet Work for Your Local Business
How can you take control of your online footprint?
Millions of local businesses are making use of the internet to accomplish a variety of objectives. They are able to do so for one simple reason; Control! To make the internet work you have to hit a switch, pull some levers, and start the engine. Greater success comes from grabbing the steering wheel and engaging the transmission. On and on it can go by adding more fuel or lubricating the moving parts.
Any and every local business can and should take control of their online footprint; doing so not only brings new customers and more opportunities but your customers expect you to be available online. They should be able to find you Early and Often.
How to Take Control
Determine Who you are – Where you are located – What you do
The Who and the Where refers to your company name, address, and phone # (NAP). You may be surprised to discover inconsistencies in this core data not only across the internet but also on your own website. It’s not uncommon for local businesses to have multiple variations of their own name such as with or without the Inc., LLC, or the word and vs. an &.
What refers to your categories – it is what you do. It’s advisable to spend time thinking about these and actually using the Google keyword tool to discover the absolute 5 best categories or keywords people might use to find your business.
Gather Your Assets
Every business has content. Photos and ad copy from long ago, business cards, news articles, and file cabinets full of propaganda received from vendors. Relax; you don’t need all of it. You should be able to create a portfolio containing at least 10 images, several unique descriptions of varying length, and all of your basic details like hours of operation, parking availability, payment types, certifications, etc.
If you have programs like Word and Excel great. If not, and since you are going to be using a new dedicated email anyway, I recommend getting a Gmail right away. It has all the functionality you need and then some. Create documents with your descriptions, taglines, categories, keywords, and all your details. Use a spreadsheet for your NAP, URL’s, emails, twitter, other social pages, all log in credentials and passwords, secret questions, etc.
Search for your company by name, by address, by phone #, and by using various combinations. Pages with inaccurate data need to be corrected. All pages should be claimed and every available field should be filled out.
The big three – Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Should be addressed ASAP. Additionally the three major data aggregators should also be addressed early on. Visit our page Unlock Your Online Potential for links to these and much more.
Claim and create individual listings paying special attention to the more prominent directories and platforms. Insert as much data and content as is allowed and be careful to not violate guidelines.
Align Your Website
Your website is talking. Google is listening but they need amplification and confirmation that content found on your site is valid. They’re not just taking your word for it.
There are hundreds of factors that contribute to the viability of your website. A few of the most important are
- Align the title (tag) of each page with the actual content on the page using keywords
- Make sure your NAP is on every page in a format the search engines can actually read.
- Not more than 1 phone # on a page
- Use H1 tags (heading) for keywords
- Dedicated pages for each primary keyword
- Write useful content without duplication
Fine Tune for Rank
Implementing all of the above gives you control of your online footprint. Fine tuning will help you rank well for keywords and you can continue the process indefinitely to gain more control.
The internet is transparent. If your goal is to rank well for keywords then it’s fairly easy to see how your competition is doing and then just do better.
All of those listings you claimed and created are called citations. They come in many different flavors and Google is very fond of certain classifications – hyper-local for example. Seek out these and other favored types of citations and more often than not you will out rank the competition.
Another area where you can and should gain control is Reviews.
The value of reviews cannot be understated. For one thing they consist of local content which search engines love. As long as all of the above items are addressed correctly the presence of reviews on third party sites will improve your company’s visibility.
Consumers also love reviews. They can be a significant driver of traffic to your website but only if the above items have been properly addressed.
Reviews are a form of social media. Almost every review platform enables a response from a business owner so both good and not so good reviews should be responded to.
Reviews should be encouraged for obvious reasons. A not so obvious reason is that reviews often contain valuable keywords that you are trying to rank for. Your customers can be your best copy writers.
Reading and understanding the guidelines for each site is useful. in the event that you receive a negative review you may be able to have it removed for a violation.
The Beat Goes On
If you have a website you are a publisher. If you write or produce content for your website, blog, or any other medium then you are an author. Both of these classifications have benefits which can be maximized to drive traffic and increase visibility.
Virtually all online activity and even some offline actions allow you to exert more control over your online footprint. This of course includes social media and other channels not mentioned above. The key to control and by extension, greater visibility, is consistency. It’s a good idea to make sure all employees understand the importance of a core message including NAP.
Additional information and resources can be found on our page Unlock Your Online Potential.