If you are a small or medium-sized local business trying to get more customers in the door through your digital marketing campaign, you may be wondering what else you can do to increase footfall from your target market. What can you do to make sure you get even the slightest edge on your competitors?
You may have put together a great website with an effective and mobile-friendly SEO strategy to up the chances of your business being found in organic search, and kept up a great social media strategy to boost your online content and engage with customers.
You may even have employed the services of an inbound digital marketing agency to make sure this all runs as smoothly and effectively as possible. But what else can you do? How can you make sure your business gets that extra edge to make it stand out from other local businesses and bring customers to you?
Well, one great way is to embrace consumer citations. While your SEO may be great, ensuring you rank high in search, it is important to note that the likes of Google now increasingly look not only for the right content to offer online consumers, but for the right context for those consumers, aiming to provide the most relevant content to people based on their location. You need to ensure your business is the one that is not just found in search, but found within a specific area.
Organic visibility is boosted through citations – direct online mentions of a brand or business. Think reviews on consumer sites, mentions in community blogs, even social media shares and tags.
These mentions, whether on a blog or social media, are not only recognised and indexed by search engines, they are loved! Why? They serve to not only provide information the consumer wants about, for example, reputable laptop repair shops or quality cafés, but allow search engines to provide content about those businesses within a specific area, thus adding more value. A consumer looking for a tasty latte in Dublin is not going to be interested in reading about the best café in Helsinki, for example. What they want, while searching online for a recommendation, is to find mentions of the best cafes in Dublin.
This is where citations, and specifically customer reviews, play a major part. According to MOZ's Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results.
Getting positive reviews not only means a business can promote the fact across social media to generate further consumer engagement, it also serves to generate more customers because online consumers nowadays are hugely influenced by reviews when making a purchase decision.
A survey conducted by BrightLocal found that roughly 85% of consumers reported reading online reviews, with 67% reading six or fewer before they form an opinion about a given business. On top of that, 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Another survey conducted by Dimensional Research found that 90% of their respondents claimed that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions, while 86% had responded saying that negative reviews impacted their decisions. But a negative mention is still a mention, which boosts visibility, so in these cases it is only a matter of handling those bad reviews well by engaging and starting a conversation, rather than turning to dismay.
Never read your reviews? You should. They play a very important part in both search ranking and the consumer’s view of your business, and your reaction to these reviews can be the tipping point upon which they decide whether to choose you, or a rival.
Typically, by the time someone has started looking at reviews, they've already figured out their need/want, how a business might satisfy that need/want, and are then on the lookout for a business near them. This makes the gap between reading a review and making a purchase decision quite a small one, so good reviews and positive citations from consumers will have a big impact and can be hugely influential. A thumbs up can have a big hand in your success.
So how do you go about getting citations?
First, you need to make your own so that the vital information about your business can be shared when consumers mention it. Create a structured citation on your website, social media accounts and blog, and make sure it is maintained and is consistent across each. Include your company name, address, contact details, business hours, etc, and make this shareable. Keep it up to date – if you are going to be closed for a day, make sure this is shown on all citations. If you have a sale on, add it to all citations.
Not only will inaccurate or inconsistent details drive potential customers crazy, they will also lead to poor ranking as search engines faced with two conflicting pieces of information will pull both for fear of providing the wrong information, and therefore an unsatisfactory user experience, to consumers.
Respond to and engage with social media users who mention your business. It’s a simple concept and it shows you are engaged with your market, are personable, and are dedicated to treating each potential customer as a unique person whose needs you are ready to meet.
Create citations on review sites such as Yelp. Directory listings and listings at local business bureaus are other types of citations that Google and other major search engines pay attention to.
Instead of patting yourself on the back when you get a positive review or mention, scream it from the rooftops, providing a review section within your online content, and push these reviews out on social media.
As always, remember the user experience. If they find your content, that’s great. But make sure it is optimised with a user-friendly experience that is optimised for mobile – more people are using their smartphone to access online content than ever before, and if they are searching for a local business, they are more than likely on the go, using that hand-held device. Don’t discourage them with poor display or incompatible content, and make sure your content leads them to the right information that they need at that particular time.
Get your details out there, make them shareable, encourage reviews and promote those reviews and mentions through social media. The difference this will make to your visibility may not appear noticeable at first, but it is one great, easy way to gain that smallest of edges over competitors, and that is usually all it takes to enjoy business success.
Find out how we can help you create a great inbound marketing campaign that will increase traffic to your website and help generate leads that will grow your business.