Make Sure Your Business is Visible to Drive-By Searchers

Sept. 1, 2019

More searches a geographically based. Is your business' online presence ranking in the results?

You created a website, set up a social media page and bought some digital ads.

But is your Google listing complete?

The search platform is where online reviews inform customers and maps point them in your direction. It’s where most people will find out when your shop is open and when you’re busy.

These are the digitized customer service and promotional tools that will bring in new business. Being seen in the organic searches—those that aren’t paid promotions—is a key part of that overall marketing environment.

“To me, one of the number one things that shops should be doing is managing and monitoring their digital reputations with the search engines,” says Kevin Steeland, CEO of PISTn Marketing.

With the right strategy, maintenance of a Google listing will bolster other digital marketing tools, like a website. And the website should in turn boost a business’ ranking on search engines, so if a potential customer is searching online for an oil change, the listing is right there.

Google It

So much of the digital marketing effort is focused on Google, because that’s where most customers go to find out about businesses.

The tech giant controls up to 90 percent of the search engine market, according to some estimates. It’s where people find out where your shop is located and what people say about it. And the information can be actively managed.

“You also have to be out there mining for new business all the time,” Steeland says “New business is going to come through your reviews, your reputation and where you’re listed in Google.”

The company launched a free tool to manage online listings called Google My Business. It’s a way to take control of a Google business listing and make sure it has the information needed so that your shop appears in web and location-based searches.

Searches are becoming increasingly tied to location. A driver might be looking for “oil changes near me,” and a more complete Google listing makes sure that if your shop is nearby, it appears in the results. Even basic Google searches will bring up a map of nearby results.

“They really have to understand that the future of their business is going to rely on how easily they’re found on these digital devices,” Steeland says.

How to Improve Your Google Listing (from Google)

1) Feed the beast.

Local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches. 

Make sure that you’ve entered all of your business information in Google My Business, so customers know more about what you do, where you are, and when they can visit you. Provide information like (but not limited to) your physical address, phone number, category, and attributes. Make sure to keep this information updated as your business changes.

2) Put a pin on the map.

Verify your business locations to give them the best opportunity to appear for users across Google products, like Maps and Search.

3) Let them know you’re open.

Entering and updating your opening hours, including special hours for holidays and special events, lets potential customers know when you’re available and gives them confidence that when they travel to your location, it will be open.

4) Be active, be nice.

Interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.

5) Show off your shop.

Adding photos to your listings shows people your goods and services, and can help you tell the story of your business. Accurate and appealing pictures may also show potential customers that your business offers what they’re searching for.

(Info: Google)

Searches Near Me

Years ago, the goal in Google was simply to make it up on the first page of search results. That’s becoming less important with location-based searching. 

But you still want your shop to appear above others in your area. Steeland says that this requires a fuller web presence. Results on Google Maps can still point back to a shop’s own website. If Google sees that your site has content and gets visitors, that will help boost you in searches. In turn, better search rankings turn more people toward your site.

“It’s all about driving traffic back to the site, too,” Steeland says. “That’s what Google likes to see. There’s a method to our madness.”

Is the website optimized for mobile use? More searches each year are being made on mobile devices, and studies show that people will turn away if the website looks wrong on a handheld device or it takes too long to load.

“Responsive” design in websites means that the page will adapt to the user’s device, be it a computer, tablet or phone. It’s also how most people search for things in a location format.

“Today, younger generations have grown up on these tools,” Steeland says. “If that’s the case, we better make sure that we can be found there.”

The Next Step: Remarketing

The smart way to use a business website isn’t just for basic information about a shop. It’s an entryway to have engagement with customers.

“What these shops need is data,” Steeland says. “They need return on investment.”

A shop might offer a promotion like a discounted oil change. For that, the customer can sign up for email or text alerts that point them back to the shop’s website, which helps improve its standing with Google.

Business owners can also fine-tune their online operation, because they can see how customers interact.

“Today, I can track all of this data,” Steeland says. “Most customers, for instance, that are using Google ads, I can track all that information from the click to the site to the click on the coupon that they are receiving.”

In some cases, that interaction can be traced digitally all the way pack to the point-of-sale system once a coupon is redeemed. That’s the digital trail from online ad or listing to the real-life sale.

How Local Rankings Work

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that's farther away from your location is more likely to have what you're looking for than a business that's closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.

1) Relevance

Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches.

2) Distance

Just as it sounds—how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn't specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location.

3) Prominence

Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business's local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

There's no way to request or pay for a better local ranking on Google. The company says do our best to keep the details of the search algorithm confidential to make the ranking system as fair as possible for everyone.

(Info: Google)

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