Local SEO: Beyond the Rankings and on to the Sale
If you’re doing any local business marketing online, you probably spend some time seeing how you rank for certain keywords. Maybe you even try to figure out how you can jump from the number 5 position to number 1. There’s nothing wrong with checking in on the results of your local seo efforts. But if you’re not spending any time focusing on where you’re sending people once they view your local listing, then you’re losing out on the real goal of local business seo – the sale.
Local searchers deserve pre-sale information
Just because you sell primarily to a locally-based audience doesn’t give you an excuse to have a horrible looking website. In fact, having a horrible one may hurt you more than not having one at all. Poorly designed websites can make you look less trustworthy.
Even local customers will do research before they hop in the car and come to your business. They’ll probably want to research and compare you to others before they even call you. If you’re anything like me, you’d probably call a vendor that had a yellow page ad before one that just had a listing. Why? Because you had more info about the company that had the ad.
The same thing goes for local seo listings. While some sites let you have tons of info, the big daddy of them all, Google Places is cutting back on the info it allows you to show. So think of a Google Places page as the plain vanilla yellow page listing and your website like a full page yellow page ad. (Okay there are reviews which yellow page ads don’t have, but stick with me here.)
A real world example
A few months back I needed a car detailer, specifically one that could get rid of hard water spots. Figuring I might have to actually leave my car at the detailer’s location, I wanted to find one close to where I work. So I turned to a Google Places search. Here are the companies I found among the top 5 local listings at the time:
The main problem with Company A’s site is that it looks unfinished and therefore unprofessional, as if they don’t care. Plus the site has not been updated since 2009 so I may think they are no longer in business. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to continuously update your site but if you’re not going to, then leave off the dates. Makes sense right?
This site is much more professional than the one above. It has more of a traditional website (less blog-like) feel and tells me immediately how much I might pay. That’s what I’m looking for. But I’m also looking for information about hard water spot removal. So I go to click on “Menu Services” but it’s not clickable! None of the items in the top nav are clickable. What where they thinking?
This site has a professional feel. It’s clean (like I want my car to be); it feels like a reputable business. I don’t know for sure that it is; but if they company cares to be “dressed-well” on the web, it probably cares about its customers. There is lots of info, deals and pictures.
Okay, which one do you think I actually contacted? If you said Company C you would be correct. They had awesome reviews and that coupled with their professional online presence made me want to contact them, even though they were more expensive. Plus it was 10pm when I did my search so I had to email them to see if they could really take care of my problem. The next morning I had a reply and we emailed back and forth a few time as the service rep answered my questions about removing hard water deposits. He made me feel he knew what he was talking about. The company seemed big but personal.
Local SEO is about more than just the rankings
The take away is this: even if serve a very limited geographic area, people still want info on you before they visit you in person or pick up the phone. This is especially true if you are in a knowledge based profession such as medicine, insurance, accounting, legal or finance. You need a professional looking web presence, even if it’s just a few web pages, to answer people’s questions and make you look like the #1 expert even when you are listed fifth in the rankings.