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“Near Me” Searches – How Do You Show Up?

Mobile and Near Me Searches — Perfect Together

Increase your local search visibility on Google.With the rise of mobile searches — more than half of all searches are now done from phones — “near me” searches have exploded from devices with GPS.

What’s a “near me” search?

You’ve probably done them. They’re searches like

  • Closest gas station
  • nearby plumber
  • BBQ restaurant open
  • car accident lawyer near me
  • local electrician

Google’s Possum Update last fall has improved local search results like these and is further encouraging their use.
93% of people who use mobile for local search go on to make a purchase.

Mobile is Critical

According to Search Engine Land:

The fact of the matter is, more and more local searches are taking place on mobile. More importantly, many of those local searches come with a high purchase intent, making local mobile searches an incredibly important opportunity for your business,

If your site isn’t “mobile friendly”, you’re missing out on business. More than half of all searches are now done from phones. And for those searches, Google gives preference to mobile friendly sites. So to show up prominently for local searches for what you do, the first step is to make sure your site is mobile friendly.

Apart from  being mobile friendly, the next step is to make sure your site is “local friendly”.

There are two places you can show up prominently for local searches: in the Local Pack of three listings beneath a map, and in the organic listings. Both require, at a minimum, effective local SEO.

On-Page SEO

Let’s assume for the moment that you’ve well optimized your pages for the appropriate keywords and that you’ve built a sound link profile. What else do you need?

First, list your location, including your Zip Code, on every page of your site. The easiest places to do that are in the heading of each page or in the footer.

Second, employ schema markup for your name, address and phone number wherever they appear on your site. For most small business owners this is technical enough that you’ll want to delegate it to your webmaster to implement.

Off-Page Citations

A consistent NAP in your citations is important for near me searches.

Your NAP – Name, Address, Phone – is important to be listed consistently across the web.

Google relies heavily on citations — mentions of your NAP (name, adcress, phone) — on other websites to develop trust in where you are locally and what your phone number is. Citations help even if they don’t include a link to your website. According to Moz, “Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.” The more citations you have, the better — with one important consideration:

Consistency

If you ask a few friends about a local Pizza restaurant you may not get the same thing from everyone. You may get variations on the Pizzeria’s name, inconsistent or old addresses, and different phone numbers. If that happens, you’re not sure which to trust.  Google, Yahoo & Bing are just the same. If some citations have variations on your company name, a few have previous addresses, and some have bad or old phone numbers, search engines aren’t sure which ones are right and which are wrong.

If Google isn’t sure where you are, it’s reluctant to rank you prominently in the organic results. And it’s certainly unlikely to include you in the Local Pack. So be sure you have as many citations as you can and make sure your NAP is consistent across all of them.

Local citation sitesWe can help you identify some of the most important sites that provide citations. Run a free scan for your NAP here. You’ll quickly see whether you’re listed at more than 60 of the top citation sources. You’ll also see how consistently your NAP is shown at each of them. Use that as a guide for where to apply your attention to ensuring you have an excellent citation profile across the web.

Make it Simple

Given the time and attention, you can clean up your citation profile manually. But as those sites refresh their data from original sources like the White Pages or Dun & Bradstreet, errors can creep back in. That’s why we offer a PowerListings subscription to 1) get you listed consistently at all the sites on the list and 2) prevent your NAP data from getting changed by a refresh at any of those sites.

Learn more about PowerListings here.

Join the conversation – let us know your experience in the comments below.

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The Value of Online Reviews (Infographic)

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.

Everything you want to know about online reviews — and then some

Online reviews are playing an increasing role in both search engine visibility and in customer buying behavior. We’ve written about this recently in terms of the value of online reviews for small businesses.

Thanks to some research by the folks at WebsiteBuilder.org, the following infographic compiles lots of the latest information about the value of online reviews.

Do you have trouble getting online reviews?

Getting good online reviews isn’t as easy as it sounds. People who are unhappy are super-motivated to leave a nasty review while people who are happy … are just happy. Often they aren’t particularly motivated to give a review.

If your reviews are somewhat anemic, Rank Magic can help!

We welcome your input to the conversation – leave a comment below.

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Do Yelp Reviews Help?

Positive Yelp reviews can help your small business.Do Yelp business reviews really help?

We’re all pretty aware that bad reviews online hurt. But do good ones really help? And is the risk of a bad review worth encouraging customers to write reviews?

