The instant Internet access afforded by smartphones has changed the way people use search. Not tethered to computers and home networks, searchers now tap into the Internet on the go to fulfill their immediate needs — like finding a good restaurant, a tow truck, or a public restroom. Search engines and social media have adjusted and expanded to take advantage of this newer, decidedly local clientele. If your local business isn’t doing so as well, you might be missing out on some business.
Search engines, including Google, are devoting more space to local search results, which can be your business’s chance to connect with prospective customers in your area exactly when they need your product or service. To do this, you need to focus on the ever-evolving discipline of local search engine optimization (local SEO). Here are five things you can start doing right now to tap into local search and get more customers in the door:
Make Your Website Mobile-friendly
Because so many people are accessing the Internet from their smartphones, you need to make sure that your site looks good and works well on the small, small screen. You might need to hire a mobile optimization expert to get it just right, but the boost it can give to your local SEO efforts will certainly be worth the cost.
Add Your Business to Online Directories
Yelp and Foursquare get a lot of press, but it doesn’t stop there. Add or claim your business on Google Maps, Facebook Local Search and Yahoo Places — these will help people find your business as they wander around town. Also add or claim your profile on places like YellowPages.com, CitySearch, and SuperPages.
Ask your current customers where they go to look for business recommendations in your industry. This can lead you to more great sites where you should add your business.
Join Social Media
Social media is where people talk about your business and your industry, whether you’re there or not. There are a lot of social media options these days, so do a little research and find the ones that are best for you.
Having a Twitter account lets you find people in your area who are looking for a business just like yours and speak directly to them. It’s also a great medium to let your fans know about great deals or goings-on happening at your place.
To really tap into SEO, though, you need to have a Google+ Local Page (which is what Google Places has become). The information put there — your business address, phone number website and more — will appear in Google results, along with a link to get directions right to your door.
Upgrade Your Website Code
The code behind your website is getting smarter and making it easier for search engines to find particular types of information, such as addresses and phone numbers. Do some research on semantic markup and the new HTML tags added to HTML5 to learn how to take advantage of them.
Add Great Local Content
Search algorithms love great content, and the more your content focuses on your local community, the easier it is for both those algorithms and your prospective customers to find you and see that you are a part of that community. A business blog is a great way to get your business out there and talk about local issues and happenings.
Improving your local SEO can help new customers find you and get them to your door, but that’s only half the battle. The greatest things you can do for local SEO is to do good business. Wonderful customer service and a great product are what keep people coming back. They’re what turn customers into fans, and fans will recommend you to their friends, both on online ranking and reviewing sites and the real world. Word-of-mouth is the best kind of marketing, and today’s new technologies take word-of-mouth recommendations directly onto the Internet, where search engines and new customers can find them.