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Online searches are the backbone of lead generation for businesses. Whether customers are on their computer, tablet, or smartphone, searching for local businesses online is now one of the main ways customers find information to make their purchase decisions. But getting your business to be one of the first search results potential customers see can be difficult if you don’t know how to begin.
Here are six ways to boost your local online search engine rankings.
1. Nail down the right keywords.
A primary factor for search results and how search engines rank them is keywords. If you don’t choose the right ones for your business to focus on, customers are less likely to find you in searches. At first glance, you may want to rank for “San Diego restaurant” or “plumber New York,” but depending on how large your location is, it could be hard to compete with the many listings also tied to the same search terms.
Dig deeper. What makes your business stand out from others that rank for that general search term? No matter what your industry, product, or service might be, think more specifically about what your business does and why it differs from your competition. “Houston computer repair” might become “Houston hard drive repair,” or “Boston printer” might become “Boston business poster printer.”
Similarly, if your business is located in a larger city, such as New York City, you may want to be more specific about your location. For example, instead of using “New York” in your keyword string, use “Brooklyn Heights” or “SoHo.” The more specific you get with your keywords, the better chance you have of appearing closer to the top of the search results.
2. Optimize your website for keywords.
The days of stuffing keywords in your website are over, thanks to changes in Google’s search algorithms, but it’s still important to place your keywords somewhere on your site, especially on your homepage. Now that you established the best keywords for your business to rank for, find an organic way to assimilate those keywords into your content.
For example, in the site heading that appears at the top of the Internet window, enter “[Business Name] | Sushi Restaurant in Toronto” to include those keywords without awkwardly forcing them into your content. Other places to consider adding keywords are the meta description, which appears under the heading of your listing on the search engine page, and in meta tags, which help search engines and users determine what your business is.
3. Create online local listings wherever possible.
Local online listings, particularly those with a link to your website, are not only great referral traffic, but they are a boost for your number of citations, or online mentions of your business. The more citations your business has, the better you rank in search results.
One of the most popular online listing sites is through Google, such as through Google+ Business, Google+ Brands, and Google My Business. You can also go through other general local directories like Bing and Yahoo Local or more industry-specific directories like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Urbanspoon. Look for other online business listings through industry organizations and associations. Also check out Moz Local to find your business and see where you already have citations and where you need to apply for new listings.
When you fill out these listings, be thorough and provide as much specific information about your business as possible. Be consistent with all of these details in your listings, as neither Google nor Bing like inconsistent online business listings, which can negatively impact your search ranking.
4. Optimize social media profiles.
The more social media profiles you have and are active on, the more exposure you have for your business. But like the online business listings, be consistent with your details and always include your keywords and a link back to your website.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is not all social media profiles are created equal, and some social networks are better for certain industries over others. Engagement with your customers on these platforms will boost your search engine ranking, so concentrate your social media efforts where your customers are. If you spread yourself too thin, you may let engagement slip on the social media profiles that matter to your customers, and you could waste time with futile efforts on social sites that don’t bring you leads.
5. Ask for genuine customer reviews.
Having reviews on your site can help improve your search rankings. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for a review online. Be sure these reviews are genuine; don’t ever ask or pay for fake reviews, and don’t offer to compensate customers for reviews. These tactics are not only dishonest, but they can lead to backlash if your customers every find out.
6. Produce quality content that gets shares and links.
Writing blog posts and articles for your site, and others similar to yours with a link back to your site, can help strengthen your online presence and search rankings. The more this content is read and shared, the higher your number of site visitors and the more links you receive back to your site, both of which are crucial to high search rankings.
Taking these six steps will help your business improve its search ranking, which in turn can bring in more customers. Most of these tips are simple enough to employ in a few hours or less. Get started today, and see how much your business can improve with a little knowledge of how to make search engine results work for your business.
Image by Denis Cappellin via Flickr