The internet is one of the best ways for a business to get found by potential customers. If you thought that getting on the front page of Google was difficult for a small business, you obviously have not considered the potential of local search.
Ever since autumn 2010, it has become easier for small businesses to get found in Google based on their location. This is due to the improvements Google has made to its search algorithm, which seeks to provide relevant local content whenever appropriate.
This is all due to “local intent”, which is all about Google trying to identify when a search relates to a product or service that the customer will want to access offline. For example, if you type “electrician” into Google, it will try to automatically detect where you are, and show you a list of electricians close to you. If you live in Birmingham, there’s no point it showing you electricians in London or Edinburgh.
What Does this Mean for a Small Business?
This change has been of great benefit to small businesses, because they can now be found for highly competitive search terms simply by being in the right location. For example, a self-employed plumber living in Redditch in Worcestershire does not need to show up for the term “plumber” for everyone in the world. He only needs to be found by people living in or around Redditch.
This is fantastic when you consider that Google estimates that 20% of internet searches done on a computer have local intent, and yet this figure goes up to 90% for searches done using mobile phones.
The Importance of Your Business’s Website
Google’s local search only works properly if you set your website up in the right way. Somewhere on your website you need to include your business name, the products/services your business provides, and full address and telephone number (with the area code). You can place this information anywhere on your site, whether it is your homepage or a dedicated contact page. This will enable Google to detect where your business is located. If your business has multiple locations, create different contact pages for each location.
Provide Accurate Information about Your Business
If your business has been running for a while, there is every chance that there is already a business listing on Google for you. If this is the case, make sure you claim the listing, as this will give you full control over the information it contains. If there is not one already, set one up by going to http://www.google.com/places/
Once you have a Google Places listing, make sure you complete it fully with accurate details of your business.
First Impressions Count
Often when people search for terms with local intent, as well as being presented with your Google Places listing they will also see your website listed next to it. Make sure you provide a listing that is feature rich and includes videos and photos, as this will make them more likely to click through to your site and become a customer.
Anything you can think of that shows your business in a good light is worth including, whether it is photos of the location or a video tour of your business. You want to come across as the most professional of the local search results.
Turning Local Visitors into Customers
Your website is your best asset. People looking for your services will likely visit your website before they decide whether or not you are right for the job. Make sure your website displays your business in its best light. Make it pleasing to the eye, relevant, and easy to navigate.