We’ll try to answer those questions here.

Yelp is perhaps the most prominent online review site, so we’ll be focusing on that here. Understand that most of what follows is generalizable to other review sites as well. Don’t dismiss the value of reviews at  Google My Business, Facebook, SuperPages, Merchant Circle, EZlocal and more.

People trust online reviews

The first thing to understand is that, as Search Engine Land has found, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. Positive reviews do drive business your way.

What about bad reviews?

Oops! I got a bad Yelp review. Now what?Obviously, that’s a double-edged sword because bad reviews can hurt. But good reviews can help a lot, so is it worth ricking an occasional bad review by asking customers to review you? Absolutely! For one thing, if all your reviews are 5-star reviews, people may view them with some suspicion. But if you’ve got one or two mediocre reviews, they lend credibility to your good ones. Beyond that, there are ways to turn a bad review into positive feelings about your company. We explain in a post entitled How to Handle Bad Online Reviews.

Do good reviews help enough?

Well, that was answered in a recent study at Harvard, which found that a one-star bump in your Yelp reviews yields a big revenue boost. The study was of restaurants, but applies generally to other businesses as well.

And there’s even more good news about Yelp customer reviews.

The benefit of good Yelp business reviews helps small individual businesses but doesn’t make much difference for chains. In the case of restaurants, an improvement in Yelp business reviews helped independent restaurants but made little or no difference to chains like Subway or Applebee’s.

Most small businesses struggle to compete with larger competitors. It’s good to know that Yelp reviews can help level the playing field. Online customer reviews are valuable, but we now have evidence of  the impact Yelp reviews, in particular, can have on your small business.

Need help getting positive online reviews from your customers? We have a program to help you do exactly that. Call us to find out how that works.

We value your perspective. Tell us about your own experience with Yelp reviews in the comments below.

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Got Online Reviews? You’d Better!

 How important are online reviews to your small business?

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.Surprising fact:

Whether or not you have online customer reviews can make or break your online visibility and also affect your conversion rate.

According to a survey by BrightLocal, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from family and friends. That may be surprising to you, considering those reviews are probably posted by complete strangers. Nevertheless, your own experience and that of your friends and family almost certainly bears this out.

According to The Huffington Post:

This means that if a client comes across a favorable review of your business online, this can be just as effective as having one of their friends personally recommend your business to them. … It’s been known for a while that businesses [that] are rated positively are more likely to rank for relevant search terms

People trust online reviews when seeking out a local business.

88% of customers sought and trusted online reviews in 2014.

Online reviews increase your search rankings

Not only do consumers read and trust online reviews — they actually help you to rank higher in Google, Yahoo & Bing. The state of your reviews online ranks 5th among the most important search ranking factors according to Entrepreneur Magazine.
Top rankming factors according to Moz and reported by Entrepreneur.com.As you probably know, showing up in the Local Pack is like gold for a local business.  It’s been reported recently that Google’s “Local Pack” is now filtering out businesses with fewer than 4 stars. If you have problematic reviews, the best remedy is to encourage more delighted customers to review you.

Fortune Magazine insists that:

… getting reviewed on as many sites as you can will help your business. … If you’re not encouraging your customers to write reviews of your business online, you’re missing out on a great way to gain perspective [sic0000000000] customers’ trust and get them to try your business.

Only 10% of people ignored online reviews in 2014.

Forbes says that as online reviews increase in importance and more of your competitors start doing more to encourage customer reviews, your involvement is only going to become more important.

Search Engine Land pointed out that only 1 in 10 consumers ignored online reviews in 2014 (down from  12% in 2013). The trend is clear from the chart above: this percentage is decreasing each year.

Online reviews improve your conversion rate

Having more reviews online will also give you a higher conversion rate according to Forbes. Your conversion rate is the number of people who convert from being visitors on your site to being actual paying customers. Note that even if your reviews aren’t all good, they still help.  As counter-intuitive as that may seem, bad reviews can have a positive effect on your conversion rate. A blend of good reviews and bad reviews shows that you aren’t trying to hide anything, and makes the good reviews seem more sincere. And if you respond to bad reviews positively, that can leave a very favorable impression of you. You might want to check out our advice for dealing with bad reviews.

