5 Step Plan to Dominating Local Online Search
If you're feeling the heat of new competitors (or suddenly more popular older ones), then it may be time for you to take your strategy online. Maintaining a healthy revenue today in a home improvement business often means dominating the digital world. So how exactly do you do this? Here is your five step plan to making sure you get the attention you need from the customers you want in your local area.
Before you keep reading, as a word of caution, keep in mind that Google rules might as well change everyday. From core algorithm updates to long term roll outs to minor changes, online search continues to evolve. What we share here may change next year (or next month).
What is local search?
So how does local search really work anyway? There are essentially two ways. First, someone can search for landscaping in Albany, NY or search landscaping without typing Albany, NY, while they're in Albany, NY. While the results are usually not the same for both (not right now anyway!), they're generally similar. Which one do you care about? Both. It really depends on your strategy and short versus long term goals.
Searches from within specific cities are usually harder to get than searches for the term plus city in the search bar. The later comes first - when you have enough of the city, state juice, you'll begin to rank in the city, state without someone having to enter it in. There are exceptions of course. For your own city, you should definitely rank with and without someone entering in the location in their search (read how below). For the surrounding cities, start with that location plus the keyword ranking.
You've noticed maybe that we keep referencing city, state instead of county or town. While other locations - such as county, town, or region (e.g. Hudson Valley) are helpful - they don't necessarily lead you down the path of getting rankings from within the city - and instead, keep your rankings limited to when someone types the location. And why is city the tell all? Because that's how google identifies a searcher's location. On the bottom of the Google search page, there is a city, state assigned to the searcher. While just a few months ago, searchers were able to manipulate this location, this option isn't available anymore. For the ones that are extra interested in this, no you can't manipulate the location in a private window. So in summary, there should be more time spent on the city, state areas that are important to your local business - before region, town, etc.
Okay, so now on to you taking over the local search! We'll be your heros, in time to save you from the evil competitor! You many notice we don't have website listed as one of the items and that's because it's assumed you have one. It's the prerequisite to the following ones.
1. Get a Google my business account!
This is the easiest and first way to get ranked for your city. A company's Google My Business account shows up on the right in a box in search results and in the local pack results in the main section (typically the first three raised results). If you don't have one for your business yet, then you can claim it online and verify it via phone (rarely available) and then via a verification code sent in the mail.
For your address listing, be sure to use one (if you have one to share) and regardless, enter in your service area. Don't lie about your service area - if you don't want to travel 100 miles to do a walkway, then you don't want to show up there online either! Related: Dominate Local Search.
All those categories you choose make or break whether or not you rank in the local results. So if you're a landscaping company, you should have at least five or six categories (in some cases, more). For example, if you do outdoor lighting, that should be a category. The best part is getting the local result for this outside of your city. The proximity effect is very real - depending on how competitive the nearby cities are, you might get local results for cities 10 miles away. Note: just updating the categories alone will not make this happen - it's part of the bigger puzzle of the other four steps, so keep reading!
The description - they are all keywords that can help (or hurt!). If your business description is stuffed, or just as bad, contains a simple one sentence, you're preventing yourself from really benefiting with the local pack results. A real, human friendly description about all of your services is important - people actually do read this, so put some time into this lengthy description!
To further establish credibility as a local business, make sure to get reviews on your Google My Business account. This will not only help online searchers feel about your home improvement company, but also help Google know you really are that business - at that location.
For the most important benefit of a Google My Business account, we leave it to your actual website. Having a Google My Business account helps to validate your local presence. It's an extra confirmation of your location and services and as a result, the account boosts your website's rankings.
2. Have an address on your website.
Okay, we think most websites have crossed this bridge already. Regardless of whether or not you have one on your site already, make sure it's in text (not just an image). It should be on every page - which means it needs to be in your footer. And because there are a hundred ways to write the same address, make sure it's written the same everywhere. For example, if you write Rd. and Road - that could be interpreted as two different address by the ninja website crawlers. By the way, neither is more correct than the other, it's just a matter of consistency.
For extra validation, many credible search engine expert sites (like search engine land) recommend having a google maps alongside your address, so there is no reason to skip this. And because many folks try to cheat everything with an image, in this case, a picture will not do. It needs to a be a real Google map. Related: 16 Website Must Haves.
3. Become an expert on your site.
So you have a kitchen remodeling company, great. But what is it that sets you apart from other kitchen remodelers? Let us guess, you're reliable, do beautiful quality work, honest, yada yada yada. Your homeowner customers hear this from every company that they deal with. What will really set you apart is your voice. Your ability to express deep knowledge in your product.
So for example, if you're indeed that kitchen remodeling company, prove your expertise by talking about proper installation, complementing choices in cabinetry and countertops, trends, etc. And to make it clear, talking about your company isn't being an expert at what you sell - it just makes you an expert about your company, which doesn't set you apart at all.
Where do you share this info? On your blog. Allow people to connect with you through what is written on your blog (or hire a company that can do it for you). Keep in mind, your blog is not to share your events, your awards, or anything else that makes you so wonderful. Sure, you can do a couple posts here and there about that stuff. Leave the necessary bragging on your other website pages.
Here's the cherry on top: blogs are today's SEO. All those problems you solve and ideas you share on your blog - those are things your target homeowners search for, so come up for those searches with relevant blog topics!
Related: No All Blogs Are Made the Same.
4. Local Pages.
Once you have regular content going, local pages, targeting specific cities will become almost as important as your blogging. What are local pages? They're unique pages describing your services, or something about your services, for a specific city, state. Remember that each page truly needs to be unique, otherwise you'll be slapped with duplicate content from Google which will in result hurt your rankings.
Since local pages are basically more information about your business, your site will become full of similar content that is all about how great you are. This can take away from your need to connect with your target homeowner. So the right balance here is to get your site full of that helpful content first (or be well on your way) and then start your local page strategy.
Don't stop with one page per city, consider multiple for the various services. As for all content on your site, everything has to have a path starting with your homepage. Pages that aren't connected will not get indexed as well or as quickly by the almighty search engines. This is really due to the pages being harder to find and because it's harder for search engines to confirm what that page is about without a path. So for example, if you have a page that is accessible from the main navigation menu (or on a page that is) and it's called something like "our service cities" then Google knows what your intention is with that local page - so help Google!
Directory listings are still necessary. How much? Not terribly, but certainly helpful, in a complementing way. In the past (3+ years ago), they would top this list as one of the very most important things (along with those crazy black hat backlinking strategies). Today, citations help confirm your address. They are the extra stamp of evidence that you do indeed have the business address you claim is yours on your website. While there are hundreds of directories, there are a top few that matter along with others that vary by location. The most important thing is that every citation has exactly the same info about your company, particularly the address.
There are a lot more actions you can take to improve your local digital presence even more. Getting mentioned (and linked) on other local websites, or even better, national companies will improve your company's credibility. Having an active social media presence will help your target homeowners trust you more (especially with reviews). And so many more! The five here are your first five steps - the most important! Good luck! And if you happen to need help, you know who to call ;-).