This section is specific to businesses that rely on local customers. If your company operates globally, you might want to skip ahead to the next section, as this advice won’t readily apply.
For companies that do rely on locals, when an individual searches for a business like yours in Google, the search engine likes to serve up very specific information. These minute details include your organization’s complete and correct name, phone number, address, and website address.
Google can also provide customers with your hours of operation, list of menu items, details about your company’s beginnings, and so much more. You have to provide that information to Google, however, so that you always know it’s correct and listed just as you prefer.
The thing is, Google isn’t the only source of locally-specific information. There are hundreds of directory services online, including Yellowpages.com. Google gets its information from sites just like YP. That means that if even one of those sites contains incorrect or misleading information, Google may present the wrong details to search users. That can negatively affect your rankings, the relevancy of your rankings, and the traffic that’s sent to your business overall.
You can help Google present the proper information by creating a Google My Business account if you don’t already possess one.
If you want your business to show up in the top spots when someone conducts a relevant search locally, completing your Google My Business page is a must.
Aside from the ads on locally-populated SERPs, the business listings come with ratings, live open or closed notifications, and the ability to jump right to your website or get immediate directions right to your location. Google gets this information from the information you provide.
NOTE: If you don’t complete your Google My Business account, Google may populate the information from elsewhere around the web, whether those details are correct or not. Furthermore, if you don’t claim your GMB listing, others can edit the information. Who knows what your listing could say then?
First, log into your Google account and visit www.Google.com/business/. There you’ll be asked for information about you and your organization. When responding to the prompts and providing the necessary details, pay close attention to the following five elements to ensure the listing is optimized properly.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. Some marketers go a step further and refer to it as NAP-W, adding the website.
Your business name should be listed exactly as is, such as your DBA. Never attempt to add keywords to your name to boost your online visibility.
Same with your business address. The address portion of your NAP should be typed exactly as it is on all other directories. For instance, if your address is listed as 5000 Baker Avenue on one site and 5000 Baker Ave. on another site, that could cause confusion with crawlers and searchers alike.
The same rules apply to your business phone number. Listing your phone number as the area code in parentheses (888) 888-8888 or with periods separating the three sets of numbers 888.888.8888 can also cause confusion across platforms.
Note: Ensure the number you input to Google My Business matches the one on your website.
Google My Business can attract viable consumers to your business, but only if you select the proper categories to make their searches easy.
If you find yourself unsure of which categories to select, search for your primary competitors and take note of the categories they use. You just might find that copying those categories delivers the best results.
As a general rule, the primary category should describe what your business is while the secondary categories are reserved for what your business does, such as your services.
Google reviews hold tremendous sway over customers of all types. When it comes to selecting between you and the competition, a single review may mean the difference between the sale and the lack of one.
To gather reviews, contact current customers and direct them to your Google My Business listing in the SERPs. After clicking on your locally-generated listing, your customers will see a tiny blue button instructing them to “Write a Review.”
Customers will then have a chance to leave their thoughts about your business and the experience they’d like to share, as well as provide an up-to-five star review.
The more Google reviews your Google My Business listing shows, the more prominent your listing will be. If your listing and a competitor’s listing are side by side, and you have five reviews while the other guy has none, your listing will stand out. Which do you think is more likely to receive the click? You guessed it, the one that shows the highest amount of pleased customers.
Do you need all five-star reviews? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, too many perfect, raving reviews looks suspicious, both to Google algorithms and discerning customers. 4.9s and even 4.5s are acceptable, as long as the verbiage is good.
Ideally, you’ll want to have more positive reviews than the competition, but online reviews are only one aspect of how you can entice the click. Having a fully-populated Google My Business listing and, in some cases, just being the closer office can help you secure the conversion.
Note: Ensure that all your Google reviews are legitimate. No fake reviews. If you suspect that the business you’re auditing has fake reviews, purge them. Even one fake review can cause irreparable damage to your rankings and online reputation. Don’t take the chance.
If a customer leaves a nasty review on your Google profile, consider replying to the review and offering to make things right. Remember, anyone clicking on your Google profile and delving into your reviews history can read your reply. Therefore, apologize to the displeased customer and offer to make things right with an exchange, discount, or freebie.
