Is Your Local Business Website Like an Unlisted Phone Number?

Is your local business as visible online as you think it is?

Some of you may remember the days when kids used to argue with their parents about using the phone and the internet at the same. Back in those days the Yellow Pages and cocktail parties were the only way to find local services and learn about new businesses.  We depended on the phone book to find options and on word of mouth to make decisions about who to give our business to.

"Advertisement flyer under windshield wiper"Companies had one chance a year to get their location listed and the biggest decision whether or not to have an ad in addition to the listing and which category would be the best one to be in.  New listings and updates were done once a year.

Local businesses who opened their doors after the deadline had to resort to frequenting the parking lots of malls and grocery stores to put fancy flyers under windshield wipers.

Then the internet happened and  Whala!  Now all you need is a website, right?

I can remember more than a few TV commercials that promised phones ringing off their hooks, products flying off the shelves, and over night success and all it took was a website.

Even back then, it didn’t really work that way, getting new visitors to your website and turning them into customers doesn’t happen automagically.  It takes time and effort.

Local businesses who were early adopters to creating an on-line presence enjoyed the rewards associated with having a website and being found by customers who never would have discovered them otherwise.  However, today more than 70% of small businesses have website and the competition for landing a position on the first page of the search results gets tougher every day.

You may have a website because everyone else does, you may have been an early adopter, or you just know it’s good for your business.  If you own a local business and you don’t have a website, here are some statistics that may make you think twice.

  • 74% of internet users perform local searches (Kelsey Group)
  • 73% of online activity is related to local content (Google)
  • 66% of American use online local search, like Google local (Google)
  • 61% of local searches result in purchases (TMP / comScore)
  • 54% of Americans have substituted the internet and local search for phone books (comScore networks)

So we know that people use the Google and Bing to do research and find local businesses and service providers, the question is whether or not your website is one of the hundreds or maybe thousands that will be found let alone displayed by the search engines.

Google and Bing include your location as part of how they determine what results to display. Let’s do an experiment.

I live on the east coast and just like in the movies, there are a lot of Italian restaurants.  I really enjoy Italian food and I prefer to support locally owned restaurants for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the food is usually better.

If I do a search for Italian Restaurant in Google, within a split second, there are more than 240,000 results for me to choose from.

"Italian Restaurant Search Results"

On the first page of results there are sixteen results (plenty to choose from).  What’s interesting is that of the sixteen, the three Italian Restaurants that are closest to my house aren’t in the results. Based on my location and my search term, logic would say they should be there – but they’re not.  It’s also interesting to note, that 1/3 of the results are chain restaurants, not truly local businesses.

Why is that?

There are a variety of factors that contribute to whether or not a website is displayed in the search engine results, which is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO is the process of driving traffic to a website from the search engine results page.

It involves optimizing a variety of things such as content, website structure, as well as internal and external links (just to name a few) to increase the visibility and position on a search engine results page. If you own a local business there is the opportunity to optimize even further making sure the local SEO basics are covered.

Is your website as visible as you want it to be? If you have a website, but you’re not seeing new customers walking through the door, there’s a good chance it’s not.

Don’t worry though, there are lots of ways that you can improve the visibility of your local business on the search engine results pages.

Local Business SEO Tips

  1. Put your physical address on important pages of your website
  2. Include the zip code
  3. Display your local phone number on every web page
  4. Claim your free business listings from Google Plus, Bing, and Yahoo
  5. Encourage customer reviews
  6. Set up a Google Place page
  7. Use a service such as Universal Business Listing to make sure your listing is up to date
  8. Set up Web Master and Analytics tools for both Google and Bing so you can monitor your traffic 

These are just a few tips to get you started.

Which one will you implement today?

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