Even if you have a thorough understanding of the way that SEO works and have invested time and energy into developing an optimized online presence, there may be some massive problems with your small business’s online reputation. The biggest issues that arise in local search are generally in relation to inaccurate or inconsistent information. Identifying any weak spots in your online campaign will allow you to claim your solid reputation and high rankings.
If you have spent any time researching the issues surrounding local search, you have likely heard this acronym: NAP. Name, address, phone number. No matter what, your local listings must have consistent, accurate information in all three of these categories. Period. A recent study of local business listings revealed that 43% of businesses had either posted incorrect information in one of these three areas or they had completely failed to provide this essential data.
Why would a small business make this crucial error? The same study suggested that the primary types of business that made egregious mistakes in this area were insurance and real estate. Perhaps then this is an issue of dealing with independent agents that may have inconsistent or frequently changing addresses and phone numbers. However, without correct information, these businesses are hurting from low rankings by search engines.
Inaccurate or missing information is a fatal mistake because it breaks down the line of communication between the business and the consumer. Entering correct data is a simple, free step that small businesses can take that will at least ensure that potential customers can contact you.
Another devastating problem is not including the URL of your website on all of your local listings. Without a link to your site, a potential client may not be convinced of your reputation and will choose to take his business to your competitors. It is essential for small business to find ways to connect offline and online sales. A missing website address diminishes your chances of achieving conversions from local searchers.
Bad reviews are a huge problem for local businesses. One negative report, and you enter into a never-ending fight to suppress the criticism. Since local searchers rely on reviews to make informed decisions about their choices as a consumer, small businesses have to figure out ways to deal with bad press.
Unfortunately, once a review is posted, there is almost no chance of getting it removed. Instead, you must handle the problem proactively. If the report is posted on a site where you can respond directly, make a public display of responding to the complaints and righting any problems that you can. In addition, you can produce other pages of content about your business that are designed to rank highly on the SERPs in order to push the bad review down in the rankings.
I recently came across a fascinating article by Dragan Nikolic that offers a straightforward discussion of how to time your entry onto various aspects of local search. I would advise all small businesses that are on the cusp of starting to build an online presence to follow his suggestions on timing. To sum up the post, don’t be too hasty in claiming all of your listings. Be patient and create listings in the appropriate order so that you avoid producing duplicate content that will hurt your rankings.
What problems have you had with local search? Any other tips for fellow small business owners?
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