Whatever you do, attempt to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to get into an exchange of words with someone who’s ticked off at your organization. Leave your email or phone number in the review and tell them you’d like to talk. In most cases, this can alleviate any bad blood. The best-case scenario is that the person will reverse their opinion of your business and rewrite the review to be more positive.
If the review sticks, even if it’s written by a troll yet Google won’t remove it, you can talk to a Google representative and explain why the review needs to be removed.
Here are the steps you’ll take:
Insert your home page URL into the proper section of your Google My Business profile. This ensures that customers find the fastest and most general information first, so they can distill down their needs and find what they want at a moment’s notice.
If your business has multiple locations, you can conveniently view and edit all of your locations and their statuses using the list view menu. You can see locations, create business accounts to share with multiple users, switch accounts, and verify your listings in bulk.
Never leave any aspect of your Google My Business profile incomplete. Every spot should be filled out, from keywords and categories to minute details about your details and professionally-taken photographs.
Speaking of photos, use all the spots you’re offered and include shots of the exterior of the building, several shots of the inside, photographs of your staff, and any others that showcase your business in the very best light.
In some cases, your Google My Business listing represents the first chance a customer may have of interacting with your business before visiting your site or scheduling a visit. From your listing to your homepage and all the photos you use, by selecting quality you’re putting your best foot forward. Adding videos of the business owner can also go a long way toward building comfort, familiarity, and loyalty before the customer even calls or stops by.
Congratulations! Once you have filled out your Google My Business profile in its entirety, and checked that all the information is correct and accurate, you’ve taken the first step toward getting a ton of local traffic.
Therefore, after taking the most important steps in securing proper citations, which is to audit your GMB profile, now we can get to the hundreds of other listings online. For that, we’re going to use a simple tool that checks them all in minutes.
Visit www.Yext.com and insert your business details at the bottom of the page, where prompted. You’ll be asked for your country, business type, name, and phone number. Then, click Scan Now to proceed.
Once scanned, Yext will offer you an “Optimization Rate Score” which represents the completeness of your digital citations profile.
If you don’t have a world-class profile, don’t worry. Anything 70% and above is good, and can always be improved upon. If your site is listed as not being found or if you receive a very low score, you have work to do, my friend.
To see how much work needs to be done, look at the listings Yext populates into your report.
On the left, you’ll see all the listings that Yext analyzes, including Facebook, Google, and a host of others.
In the center of your report, you’ll see your listings. You’ll also be able to determine where discrepancies may occur, such as listing Avenue as Ave. or Suite as Ste. Only a few can spoil the stew, so check for consistency all the way down the page.
On the right, you’ll see the reason for any errors your listings may receive. Some may say Wrong Phone Number, some may have the website incorrect, and some may contain an unfamiliar business name.
These errors are important to take seriously, particularly if you have recently purchased the business from another owner and subsequently changed the DBA.
You might notice a different type of error that indicates that the listing isn’t verified.
Yext verification means that you’ve acquired Yext Powerlistings. Here’s the thing, if you notice errors in your Yext report, your next job is going to be visiting all of those platforms, creating accounts if you don’t have them already, and correcting or inputting the details as necessary. This can take hours, days, sometimes weeks.
And yet, correcting and ensuring you have consistent citations across the web can be critical to prominent listings.
In addition to offering the free scan (there’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all), the service will take it upon itself to scour the web for your listings and populate them or correct them as necessary. The service isn’t cheap, it’s around $1,000, but may be worth it if yours is a large organization and you rely on local traffic.
If you notice errors in your Yext report and don’t want to pay for the service, you are encouraged to go down the list and correct them manually. Best way is to put a daily reminder on your schedule and do one a day, or a couple a day.
The slower you engage in SEO, the steadier and longer-term results you’ll see. Plus, Google prefers online profiles that are built-out or corrected gradually, as that typically represents legitimate hard work. Scammers hate hard work, and Google is always wary of elements that are changed too quickly. Keep that in mind when deciding how to handle your citation correction.
Aside from Yext, Moz Local and Bright Local are two platforms that will submit and correct your listings for a fee. But do correct any errors you see, especially if you hope to attract more customers locally.