Business of all types and sizes benefit from having their local SEO aligned with their digital marketing strategy.
This is obvious for businesses that want customers to visit their physical location. It is also helpful if you want people to call your phone or visit your website.
Brand Knowledge Graph: You’ve seen Google’s “Knowledge Graph” for brands whether or not you realize it, as pictured to the left. Search for any topic and you have a good chance of seeing a block on the right hand side of your search results that has additional information and links. Bing and Yahoo have a similar node of knowledge about items in the search results.
Business Knowledge Graph: Google also does this for businesses. Search for your own business by name and you should see a similar panel in the search results. If yours is there, you’ll see things like a map, phone number, hours of operation and “reviews from the web”. There’s also the “send link to phone” widget that sends the address and phone number making it easy to call or use your map app.
Local Knowledge Graph: The other important search result feature is called the Local Knowledge Graph or “Local Three-Pack”. This is the boxed result just below the paid ads and just before the organic search results. The top three (and sometimes four) results are listed here with additional information including phone number, directions, and a website link. Landing here is the equivalent of making it to the Olympic medal stand and getting a bronze, silver, or gold medal. People will see you. Everyone else, not so much.
So you see, local SEO is a benefit to anyone that wants to have a customer visit, call, or view their business.
Turning Local SEO into Gold
When Google is creating knowledge graphs, it’s scouring the web for “knowledge queues” – anything that will tell it about the company or topic, particularly things that indicate if it is valuable information or just noise. To populate this panel Google is sifting through data it collects from sites like Facebook, Yelp, Google My Business, Google Maps, and Wikipedia. The algorithm is looking for positive clues like 1) profiles exist, 2) they are current, 3) there is activity or recent information and additions, and, arguable the most important, 4) customer reviews (both positive and negative). If you want people to find you when they Google, paying attention to these indicators is how you do it.
I Don’t Have Any Profiles… Yes, You Do!
If you’ve never looked up your company specifically you might be surprised to fine you do not have any or few profiles out there. You might also be surprised to learn that you do and that people are leaving reviews about your business. At some point, you’ve given out your business address to some public service from the old school Yellowpages to your local Chamber of Commerce. When you do this that information gets posted online. Google and Facebook find it and they create what we call an Ad Hoc entry for your business. If left unclaimed, you potentially have misinformation and bad reviews about your business for all to search and see.
While researching this article, I found this “ad hoc” listing for Modthink. I will be updating this ASAP!
Tip # 1: Claim Your Business
First things first, get control of your online listings. Do a search for your exact business name and see what shows up. For each of those, claim those entries. This typically means setting up an account with those services. Go ahead and do it. Particularly if the site has the ability for customers to leave reviews.
Most directories have a basic listing and some kind of upgraded for-pay option. For most listings, you just want the free option. You can use a service like Yext to find and update just about all of the most common general listing directories. For the most part, we look at the results for the first two pages of Google and capture those profiles. At a minimum, capture or create profiles for your business on:
- Google Maps
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
There are locally specific listings like your Chamber of Commerce. Here in Arkansas, Walmart has a membership with all the main chambers in Northwest Arkansas and with the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce.
Different industries may have specific listing services available to them, both free and for pay. These should be evaluated, captured where possible, and enhanced if it makes it easier to customers to find you. Some industry specific examples are:
- Attorneys – FindLaw.com, Justia.com, Lawyers.com (Martindale Hubble), and LawyerLegion.com
- Dentists – FindADentist.ada.org, DentistDirectory.com, and ZocDoc.com
- Industrial & Manufacturing – Thomasnet.com, IndustrialWebDirectory.com, and PlasticsNewsDirectory.com
- Residential Contractors – AngiesList.com, Houzz.com, and HomeAdvisor.com
- Digital Marketing Agencies – Facebook Agency Directory, Google Partners, Clutch.co, and Agency Spotter
- Construction Suppliers – Sweets.Construction.com, Buildsite.com
Tip #2: Get and Reply to Reviews
Getting reviews can be hard. First, people have to have had a positive (or negative) experience with your company. Second, they have to care enough to want to leave a review. Third, they have to know where to leave the review.
People with negative things to say about you are, for whatever reason, highly motivated. They will seek out places to leave a review and hammer you for something. If you have control of your profiles, best thing you can do there is leave a simple “I’m sorry you are unhappy with our services. We have done X, Y, and Z to address this. If you call or come by, we’ll fix the problem.” They may not be placated but the important thing is others see you’ve responded.
It’s great to have people leaving good reviews. It doesn’t hurt to ask them to leave reviews for you. The hardest part is asking. Get over that quick. If you know they had a good experience, ask. Show them where to leave the reply. Tell them about your industry specific channels. And don’t forget Yelp. There’s a segment of our population that loves Yelp and leave reviews there for everything. Depending on your business, you can either send people here to leave reviews, or just monitor it for any negative comments.
Tip #3: Optimize for Mobile
Almost all of the general directories are optimized for mobile. What you need to ensure is your correct phone number and address are there. If a profile links to your website, make sure it is linking to a relevant landing page. For example, if you have a link on your company’s Facebook profile that says “Contact Us” test the link an be sure it is going to a contact us page and the form works properly.
For some of the industry specific directories, they aren’t always up to date on the latest technologies. Having a current profile on them is helping you with your SEO and visibility. Be sure the basics are covered for when they do get their act together and are mobile friendly.
Local is important for every business regardless of industry, type or size. Get control of the free and ad hoc profiles on the general local directories. Consider the industry specific ones to capture and whether or not it warrants their paid upgrades to help being found. Solicit positive reviews and let people know where to leave them. Respond quickly to all reviews and in a non-accusatorial way to negative reviews so people know you are listening.