Your best prospects are looking for businesses like yours online. We now live in a digital age where every business must have a strong online presence if it expects to retain and attract new customers. Why? Take a look at these statistics:
• 86 percent of online users are searching for a local business at some point in time. (Kelsey Group)
• 61 percent of local searches result in purchases. (TMP/comScore)
The vast majority of consumers look to the Internet before making a purchase. Not only for products that they may find on Amazon or similar websites, but also for local products and services. Your business must be easy to find online and also have a great reputation. Otherwise, you’re losing business, and you may not even know it.
There are many factors (more than 200) that Google will use to determine what businesses are displayed on page one for their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). You need to ensure you’re doing the right things to be Google friendly. With so many ranking factors it can be both overwhelming and confusing to figure out what you need to do. There are five factors critical in giving your business the best chance to be found online and then chosen over your competition.
Accurate location information
First things first. Make sure your business listing information is accurate and the formatting is consistent. Use the exact same NAP+URL (Name, Address, Phone and your website address) —character for character—everywhere your business is to be listed: On your website, Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook and the myriad of various directories that will list your website.
When Google sees discrepancies, they may lower your rank in the SERPs, and that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
You may assume your business listing information is correct, but the following statistics should motivate you to check and see exactly how your business is listed online.
• 43 percent of local business listings have errors in the address. (Searchengineland.com)
• 37 percent have a missing or incorrect name. (Searchengineland.com)
• 19 percent have a missing website URL. (Searchengineland.com)
• 18 percent have a missing or incorrect phone number. (Searchengineland.com)
• 85 percent of customers will likely not return to a business if listed incorrectly.
There are several ways to check your business listing information online. But one easy way to correct your business listing information across the Internet is to push your accurate data to the Big Four data aggregators: Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar/Localeze and Factual. This can be a lengthy process, but it works very well.
Once people are able to find your business online you need to focus on the single biggest factor for selling to a new prospect who doesn’t know much about your business: building trust. Without trust in your business (that you offer quality products and services and then stand behind them) chances are you won’t even get an opportunity to sell to a new prospect.
Look at these statistics.
• 92 percent of consumers read online reviews before selecting a business. (eTailing Group)
• 90 percent of consumers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. (MarketingLand.com)
• A one “star” difference in reviews results in a 5 to 9 percent change in revenue. (Harvard Business Review)
If your business has few reviews, or a low overall rating, you need to make getting good online reviews a top priority. Reviews also help your business rise to the top of local search results (SERPs) in Google and other search engines.
As mentioned earlier, Google factors in many criteria when delivering local search results and they put a strong emphasis on the following.
• Total number of reviews. The more the better. Your business should shoot for several hundred. Over time you should expect to have more than a thousand. Never stop getting reviews.
• The overall star rating. Make sure your business is above four stars. Four and a half stars, and above, should be your goal. Under four stars will cost you business.
• Recent the reviews are. Make sure you have reviews coming in consistently every month. People don’t take reviews as seriously when they are more than three months old.
Google also likes to find reviews in more than one place. It’s good to have reviews on several websites like Google, Yelp, Facebook and your own website. Generally speaking, the business with the most reviews and highest overall rating will win the lion’s share of the new business in their market place. How do you get reviews? Ask for them from your happy customers. You have not because you ask not.
Editor’s Note: The digital age has arrived for everyone, and NorthBay biz has recently introduced a redesigned and updated website as part of a plan to develop a stronger online presence with our readers. As part of this plan, we’re now partnering with Bob Hull, owner, Noble Direct Marketing, who’s developed a proven web strategy to retain and attract new customers online.. Specifically, in this column Noble offers practical advice to help you improve your online presence, including a free review of how your business is stacking up online versus the competition and practical ways to improve your company’s online presence. At NorthBay biz, we’re committed to helping grow your business.
Bob Hull helps local businesses get new customers using online marketing strategies and state-of-the-art software, which builds and strengthens a business’s online presence. You can reach him at email@example.com, or call (949) 635-9281. For more information, visit www.nobledirectmarketing.com.
Is Your Online Reputation Costing You Business?
By Bob Hull
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of a Guest Column that ran in the October issue of NorthBay biz.
