We all know that your ranking online in Google can be a make or break for your business. Being in one of the top spots and being on page two can be the difference between getting new customers and getting passed over.
Getting a good rank is essential to any business- but it’s even more important for smaller, local businesses. If you’re not showing up on Google, you’re missing out on customers. Here’s what to do to fix it:
Use Good SEO Practices
Whether you’re a local business or not, good SEO is what helps you show up higher in Google’s search results. Using the proper keywords with the right level of competition is a start. However, you also need to target keywords that matter to your target audience.
Use plenty of keywords, and variations of those you choose. Just make sure you avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ wherein you over add keywords. Google sees this as bad practice and you may even drop down in rankings because of it.
Target local SEO
Even if you do a great job with your SEO strategy, it’s important to remember the customer base you’re really looking for. If you want more customers from your area, you need to include keywords to help them find you.
Many people search for local businesses by typing in “[service/product] near me,” or “[service/product] in [city name].” Make sure you include these phrases throughout your website. When Google crawls your page, these keywords and phrases will be part of how customers find your business.
Get a Google Business Profile (GBP) Account
If you don’t have a Google Business Profile GBP account (formerly Google My Business (GMB)), you need one ASAP. First, it lends credibility to your business. In short, people looking at your business will know that you’re legit.
You will have to verify your account, although the process is fairly simple. Then, fill out your business profile.
Provide answers to the most common questions customers may have (think store hours, photos, services, your logo, posts about new events, etc).
Cater to mobile searches
These days, most people use their smartphones more than they use their computers / laptops. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re getting all the traffic you can. Optimize your website to work for both PC and mobile devices.
It doesn’t take long, nor does it take much effort to optimize for all devices. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, your webmaster should know exactly what needs doing and what to do.
Optimizing your site to perform on all devices can make a big difference to your rank and ultimately, the number of leads your business gets. In addition to this, Google now factors how the mobile version of your site performs as a core part of its algorithm for ranking sites.
Show that you love your locality
Not every facet of your business website needs to be strictly ‘business.’ You can make your website interesting for your audience and get some SEO brownie points too.
Try to include content about local events, news, organizations, or anything that might spark interest. You don’t need to make it a free for all-you can
keep the local stories relevant to your business. However, it will give you a great boost for using local keywords andalso make your site more “locally relevant” which can also help boost your local ranking as a result.
Pay attention to your homepage
In most cases, your homepage is the first impression visitors get on your website (not to mention your business). Homepages aren’t known for having a lot of content on them. That said, you can do a lot to make your homepage attractive and interesting without stuffing it with content.
Create a cohesive design that works with your brand image and make it easy for visitors to navigate. Be sure to include some of your keywords, and a menu to your pages.
People like to see homepages that are laid out in an easy, intuitive way. They don’t want to have to do heavy research just to find your business hours or the services you offer.
Keep your site loading ultra fast
A fast, responsive site is ideal. Customers lose patience when a site takes too long to load, and they often abandon it if it takes too long to load.
Studies show that if a page takes longer than 2.5 seconds to fully load, people start to exit your site before they even start. This is why Google has set 2.5 seconds as the maximum time period for a site to load and still remain compliant to the Google “Page Experience” (Core Web Vitals) algorithm update of June 2021.
A poor loading site, therefore, not only frustrates visitors (potential customers) but Google takes note of your load time too and ultimately, load time will affect your rank in the organic search results.
Optimize your meta descriptions
What are meta descriptions? They’re the small blurbs that show up under each link that shows up in a search result. While they’re short, they also (should) tell customers everything they need to know when deciding whether or not to click your link.
Meta descriptions should stay relevant, catch attention, and stay within the parameters. If your descriptions are too short, it may affect your seo score.
If your meta descriptions are too long, you’ll lose that content. Meta descriptions are another great place to add in your most important keywords.
Although the meta description doesn’t affect rank directly, a good description will encourage people searching to click on your listing in Google and open your post.
If your content on that post is good and relevant, then the visitor should remain on the page / post for a while which is a major ranking signal for Google and can greatly contribute to increase in rank placement.
Tell customers about your business
When people visit your website, they’re looking for information. Make sure you have a page (or pages) dedicated to telling them the basics. Write up a short ‘About Us’ section and inform people about the products or services you offer.
This is another great place to talk about your local business and its location. Again, it’s important to remember that you’re targeting people in the area that you operate in.
Include other important information, such as how to contact you, a map of the area, and your physical address.
Get listed in online directories
Online business directories are more useful than ever, and their popularity keeps growing. Some of the top business directories include:
Make sure you’re listed in every major directory and fill out any profile information you can. This gives customers yet another way to find your business, leave reviews, and find your contact information.
Also, being listed on reputable business directories also boosts your sites domain authority and improve your SEOscore, which in turn boosts your ranking.
Spruce up your business profile
If you already have a Google Business Profile (GBP) account, this is for you. If you don’t, see the tip above about creating one.
Once you have your account (or assuming you already do) you need to take care of it. Some businesses simply put their essential information up and let their profile sit as is. While that will tell customers your basic info, it won’t get you ranked higher.
Google looks for quality information, updated info, and regular activity when it ranks local business profiles. Therefore, you should be active on your GBP listing.
So, if you are having a sale? Make a post of it and add it to your GBP listing.
Promoting a new product? Again, make it a post on your GBP listing.
Basically, keep it relevant, thorough, and up to date
Do some keyword research
Well researched and placed keywords can really help you rise through Google’s ranks. However, a mistake many people make in the beginning is assuming you know the only keywords you need to target.
You should therefore carry out keyword research and find out which keywords people are using to search for businesses similar to yours, and in locations similar to yours.
You might already target ‘dentist in Houston’ but you may be missing crucial opportunities such as
‘Help for toothache Houston.’
