No one can promise you a #1 position in the “organic” (non-paid) listings for local businesses on Google or other search engines. If someone does – run the other way.
You can study your competitors that have climbed to the top of the search return pages, learn their tactics and adapt them for your small business website.
We recently made that study for plumbers, roofers, HVAC companies, veterinarians, and other local businesses and came up with this list of 6 tactics to learn from.
1. Fill out your Google My Business account
Highly ranked businesses give Google a lot to work with – location info, hours of operation, descriptions, and images – by filling out their Google My Business account. Google uses this to populate the Knowledge Panel, the description box that pops up on Google for local businesses, and to place business locations on maps.
2. Encourage customers to write reviews on Google
The rankings winners also have robust collections of reviews and ratings that customers entered directly on Google, most likely a favorable sign in the search engine’s eyes. Winners are also frequently reviewed on other review sites. Google has said that it runs some kind of “sentiment” meter on reviews to check the reputation of businesses and factors that into ranking. But don’t worry if the reviews aren’t all positive – Google is also thought to check for “diversity” of opinions to make sure you’re not trying to game them with reviews stuffing.
3. Standardize your business information around the web
If you check directory and review sites around the web for listings of these winners, you’ll see that the names, locations, phone numbers and other information as displayed on Google is consistent across sites. Search engines check for this consistency as a signal that the business is legitimate.
4. Website content: Make it unique, valuable, and useful
Google increasingly powers its search by sophisticated artificial intelligence with capabilities that go way beyond simple hunting for keywords and into judging the quality of content on the page. The sites that succeed go beyond stringing keywords together and invest in useful content that offers details about products and services. A second benefit: Content that gives site visitors something to do – read, fill out a form, download a coupon or take a quiz – ensures they won’t “bounce,” that is, take one look and leave, a bad signal for the search engines.
5. Get mobile-friendly
Nothing mysterious about this one: Google clearly stated that it will downgrade sites on its search pages for mobile phones if they aren’t “mobile-friendly”—coded in a way that the sites adjust their appearance to fit the screens of mobile devices.
6. Mind the housekeeping details
This is a conversation to have with your web developer who should be minding the long list of technical details that make a site acceptable to search engines. For instance, winner sites download quickly, have a simple structure that’s easy for search robots to navigate, and name each page with “title tags” that clearly state the products or services and locations that you want Google to rank you for.
Learn more about best practices for business websites from the Dex Media Blog.