Beyond Local Online Presence: “Local Buzz” is Essential to Keep the Cash Register Ringing for Local Businesses

Statistics show that an overwhelming 78% of consumers research products and services on the internet before buying locally.  The message consumers are sending local business owners is therefore clear – be visible online or get ready to close shop.

A lot of business owners have responded to this message by getting a website built.  They also pay for SEO/search engine optimisation services to ensure they appear on Google when their prospects look for products they offer.  But is this strategy good enough to keep your cash register ringing every day?  or is there a better way to ensure your business dominates “locally”?

The “Problem” with Your SEO Approach

Indeed, optimising your online presence is a necessity. Some 90% use search engines such as Google to look for products and services.  If you do  not appear on search results, even your neighbours might not purchase from your shop and it’s because you are “invisible” on Google.  So business owners employ agencies and professionals to conduct SEO for their website.  That IS the solution.  Ironically that is also the problem.  Business owners tend to focus all their attention on SEO and nothing more.

Traditional SEO works if you want to rank on Google.  But if you own a local business and you want to appeal locally, you need to implement optimisation efforts that are geographically focused.  This goes beyond targeting keywords that include your geographical location.  It means creating a “buzz” that enables your business to dominate local search results and also makes people actually visit your physical store and buy.

Higher Ranking, More Search Results

Local search factors differ from general search factors.  According to the 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors study by Moz, some of the things you must consider for local search optimisation are:

  • Place Page Signals – proper categorisation of business, etc (19.6%)
  • On-page Signals – NAP or name, address, phone number etc (18.8%)
  • External Location Signals – NAP consistency across listings etc (16%)
  • Review Signals – review quantity and diversity, etc (10.3%) 
  • Social Signals – Google + authority, Facebook likes, etc (6.1%).

The items above are signals that surveyed industry experts believe help websites rank in local searches. These ranking factors tell us how we can get better rankings on local search results. But to “dominate locally” is another thing. You need to rank high  for your website AND get more search results from external sites too.  This way, your business will have more chances of being found by users.  

Therefore, you need to optimise your local online presence in other web properties, such as social media, maps, review sites and local listings.  They not only help improve your website’s overall rankings, they also ensure your local business shows up for more search results on Google.

Generate “Buzz” for Your Local Business

To create local buzz for your business, you need to reinforce your typical SEO work with these location-targeted approaches:

Ensure NAP Presence and Consistency – According to MarketingSherpa, only 58% of businesses list their local business address on their website!  This has two major negative consequences:  first, a missing or inconsistent NAP can lead to a poor local search ranking, as Moz ranking factors above tell us.  Second, it will prevent prospects – particularly mobile users – from taking further action. A study by Google and Nielsen showed that users who searched via a mobile device also called a business phone (7%), visited a store (17%) and made a purchase (17%).

Check for Duplicate Places Listings – Be sure there’s only one listing for your business at Google + Local, Foursquare, Facebook Places and Bing Local.  You want everyone to check-in only at the right account – your account .  Plus, you don’t want to confuse both people and search engines.

Get Published on Review/Rating Sites – According to BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey, over 80% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews  to determine whether a local business is a good business.  In comparison, only 15% do not read online reviews.  What’s interesting is that around 65% of consumers say positive reviews make them more likely to use a local business – significantly up from only 50% from two years ago.

Encourage Social Media Reviews – Some 58% of searchers are more likely to use a local business if a social network connection recommended it, says the Local Search Usage research.  The study, which was conducted by comScore for 15 miles/Neustar Localeze, also found that consumers who actively search for local businesses on social networks also use (50%) and submit (41%) consumer reviews.

Facilitate Web Check-Ins – When customers check-in on your shop using Foursquare, that activity is published and seen by his network. You can use promotions to attract check-ins.  Some of the most popular promos are the “friend deal” (reward is given when a group of people check-in together) and the “loyalty deal” (reward is given after a number of check-ins). Why?  Research by Pew Internet shows more smartphone users are now using check-in or geo-social services.  The percentage is at 18% as of 2012, significantly up from 4% in 2010.

These are only some of the methods you can use to create a local buzz for you local business. Yes, traditional SEO will help your website rank well on Google search. But if you want to dominate your competition, you need to dominate local search with results.  You must give prospects more links to click when search results are served.  More importantly, you need to encourage them to go beyond searching and visit your store to buy.  You can do this through “local buzz”.

Patterson Digital Marketing can generate local buzz for your local business.  Email us at chris@PattersonDigitalMarketing.com or call us now at (09) 449 1005 or (027) 489 5009 so we can provide you with a free in-depth consultation on your local marketing.