So you started a brick and mortar business. Maybe you’re brand new or maybe you’ve been around for 30 years. You built a website to advertise your brick and mortar business. Of course, websites are magical and having one guarantees that you’ll retire to a beach someday.
Yeah. Not so much. How are people going to find you?
There are many options for enticing future customers to your business. You could hire one of those dancing human sign spinners. You could spend a huge chunk of money on a print advertising campaign that hits all the local areas. You could wish upon a star – it’s the holidays after all.
Image Courtesy of GetListed.org
Or you could make sure your business website is optimized for local search. Meaning if someone within 50 miles of you is searching for the type of product or service you offer, you’ll show up as part of the search engine results page. And not on page 567, because let’s face it, people rarely click past page 2 or 3 (I think I looked on a page 5 results page in March of 2007 when I was trying to find an obscure Duran Duran t-shirt, but that was an emergency situation).
So the $742 question is, how does a search engine know you’re local? There are a lot of different ways to clue each search platform in. Data aggregation, geotags, and social media uploads are some of the most popular.
Once upon a time, all you needed was an address – but this isn’t the case anymore. Being that anyone anywhere can say their business is at a certain address – and spam websites regularly do this – you need to verify your company address with data aggregators.
There are many aggregators out there that are regularly used by search engines to verify your business data, one of the most popular being Google Business Apps. After you go through the steps of setting up the account, you must then verify your business. All you have to do is click the “Verify my Business” button and an automated phone call will route to the business telephone number on your account, and you’ll be given a pin number to enter into the verification field – and viola, you’re a real business. At least according to the data aggregator you are. But don’t stop there – it’s important to verify your business with multiple aggregators to ensure that each of the most popular search engine sites will count you among the locals in your area.
There are free data aggregation services, such as Neustar Localeze , City Grid, Acxiom, and Factual. Each service has their own verification process to make sure you are who you say you are, which is why they are used by search engines to verify your business data.
For search engines that aren’t Google, it’s still effective to place a geo meta tag in the header section of your website. A geo meta tag relays your global position by inserting the latitude and longitude of your company. A great free website for this is MyGeoPosition.com. Just type in your street address, press “Calculate Geodata,” and then copy and paste the generated code into the header section of your website. If you have multiple business locations, place a different geo code on each individual locations page.
Social Media Uploads
Knowing when not to use geotags on your social media accounts are just as important as knowing when to use them. Geotags are also embedded into any image, video or media file you upload onto the Internet. It’s the equivalent of adding a unique numerical tracking code to everything single thing you post anywhere on the internet, which can either be good, or really, really bad. The additional information buried in the codes of your various forms of media, besides latitude and longitude, include the type of device that was used to capture it (phone, camera, tablet, etc.), the IP address, any programs used, and even the shutter speed. Geotagging websites such as Facebook Places, Flickr and Foursquare rely on this technology, but many people that don’t even know it exists.
Have you ever downloaded an image from the internet and used it on your website or social media account without proper citations, link backs, or image credits? That’s a no-no, and is a form of copyright infringement. Try and always use original images whenever possible, because search engines know whether or not you’re using authentic media, and authenticity is an important factor in search engine credibility. If you don’t have the resources to capture or create your own, stock photography can work great for most businesses.
If you own a local storefront or just focus your business on a local area, it’s always a good idea to translate this focus to your online efforts. If you only serve people in your own area, it does you no good to have people from New Zealand looking you up. Get your website optimized for local search and you’ll get more traffic from people who can actually do business with you.