No this isn't the opening to the dark comedy ‘The League of Gentlemen’. This is about Local Search and how your businesses presence on local search has never been more important.
Why? Well not only, if done properly, does it validate your business but it also provides a huge deal of credibility to your companies image. Google whether you like them or not is King when it comes to online search and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So understanding what they want from you and why and how that can help your business is very important.
So let’s say it’s the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday and you want to pick up some dinner for your evening meal and you fancy a steak, so you go onto your phone and look up ‘butchers’. Google with your permission looks at your location and shows you two butchers within a short distance of you and both are listed as open and both are the same distance away from you but in opposite directions, neither of which is on your way home. What helps you make your decision?
Firstly it will be the reviews, does the business have any reviews? Do people rave about the quality of food there?
Secondly, what’s it look like, is it a bit grotty or does it look open and inviting...are there any photos at all?
Thirdly is it open? In this case both just so happen to be open, so you pick butchers (A), you get in the car and travel the 1.5miles to the location, only to discover they’re closed!!!!! But Google said they were open. So slightly annoyed you decide to get a takeaway instead, as driving another 3 miles out of your way, when time is precious is just too much effort.
Now tomorrow you may use your google maps app or google search in your browser again to find a local accountants, but if you arrive there and they are also closed or the address is incorrect and it turns out to be a chip shop, you could be forgiven for starting to think “This google stuff isn't very accurate, maybe I’ll use Bing instead” and within that short time frame Google has lost you as a user.
Now extrapolate that on a much bigger scale for every type of business and you can quickly see that would not be good for business. So Google wants you to have the right listing location, with the right contact details or as it is also known ‘NAP’ (Name, Address & Phone Number) and the right opening times as a minimum requirement. But they would also like you to use nice pictures, get some reviews and link to your website.
In exchange Google provides a very friendly interface where you can edit your details and add new information and pictures as you acquire them. They will then make sure that they make your business very easily visible with the search results or on their maps, which in turn means more people come to your shop and hopefully buy your products/services. So it’s a win win, you get more business, Google gets your custom and people looking for your business use Google's products.
And in its simplest form that’s basically what Local Search is all about. Both of the big players offer the service, that being Google and Bing, Apple also offers a business listing service for their maps product but it is nowhere near as comprehensive as Google and Bing’s.
So what do you need to do.
Well it’s not a case of doing just one thing, it’s a case of doing a few little things which support the previous item. For the rest of this we’ll talk about Google's provision, partly because it offers the most services but mainly because it’s the big player in the field and one you can't ignore.
Claim your business listing
So first and foremost, if you haven't already done it, you need to claim your business, you can do this by visiting the Google My Business page, (we’ve also put links at the end for you to click on).
What you need ready
NAP - Name, Address & Phone Number
This is very important, you need your full business name, full address and phone number and you should ALWAYS list it in the same way wherever you put it digitally.
For example let’s say your address is:
Best Butchers Ltd
1 Main Street
Tel: 0203 214 9889
And this is what you add onto Google, but you then create a website for your business and you put the address as:
Best Butchers Limited
1 Main street
Tel: +44 (0)203 214 9889
Google now see’s an inconsistency and whilst not incorrect (the address is correct and the phone number still rings the right number), it has a trust issue now that they aren’t both exactly the same. And because it doesn’t quite trust the information it’s not as confident about which set of details it should serve up to the user. The more inconsistencies across different digital areas the more this has an impact on your business being seen in searches.
So get your ducks in order and decide what the correct details are and stick to them for everything.
The next thing to address is your business image, if you have a shop it massively helps if someone can see the front of your store, so when they arrive at your location they recognise it...again this helps establish trust, and a nice picture will help encourage people to engage with you more.
Show pictures of your businesses inside, maybe you have a restaurant, sharing the interior with your potential diners, so they can see what a lovely restaurant it is, will naturally help encourage them to make a reservation. Add in pictures of your team so when customers visit there is familiarity for the visitor, you’re no longer a complete stranger, your Lucy the restaurant manager or Pat the butcher.
You just have to think about anything else in your life when it comes to making a purchase, you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without looking at them first.
It’s a natural process from looking at the pictures to reading reviews about them; does the leather last well, are they comfortable or do they take a lot of breaking in, do the laces snap easy? Then you want to go to the store to try them on and then you want to know that you’re buying them for a good price and not paying over the odds.
So in summary Pictures are important :)
Google even help with this, they’ve created a nice easy photo guide to let you know what criteria you should follow for creating and adding your photos.
There are also specific Google photographers that can take pictures of your business and even do virtual tours of the outside and inside of your premises.
You can see an example of one we produced for the Birmingham War Memorial the Hall of Memory.
Your Business - The Knowledge Panel
When you’ve claimed your listing and added your details in, uploaded your logo and put some nice pictures up. Google will go away and list these in what it calls the Knowledge Panel, this shows your business name, pictures, logo, address, opening times, reviews and mini ads as well.
Isn’t that nice of them! You can see it provides the user a very easy to understand overview of your business details.