Third party and first party reviews

Many of these sites feature online reviews.Sites which host reviews include Google, Facebook, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Show Me Local, and many more.  The more reviews you have on these sites, and assuming you average 4 stars or better, the more likely you are to show up in Google’s Local Pack.

Those are referred to as “third-party reviews” because they appear on websites that you don’t own. First party reviews are reviews that show up on your own website. You may think that reviews on your own site would be viewed with a certain degree of suspicion, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. First party reviews do actively contribute toward better search rankings.

It’s possible to format reviews on your website with special markup that allows Google to display the stars from your own site when you show up in search results. Your reviews and stars might even show up in the large site profile at the top right of search results in Google when people search for your name. So it’s a good idea to enable customer reviews on your own website.

Encourage  reviews

Clearly there’s an advantage for you to encourage reviews from delighted customers. Don’t offer incentives for reviews, but make it as easy as possible for people to review you.

We have a program that makes it particularly easy to encourage customer reviews. It can also spread them out so that they are balanced across third-party sites and your own website.

Call us to find out how that works.

We value and encourage your feedback in the Comment section below.

You Need Citations for Your Local SEO

Local SEO is important for local businesses

Your local search rankings are highly dependent on widespread and consistent nAP citations.If you have a local business where you interact on a face-to-face basis with your customers, local SEO is important to you. Even if  you don’t have a storefront where people physically come to your location, if your customers are local you need local SEO.

If your service occurs at a customer’s home or business, they are still likely to search for you  in their town, county, or using a “near me” search. Examples might be “plumber near me”  or “landscaper in  Morris County”.

There are three factors that control how prominently you appear when cusOKtomers do a search like that:

  1. The strength of your standard SEO
  2. The number and consistency of citations of your name, address & phone (NAP)  across the web
  3. Your proximity  to the person doing the search

The first item is what most people think of when they want to show up prominently in the search engines.  And that’s certainly important. There’s not much you or we can do about the third item, of course.  But what’s often overlooked is the importance of citations.

Don’t overlook your citations

NAP - name,address & phoneA citation is simply a mention of your company  on the web. It can be in local search engines,  directories, apps, maps, or  other websites that may be recommending you. For purposes of local SEO, the important citations are those that include your NAP.

There are a number of places where you can check to see how widely your citations appear on the web.  One simple way to do that is to do a Google search  of your company name, street address, city and state. Another way is to run a scan of local sites here or here.

There are, of course obvious large sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others.  There are also many smaller sites that are important as well.  The more broadly search engines find your NAP, the more highly you are likely to rank in the search results.

Citation building

Unless you’ve been actively building your citations across the web, you’re probably missing from many of the sites that search engines check. If you run a scan from one of the links above, you may find that you’re missing from quite a few of them. You can go to those websites  and enter or claim your listing  and update your NAP and other information manually.

Google's Local Stack is the most prominent place your local business can appear.You may also find citations that list bad phone numbers, old addresses, or confusing variations on your company name. Those inconsistencies cost you some trust with the search engines. If you ask a bunch of friends about a particular restaurant, and you get three different addresses, two different names for the restaurant, and more than one phone number,  you’re not really sure which is right. The same applies to the search engines. So if you find inconsistencies among your citations,  you should work to get them fixed. Search Engine Land recently reported that inconsistency of your citatinos is the #1 issue affecting your local rankings and whether you show up in Google’s Local Stack.

Once you have fixed inconsistent citations, your work isn’t over. Most of these sites on the web  periodically re-synchronize their information from whatever sources they got it from in the first place. So even if you have corrected  your address, for example, in two or three months the site may resynchronize with its sources  and bring back the old address. It can start to feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole.

Local citation subscriptions

Some of the more important sites for your NAP citations.One solution for that problem is to subscribe to  a citation management service like Moz Local or Yext PowerListings. These and similar services  typically provide a dashboard for you to enter your NAP and other information which they then synchronize  across a variety of local search engines, directories, maps & apps. Yext PowerListings goes one step further with a programming interface to each of those sites to lock in your information so that even when one of those websites goes back to their original source to synchronize their data, your information cannot change.

Fair disclosure: Rank Magic is a partner with Yext PowerListings. But if you’ve become frustrated with lousy local rankings or with the challenges of maintaining wide and consistent citations, we can help. Give us a call, if only to discuss your situation and see what we can suggest you try.

Share with us your experience getting and keeping good citations in the comments below.

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