Your best prospects are looking for businesses like yours online. We now live in a digital age where every business must have a strong online presence, if it expects to retain and attract new customers. Recently, Yelp has stated that they don’t want you asking for reviews, which is ridiculous. They think that doing so will skew results to the positive.
Apparently, Yelp doesn’t want to take human nature into account. If someone is angry then they have all the passion and emotion they need to do whatever it takes to harm your business’ reputation. They will post negative information anywhere they can.
Happy customers just seem to go on their merry way and aren’t as likely to leave a review. If you’ve been in business for a while, chances are you provide a good product/service and unhappy customers are the exception. So, not asking your happy customers for reviews actually skews results to the negative, and that’s just not fair.
Maybe you should be careful about asking for reviews on Yelp, but generally speaking, you should ask for them.
With all the advanced technology these days there are a lot of tools out there that will help you automate and save a lot of time with the review generation process. You can ask NorthBay biz for some suggestions.
The next two things are related to your website. If you have a good webmaster overseeing your website, you can expect detailed information about making your website powerful for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here’s some information to help you start the conversation.
Build your business citations
Business citations are important, and similar to business listings, but not quite as powerful. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two, but here’s some clarification. Business listings normally have full NAP+URL information on one of the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) or other important websites (like Facebook) and popular directories (Better Business Bureau, City Search, Kudzu and others).
A citation is any mention of your business on the Internet. It’s usually any combination of your company name, phone number, address, zip or postal code, and website address. Often, a citation doesn’t have all of your NAP information. Or, it may have all of it, but be on a minor directory.
Confused? Don’t be. Just remember that the important thing here is that both business listings and citations are very important for local SEO; listings are just a little more powerful than citations.
You may run across differing definitions for business listings and citations because the water can be a little muddy here, but just focus on getting as many accurate business listings and citations as you can. You can read part two of this column and learn more about the three additional factors to get your business found online. Go to NorthBaybiz.com, and look for part two of this column in the tab marked.
Backlinks to your website
Backlinks are one of the most powerful factors in getting to the top of the Google SERPs, but good ones are hard to get. Backlinks are links from one business’ domain (website) that point to pages on your domain (your website). Like when one website owner likes an article or blog post on another website and puts a link on their website to that article/blog post.
There are too many strategies to get backlinks to cover in any kind of meaningful detail here, but your webmaster should be able to help you in this area. Give them a call and ask them how you can get strong, relevant backlinks to your website. If your web developer can’t help you with this, contact NorthBay biz for help.
Website structure and content
This is a detailed topic, so I’m going to give you some tools to use. The bottom line is that Google likes to see certain things happening with your website so they can “crawl” it and deliver the best results when someone uses their search engine.
Chances are your website developer already uses the tools I’m going to give you, but it wouldn’t hurt to use them yourself to see how they’re doing where your website is concerned.You may not understand all of the technical jargon, but you will be able to understand the overall score your website is given.
Just copy and paste your website URL into the appropriate place on each of the following websites, and you’ll have some great information in just a couple of minutes. If you see low scores, call your website developer and discuss the issues.
Here are two popular Google online tools.
And here’s another one.
Where your content (articles and blog posts) is concerned, follow this one simple rule: Write for your audience, not the search engines.
Many SEO writers try to game the Google search algorithm and their language can sound stilted and awkward because of how they try to write in order to get Google’s attention. Google has caught onto this and it doesn’t work any longer.
Google changes their algorithm continually, so don’t try to figure them out. Their job is to serve up the most relevant results to those who use their search engine. The bottom line: Provide useful information to your audience and write like you speak.
There you have the basics for five of the major factors to rank well in Google search results.
Whether we like it or not, we’re now living in the digital age.Your best prospects will go online to find the kind of business they’re looking for, and research them to see if they have a good reputation before they will do business with them. Don’t let your business get left behind. Find out if it has what it takes to succeed in this digital world that we live in today. To see how you can find the answers to getting all of these five factors working for your business fill in the form below and receive a free analysis of your web presence.
Bob Hull helps local businesses get new customers using online marketing strategies and state-of-the-art software, which builds and strengthens a business’s online presence. You can reach him by completing the free analysis form above.
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