More than ever before, people looking for products and services are looking online to view and evaluate alternatives. In fact, 93% of all buying decisions start with an online search 1. While marketers can “pay to play” on those top search sites with sponsored posts and pay-per-click advertising, the most effective way to improve your chances of being found is to improve your organic ranking on these search engines. Why?
The first page links on Google search results get 91% of the Google traffic 1
So what can your company do to boost your search presence to attract these potential customers?
Claim your business listings on directory sites
Major business directories, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and smaller ones such as Whitepages, Manta and Yellowpages automatically create business profiles with whatever company information they can find. Even if your company has never been manually listed, chances are it already exists on many of these sites. Before these listings are claimed, directories assume you are legitimate business, but they don’t know for sure. Since search engines (especially Google) value relevance and authenticity so much, they’re unlikely to show you in search results. Because to them, you may or may not be the real deal. Claiming that listing proves that you are a trusted and legitimate business and helps you attract customers.
As the number one search engine by a long shot, Google is the first place to look for and claim your Business Listing. Once your identity is verified by following these steps, take some time to fill out your Google My Business profile. After this, there are anywhere from twenty to one hundred other business directories your company could be listed on. Unclaimed, there’s a high potential for mismatched information, or no information at all. You’ll need to search for your company name on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and go through each page to ensure every single one your business listings are claimed. Take a look at the Top 100 business directories to look out for.
Name, Address, Phone Consistency
Once you’ve done your due diligence of claiming all listings, it’s crucial that your Company information is consistent on all sites. This includes your Name, Address, Phone number and Hours. Even small and seemingly insignificant differences in phrasing such as “Inc” vs. “Incorporation” or “St” vs. “Street” can actually cause considerable harm to your visibility. If on one site, you’re “Experience.com (Formerly SocialSurvey)” at “123 Customer Ln”, but on another site your business address reads “Social Survey Inc.” at “123 Customer Lane”, search engines won’t be convinced that you’re a valid business. Although it may seem minor, inconsistency in your basic company data or name means a big hit to your search ranking.
There are many directories that may hold inaccurate or incomplete information about your business. Tools like Experience.com (Formerly SocialSurvey) Listings makes it easy to build one central source of truth and publish that information across hundreds of directory sites, boosting your rankings without the manual effort.
Get reviews (and reply to them!)
Reviews are one of the most impactful things you can do for your business. While word of mouth used to be the end-all-be-all of recommendations, in our digital age, 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations 2. People want to read for themselves exactly how you treat customers, even if it’s a review from someone they’ve never even met.
They’ll also boost your local visibility, considering 15% of Google’s Local search algorithm is from reviews
Receiving bad reviews is not the end of the world. By replying to the review, it actually gives you the opportunity to publicly showcase how committed you are to customer experience. You can’t always please every single person, but you can always try to make up for their less-than-satisfactory experience. Reply something like, “Hey Jen, I am so sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We pride ourselves in [our product/service] and strive to provide a flawless experience for each customer. Thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback, please expect a call soon so we can discuss the situation and how to make this up to you!.” This will not only improve Jen’s experience and perception of your business, but could attract potential customers who read the response.
In short, replying to negative and positive reviews portrays to customers that you genuinely care about their experience and value their feedback. Google has also confirmed that replying to reviews increases your search visibility.
Share your business citations
A local citation is an online mention of a business’s Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). This information is critical for influencing search engines to display local search intent, while also helping internet users discover local businesses. There are two kinds of citations that play a part in Google’s algorithm: structured and unstructured.
A structured citation is a mention of your business on websites and business directories like Yelp, Bing, Yahoo, City Search and Yellow Pages. An unstructured citation is a mention of your business on blogs, news sites and other businesses’ websites. It is important to make sure your business is listed on high authority and industry-specific sites to earn credibility and trust from Google. For example, mortgage lenders and real estate agents should have all of their locations listed on the major directories, as well as industry-specific listings like Zillow, LendingTree and Experience.com (Formerly SocialSurvey). Sharing your business information on your partner’s pages, on contributed blog content, news sites, all help move your listings up the search page.
Keep your reviews fresh
The recency of your online reviews matters a lot to your potential customers. That makes sense – why would someone want to hear about an experience with a company 5 years ago? A lot could change in that time. According to a 2019 study, 48% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last three weeks.
84% of consumers believe that online reviews older than three months aren’t relevant 3
Google and other search engines consider the recency, frequency, quality, and number of reviews in their algorithms. In other words, keeping a regular stream of reviews flowing to your business not only helps build trust and attract prospective customers, but shows Google and others that you are the real deal.
You can take the manual effort out of review generation with Experience.com (Formerly SocialSurvey)’s customer experience platform. Automatically send review requests to happy customers during key moments of their customer journey and see your review count and ratings skyrocket.
Getting to the top of the search list is a complex process, but these five steps will help you start that journey. If you’re ready to dive deeper into Google’s algorithm, download our Winning Locally on Google eBook.
- “How Valuable Is The First Page of Google?” Web Edge Digital Marketing, 2017.
- “6 Local SEO Stats Every Online Marketer Needs To Know.” Search Engine Land, 2018.
- “Local Consumer Review Survey: How Customers Use Online Reviews.” BrightLocal, 2020.