LOCAL BUSINESS MARKETING
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It wasn’t that long ago that almost all marketing was local. The advent of radio and television gave rise to national brands and outlets. Then with the advent of the Internet, once called the great democratizer of business, the local business owner needed to find completely new ways of marketing.
While a company’s storefront, product or service selection, packaging and pricing, customer service, and word-of-mouth still make a huge difference, the yellow pages, newspaper, mailings, and radio have become a very small part of the marketing plan for local retail and service providers.
The Internet is now the center of the neighborhood businesses' effort to reach prospects. And at the forefront of the Internet is GMB and other Local Business Search Engines: Yelp, Bing, City Search, Hot Frog, and others. In addition, small businesses rely on specialty directories by business categories such as Travelocity or Homeadvisor, or regional directories produced by radio stations or chambers of commerce.
The reality is that GMB and Yelp are the two sites most likely to make your phone ring, though industry-specific sites can be good. And GMB is the king, by a lot!
GMB is where we will concentrate. It is both powerful and frustrating. It pick winners and losers, yet the rules of the game or somewhat knowable. Only three companies in any given geographic area and specific keywords (lawyer, bike shop, Italian restaurant) get the massive benefit of being situated in the 3-pack. If you are a lawyer in Dubuque and you aren’t in the 3-pack, you just won’t get many calls.
3 - PACK RANKING
Learn How to Rank in the GoogleMyBusiness 3-Pack
Here is a quick list of the top ranking factors for GoogleMyBusiness in 2021.
Geographic Location. If someone is searching for you by city, your ranking will be somewhat affected by how close you are to the city center. If they are using a zipcode or just putting in the keyword without any geographic information, then your ranking will depend partially on how close you are to the location of the searching computer.
Company Name. Keywords matter. If your company name has no keywords, GMB seems willing to allow you to add at least one keyword to the end. If your entire name is Doug’s, you could add a restaurant. You could even try Doug’s Italian Restaurant or Doug’s Dubuque Restaurant. Don’t try for three extra words. Better to change your name to Doug’s Italian Restaurant of Dubuque.
NAP – Name, Address, Phone Number. GMB wants to be sure you are a credible business and located where you say you are. Therefore, they will search the Internet to see if you are consistent regarding your company name, address, and phone.
Website. GMB will review your website to see how good it is, if it gets traffic, and if the NAP is the same. The better the website, the better the ranking.
Reviews. Like it or not, we are in an era where your customers, prospects, competitors, and even haters get to review your business. GMB apparently doesn’t care how many stars you have, but you will be in a higher rank if you have lots of reviews. The number of stars does matter to customers. You need to be over 3.5 stars to attract new business.
Citations. Citations are places where your company can be found. This includes Bing, Yelp, City Search, Yellow Pages, and other search engines and directories. There seems to be at least some correlation between how many places you are found and your rank.
Filling out the GMB set-up form completely. Some say that GMB would like to be your website. Thus, they continue to add more options to the set-up form. Fill it out completely using keywords you care about.
Those are the basics of GMB. Watch the videos above for more detailed instructions.
Set an appointment with Dan if you want expert help.
Because GMB is so important, a cottage industry has sprung up of SEO experts who promise to help you get highly ranked on GMB. Some of these companies are very good at what they do. Others are not.
It is possible to improve your rankings on a DIY basis, though it is time-consuming and sometimes technical. You will find a series of videos below to help you through the process. It is produced by Dan Neira of Burn Media. He is a GMB specialist who can help you get highly ranked. If you’d rather hire someone to get the job done quickly, set an appointment to meet with Dan at https://calendly.com/danneira/
Is Moving Up in Importance
Yelp is the website that small businesses tend to hate. They believe that Yelp picks and chooses reviews to show or hide based on Yelp’s self-interest. Many have sued (and lost) trying to show that Yelp’s goal is to sell your advertising in exchange for better treatment with reviews.
Yelp states the basis they use for choosing some reviews and hiding others.
How many reviews has the reviewer done? The more the better.
Does the reviewer use their real name and picture? If yes, better.
Is the review credible? Longer and more details are better.
Yelp has “tells.” There are certain ways that abusers of the review system try to game Yelp.
In my experience, the Yelp average star rating is almost always accurate. Businesses that give consistently amazing service are often at 5 stars or close. Companies that are only so-so at customer service or provide poor quality often get 3 stars or less.
You can help yourself by responding to all reviews, good and bad, with thoughtful answers that don’t dismiss complaints but welcome them.
You can help yourself by asking your best customers for reviews. It is against Yelp rules to pay for reviews in cash or kind. But it is perfectly legitimate to ask them in person or through correspondence to give you a review.
Yelp allows advertising, and some advertisers do very well with Yelp.
Put your business category into search followed by directories. CPA directories. Put your city or geographic area into search followed by directory. Dubuque directories. Sign up in these, and it will help your GMB rankings, and some of them might even result in a phone call. Some will charge a fee.