Part 2: Local SEO is About Much More Than Just Your Website

Part 2: Local SEO is About Much More Than Just Your Website

In Part I of Hibu’s Local SEO series, you saw some of the many parts that make up modern (or local) SEO – what it takes to optimize your website for both your customers and search engine crawlers, and why SEO isn’t just about optimizing your site anymore. Now let’s take a look at your other online properties that contribute to the bigger picture of Local SEO.

The Big Ones – Google and Facebook:

Between them, Google and Facebook dominate consumers’ time online. So it’s no surprise that the consumer journey often starts with a search on Google, or seeing an ad or a post on Facebook. There are two ways to make the most of these powerful platforms:

  • Claim your Google My Business (GMB) Page and your Facebook Page. Google and Facebook each have their own process for this, but they’re both trying to do the same thing — to make sure your business is legitimate, and that you’re the proper owner or authority for it. Having a claimed or verified Page is a signal to these services that yours is a legitimate, active, business — and that’s good for you, whether you’re running ads on either network, or just hoping consumers will find you organically (i.e. through a link that’s not a paid ad).
  • Make sure these Pages are complete and accurate. Just like with your website, you want to have all the important information and motivating factors on your Facebook and GMB Pages — and you need to keep them up to date. Having mismatched or wrong information is not only a bad consumer experience, it’s also a signal to the online crawlers that the information they find online about you isn’t trustworthy. And that can hurt your visibility.

The Rest of the Web

Once you’re set with Google and Facebook, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds of other places consumers can look for local businesses like yours:

  • Map and GPS services like MapQuest and Apple Maps
  • Online yellow page directories
  • Mobile apps like Yelp and Waze

These services get your data from a wide range of sources, some more reliable than others. Making sure your most important business information — like your name, address and number — is clean, accurate and complete across the Web should be next on your list. Just like with Google and Facebook, correct, consistent business information is important both directly (because of where consumers may find you) and indirectly (because it counts against you if Google’s crawlers see inaccurate information about you online).

Your Online Reputation and Reviews

We talked about complete content and motivating factors above. Now we need to focus on arguably the most important type of content — online reviews and recommendations from other consumers. There’s probably no single thing that’s a stronger motivating factor for consumers — or better at convincing them to do business with you — than lots of positive reviews from real customers.

Just like in offline marketing, word of mouth is huge online, and asking your current customers to review your business online is one of the best forms of digital marketing. Of course, once someone’s written a great review, you’ll want to feature it prominently on your website, and encourage your customer to post it on Facebook and Google — so prospects visiting your site or other online properties will see it.

Voice Search

Last but not least is voice search. Just as the mobile revolution changed consumer behavior forever (look how many people spend hours using their phones for things they used to do online, or via a phone call), voice search is changing things again. Voice search — whether that’s talking to Google on your phone or using an Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home speaker in your home or office — is getting big. It’s even making its way into cars through Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

The speed and convenience of using your voice is a big part of the appeal and, according to one study, 58% of US consumers used voice search to get local business information in the last year.

One huge difference in voice search versus traditional online search is the form of output back to the consumer. The paradigm for online search has been a search results page (or SERP) — a list of websites that match the consumer’s search query. That format displayed multiple websites and encouraged consumers to do some exploring and comparison. But what happens when there’s no screen, like in many voice searches? Simple — there’s only one single answer, so the one website considered to the best result is what the consumer gets back.

So, how do you make sure that your business is well represented in voice search and that you’re “the one” when someone’s looking for a business like yours? Fortunately, it’s largely a matter of executing well on all of the local SEO tactics discussed above.

When Google or Alexa need to decide which business is the best match, they want to choose the one that’s going to lead to highest consumer satisfaction — so they’re often going to choose one that:

  • Has well-tagged information on its bot-readable website that matches what the consumer is asking for
  • Has plenty of good reviews
  • Has complete and accurate information on its website and other online properties
  • Has a verified GMB Page and Facebook Page

Local SEO today is everything you’re doing to get seen online. Local SEO isn’t any one thing – it’s really a collection of tactics that together can have a huge impact on whether your business gets found online. The list of what matters changes over time, as new technologies emerge and as consumer behavior changes, but what’s really important is to keep on top of technological and consumer changes — or to work with a digital marketing partner that will do it for you.

