If you operate a “local business” (meaning one that gets most of its customers from your local area), don’t overlook the Internet as an important way to attract new customers and stay top of mind with existing customers or past customers.
According to Google research (link is external), having good online information gets more people to shop in brick-and-mortar stores and businesses. For local businesses, there are some specific steps to take to make sure that your business can be found by searchers in your geographical area. Because after all, you want local shoppers. So being found by local searchers is the name of the game for you — not just Web visibility in general.
Here’s a checklist of important steps to gain more traffic on your site:
- Address the basics of standard search engine optimization.
Every website owner should pay attention to some standard types of search engine optimization (called SEO). Think of a well optimized website as the foundation for good local search visibility. At a minimum, this includes making sure you use relevant keywords (link is external) (i.e., terms that people might search for) in your content. Your site should have enough relevant content so that you draw in visitors with informational articles, product descriptions and other types of content that prospective customers might be searching for.
You need to keep that content fresh by updating it and adding to it from time to time. Good content not only helps attract visitors but it helps your site rank higher in search results for related searches. Also pay attention to the technical fundamentals of your site. Search engine spiders need to be able to find and index all your relevant content. Speed of your site pages is also important to search engines these days.
- Include information about your business on your website.
Check your website. Is it easy to find your address for each of your locations? Is all information accurate? Are there phone numbers and email addresses? Are your products and services listed? Do you have hours of operation on your site? Information that is easy to find not only helps website visitors find you, but this information gets picked up by search engines. Address information in particular helps make sure geographically local searchers can find your business.
- Make your website mobile friendly.
Many local users are looking for places on the go using a smartphone. That’s why it’s important to make your site mobile friendly. If someone wants to know your address and hours, they should be able to access that information effortlessly. If your site is not easily readable on a phone, or if the links or buttons are too small to navigate with fingers, you could miss out on a sale.
- Claim and complete your Google listing.
For local businesses, Google has a powerful free feature called “Google My Business (link is external).” This is a place where you can list your business. This listing helps your business show up for geographically relevant Google searches, on Google Maps and in mobile search results. Claim your listing, or if you already have done so, verify accuracy and complete any additional information.
- Leverage Facebook’s “local” features.
Facebook is a hugely popular site with 1 billion monthly users. And Facebook has been adding to its features to enable consumers to connect with local businesses. Make sure to set up a Facebook Page. Complete your address information to enable your Page to be found for nearby locations (link is external). Keep your Page updated from time to time. Facebook business Pages typically have places for consumers to review a business, so be sure to monitor reviews.
- Check and claim all online listings.
Use the free checker tool at Moz Local (link is external) to see how your business appears in other places online where business listings appear. Claim and update any incomplete or inaccurate listings.
- Set up profiles on social sites.
Social media is the online equivalent to word of mouth in person. If you set up profiles on social media sites, there’s more likelihood that prospective customers will find your business. Stay active there, too. Social mentions help you stay on people’s radars and provides great free advertising for your business. Follow these approaches to make sure your local business gets as much online visibility as possible.
Anita Campbell manages several online communities and information websites, reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually—including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.