There are more than enough keyword research tools out there to make your research even easier (and more targeted).
What are backlinks? Basically, it’s when another site online links back to your page / post. That might not seem important, but it is one of the core ranking signals in Google algorithm.
Backlinks from other websites that have high domain authority can boost your rankings a lot.
Backlinks can drive traffic to your website, but they also increase your ‘authority rankings.’ In turn, Google sees your website as more established, reliable, and ‘authoritative.’
Assuming that your website and a competitor both have the same “SEO score” (all things being equal etc), the site with the higher authority ranking will show up first. And when you’re battling it out for one of the ‘big three’ top spots, that point or two can make all the difference.
Use your ‘From the Business’ section
We talk a lot about Google Business Profile (GBP) profiles, and that’s because they’re important and key for when customers try to find you.
We’ve also talked about the importance of an ‘About Us’ page. Think of the From the Business section as a shortened version of your About Us page.
This is where you want to attract attention from your customers and Google. Include keywords relating to your location and your business’ products and services here. Not only will you attract more of the customers you want to get, but you’ll also help boost your local search rankings.
Photos can boost your rank too
In your GBP profile, you can post photos from your business.
That’s great for people browsing through different businesses to make their choice. It’s also great for your SEO, and therefore your rankings. However, you shouldn’t stop with your business profile. You also need to include relevant pictures with appropriate tags on your website.
Yes, Google looks at pictures when it ranks websites too. Make sure you have rich content with pictures that complement the searches you want to win rankings for.
The Alt Text section when you upload photos to your website is a great place to add keyword rich (although accurate) descriptions to, as are the captions for the pictures in question.
Consider Google Maps
Did you know that the Google search itself isn’t always where people can find your business? A lot of people do research online before they decide to visit a business. And when they do, the business they look into also typically receives a visit from them within 24 hours.
Sometimes however, people don’t have 24 hours to research and make their choice. When people don’t have time, or they’re on the go, they often turn to Google Maps.
Unless the results are sorted by distance, you can also boost your rankings on Maps. These rankings work in much the same way, although positive reviews can also give you a leg up in your rank.
If you already have a website with a responsive, mobile friendly design that is compliant with the Google Mobile First algorithm update, then you’re on your way to a higher ranking.
One thing you might not know is that certain keywords are also more mobile friendly. Think about the way you search for things on your phone versus on a computer. Even subtle differences that we don’t often notice can make a big difference when you need to rank higher on Google.
‘Near me’ is an ever-popular tag that people add on to their search keyword on mobile devices.
When you do your keyword research, keep in mind that certain keywords are more effective for a desktop than for a smartphone. Mobile keywords are shorter, easier to type, and tend to be highly location based.
Check up on your website
Even with great SEO and quality design, there are other aspects of your website that you should keep an eye on.
We’ve discussed responsiveness and load time, mobile friendly sites and more. Sometimes even the smallest bugs (i.e. being a letter or two off in your code) can throw a major wrench in the machine.
A good way to check and make sure everything’s running smoothly (and not keeping you at a lower rank) is by using special website checkers. There are tools to check your speed, site health, notify you of broken links, and ensure that your website is mobile friendly.
Enter your website here to check for mobile compatibility: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
Try to rank in the ‘Local Pack’ or “3 Pack” Listing
The Local Pack is kind of like a knowledge box. You’ve seen it, but you’re not quite sure what to call it.
Basically, the “local pack” or “3 pack” as it is also known is the box that pops up at the top of local Google searches. These boxes are populated by the top 3 ranking local businesses for the specific search term. There will usually be numerous other listings that aren’t shown on the 1st page of Google for the search term.
For a local business, it is key to get listed as one of the top 3 companies because the 3 listings in the local pack gets a lion’s share of the new business up for grabs.
How do you get this prized position?
It’s not that different than getting to the Big Three in the organic search results. However, it can be more attainable, and it can help you get to the Big Three as well.
To gain top listing, you will need to focus your attention on your GBP profile, and work on getting some of those treasured and trusted 5 star reviews.
While 5 star reviews don’t necessarily improve your general Google ranking, they can help boost your Google business profile to the local pack.
Ask customers to spread the word
Do you have a customer that’s just thrilled with your service? Take the opportunity to ask them to leave you a positive review on your Google business profile, or even share their experience on social media with a link to your website.
Remember, reviews can boost the position of your business profile on the local pack as well as Google Maps. Not only that, the more positive reviews you have on other directories, and reviews with links from other sites and platforms, the better your ranking gets with Google.
Customers are much more likely to spread the word and share their story or leave a review if you make it easy for them. Give them a card with a link (or QR code to your business reviews link) and make the process as easy as possible.
When you can, follow up and send a link to complete a review via email or SMS. Then, all your customer needs to do is click and tell everyone how great your business is.
If you feel like your business is slowing down, don’t worry! Google searches are one of the true keys to boosting your business and gaining customers that inevitably help you continue the cycle.
The more customers that you have that you keep happy, the more they’ll help you get other customers to keep happy. However, you do have to do a little leg (or typing, research, and design) work to get the ball rolling with Google.
When was the last time you clicked through to page 5 on your Google search results? What about when you were looking for a business near you?
Chances are, unless it’s an incredibly niche subject, you didn’t bother searching past the first page. Your customers are just like you, and chances are, they’re not happy to go searching past the first page either.
The good news is, none of these ways to increase your Google local business ranking are very hard. There are plenty of tools out there to help you do the bulk of the work.
Increasing your ranking will ultimately require some to your time and attention and also some funding to acquire some specifics such as fees that may be associated with backlinks and subscription costs for specialist tools for example.
After that, you simply need to keep up quality service and get your customers and your community engaged.