If you are a local business, you probably want to get customers online. You are hoping you can get ranked at the top of Google or Yahoo, then drive customers to your site. But it’s not happening. Why?
For one, the competition in the Local SEO space is heating up. More and more businesses are become aware of their online presence, and are taking steps to get noticed.
Second, Google now displays the top 3 results in an exclusive “3-Pack”. The top 3 listings get their names, websites, and local directions links prominently displayed. All others display much lower in the page, often below the fold. And if Google is displaying ads associated with your keyword, your business (even if it ranks #1), may be below the fold. Users are never doing to see your listing.
The Google 3-Pack is like an exclusive club. It’s has really created a huge divide. If you are savvy enough to get in it, you enjoy the benefits of extra web traffic and phone calls that come with ranking in the top 3. If you are not in it, it’s a cold cruel life. You won’t be getting much traffic from Google.
For example, I did this search for “Facial Spa Tokyo”. Google flags this as a local search, and displays the 3-Pack style listings.
Notice how much space the 3-Pack listing takes? Even though there are no ads on this page, the 3-Pack has pushed the standard top listings almost below the fold.
So you need to do whatever it takes to get into the 3-Pack. Here are some things you can do that will help you get there.
You need to register your business online with a consistent NAP, or Name-Address-Phone number. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but many businesses get it wrong. For example, suppose I want to start a business with my friend James. We want to call it James and Jeff Incorporated. But when we registered in various directories (Like Google My Business), we were a little bit lazy, and we registered it a little bit differently each time. And our listing looked like this:
Google My Business: Jeff & James Inc Google Maps Jeff and James Inc Yelp Jeff and James, Incorporated ACCJ James and Jeff Inc Hot Pepper ジェフ アンド ジェムズ
Notice how in each case, my business name is registered just a little bit differently. To the human eye, it’s no big difference. But to a search engine, they see each listing as something different. These see each listing as a different business, and your name, as well as SEO, gets watered down.
The same applies for the Postal Address and your phone number as well. Make sure you are using consistent phone numbers for every location of your business.
OK, let’s say you have done the minimal amount of work, and you made it into the 3-Pack. You may still lose, because the other 2 listings in the 3-Pack look better than yours. Take a look at this picture, and tell me which business would you call first?
You would contact the business with the most positive reviews. This business already has 31 reviews, and a 4.3 stars, I guess that sounds pretty good. The other businesses don’t compare. I’ll either call them second, or not at all.
On top of that, search engines have become very good at taking reviews into account when deciding who makes it into the 3-Pack and how does not.
So your business needs to have a solid process where if a customer has an outstanding experience, that you ask them to submit a review of your business on Google or Yelp. Don’t just ask, but instead send them a link to the right place where they can easily submit their review. Better would be to offer them a discount on their next visit for a favorable review.
Search engines still use backlinks to prioritize your site. A backlink is a link (URL) on another site that points to your site. The number of backlinks you have does not matter so much, as getting a high quality backlink from a prominent domain in your field of interest.
I have to emphasize the any backlinks need to come from sites that are in the same field as you. If you are a spa offering facials, then you should seek to get a mention by a leading magazine or respected blogger who talks about facials. Just getting listed in a random directory will not help.
Here are some things you can do.
Register in Key Local Directories
– Local Chamber of Commerce, National Society of XXXXXX
Write Guest Blogs
– On high authority websites in your field
– Get a link pointing to your site
Answer questions on Leading Q&A Sites
– Quora, Reddit, or StackOverflow (developers)
– Leave your name and website link
Doing these activities, even for 1 hour a week, will help establish what I call “Link Juice”. That is links (URLs) pointing to your site. Not only will it help build your SEO ranking, but it will also drive more traffic to your site.
So there it is, 3 simple steps you can do today to help get you into the Google 3-Pack and generating more traffic to your site.
Jeff Crawford is an Digital Marketing expert, Engineer and Manager. He has worked for technology companies in Silicon Valley such as Apple, WebTV and Microsoft. He has lived in Tokyo Japan since 2004, working for companies such as Microsoft KK and Adobe Systems Japan. He is the founder of Connect-Local.com, a company that specializes in Local Advertising in the USA. He is also the founder of JC Digital Consulting based in Tokyo Japan.