Part 1: Local SEO is About Much More Than Just Your Website

Part 1: Local SEO is About Much More Than Just Your Website

Let’s face it, it’s a complicated and fragmented world out there when it comes to marketing your business online — and it’s not getting any easier.

Today, we’re going to try to simplify at least one part of that landscape and explain some of the key things you can do — yourself, or with help — to make sure your business gets found when consumers are looking for you or need your products or services. We’re going to call these things “Local SEO.”

But first, let’s be clear that “Local SEO” is just a name. Lots of people use it, and they often mean different things by it (especially if they’re trying to sell you something). What we’re going to focus on here is what’s underneath that label. What are the things you really need to get done online to be successful, whatever they might be called, and however they might be pitched by Company X?

Traditional SEO vs Local SEO

The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Back in the early days of the Web, that meant “Making sure you show up on Google when someone does a search, separate from any paid ads.” But the days when the “path to purchase” went almost entirely through Google are over. Consumers today have many more options and take increasingly windy roads to make a decision.

When people talk about Local SEO now, they generally mean all the things you need to do to stay “visible” online along your customers’ journey to your business. And considering SEO’s long association with websites, it makes sense to start there.

Your Website

Regardless of how a consumer finds you, it’s likely they’ll visit your website at some point to get to know you better. Your website is a reflection of you — what you do, what you sell, how you position yourself in your market and your community and maybe even what you stand for. It’s your opportunity to tell your story and to motivate consumers to do business with you.

It’s critical that all of the key details about your business be present on your site — things like the products and services you offer, your hours of operation, your geographical service area, etc. But it’s also important to highlight what we at Hibu call “The Motivating Factors” (sometimes these are called your “Unique Selling Propositions” or USPs).  These are the things that make you a better choice than your competitors, like:

  • How responsive you are
  • Your low prices or service guarantees
  • Your 24×7 availability

Perhaps you’re a veteran-owned or women-owned business. Or maybe what sets you apart is how you give back to your local community.

Whatever you think will convince your target customer to want do business with you needs to be presented clearly on your website.

But your website has another purpose too – one that’s not so obvious…It should be relevant to consumers and computers.

The world we live in is increasingly driven by decisions made by computers. While your website is being looked at by consumers, it’s also being read over and over again by computers — aka online “bots” — run by Google, Microsoft / Bing, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and many other companies. These bots are reading the content of your site, storing and indexing it, and using it to decide where and how to show your site to your potential customers when they’re using these services.

That means it’s important what information you put on your site (which is what engages your site visitors), but also how that information is put there (which is what makes your site relevant to search engines). In technical terms, it matters how your information is “tagged” on your site using “schema.”

Schema is nothing more than code on your website’s pages (visible to computers, but not to consumers) that tells those bots how to read and interpret all the information on your pages. Increasingly, schema is critical to making sure your site — and your business — get found online.

And it goes without saying that today, your website has to be fast and it has to be mobile friendly for consumers and bots for two key reasons:

1. Consumers will often leave a site that takes more than a couple of seconds to load, and they’ll almost certainly leave one that doesn’t work well on their phone.

2. Google and other online services are increasingly recognizing this and penalizing sites that don’t meet their minimum standards for speed and mobile compatibility by pushing them down in search rankings, or not showing them at all.

The art of building and tagging your website for both your potential customers and for search engine bots is just one part of local SEO. And in an increasingly diverse digital marketing ecosystem, it may not even be the most important part. Check back for part 2 to see how your online business listings, social profiles and more impact local SEO — and your ability to get found by local consumers.

4 Reasons You May Not See Your Small Business Website When You Search Online

4 Reasons You May Not See Your Small Business Website When You Search Online

When you work with as many small businesses as Hibu, you hear a lot of the same reasons for needing a new website:

  • Your site looks old
  • Your site doesn’t have the functionality you need today
  • You can’t find your site online

Or maybe your friends and family say they can’t find it…and then you start thinking that your customers can’t find it either.

