I have a friend who’s operated a highly successful plumbing business in my local area for some years. He’s well known in the community, and currently gets most of his work through word-of-mouth referrals.
And that’s just as well as he has very few — if any — leads coming through his website or other online directories.
Local visibility online really matters
In fact, try to find my plumber friend online and it’s not easy.
His business’s visibility online is just about at zero. And while this may not have been an issue for him a few years ago, it’s becoming more and more important for him to maintain a local competitive presence.
Luckily, there are some pretty straightforward fixes that can remedy this situation.
Here are four easy steps you can take to improve your online visibility in your local area.
1. Standardise key business information
Like my friend, many local business owners and operators don’t realise the critical role that your Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) data plays in your local search visibility.
Local search ranks businesses on consistency across listings using the NAP data. It’s fundamental that you provide this information to key business data aggregators and business directories in a consistent format.
If you operate “WaterWorks Plumbing Company” only list it as that. And always list it as that. Don’t use variations such as “Water Works Plumbing Co.”
2. Register with major social media platforms — they are free!
Get on to all the big platforms.
Google My Business connects you directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+. It’s imperative that you get on Google — and your information on your Google My Business listing is correct and complete.
To get on Google, it’s a simple matter of following the steps to add your business information. You should include your business categories, hours of operation, website URL, and nice images.
In addition, make sure you’ve signed up for a presence on Apple Maps Connect. All you need is your Apple ID to add or update your details onto the service.
Read more about making the most of Google Maps.
3. Audit your existing business directory listings
Audit other directory listings and websites that your business appears on to check that your business information is consistent and correct.
For instance, if you’ve moved locations, or added extra outlets, ensure your listing is up-to-date.
Next, focus on local-specific listings with your newspaper and local magazines. You can also consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce. While there is a cost associated with membership, it can boost your online credibility and provide for offline networking opportunities as well.
4. Encourage and manage online reviews
According to local search experts, BrightLocal, 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews. And in terms of the star rating, it’s the number-one factor used by people to judge a business.
In the local arena, online reviews play a major part in setting your business apart. Positive reviews build credibility and can help engender trust.
But it’s important to monitor and respond to all customer reviews — both good and bad. Remember, you can’t please all of the people all the time. But you can respond quickly and courteously in the event of a bad review. Simply ignoring it will not make it go away, and, left to fester, it may end up damaging your reputation.
Ready to get your business noticed?
Complete these four steps and your cloak of invisibility will vanish. Instead, you’ll enjoy far more local visibility online, and with it more traffic and potential leads.