by Nathalie Blanchard from My Retail Coach
To get more store traffic, customers have to be able to find you. It may be that your area has little or no local competition and that a basic website, an online business card of sorts, can do the trick.
Most of you, however, have a lot of competition, therefore you need to shine through on your website. Here are the three important things to work on:
Optimized Google My Business
This is where you give Google your location information, you create a listing and you can control what appears in Google search results when someone searches for a local product or service.
A well-organized, optimized website
Your website needs to attract Google. In order to do so you have to tweak it so that it corresponds to Google’s requirements. These requirements are to help Google understand what you are selling.
Multiple online listings
Listing your business in online directories has a great impact on your results.
The goal is to show up in the first spot of a Google search or at least on the first page. This is getting more difficult for several reasons:
A lot more AdWords space has been allocated on the search results page, including Google shop (note the shopping options on the right).
Google has more display space for local search results (map and ratings).
Google is getting increasingly picky about which websites it chooses to rank.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
Your local presence is a huge part of your ranking. Your Google Map should be golden!
Claiming your map is pretty easy, and so is optimizing it. Go to google.com/business and:
Claim your map. Google provides a verification code via a postcard or instant phone call on your business line. Google has also added validating via live video. Once received, enter the validation code as instructed.
Fill out all relevant fields, and add photos of the outside and inside of your store, your products, company trucks, logos, etc. If you have 360° virtual tours and videos, even better.
Activate and monitor your reviews: These are critical to showing up in the results. It can be unnerving to have reviews published, but how you respond to a less than stellar review can be a big win for you as well.
ORGANIZE YOUR WEBSITE
Showing up in those first spots and getting people to visit your site requires time and money. Google needs to understand what your website is meant to do.
A site with good structure will have:
Your site structure, what becomes your menu (your pages) should be logical and specific, for example: Home, About, Spas, Swim Spas, Pools, Contact.
Properly named page URLs (Avoid /about.html or worse yet: about.php?; abcpools.com/spa-models is much better). The page URL should clearly say what is on the page. There is value to making sure that your page names can be read by your visitors and Google.
Optimized meta descriptions and titles: These are what you see on the Google results page, along with your URL. A good web agency will, at the very least, make sure they are of proper length so the results don’t show unfinished sentences (which looks like “…” at the end). People are more likely to click on a link with complete information and more importantly, Google penalizes you when the lengths are not respected.
The content on the site should also be logical, with titles, subtitles,
bullets and lists. These components enable Google to understand…not just know.
A site needs great, organized and engaging content
Your site should be rich with content. You may be tempted to only have gorgeous photos. The reflex to do so has a lot of merit: Who really reads all this content? Google does. So not only should your content be organized, it should average about 800 words per page. When you consider breaking that down with an intro, product specs or categories, a checklist and so forth, it gets a little easier.
Photos are still essential, however, and it is important to keep your site fresh and post new products. Your photos should be 250K or less. Go to befunky.com to do this yourself. If you have videos, load them from a YouTube or Wistia channel. Let their server carry the weight of the video, not your website.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR ONLINE LISTINGS (CITATIONS)!
A local citation is any online mention of the name, address and phone number (NAP) for a local business. They can appear on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social media.
Incorrect citations send confusing trust signals to Google and your potential customers. Unfortunately, 45 percent of online listings have mistakes in them. This is because online directories, called scrapers, pick up your information for their site, unbeknownst to you. In most cases, however, Google does recognize bad directories.
Your NAP should be uniform on all your platforms, starting with how you have officially registered your business with the government. ABC Pools is different than ABC Pools, Inc., which is different from ABC Pools Inc.
Online services can evaluate your listings and do the the cleaning for you on a regular basis. Check your listings at Brightlocal.com.
In the next article, we will talk about how social media fits into your SEO strategy.
Nathalie Blanchard has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. She works as a consultant with small and medium businesses. Blanchard provides advice and real working methods, training and coaching to help those businesses shine and stand out. Graphic designer by trade and professional project coordinator, she has worked in public, institutional, private and nonprofit sectors. You can find courses at mycoach.thinkific.com.