We spend a lot of time talking about rankings, but rankings are a means to an end.
Rankings matter because they help you play the numbers game better. More eyeballs on your GMB listing or your site make it easier to get more customers. Improving visibility helps no matter what, which is why those of us who are in the digital marketing industry can really kind of get stuck on ranking factors. Even a bad business with a mediocre web presence can certainly get more leads if they can only get more traffic. Seems simple enough.
Of course we want to pay attention to rankings. Nobody’s discounting that.
But it’s very easy to get focused on those sort of cut-and-dried ranking factors when what you really want to be doing is taking a more holistic view, one that positions you both to rank and to win when you do. One that positions you to win new business when someone does finally find you.
Here are the things you need to be doing.
You need to communicate with your customers.
Here’s what a lot of people forget about web presence.
It’s not just a way to advertise at your customers. It’s a way of communicating with them. It’s a way of helping them understand, and quite quickly, things you have to offer that they might care about, that might keep them safe, or that might make their lives a little bit easier.
It’s very easy to get caught up in on whether you’re showing up for this or that keyword, but if your customers can’t find out what they really know about your business when they actually find you then you could miss out on a great deal of business you might not otherwise get.
For example, here is a tale of two plumbing companies.
Plumbing company #1 understands that, especially in the middle of a pandemic, a lot of customers don’t want to mess around with in-person estimates. They might not want to call someone out to their house until they know that the job is going to be anywhere near their budget. Every person they come into contact with is at risk in the middle of a pandemic.
They’ve used their empathy to say you know what, yes, we’ll help keep you safe by providing online estimates. Then they’ve communicated that fact using Google attributes.
Plumber Company B has not done this.
Guess who is going to get the business?
Plumber A is not ranking as well as some other plumbers. It’s #10 on my personalized Map Pak. Yet a customer doing a casual scan down that page is going to give them some serious attention, because they’re the first one with that little green checkmark communicating the fact that they’re out to make the customer’s lives a little easier and safer.
Use Google My Business Attributes to Your Advantage
GMB attributes are a relatively new feature, but you have but to enable the appropriate ones to offer some really vital information up front and center where your customers will see it.
When you go to edit attributes you’ll see the ones most likely to apply to your business category. Here’s the options for a local fence company.
Every attribute that applies to your business should absolutely be checked. Even this plumber here could be doing a better job with these. One hopes their staff wears masks, so that needs to be checked, for example.
- Accessibility options for physical locations, such as “wheelchair accessible.”
- Activity options like “boats for rent,” or “game room.”
- Amenity options like “airport shuttle” or “dogs allowed.”
- Crowd options like “family friendly” or “LGBT-friendly.”
- Lodging options like “extended stay.”
- Dining options like “delivery,” “takeout,” or “pay ahead.”
- Highlight options like “karaoke nights” or “play area for kids.”
- About-the-owner attribute like “women-owned” or “Black-owned.”
- Service options like “assembly service,” or “hair perms.”
- Languages spoken options like “Spanish” or “Vietnamese.”
- Payment options like “cash-only” or “checks accepted.”
- Planning options like “reservations required” or “accepting new patients.”
You can find the pre-suggested attributes, but you can also search your business on Google while logged into the console. You’ll find an option that says “Keep customers up to date: answer a few questions.” This will allow you to get even more attributes added simply by answering.
Update your website with the information your customers care about.
Are you even open right now? Can customers do business with you at all? Inquiring minds want to know.
Sure, we won’t always be in the middle of a pandemic which means you might not always need a Covid-19 alert.
Yet even after this pandemic passes, you might want to alert customers to a few other things.
Like…are video appointments available? A lot of us have gotten used to not having to commute around all over the place to get things done. Some of us might want to continue doing that. Will your business make it possible?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you’ve done anything to make life easier for them then make sure they know that.
Give some energy and attention to what your customers ask you, and create content around it.
Anyone who has been in any kind of sales for more than 20 minutes knows that there are something like 15 to 20 questions that customers ask constantly. That’s the core of your content.
There’s also all those things you wish your customers knew but which they don’t know. Those things that would make their life easier and your life easier.
Then there’s all those questions that show up on “People also ask.”
You can find some great questions on Quora and Reddit, too.
All of these questions, and their subsequent answer, should form the core of your content. Do you need a blog to offer up that content? Well, maybe, maybe not. A blog sort of obligates you to keep sticking all sorts of content on your site on some sort of schedule whether that content is particularly needful or not. For local businesses like plumbers, roofers, painters, lawyers, accountants, etc., a blog is often a time-and-money sink.
Instead, you can often add this kind of content to your service pages, or create a learning center, or a FAQ, or use some combination of all three. That way, the content grows as it needs to grow. It grows as you uncover more customer questions and answer them. You don’t force it or fill up your site with content just to do it, but you don’t skimp on telling your customers a single thing they want to know, either.
You need to focus on getting feedback from your customers.
Reviews account for 14% of your visibility. No reviews? Bad news.
