Yes, internet marketing and SEO is about global digital domination. It’s about getting the word out there no matter where they (or you) are, getting as many eyeballs as possible and converting as many of them into a new connection or money in your bank account. And that’s why we continue to go a mile a minute spending an insane amount of time researching and coming up useful articles and video content regularly.
For many brick-and-mortar businesses whose target market banks almost completely on this playing field, there’s another dimension to SEO and internet marketing that we must now focus on. No questions about it.
If you’re a local retailer selling clothes racks to customers within your geographical boundary, it doesn’t make sense to reach people all the way over in Paris if your customers are in Salt Lake City. Unless based on your deduction skills, a majority of your customers won’t mind paying for insane shipping fees. Then trying to take the home run on a global scale should continue to be your game.
Similarly, if your stronghold is in Thailand, there are very few reasons for you to pump so much cash into appealing to a large potential customers in New York City.
The Emergence and Roll-Out of Local Search
I remember the first time I relied almost completely on local search to find get buy something while on the way to the same destination.
While driving, I got a message from a friend asking me to grab a cake on the way to the event because he forgot to get one. I was, unfortunately, mindlessly navigating myself around in unfamiliar terrain.
Where on earth would I find a bakery or cake shop when I don’t even know which end of the earth I was on? AND he got an earful from me for interrupting my much-needed WAZE navigation.
However, I did pull over to the side of the road, yank out the smartphone and irately hit a Google ‘bakery near me’ query. I was presented with a short list (it was in a rather remote area) of options. So, there you have it! I got that cake.
Google realized the need to answer such questions IMMEDIATELY and started their algorithm change.
It spelt the beginning of GMB, Google My Business.
Image credit: Screenshot from GMB
Google My Business Profile is Free Promotion from the Search Engine
The GMB guidelines may be viewed as strict by many but it has the aim of promoting local businesses that people like you and me when we’re in the above-mentioned situation – on the road, looking for something or somewhere we can go to to find a solution, product, or service URGENTLY.
It knew the next stage of development was to heed our poignant pleas for help IRL.
The basic guideline states that your GMB profile must:
- Represent your business as consistently as possible in the real world
- Your business must be represented in the real world with signages, stationery, marketing material, office address, telephone number, etc
- Verify your business address with its mailing option (it takes approximately 14 days)
- State your business hours
- Identify the categories for your business
- Let Google know about which region you serve
- Seasonal business or events are to be excluded from GMB. So, if you run a theme park that is open only during summer months or are promoting a road show that’s touring the country for 3 months, GMB is not for you
- Online-only businesses are excluded from Google My Business listings because they have no permanent physical address or presence in the real world #sadface
The Google My Business feature is considered free promotion because it not only lists down your address, phone number, website address, but it also offers the follwing benefits:
- A short description of your business
- Reviews from your customers
- Provide a platform for your customers to book an appointment
- Feature photos from your company or customers.
- …and many more!
It’s pretty powerful BUT…that’s not the end of it because having a verified Google My Business profile also helps with your local SEO rankings. Your GMB profile contributes 19% to 25% of your algorithmic ranking signals (as at 2018). It has agency of your online profile while you’re running your business online without the know-how of digital marketing, web development, and social media ad placements.
The search magnet has also taken into account the fact that approximately 3 billion searches were done using local keywords, 70% use the internet to find offline businesses, and 30% of overall Google searches are related to local information.
If you think that’s the end of the new rollouts from Google, think again because behind the scenes, teams of people from all around the world are cracking their skulls thinking up new ways to dominate the internet. They’re letting people reserve a table, a ticket, a beauty appointment, a class or a meeting with just a few clicks.directly from Google itself (Note: link includes an off-site promotional service but valuable nonetheless) with integrated APIs. With the new feature, an 8% increase in engagement was observed and recorded.
If you run a hair salon, yoga studio, or a restaurant and want to let your customers shortcut their way to booking an appointment with you, have a look at this link on Maps Reserve feature and get started!
Image credit: Google Images
How to Make Full Use of your Google My Business Profile
- Invest in local content. If you already have a website(s) or a social media page(s), invest time, if not money, into creating connections, interactions, increase engagement, and strategize your content.
Every new page, be it a blog post or a landing page, will be newly indexed the next time a spider crawls through your website. If it contains unique local information that targets people within your geographical boundaries, Google will pick it up and give you brownie points as a prominent and actively participating local business.
Reach out to your customers either face-to-face, via email or on your social media pages to see if they would like to offer their testimonials or reviews. If you’re selling makeup, are you willing to tie-up with a local business selling fashion accessories. If you’re a homecook, are you collaborating with home cleaners, home delivery services, or other similarly complementing businesses.
- Optimizing your website and landing pages with geo-based keywords
It could be something as simple as tweaking your META title, description, page headers and content to include your location. For example, for a business selling used cars, just add ‘Best Priced Used Cars in Los Angeles’, ‘Quality Used Cars in Copenhagen’, or ‘Top Condition Used Cars in Singapore’.
