Traditional marketing and advertising can cost a lot of money. If you’re a smaller, locally-owned business, you want to see your investment post a quick ROI. The trouble is, many consumers won’t connect to your business through traditional marketing.
Those channels are good for creating awareness and keeping your business top of mind. But when push comes to shove, consumers are turning to search engines to find you. That’s why it’s important to optimize your online presence for local search. Businesses that fail to do so could lose customers before they even walk through their doors.
This point became even clearer after a recent conversation with a jewelry store employee. This individual felt like they were having success with an ad campaign targeting bus stops and bus boards. But their 3.6-star rating was acting as a deterrent to some customers who Googled the business instead of going straight to the URL. Consumers put a lot of trust in your star rating and low to middling ratings could be a turnoff.
The problem could get worse if a consumer searched ‘jewelry stores near me.’ This is because your business might not compare favorably to local competition. So what can businesses do to maximize all their marketing efforts? The key is finding a balance between traditional and digital marketing.
As the example above illustrates, traditional marketing is a good tool for creating awareness. Digital marketing, conversely, is excellent for pushing consumers from consideration to a buying decision. Many businesses fail to understand this and are good at either one or the other. To help you gain a better understanding of local digital marketing, we’ve compiled 5 easy things you can do today to maximize the ROI of your marketing spend.
Identify relevant business listings
Before the Internet, getting your business listed in all the right directories was much easier. Most businesses didn’t need to do anything except buy an ad in the local Yellow Pages, and maybe get listed in an industry-specific directory depending on the type of business they were in.
Now there are a seemingly endless number of online directories to choose from. Finding the right one can be difficult. Hubspot has created an exhaustive list of online business directories, but even it is incomplete. For example, if you were an auto dealer you would want to be listed on Cars.com, DealerRater, or Edmunds. If you were a doctor or dentist, having a profile on HealthGrades or ZocDoc could be beneficial.
Every business is different. That’s why it’s important to conduct research about your audience. Doing so will help you obtain an understanding of how they go about finding businesses like yours. This knowledge will help you identify which directories to focus on.
Claim your directory listings
It’s not enough to have a listing in a directory. You should also take control of your online presence by claiming and managing those listings. Claiming your business listings is super easy, but many businesses fail to do so. In fact, a recent study by Brandmuscle found that 56% of local retailers had not claimed their listing on Google My Business. This is crazy because of the sheer number of people who use Google to find businesses.
The process for claiming directory listings is fairly consistent across most sites. For the purposes of this post, I’ll walk you through how to claim and set up your listing on Google My Business.
Navigate to business.google.com and click, ‘Start Now’
Search for your business by name and address
Confirm you are the person responsible for this business
Verify your business
To verify your business, Google will send a postcard with a PIN in a few days. Once you receive that card, log into your account, enter the PIN and you should have full access to manage the page.
Optimize business listings
Now that you have the ability to manage your listing, it’s important to take the time to optimize it so that it’s attractive for both searchers and search engines alike. The first thing you should do is upload high-quality photos of your business. Photos are important because they help tell a visual story about your business. They let consumers see what it’s like to do business with you, so they know what to expect when they arrive.
Uploading pictures will also draw searchers in and encourage them to click through to your listing. According to Google, profiles with pictures see 42% more requests for driving directions from Maps and 35% more click-throughs to your website than businesses that don’t. Photos also help increase engagement. According to Yelp, users spend 2.5x more time on profiles with pictures than on profiles without. When uploading images you should include the following types of pictures:
- Exterior of business
- Interior of business
You should also take the time to update the hours of operation for your business. Not having accurate hours of operation can be frustrating to the consumer. This is especially true if they looked you up to see if you were open only to drive across town and find out you’re closed. Fortunately, Google has taken steps in their maps product to prevent this from happening. But the data is only as good as what users provide.
Collect and manage online reviews
Online reviews provide businesses with the dual benefit of boosting local SEO ranking while also helping build trust and credibility with consumers. This makes it easier for consumers to find your businesses and can impact buying decisions when they do find you.
At Podium, we have helped thousands of businesses optimize their online presence and reputation through online reviews. As a result, we have developed a tried and true method for increasing the quality, quantity, recency, and frequency of online reviews – all of which play a role in where businesses rank according to Google’s local search algorithm. They include:
- Determine the right timing of the invitation. Timing is everything when it comes to online reviews. There is no perfect time that works for every business. We suggest looking for a time in the sales process where your customer might have a little free time. For an auto dealership, that time might be just after the sale is complete and the customer is waiting for finance. For doctors and dentists, that might be right after the consultation when the patient is talking to the front desk.
- Set expectations. It’s also important to let customers know what to expect from the process. We recommend telling customers, when they will receive the invitation, how they will receive the invitation (text or email), and why feedback is important to your business. If you set those expectations with your customers, you should see an increase in your online reviews.
- Ask all your customers. Many businesses only ask happy customers to provide feedback online. This is a huge mistake. Online reviews can be a valuable feedback tool to improve your business, and you won’t have access to that data unless you ask.
Respond to online reviews, even negative ones
To bring this post full circle, I’ll close by discussing the importance of responding to negative reviews. No matter how you try, not everyone who leaves your business is going to be happy. Every-so-often that unhappy customer is going to take that frustration out on your business online.
The key in those situations is to remain calm, apologize, and offer a proactive solution. Then take the discussion offline and have someone in customer service work to resolve the issue. Following those steps shows online searchers that you care about the experience. When consumers see that you care, that negative can quickly become a positive. Conversely, if a consumer comes across a negative review posted without a response it could have the opposite effect.
Why an optimized online presence is important
Traditional marketing and advertising are still an effective means of getting the word out about your business, but it isn’t enough. To take your business to the next level, you also need to emphasize your online presence and reputation. Doing so will pay huge dividends down the road. It’s not rocket science. If you want to turn browsers into buyers, customers need to not only be able to find you but also like what they see when they do.
Build a strong online presence with Podium
Request a demo to see how Podium’s cloud-based solution can help you use text messages to invite all of your customers to review your business. Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help your business build a strong online presence on the sites that matter most. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.