But if you’re not #1 on Google, don’t panic just yet. Here are four ways to see if your business is exactly where it should be online – even if you don’t recognize it right away.

1.) Search Smarter

Chances are, you’re just searching for your business name. Try searching for your business name and your city or zip code.

Even though search engines often return local results based on your location these days, it doesn’t hurt to get more specific — and there’s a good chance that’s what your customers will do too.

And if you’re just searching for what you do — like “landscaping” or “family dentist” — you probably have a lot more online competition than you think (more on that below).

2.) Look Deeper

You’re probably expecting to find your website, mylocalbusiness.com, when you search for your business name. But pay attention to everything else that shows up for your business:

  • Map / Local listings
  • Online directory listings
  • Online reviews sites
  • Social profiles (and sometimes even individual posts)
  • Paid ads (which can actually drive more traffic to your website by building brand awareness and consumer confidence)

Of course you want to find your website, but your customers might not be so picky. If they’re looking for basic info like your phone number or hours, or checking to see what other local customers are saying about you, these other results may deserve more of your attention (and get more of theirs).

And if these other listings for your business aren’t ones you created, make sure you have a plan to take control of them and correct any wrong information. The wrong phone number on Google or the wrong address on Apple Maps can mean the wrong results for your business.

3.) Check Out Your Competition

Search results are a mix of organic vs. paid results and local vs. regional (or national) results. You may know that there are only five other landscapers in town, but search for “landscaper & your area” and see for yourself how many results Google serves up:

That’s a lot more than five.

With this much competition, you need to make sure ALL the search results for your business (like the map and directory listings above) are up to date — and you need a plan to reach your customers elsewhere too (like on social media).

4.) Upgrade Your Website

Search engines look at thousands of factors when it comes to indexing (or recognizing) your website, determining its relevance, and deciding when to serve it up, but if your site isn’t built to be “search engine friendly,” you and your customers are going to have a hard time finding it. Period.

So do a quick check to make sure your site is playing by “Google’s rules” today:

  • Is your site mobile friendly?
  • Is your site secure (using HTTPS)?
    • This is especially important in Chrome (the most popular browser — and the default browser on most Android phones and tablets)
  • Have you optimized your On-Page and Off-Page SEO?
    • Is your metadata complete (especially your page titles)?
    • Do you have pages about each service, product or topic you’d like to be found for?
    • Are your pages filled with recent, useful, unique content?

Make sure you have a business website that gets seen drives visits builds your business.

At the end of the day, you need a site that makes your phone ring, fills your inbox with interested inquiries or brings customers through the door.

Finding your site when you Google yourself feels great — but what works great for your business is a site that turns your visitors into customers — no matter how they find you.

The Power of Crossposting on Social Media

The Power of Crossposting on Social Media

For small businesses, starting to use social media to market their business is a process:

  1. First, start using social media (you’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t!)
  2. Second, set up business pages and profiles — not just personal ones
  3. Third, make sure you post relevant content regularly — and respond to comments, @ mentions and DMs (direct messages)
  4. Finally, use paid ads to target and retarget your customers (and potential customers just like them)

Believe it or not, Step 3 can be the hardest. After all, even with the best intentions, how do you post to Facebook AND Instagram AND Twitter…and still have time to run your business?

That’s where crossposting is so valuable. You can create content in one social channel…and quickly share it in another to keep all your channels fresh, up to date, and worth visiting.

One post, three social networks, plenty of chances to get seen

Take a look at a recent example from Hibu – where the same post was shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

You may need or want to make subtle changes that work best for each platform or audience (in this case, the Facebook post used a static image and Instagram and Twitter used a video) — but you don’t have to! You really can share the same content across social networks to get more exposure with much less effort.

And if you create your post with Instagram, you can crosspost to Facebook and Twitter with one click!

Sharing DIFFERENT content across social channels

While crossposting the same content (images especially) can absolutely save you time and effort…you may not want to “recycle” content every time. Or you may find that your audience isn’t interacting with a post on Facebook that they already “Liked” on Instagram.

