They Said We Couldn’t Rank in Google Search

Such a silly thing; not being able to rank. Of course, we can! And so can you.

Small business owners routinely feel discouraged when it comes to SEO. The truth is, we’re all busy running our companies.

Most of us have less time, experience, and money to dedicate to SEO than the big guys. The good news is though is that we can rank in Google searches anyway because so much of Google is now proximity-based.

Here are three tips you can start applying right now to make a difference in your SEO.

1. Create Business Citations

Regularly manage citations (business profiles) on local business sites, including Google. These are websites that display your business profile to prospective customers, such as the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau.

In fact, there are just over 100 recognized citation sites in Canada and slightly more than that in the U.S.

Depending on your industry, there may be niche-specific citation opportunities as well. For example, hotels, restaurants, and other travel-related businesses will want to be on TripAdvisor. And, those in the healthcare industry will want to be on sites like HealthGrades.

How do citations help? Eighty-two percent of smartphone shoppers conduct “near me” searches. Search engines use local directories (or citations) to verify your location and determine if you are relevant to the searcher. That’s why getting the right citations is critical for local businesses. 

2. Stay on Top of “Google My Business”

This is the big one. When local customers search the internet for your products or services, it’s often your Google My Business Profile (GMB) they see. It’s how they get instant information about your location, hours, and directions. Follow these simple tips for making Google work for your local business.

  • Claim and update your profile. Be sure all your information is up-to-date, name, address, phone (NAP), including hours, description, the area served, the category of business and your website. Don’t forget to include photos, and update these regularly too. Consider giving clear answers to common customer questions. Note that you require a physical location to qualify.
  • “Respond” to all reviews. Your profile instantly shows reviews and a star-rating. Engaging with reviews increases the chance that readers will learn how you respond to positive and negative reviews, and gain insights into how their relationship might be with you. 
  • Encourage positive reviews. Even when you give great customer service, it’s often the one disgruntled customer that posts a review. But, keep in mind that providing incentives is against the rules and could get the review removed.
  • Embed or link a map on your contact page to help walk-in customers know where you are located. 

3. Be Engaging

It pays to build the right relationships online and offline that will drive people to link to your site and connect with you. These conversations often come with links to your site, even if marked as ‘no-follows’.

Engage in social media, at local events, and simply within your day-to-day activities. Here are two key places you can be engaged:

  • On social media: If someone mentions you in a social media post, build on that relationship. Once you get to know each other, asking them to link to you should be easy, if not automatic. You may want to use a social monitoring tool so you know what is being said about your business.  
  • With thought-leaders: Every industry has leaders. Engage them. Make a list of authoritative sites in your industry. These could be associations, publications, bloggers or people in related industries. How do you engage them? Ask them to be a guest writer on your blog, or to simply provide an interview about a recent news topic in your industry. Get on their radar as a reputable source for your industry. They are likely to return the favour in the future. 

The real SEO opportunities for most small businesses lie in being seen when people are looking for your services. A strategic citation strategy and engaging the right link sources are key to bumping up the local SERP.