Have you ever played the game “Who Am I?” It can be a lot of fun! But would you play it with your customers and hope they figure out your name, address or phone number? Not fun! If you have a local business, you may be doing this without realizing it.
According to Google, more than half of internet searches have “Local Intent.” This means that the person conducting the search is expecting their need to be fulfilled locally. Google works hard to understand when a search has local intent and biases local businesses in the search results. If you are a local business, here are 4 reasons that is important to you:
- 93% of people research online prior to making a purchase
- 1 in 3 searches on a smartphone occur right before consumers visit a store
- 70% of mobile searches call a business directly from search results
- Your probability of being displayed near the top of the search rankings drops significantly when your local citations disagree about your name, address and phone number
If you are a small business, there are two important takeaways from this. The first is that your probability of success increases significantly when you show up in local search. The second is that you probably want to understand what a citation is and why it is important.
Citations are the center of the Who Am I game
Anytime someone makes a reference (or cites) your business online with name, address and phone number, you have a citation. As a general rule, when those citations agree on your name, address and phone number, you rank much higher in Google search. Examples of citation sources are Yellowpages and Yelp. But there are thousands of citation sources, most of which you have never heard of.
Google ranks sure bets over probable bets. If you have ever sent a friend a little farther to find a sure bet ATM over a probable bet ATM that is closer, you have behaved the same as Google. For Google to maintain their massive market share, they have to delight web searchers with accurate and relevant results. If the citations aren’t sure who you are, then Google isn’t sure who you are – and won’t rank you high.
When your citations disagree, you are forcing Google to play the Who Am I game, and you lose.
Every good drama needs a tragic hero
A tragic hero will be found in any good drama. Today, ours is Security State Bank & Trust. They are a bank that recently opened a branch next to our office. The bank is a great bank based out of Fredericksburg, Texas. They pride themselves on a personal touch that uniquely meets the needs of the local community through relationships. A great hero indeed!
The tragedy is that nobody can find them on Google Maps. Finding them in broader Google search is also challenging.
Citations can be like clutter in the closet
Just as a closet collects and stores stuff, the internet collects and stores information. The problem is that when information changes, the outdated information clutters the internet like that polyester leisure suite in the back of the closet. It is important to go through and clean out the clutter.
Our tragic hero has a very cluttered internet closet. We decided to look at them as a case study and see just how cluttered things get. We searched on the address to see what businesses were listed. Then we searched on the phone number to see what businesses were listed. We found 6 different business names!
- Hill Country Urgent Care
- Texas Hills Urgent Care Center
- Artistry Homes
- Artistry Builders Designers
- Omni Bank
- Security State Bank & Trust (our hero)
If the success of your business hinged on giving accurate referrals for local banks, would you refer this bank, or one of the 9 other banks in a one-mile radius that have more accurate information? That is the case for Google. Since their success hinges on providing accurate information, they rank the other 9 banks above our hero’s bank.
We went to the bank’s website and discovered that their own website is adding to the confusion. Instead of using the correct abbreviation for suite (Ste.), they dropped the “e” and used St. For a directory based explicitly on accurate information, there is a world of difference between “Ste.” and “St.” The Who Am I game is getting harder. Amidst so much confusion, Google ranks the other bank websites over our hero’s website.
Spring cleaning on the internet
Spring cleaning is a great concept because it provides a schedule for keeping things neat and tidy. If you want to benefit from the 70% of people who call a business directly from a mobile search, then you need to tidy up your internet presence. This is part of what is included in a Local SEO service contract. A Local SEO Service makes sure your website clearly and accurately states who you are, what you do, and how to find you using language that Google clearly understands. Then the Local SEO makes sure the citations agree with your website.
Some businesses want to do this themselves. If that is you, then you should start with the following 5 citations – these are the most important.
- Google+ / Google My Business Places
- Neustar / Localeze
We’ve found that most clients have never heard of the last 4. Interestingly, these 4 are the main citations that most others, like Yellowpages and Yelp, use to verify their information. All need to be cleaned up – starting with the citations listed above.
Escaping the Who Am I game
As we said, when you make Google play “Who Am I?”, you lose. Here is a winning strategy for your local business:
- Start by cleaning up your Google+ / Google My Business Places pages. If you don’t have one, create one.
- Claim and correct your listings in the following citation sources:
- Neustar / Localeze
- If you aren’t listed in those, get yourself listed.
- Use a tool like Whitespark to identify other citation sources.
- Claim and correct your listings in as many citation sources as you can.
Making these changes will have a significant impact on your search rankings. There are some other things you need a Local SEO to do on your website as well, but those efforts won’t go very far without clean and accurate citations.
Stay the course! It takes up to 6 months for updates to trickle through the citation ecosystem. Be patient and keep working on the right things. Making sure Google knows who you are, where you are located, and how to contact you is an important element to win in local search.
If you would rather leave it up to the pros, then consider one of the Local SEO Packages from allies4me.