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If you are a small business with a brick-and-mortar, it should be a no-brainer that you need to appear on Google. Being a mom-and-pop means that, for example, your cafe will struggle against large names: Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Second Cup, and so forth that control the authoritative space on Google, in terms of organic search engine optimization (SEO). So how can you beat the big guys? Get local! You don’t need to be an authority on Google to rank in local searches. You can be on the back, last pages of Google, but still appear in the top categories when someone is looking locally through map or “nearby” searches.

So, how does it work? We offer Local SEO Management, but if you have the time to manage it yourself, you certainly can. The most challenging part about mastering local SEO is the time, patience, and maintenance it requires. If you have the time to dedicate towards it, you will succeed. If you don’t have the time, well, you know who to ask!

The Index:
  • Authority - ranking on Google in organic searches. This is obtained over time, through producing and maintaining great content, having a modern website, and being a high traffic website.
  • Local - ranking on Google under maps or “nearby” or phone searches to people in the area, or looking in your specific area.
  • Organic search: ranking high on Google without paying
  • Paid search: ranking on Google by paying for ad space

Set up a Google Business Page
It’s not too difficult to set up your Google Business page, and best of all, it’s free! You need to enter your store name, the address, and contact information. Google will contact you to confirm that you are actually at the address and number you claim. If you are uncertain of your category, look what your competitors are using. Make sure your website is modern and encourages customers to remain on it. If a potential customers finds you through local SEO and lands on a poorly done or slowly-loading website, they are highly likely to back out and click the next link in the lineup. Don’t take that chance as Google tracks and measures bounce rate - make sure your website properly represents your business. You’ve invested a lot of time and money into your success, make sure that is properly showcased online.

Upload Content
Now, it’s time to launch and you need content. The best content to source is likely from your own website. Get the About Us section posted and decide if you need other pieces, as well. Pretend the customer is only going to read the Google Business page - can they understand what your business is all about just from that? If not, make it clear. If you do not have updated or relevant content, get writing. A Google Business page without content will not succeed in the searches.

Upload Photos
High quality photos are a must for your website and social media, and are also needed for your Google Business page. Post photos of the business space, products, staff members, or anything that is professionally relevant. Skip the Instagram-style life posts in favour of showcasing customer interactions. Show your barista making the latte, share a few approved photos of customers enjoying your sweet treats, and some nice close-ups of those sweet treats, too.

Source Testimonials
You need to source regular testimonials from clients, colleagues, or anyone who has visited your shop. Send out marketing e-mails or post on your social media outlets to try and garner them. This can prove difficult, as the individual rating your business needs a Google+ account and needs to be willing to invest their time and effort for no return. A few good ways to encourage reviews are to A) Wow your customers so much that they just need to write a review, B) Offer your clients at the cash register an instantly applied 10% off if they write the review right then and there (plus having them connect through your wifi is a great marketing opportunity, but that’s another story!), or C) Ask colleagues, friends and family who have been into your store to write them, but remind them to be genuine.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can just go onto Fiverr and buy a few of those reviews!” We absolutely do not recommend doing this. The quality of the reviews you receive through purchase are poor. They are often not well-written, nor do they provide potential customers any information about your business. It is obvious when a business’s page is entirely made up of purchased five-star reviews and will not benefit you in terms of attracting new customers who rely on these reviews to make a buying decision. Further, a business who has just launched on local SEO, or in general, would likely not have attracted 100+ skimpy reviews. You are better off getting 2 solid and legitimate reviews every month, than sourcing multiple fake reviews.

Post Promos
Whenever your place of business has a promotion, you often share it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all other social media outlets, and your Google Business page is no exception. Every time you post content to your website or social media outlets to run a promotion, also share it to your Google Business page. This will keep the content relevant and fresh, as well as inform Google that things are still happening around your business.

Regularly Update
All of these items listed above need to be updated regularly. If you are not performing monthly maintenance on your Google Business page, Google will soon consider it in-active and place active Google Business pages above yours in the ranking. This is one of the more challenging portion of running local SEO campaigns - you need to make sure you have regularly updated photos, content, promotions, and testimonials to succeed. But, isn’t the pay off worth it if you can rank above Starbucks locally?

Matching Information
This is listed at the bottom, because I want this to stick in your brain. The most important part of local SEO is that all your addresses online need to be in sync. You cannot have any mis-matched addresses.

If your website says that you are:

Coffee Break
123 Main Street
Toronto, ON
A0A 1B1

But your Google Business page says:

123 Main St.
Toronto, Ontario
A0A 1B1

Your Google Maps ranking will suffer and you will not rank. This is tedious work, but you must ensure that your business information is precise on all online resources - your Yelp page, your Facebook page, every portion of your website, and on.

Ranking locally is a great way to compete in busy spaces. Ranking in authority is a long, onerous process. While ranking locally still takes times and maintenance, you are more likely to rank locally first than on the authoritative space especially in a competitive market.

Posted by Samantha Lloyd

Samantha is the co-founder and CEO of DevoKit. When she isn't busy running around like an overly-organized and well-prepared chicken with its head cut off, she can be spotted reading the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time or pretending to have opinions about wine and cheese pairings (all cheese goes with all wine, let's be honest). Her goal is to encourage other women to explore their interests in technology and engineering fields.

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