Rightfully so, many of our local business clients are focused on their websites having good organic rankings. Not only can this in and of itself lead to increased phone calls and leads for the business, but the Google algorithm for determining relevance of a business in Google Maps is closely related to the algorithm for organic search results, which some say can impact the top three positioning in local search results.
Assuming the on page factors of a local website are in line with Google’s guidelines (title tags, meta descriptions, on-page content, etc.), the off-page factors (read in bound links) also affect ranking. Backlinks for local positioning are important.
How best to get backlinks for your local business website (and not get yourself in trouble with Google and its Penguin focus)?
I had the opportunity to recently attend the LocalU Advanced day-long seminar in Williamsburg, VA. Mike Blumenthal and his team put on a great day with a lot of advanced content for local businesses and those who work with them. Well worth my time.
One complete session was devoted to “Inspired Local Linkbuilding Tactics”, a group presentation by some of the best known names in the local arena.
First, think of your local link building as brand building or authority building for your business. You want your prospects to think highly of you before they even contact you.
Here are some tips to that the group presented build backlinks for your local website :
- What local events do you (or should you sponsor)? Email the event host and request a backlink to your website.
- What about providing a local scholarship? This doesn’t have to be a traditional college scholarship, however (vocational school, community college, private or parochial high school, etc., e.g.). Get creative.
- Local government websites
- Local business associations, Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, etc.
The list is endless, and there are no hard and fast rules. We’ve found with our clients that those who are most effective (and it’s a slow and steady effort) devote several hours a week to the effort.
Taking this approach can result over time in your solidifying your local online authority and brand position in your marketplace (and keep you in Google’s good graces). Building backlinks for your local business is important; don’t let it go by the wayside.
As you may be aware, Google has been changing a number of things that directly impact you if you’re a local business.
With a lot of fanfare Google Adwords eliminated all the ads on the right side of the page and increased the top of page ads from three to four, maintaining three ads at the page bottom. With national companies advertising locally, depending upon your niche, it can now be more difficult to compete in the Adwords space.
Last July it rolled out its Home Service Ads product in San Francisco as a test. It appears to be available in other selected areas south to Los Gatos. And the verticals now covered include plumbers, locksmiths, house cleaners, handymen and some others. The good news is that the rollout has been slow, limited to certain areas, and it only covers certain niches. You’ll want to stay on top of this for your local market and niche.
Noticed in the last several days, Google is apparently testing a variation of the Home Service Ads. Joe Goldstein first pointed out that when you search on “plumber los gatos”, the first search result (with no Adwords or local pack above it) was “Call Google to find a trusted local plumber.” Clicking on the result directs you to a landing page as shown here:
You’re encouraged to call or text and review your need with a Google representative. After that, a pre-screened and Google recommended service provider will call you to schedule an appointment.
Bottom line: looks like Google is testing how to incorporate a human component in the lead generation business.
And it only makes sense that Google is trying to monetize as much as possible the space that up until now has been free (Google Local Results and organic search results).
As you’re probably aware, Google changed things dramatically for every local business on June 1, 2012. That day was the start of a new era where a business’ “reputation” is shown in multiple places online. And depending upon your situation, you may have to begin an aggressive online reputation repair process.
First, go to Google and search for your business by “your business name – city”. If you don’t see any reviews using this technique, try “your business name – city – reviews.”
Your website and Google Local listing should appear along with other listings (e.g., Yelp, YP.com, etc.) where your customers, clients, or patients (and others) can and probably have left reviews about your business.
Hopefully you have a large number of reviews showing across multiple websites, all with a 4 or 5 star rating.
If not, it’s time for serious online reputation repair…not doing so will probably cost you new business.
There are two main situations you need to address.
Not Enough Reviews
If you have no or few reviews immediately talk with or contact your existing customers, clients, or patients and ask them to leave a review on Google. This is the first place to start.
Also, if you see that some of your competitors have “stars” showing in their Google Local listing, you’ll need a minimum of five reviews showing in Google to get the stars to show for your listing.
Negative (or False) Reviews
You may find negative reviews left by someone who’s never done business with you, a not uncommon occurrence (you may have overly aggressive competitors who employ this tactic). This can be very disconcerting, but there’s a solution.
Or, you may have valid negative reviews left by a customer, client, or patient that was upset.
In both cases, the best response is to actually respond to the review (in Google, e.g.) very professionally and address the situation.
In the case of false reviews, we’ve seen responses along the lines of “We take all of our patient feedback very seriously. Unfortunately, we find no record of your ever having been in our office. Please call us and we’ll do our best to get your issue resolved”…or something like that.
Handling both of these situations are an important part of online reputation repair and can help your practice to grow.
The more effective you can be with your local internet marketing program, the more your business can grow.
Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it?
And it is a simple concept. The execution is what involves time and money (the investment) on your part. And the investment is either one you personally execute (possibly with your staff) or outsource.
There are two components of your local internet marketing program, online presence and conversion.
Online Presence includes your web site, how highly ranked your website is on Google (both organically – what most people term “normal search” – and in the local business section), and your various social media accounts.
Both the organic and local business sections require specialized knowledge (yours or someone else’s) in order to achieve high rankings.
Briefly, your organic ranking is tied directly to Google’s proprietary ranking algorithm and includes the age of your domain, the on-page factors of each page on your website (keywords, title tags, meta description tags, and much more), the off-page factors (the number and types of websites that “link” to your website – also known as inbound links), and more.
No one outside of Google knows all of the factors that comprise the ranking algorithm.
Your local business page ranking is influence by your website’s organic ranking, the number of patient reviews you have showing in Google, the number of citations you have (a citation is nothing more than your NAP – name, address, phone number of your practice), and the completeness of your Google Business Page, among others.
The challenge with your local business page ranking is that Google seems to continually “tweek” things, and Google normally doesn’t release it’s “tweeking” details until they’re already completed in the Google database.
Social media includes sites like Facebook and YouTube – these are the two most important – along with about a dozen other websites.
Conversion boils down to one thing: how many website visitors take your desired “call to action” as a percentage of your total visitors. You want to continually measure and improve your online conversion.
What are some of the factors that influence conversion?
- How user friendly is your website? Is it easy for visitors to navigate. If you make it difficult, visitors will quickly leave, never to return.
- How clear is your desired call to action? If you want people to call your office, is your phone number on every page at the top in larger than normal text. Don’t make it hard for your visitors to contact you.
- Do you have valuable content on your website that points to your credibility and authority in your marketplace?
- Do you have customer, client or patient reviews on your website and across the internet? Remember that a review is really nothing more than an online or public referral.
In summary, your local internet marketing program can help or hurt your business and how you’re perceived in the marketplace. The decision is up to you.