Consider re-packaging your content as you switch channels:

  • A series of Facebook pictures could be turned into a gallery on Instagram
  • A video you tweet or retweet on Twitter without any introduction could become a longer post on Facebook
  • An Instagram post that didn’t get much engagement can be turned into a Facebook poll

Remember, there’s no “one size fits all” way to share content on social. Experiment with what works for you, and pay close attention to what works for your customers. Keeping an eye on likes, shares, retweets, comments and more should give you a real-time view into what’s working for them.

Share here, share there – just as long as you’re sharing SOMEWHERE

We know that not every local business has the time or resources to keep up with posting new, relevant content to multiple social media channels. Crossposting is a great way to save time and effort, but what matters most is that you’re posting SOMETHING valuable regularly to at least SOME of your channels.

Participation is definitely more important than efficiency when it comes to building and connecting with your customers on social media. Start small, focusing most of your efforts on one platform (like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter)…and then start using crossposting to double or even triple your impact!

4 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs to Share “Curated Content” on Social

4 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs to Share “Curated Content” on Social

Facebook and other social networks are great for sharing news and pictures, posting your thoughts and more. In fact, for most people and businesses, social media is all about YOU:

  • YOUR profile or Page
  • YOUR posts and updates
  • Connecting with YOUR customers

So why in the world would you share someone else’s content on YOUR social channels?

“Curated content” – content that’s relevant to your business or customers from other people that you share in your social media – can keep your customers engaged and coming back for more while saving you the time and effort required to create original posts.

1. Curated content keeps your social pages active… and keeps them from being empty.

There’s nothing more disappointing than visiting a small business’s Facebook Page or Twitter feed and seeing…nothing. Or nothing recent – that’s just as bad. An empty or inactive social page can send all the wrong messages:

  • Customers may think you’re not going to be responsive via email, @ mentions, direct messages and other digital options.
  • Customers may think you’re too busy to keep up with social media…and wonder if you’re too busy to keep up with them.
  • Worst of all — customers may actually think you’re out of business!

Sharing curated content is ideal for keeping your Pages active – and not having to constantly ask yourself “When was the last time I posted something?” in a panic.

2. Curated content is faster and easier to share than your own posts.

We’ve all been there: struggling to figure out WHAT to talk about on Facebook…then searching endlessly to find the right picture…or waiting for a video to upload on a slow connection.

Finding and sharing ready-made content can be the shortcut you need whenever work gets busy, or inspiration doesn’t strike. It can literally be as easy as clicking the “Share” button!

3. Curated content can look more professional and polished than your own posts.

Sometimes the pictures you took of a recent job just don’t look very good. Sometimes you can’t find the right words (or you write too much…or not nearly enough!) about a topic that you absolutely want to share with your local customers.

You can avoid worrying about whether your post is “perfect” by sharing someone else’s. Just set it up with a short message about why it matters to your customers – and you’re all set to share a quality post.

4. Curated content shows that you have your “ear to the ground” of your industry.

Your customers absolutely want to know about your business – but talking about yourself all the time on Facebook can get old fast. You can tell them about what you do without always telling them about your business.

Curated content lets your audience know that you’re paying attention to trends and keeping up with what’s new in your field. Try sharing content from different sources:

  • Leading figures in your industry
  • Publications in your industry
  • Local organizations you’re involved with
  • Local news publications
  • Infographics and other informative, information-rich content
  • Even clips from TV shows and movies that reference your industry!

Pro tip: Hire a curator!

Curated content can absolutely be a quick win to keep your social profiles active and up to date, but it still takes time to:

  • Find the content you want to share
  • Make sure it’s relevant to your audience
  • Write the short set-up paragraph to introduce the post and say where it came from
  • See if it’s working – if no one is Liking, Sharing or Commenting on your curated content, it’s obviously not what your audience is looking for

Let someone help with the heavy lifting!

Your focus should be on running your business and working with the leads and customers your social marketing drives to you. A digital marketing partner can take on the task of finding and sharing curated content for you, and you can get back the one thing that no small business has enough of…time!