Consumers like shopping locally. So it is not surprising that they make 85% of their purchases within a 24-km radius of their home. And that neighbourhood businesses need to make sure they perform well in local searches. This is an essential condition to the success of your business, because local search is where you will get the most sales.
Here are five basic rules for attracting these likely customers – the ones who are looking to spend their money at a local business.
1. Get the most feedback and comments from your customers on sites where online users can give their opinion. How? If you have a restaurant, post a small sign, next to the cash register or on the bill, reading "Honest feedback on Tripadvisor or YellowPages.ca would be greatly appreciated". It can make a difference over time. If you are a lawyer and a particularly satisfied client thanks you, ask him to provide a reference on LinkedIn. Feedback and comments show more activity, which makes it easier for search engines to find you. A quick tip: monitor what is being said about your business and take part of the conversation when it's relevant. It's also important to tell your side of the story when you get a bad review and to offer solutions whenever possible.
2. Be active on social media and get people talking about you. When people publish a link to your site on Twitter or click "Like" on your Facebook page, it improves your position on search engines. Google + is particularly important for Google results.
3. Be present in all reliable directories: Google Places, Yellow Pages, Bing Places for Business… You can also try your professional association's website, online directories by the different levels of government, and so on. Don't forget iBegin and the Better Business Bureau. Stay away from poor quality directories that are of no use to online users. Your presence in these directories may even hurt your position in search engines. And when you register in a directory, be sure to complete all the fields in the registration form. If possible, describe what you have to offer by using the same words as your customers, and add photos and even videos. Be sure that you are in the right category.
4. Include your address and phone number on each page of your website (for example, in the footer). Use the exact same address and telephone number format everywhere. So don't use "123 Main Street, Anywhere, QC" on your website and "123 Main, Anywhere, Quebec" in a directory. Why? This helps the search engine associate each of these to your business. Tip: Prepare a standard text with your contact information, a short description, a long description, and so on. Copy and paste excerpts into the forms. (And a tip for experts: Use microformats, such as hcard or Schema.org.)
5. Update your website regularly. Change a photo, this week's special, etc. Websites that never change have worse results.
Do you have to apply all these rules? You are in competition with businesses in your region that offer the same products and services as you. The important thing is to perform better than them. Check out what your competitors are doing, and be sure to always apply these rules more rigorously and more regularly than them, especially since these are simple things to do that don't cost anything.