There are a host of different ways to market your business these days, both online and offline. For any business looking to grow their local customer base the printed Yellow Pages used to be the go-to source. Now it’s the web with over 90% of all UK online searches starting on Google, which makes it kind of a big deal. If you specifically want to attract more local customers for your products and services then you’ll need to build a solid foundation to support all your other marketing efforts.
1. Get yourself a nice responsive website
2. Verify and optimise your Google+ Local listing
3. Check your citations (local business listings)
For this post I’ll be focusing purely on Google+ Local.
First thing you’ll need to do is find your listing and, if you haven’t already, claim and verify it. If you don’t know how to do that then check this slideshare out. Filling out the basic information is pretty standard stuff, although I’d highly recommend reading Google’s guidelines just so you don’t end up doing anything that they’d frown upon (which of course you wouldn’t do, right?)
Key things to focus on are choosing the right categories for your business and writing a compelling description that’s going to make people want to pick up the phone or visit you. Once you’ve got the basics sorted is time to start dressing it up a little.
Dress It Up
The biggest single factor in making your listing stand out is reviews. Now these can be tough to get but they’re so worth it! Once your Google+ Local listing has five reviews then gold stars start appearing. From the screenshot below you can see the impact that this has and the effect on conversions can be substantial.
There are a number of ways to go about getting reviews from your customers so here is just a handful:
• Hand out review cards with your Google+ URL
• Put a link to your listing in your email signature
• Put a Google+ Local badge on your website with a “Please review us” call to action
• Include a link in any regular newsletters you send to customers
• Just ask them (seriously, this one really works)
Check your listing every few days and if there are any new reviews then respond to them. Many businesses just ignore their reviews, but taking an active role in managing your reputation should be something to take seriously. Whether the reviews are good or bad, a response from you can go a long way towards building deeper customer loyalty. At the very least it shows other people looking at your listing that you care and that can help convert more searchers to customers.
Uploading images to your listing is another basic minimum. For some businesses it makes sense to take the extra step and get a virtual tour done. If you use a Google Trusted Photographer for this then the images will get uploaded to your listing and a See Inside feature will be added. See this London flower shop for an example.
Now this doesn’t make sense for every business – bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms and some retailers will benefit. Accountants, solicitors and plumbers probably not so much.
For certain business types there are other things you can do to jazz up your listing even further, especially restaurants. Google is starting to use data from other sites and is inserting them into listings for a richer experience. For example, if a restaurant subscribes to TopTable to help with taking online bookings their Google Maps listing will get a “Find a table” link, as you can see below.
There are more of these showing up all the time and Google is now even starting to show links to restaurant menus. This is only available in the US at the moment with the data coming from a variety of sources such as Urbanspoon, MenuPages and restaurant’s own websites.
Google+ Local is not just about getting your business into Google search results and on to Google Maps. It’s part of their wider social platform Google+ and as such you may want to reach out and engage with existing and potential clients as well as your local city experts. Why? Because Google gives searchers the option to choose what results they see based on the social connections and based on Google’s City Experts program. Here in the UK this is currently running in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, London and Edinburgh. Get to know these folks if you want a review that’s potentially going to carry some extra weight.
For any business wanting to grow its local customer base Google+ Local is the most important piece of online real estate you have, after your website. It’s not just about getting well positioned in Google’s SERP’s. It’s about maximising the chance of conversion for your listing. Take ownership of it, take good care of it and use it wisely.