“The most important thing you can do to boost your local search position is to take control of your Google My Business page,” says BDC Business Consultant Philippe Desjardins. “There are a few steps involved, but the effort is worth it.”
First, you have to authenticate that you’re the owner (you’ll get a verification code by mail—yes, actual snail mail!) and ensure that Google doesn’t have duplicate pages for your business. Then, you can check the information on your page is accurate, complete and includes:
- The full name of your business (exactly as it appears on your storefront and website)
- Your business category
- Your opening hours
- A local phone number (rather than an 1-800 number)
- Your email address (one that uses your own domain rather than a provider like Hotmail)
- A brief description that includes your most important keywords
Desjardins explains that verifying all this information assures Google you’re a trustworthy local business. You can even go further and add optional elements like a virtual tour that uses photos and video to provide a 360º walkthrough of your storefront.
2. Take advantage of local ratings sites
Ratings sites like Yelp and Zomato can be critical to business success, so it’s important to track what people are saying about you on them—and to engage with their users. YEXT and Moz offer free tools that show you which ratings sites people are using to talk about your products or services, so you can focus your efforts where it matters. Whitespark and BrightLocal also offer tools and solutions that can help your local SEO.
As with Google My Business, you need to pre-populate local ratings sites with complete and accurate information. To save time and ensure consistency for search engines, you can just repurpose the content you already used for your Google My Business page.
Link local ratings pages to your email to get notifications of new comments so you can check and react to commenters often. Whether the feedback is good or bad, always respond in a way that is professional and constructive. That could mean replying with something like “Thank you for taking the time to comment, we’re glad you’re enjoying our product” or, “We’re sorry you weren’t happy with our service, please give us a chance to make it up to you.”
3. Localize your website
Your site needs to say it loud and clear that you’re a local business. Put your address, region, city, neighbourhood, opening hours and local phone number right on your homepage. If you have more than one location—for example, in Toronto, Mississauga, Scarborough and Etobicoke—give each its own page on your website to catch local traffic. Make sure the title and description tags for each page on your website have appropriate local keywords to further help your ranking.
Beyond that, install Google Analytics to see exactly what people are doing on your site. You might also consider using standardized web coding from Schema.org, which helps provide more informative results to search engines. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself (and it can be complex), Desjardins recommends getting a web developer to do it for you.
4. Remain consistent
Desjardins stresses that the most important thing you can do is to remain consistent across all of your business’ listings. This will reinforce your identity and trustworthiness for search engines, ensuring they rank you higher than your local competition.
“A lot of entrepreneurs want to know how to make their web presence stand out so they can rank above their local competitors,” says Desjardins. “It all starts with taking ownership of your online presence.”