Google Posts - Mini Ads/Offers
These are available to all small businesses and allow you to let your existing and potential new customers about special offers you may have on, events you’ve got coming up or promotions etc. One ad can run at any one time and they last for 7 days before they expire.
These ads appear in both Google search and maps results. Here is an example of one of ours below:
When was the last time you bought something over the value of £50, without reading a review about it?
It’s natural for us to want to get the best we can, so it follows that reviews are an important part of our research. Whether you are buying a holiday, a new car, a washing machine, a phone, a pair of trainers or eating at a restaurant the list is endless, we want assurance that what we buy is going to be fit for purpose and deliver what we want/need. The best way of understanding and making the right decision is through reviews.
Google have their very own reviews system and again they want you to get your business reviewed, in exchange they’ll highlight the fact that your business has reviews by showing a nice easily visible set of 5 stars and a series of the latest reviews in their search results against your business.
And again the more reviews you have the more Google trusts your business and places more emphasis on serving your business up in its results over another business.
This is really important when you learn that google only shows the first three listings before you have to click a link to see more results, so to stand out and grab your potential customers attention, you need to be in the top three results and ideally number 1. You can see an example of this below.
There are two items to also understand with local search and reviews.
Firstly, location is key, if you’re looking for a Florist in Birmingham City Centre, Google will show you the very nearest ones to your location. So if your Florists is based in Solihull, Google won’t show your shop to the person searching in Birmingham City Centre. If they put ‘Solihull’ as the search area then as long as you’ve done all we’ve talked about, Google will show them your business listing.
Secondly to leave a Google review, the reviewer has to have a Google account in order to leave a review. This obviously has a limiting factor as not everyone will have a Google account, they might have a Microsoft Hotmail account or an Apple account instead.
But if they do, then to get a review, you need to make it as easy as possible for those that have a Google account. This can be done by clicking on the ‘Review’ button in the Knowledge Panel, but that does require some effort by the reviewer, so providing them with an easy click on link which opens the review panel straight up on their screen is the best way forward. You can see below how it looks.
BrightLocals, Local Consumer Survey Review 2017
Every year the good folks over at bright Local produce a survey about Local consumer usage. And the figures speak for themselves:
- 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
You can read the full report here: https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/
Google Insights - Analytics for local business
How is Insights different to Google Analytics? Well Insights focuses purely on how customers use Google Search and Google Maps both desktop and mobile to find your business, and then what they do once they find it, such as ask for directions or call your number etc.
It’s a far more simpler form of analytics and specifically addresses your listing and not your websites performance or search visibility.
There are 6 sections within Insights to help you understand how your business is performing, these are:
- How customers find your listing
- Where customers find you on Google
- Customer actions
- Direction requests
- Phone calls
1). How Customers Find Your Listing
How customers find you can either be in this instance via a ‘Direct’ search or a ‘Discovery’ search. A ‘Direct’ search is when a customer specifically searches for your name directly or your address. A ‘Discovery’ search is when a customer finds you by category or subject.
So let’s say you have own a Florists and you’re called “Flowers Today” a ‘Direct’ search would be a customer searching ‘Flowers Today’ where as a ‘Discovery’ search would be ‘Florists near me’.
2). Where customers find you on Google
This shows you how customers found you over a time range, whether that be via search or via google maps.
3). Customer actions
This shows you exactly what customers did after they found you.
These fall into 4 distinct actions:
- Visit your website
- Request directions
- Call you
- View photos
4). Direction Requests
This shows you by postcode, where a customer requested directions from. As a local business you can see how useful this information is especially if you were doing a digital advertising campaign at the same time. If lots of people are asking for directions, is this equating to your shop having more visitors?
5). Phone Calls
This shows you when and how often customers called your business via your listing on Google. Again very useful insights, has your phone been ringing more???
This shows how many photos are associated to your listing whether they be photos you've added or members of the public/customers. It also shows you how often they are viewed compared to your local competitors (if you have competitors in the area).
So hopefully you can gather from this brief introduction to Local Search, that not only is it really important, but it’s also incredibly helpful in promoting your business.
There is a lot lot more that can be done to own the Local Search space, especially when we start to look at NAP Citations. This is claiming and updating every mention of your business on as many directories and listings in the digital world, this is very time consuming but has huge impacts on Google trust of your business.
There is obviously time and costs associated with doing the above, whether that’s your time or a team members, and then maintaining and updating your listing to make it as engaging as you can. So rather than using your own valuable time, the alternative is to employ an agency like ourselves to do the work for you and then just focus on your business and serving your new customers.
If you want to chat more then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0121 352 1226 we’re happy to have a chat and see how we can help.
Google My Business - https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/business/
Google Photo Guide - https://support.google.com/business/answer/6031953
Hall of Memory Virtual Tour - https://email@example.com,-1.9070163,0a,82.2y,289h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sef3FuJ6IkM0AAAQfDpGLFw!2e0?source=apiv3
BrightLocals, Local Consumer Survey Review 2017 - https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/