What’s the use of having a business phone number if no one is aware of its existence?
You could have the most memorable phone number anyone has ever seen, but if customers in the research phase can’t find it, you have a problem. So how do you think prospects and clients are going to find your number?
Will they walk to the other room and dust off a massive phone book? Probably not…
They will do a Google search.
The question is, does your business’s correct information show up when people do online searches for keywords that pertain to your business or even “branded” searches for your business name itself?
Surprisingly, a lot of companies fail to address some of the fundamental necessities of local SEO and lose staggering amounts of business to competitors as a result.
If you need help with your local search presence, you have two options:
1. Pay a consultant or agency a lot of money to fix the problem
2. Do it yourself, following the easy steps we’ve outlined below
How things should look
Starting out, you might want to take a look at a company that is doing things somewhat correctly.
Below is a screenshot of one of XO Communications “branded” searches from the day I wrote this post.
As you can see, in addition to the name, address and phone number, Google is showing a map, images, site links (the smaller links below the main result), reviews and more. The box that contains the business information is called a “OneBox”.
Furthermore, below is what is called a “broad search” (meaning a general search, for a type of business or product) for term, “telecom companies near me” in a general area.
These kind of search results affirm to your customers that you are an actual business and help them find you. If your competition has these and you don’t, read on.
The path to local search visibility
1. Set up Google My Business
Google My Business used to be called Google Places and is the main point where you can make changes to your business information in Google’s Knowledge Graph. Once you have entered in all of your information and fixed/ created your profile, Google will send you a postcard with a PIN for verification purposes. This can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. Once verified, your profile will go live.
2. Analyze your citations
Citations are online mentions of the business as an entity. In relation to local SEO, they are extremely important, as the algorithm uses them to figure out who, what and where you are. There are two different kinds: structured and unstructured. Both are valuable in their own way but your challenge has to do with structured.
When there are a multitude of conflicting structured citations out on the web, something called NAP (name, address, phone number) confusion happens. Examples would be your main phone number being associated with another name, your name associated with another address, etc.. Even deviations between abbreviations and other minor differences can hurt you (ie. NW, not North West; Blvd, not boulevard, etc..).
It’s super important to decide on one convention and then stick with it. Once you have made that determination, if it differs with what you entered into Google My Business, you’ll want to go change it there so everything is perfectly aligned.
The best way to see if you have citation conflicts is through a tool called Local Citation Finder, by Whitespark. Create an account and run a Business Search (as seen below) with your location, primary local phone number and business name.
Next, run searches for any secondary names and phone numbers.
Once the results have populated in the Your Search Results section, click on the little, pink + symbols next to each result to see whether or not the results match the name, address and phone number you have decided will be your primary.
If you see more than one phone number showing up in these results, you will need work on getting a higher ratio of accurate citations.
3. Build and sanitize your citations
The goal is to attain a higher percentage of accurate citations so Google’s algorithm is able feel confident that your information is accurate enough to publish on their search results. The way to do this is two pronged:
A. Build accurate citations with a data aggregator. There are services that allow you to enter your information and publish it uniformly across a multitude of third party sites with the push of a button. The best of these are Yext and Moz Local. Both are easy to use, effective and come with their own upsides: Moz Local is much less expensive and Yext is the most elegant and powerful aggregator on the market. Not only does it build new citations, it goes out and corrects erroneous NAP on third party sites automatically.
B. Manually fix the bad citations. This is a necessary evil in cases where you have a really high ratio of inaccurate citations, due to a rebrand or lack of coordination leading to multiple phone numbers publishing all over the place. You would again use the results generated by Whitespark and either claim your profile on each third party site and fix it or reach out to the webmaster and request a change.
4. Get positive reviews
Online reviews are an important quality signal to the local search algorithm. They populate into organic and SEM results (leading to higher conversion rates) and contribute to higher rankings (by increasing trust).
There are a lot of ways to get good reviews, but one of the most effective is by integrating Get 5 Stars into your email marketing strategy.
This service prompts existing clientele to give your service a simple star rating and if they respond positively, they are then redirected to a page asking them to give you a review on the review site(s) of your choice. If they respond negatively, they are redirected to a questionnaire asking what you did wrong and how you could improve customer experience.
This way, your happy clientele are leaving reviews and the less than happy ones are able to vent in a direction that doesn’t negatively impact your business.
Once these changes are made, keep in mind that it could possibly takes months to see lift. SEO is a marathon and not a sprint.
The items outlined above are more foundational issues. Once they are tied off, there are other things that can be done that will enable more visibility locally and nationally.
If you feel like you need more help, it might be wise to consult a local SEO expert. The costs you will incur pale in comparison to the ROMI you will receive back. Organic search results typically convert 16 times higher than paid channels and owning the top result on a search will yield you 33 to 40 percent of that keyword’s search traffic, as opposed to 16 percent for spot 2 or 6 percent for position 3.