Reviews also account for a customer’s ability to trust in your business. They even populate answers for Q&As. That is, if Joe Customer goes to write a question into the Q&A Google’s going to try to pull an answer from the reviews first, long before they even post it.
Sweet. This business probably isn’t going to give anyone the plague while trying to fix the sink.
You need a solid review management strategy, a sold review generation strategy, and someone whose job it is to answer reviews because what you don’t want is reviews that are sitting around without a personalized reply from someone at the business who cares about what customers have to say.
You need a web presence that deserves to get attention.
I’m just going to come right out and say it. Some businesses just do not deserve to have any part of their web presence rank and will not deserve it until they get their act together (or start working with someone who will get their act together for them).
Do you have 50 pages on your website with a different city name on them that all say the same thing?
Have you avoided claiming or filling out your GMB profile?
Have you neglected to put any real photographs on your website or GMB page?
Is it painfully evident that the last time you posted an update people were still going to conferences, concerts, and conventions?
Are you doing absolutely anything of worth that would make it make sense to give you a backlink? This can include participating in your community, providing reporters with quotes to help them complete their stories, supporting other businesses, conduct original research, or offer tools on your site?
Yes, there are of course no-brainer links that can be built, but when you’ve exhausted the low-hanging fruit it sometimes takes some action on the part of the business to get traction going.
If your web presence, not just your website, but your web presence, is failing to provide customers with the answers they need from you then guess what? It doesn’t deserve to rank. Moreover, Google knows it, too. If you as a business owner aren’t willing to engage or participate and hope that some quick-and-dirty link builder can just kind of guest blog you to the top then your business probably doesn’t deserve to rank, because you’re not putting in the work where it matters.
This is especially true if you live in a competitive city or work in a competitive industry.
Obviously helping you create a web presence that deserves to rank is a big part of the SEO professional’s job, but an SEO can do the job a heck of a lot better if you, the business owner, stay involved and engaged, recognizing that you are, at the very least, going to have to provide some assets or some information to make that process possible.
You need to focus your attention on creating a business that deserves to stand out.
If your business doesn’t take care of its customers then SEO is ultimately just a whole lot of putting lipstick on pigs.
Here’s where reviews come in again, because they’re full of valuable opportunities for your company to improve.
Here’s a local plumber that might want to re-examine its pricing structure. Sure, nobody likes paying more than they have to, but they specifically have quite a few reviews that indicate they aren’t doing a good job in this area.
Maybe they need to drop the 4% fee. Maybe their guys need to take a little more time on the job to ensure they’re doing the job correctly. Maybe not. Yet they certainly do need to be aware that their customers feel they have issues in this area. Something’s not going well with their monetary optics here. Worth examining.
If they aren’t going to lower their prices then maybe they need to look at ways to increase value or professionalism so that their customers feel like they’re getting good service for the money.
We live in an era where car companies will concierge-deliver to doors. There are companies out there who have consistently worked hard to provide a 5-star customer experience every time. They put people first wherever possible. If your company isn’t doing the same then it’s time to rethink a little bit.
Maybe even look back to those attributions for some ideas, if you’re not getting enough ideas from your reviews. They tell you what customers care about.
For example. Do you offer a service guarantee today? That’s an attribute. No? Why not? Could you? What would it take to make that a reality? Don’t offer online estimates now? How come your competitors can and you can’t? Are you sure you can’t? What would it take for you to be able to do so? Really give it some thought.
Always be improving your business. Always.
You need to make it easy to do business with your company.
Is it possible to dial your number with click-to-call?
Is it possible to order online without dealing with a human being at all? Or schedule an appointment online? Or pay online?
Are you coy about your pricing? Do you realize how many people you’re chasing off by being elusive, simply because many people are not going to risk talking to you if they don’t know right from the outset that they can afford your services?
Can customers chat with a representative on your website? If they message you through GMB are they going to get a reply?
The easier you make things for your customers, the more business you’re likely to get. You need to make those conveniences obvious, accessible, and simple. You need to be thinking about the kind of experience the customer is going to have when they work with you.
Where trust goes, rankings follow.
All of these pointers really boil down to one thing.
You need to be looking for every opportunity to build a trustworthy business and every opportunity to communicate that trustworthiness. If you can do that then you’re likely to start seeing your visibility in the local pack go up.
You’re likely to get a lot more phone calls, too.
It’s not easy. It requires you to get out of the quick fix mindset. It requires you to abandon the mindset that you can remain uninvolved with your marketing process if you only hire the right SEO company. You want one that will talk to you and ask to talk to you though, because otherwise they’re just going to waste your time and you’ll miss opportunities you could have seized.
If you come across as trustworthy, are trustworthy, and communicate well then you’re going to be a hard business to beat. If you aren’t then you’re going to be a hard business to promote, even with all the SEO tricks in the world behind you.
What will you do to make your business and its subsequent web presence better, more accessible, more approachable, and more useful in 2021?
Inquiring minds really do want to know.