As customers look for answers, products, and services online, brick-and-mortar businesses need a local SEO strategy that’s there to greet them.
While you may be worried about your signage standing out in the strip mall, your business also needs to be seen in the digital world. Your digital front door — how your business appears in local search results — either welcomes customers or turns them away.
Why is search so important? Most people are using Google to find and learn about local businesses.
Local businesses’ online perception matters to American consumers. Original research based on our survey for the 2021 SearchLove/HeroConf conference found 96% of respondents read something online about a business that made them not want to choose that business to purchase a product or service. Additionally, 40% of respondents indicated that Google Business Profile is their preferred review platform. That number grows larger by the day as businesses compete for prime local search space. So, how can yours stay ahead of the pack?
From first verifying your business with Google to building a robust local search presence, there’s much to do to ensure your customers can easily find and learn more about your local stores. When people do find your business within the search engine results, accurate, verified, comprehensive information about your store locations should greet them, brimming with recent reviews, helpful additional content, and much more. Wrangling and improving local search results is tricky enough for one storefront. What if your business has 100 locations? Start in the same place.
Identify the current condition of your local search presence, and then make a plan.
What is local SEO?
At its most basic, an SEO strategy improves the visibility of your website in search engines’ organic (unpaid) results. Generally, the higher your website ranks on a SERP (search engine results page), the more visitors and traffic it will receive, translating into more customers. Local SEO optimizes your business’s online presence for better visibility in relevant local searches.
Local search started around 2003 when search engines began providing users with results near their location. Since then, local search engine optimization (local SEO) has evolved into a targeted digital marketing strategy and approach to help businesses appear in organic search results based on a variety of local search signals. While SEO focuses on improving organic search results as a whole, a local SEO strategy prioritizes visibility through location and distance from the searcher. A big part of your local SEO strategy is centered on your Google Business Profile.
Understanding your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile(GBP) is a free tool from Google that allows you to take charge of the way your business appears on Google Search and Maps. A verified, complete, and optimized GBP benefits every business that has one or one hundred brick-and-mortar stores. If your store has a front door, it’s necessary to also provide an accessible and compelling digital front door, too, as more and more of your customers search for your business and its products and services online.
With your GBP, you can connect with customers, post updates, list your products and services, accept online orders, and more. Without a verified and optimized GBP, it can be challenging to utilize all the opportunities Google provides, ultimately impacting how many people can find your business online and your search rankings.
Google’s Knowledge Panel, seen below, is affected by verifying and optimizing your business information. The lack of verification means your business may not show up in key results. If your GBP isn’t fully filled out and optimized, it may be missing information or sharing inaccurate information entirely about your business location.
Verifying your Google Business Profile
Verifying your business’s GBP should be as simple as receiving a postcard from Google with a unique verification code in the mail. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. While the business verification process is meant to be quick and easy, various factors can draw out your verification for months or even longer. If you have 20 or 200 locations, it can be a challenge, with bulk verification providing a solution to large multi-location businesses.
Take Action: Find out if your Google Business Profile is verified for every store location.
Google Business Profile reviews
Reviews are a Google Search ranking factor. Profiles with more reviews with better star ratings have improved ranking in search results. Local customers have the opportunity and are increasingly willing to write reviews that appear on your GBP. These reviews are available for all searchers to find and play a significant role in determining the visibility in other parts of Google, too.
Interested in your business’s reviews? Google “your business name” and “reviews,” and you’ll be able to see what you’re already working with. There are several ways to manage your reviews and increase the number of high-quality reviews for your business location. Managing your reviews in GBP with thoughtful, unique responses should be the first step. While responding to reviews isn’t necessarily a ranking factor it is indeed a trust signal that can influence click-through rates.
Take Action: Google “your business name” and “reviews” to uncover your current status.
Your Google Business Profile + E-E-A-T
With Google’s prioritization of expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T), the information compiled within your business’s GBP is one of the best ways to increase visibility in organic search. Google uses your GBP and your website to better understand your services and gather information about what your business provides. A verified and optimized Google Business Profile adds a giant heap of E-E-A-T to your business’s digital presence.
Key information in your Google Business Profile includes:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Hours of operation
- Questions & Answers
- Attributes & Highlights
- And more
However, your Google Business Profile works in tandem with other key pieces of your digital presence to ensure your customers have a seamless, consistent experience at every touchpoint with your brand.
“Your GBP and your website are like siblings — they should complement one another, use the same keywords, and share identical information. This allows Google to provide the best user experience to users searching for your business.”Bambi Frazier, Sr. Manager, Local SEO & Content
Learn more about local SEO
Our local SEO team dives deeper into each key piece of local search in How to Start Improving Your Local Search Presence. Discover the digital links between your local search presence and getting customers through your doors. Your business’s results and ranking in local search results impact your customer experience and bottom line. Whether you have one or one hundred locations, the online information across the local search ecosystem must be verified, accurate, consistent, and comprehensive to rank well.
Building a strong local search presence is only one part of a data-centric, omnichannel strategy, giving you the power to know more and do more. Dig deeper into strengthening your local SEO strategy, or let’s talk about how to achieve more for your marketing — and your business.
Additional author: Ryan Smythe, Content Manager