The key is to find the right balance. Don’t overdo it or you’ll be facing a penalty for using gray or black hat tactics.
In your content, however, cleverly space out long-tail keywords (in a way that it makes sense and not forced) throughout the article and headers. Think like your customers: what do you think they will type into the Google search bar to find your business? List them down and intelligently use them in the article, content, and tags as you see fit.
For those who are unaware, you can use the free Google Keyword Tool to find variations of the same keyword so that you’ll have more room to wiggle.
Image credit: Image credit: Problogooster.com
- Write, announce, and promote local news and events. Read the tea leaves, minggle around, and search around for new things you think your customers are interested in. If something is happening around in your neighborhood, whether it directly benefits you or not, write or announce it. Call it fan service, customer service, or simply being the nice guy, it actually contributes towards your SERPs.
Business signals that are contributing towards your ranking and authority as published by Moz:
- Google My Business (25%)
- Links (16%)
- Reviews (15%)
- On-page SEO (14%)
- Behavorial (10%)
It will be great if you integrated Schema Markups into your website, landing pages, and blog posts. Marketers who are willing to put in the hours to source for and verify info and news bites for their clients/customers/fans/followers frequently will earn a badge for being a quality site.
The moment you get into the ‘good’ list on search engines, you’ll notice a significant rise in the number of organic traffic. Don’t believe me? It happened all the way back during Google’s Panda update when the search engine paid special attention to freshness of content.
- Regularly log into and post to your Google My Business profile, engage and update it. Updating your profile on GMB and providing it with the latest and most up-to-date information shows Google that you’re active in the real world and would like people who are using the search engine to look up stuff to find you. It’s as simple as that.
Engaging with people who review your products and services online, although nothing is written in stone here, also sends positive signals to the search engine. These are considered behavioral signals.
So, as you’re updating your followers and fans on your preferred social media networks, spend some time on Google Posts as well.
Take a look at the link here from Statista and you’ll see that the percentage of people searching up for stuff online on-the-go on Google has risen to 60%.
Image credit: Mobile share of search traffic by platform 2019
If you log into your Google My Business profile, you’ll see an option for ‘posts’ on the left side of the screen. The more posts you update to the business profile, the more active the search engine considers you to be.
At the point of writing this article (2020), posts will last for only 7 days. And then, like Snapchat or Instagram Stories, it disappears.
To me, this social feature attempts to replace the use of Google Plus (in a way) which, unfortunately, shuttered down in April 2019…much to the disappointment of people like me who viewed it positively as Google’s alternative social media platform. The jury is out about how the use of GMB Posts will affect your SERPs ranking but word is out that the earlier you adopt and use it, the better your pole position.
If you want more info on how GMB posts affect ranking, take a look at this study done by Search Engine Land.
- Answer your customers’ or target market’s questions. Google is always curious about the chatter in the cloakroom that it cannot hear. It, therefore, continues to pay heed to your needs and preferences by guessing and taking cues from you. I mean, why not? People are using the internet for everything from ‘how to write mother in Chinese?’ to ‘what’s in Mozzarella cheese?’
Spend a few hours on a week day doing nothing but scouring the internet for the most asked queries. And then answer them.
You might have noticed Featured Snippets (automatic answers coming up as what some people call Position Zero – above ranking number one) appearing on your search result page along with Q&A style answers/links (Schema Markups) when you’re performing a search on Google.
Google isn’t a charitable organization, obviously. It’s out there to make as much money out of the data they possess as possible. But it is still their ultimate goal to be the world’s biggest online resource, the go-to for accurate information about just about anything, in the world. Including what they CAN’T see….you and your business in the real world.
- Make your website mobile-friendly…NOW! The AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) roll-out was not a joke. As far as I know, Google was not taking it lightly. They hit the red alert button by giving everyone in the online marketing world time to digest and process the change in algorithm and then started slashing away at the SERPs mercilessly.
Websites or blogs that were not mobile-friendly lost their rankings almost overnight.
These mobile-friendly pages load faster, are friendlier to spiders, and are easy to use for those looking for information, answers, products, services, companies on their mobile devices.
As of 2018, 3.7 billion people use their mobile devices to search for anything and everything you can think of. My brother, in fact, just last night, bought a really huge fresh-out-of-the-sea fish for a family dinner from a local seafood seller, online.
And 3.7 billion people, by the way, is more than half of the world’s current population.
As much as I would like to think of this quick guide or checklist as complete, no list will ever be comprehensive enough when it comes to SEO and digital marketing. Things are changing around even as you’re reading this.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my years of online marketing, it’s this – the earlier you get on the train, the more you learn and the better your position will be.
So, if you’ve not started using Google My Business to promote your local business no matter where it is, get started now.
Marsha Maung is a professional copywriter, digital marketing consultant, SEO specialist, and social media strategist with 20 years of experience. You can find more nuggets of information on her website/blog or her social media pages. The world is a small place but let’s make it smaller!