Chances are, even if you do nothing, your business will likely appear on search engines and review sites.
So you might be asking yourself:
“Why should I care about business listings?”
That’s a great question.
Say you just learned that your town has a new eatery called Juno’s Delicatessen. You don’t know much about it, other than the general location, and you decide to look for more information online. What do you do?
I can tell you what I’d do. I’d go straight to Google, type in ‘Juno’s Delicatessen Santa Barbara’, and see what popped up.
Even when the website is known, it’s not uncommon for users to search by keyword or business name instead of going direct. That’s because search engines make it so easy to find the local businesses we are looking for!
This is why you should care about business listings.
Think about how users are finding your business. If they use Bing or Google to search your business name, does a business listing appear next to the search results?
If not, proactively creating your business listing will help your audience find you when they search for your name and location! Did you know that 50% of Google searches are from people looking for local businesses? And get this: 50% of those searches result in a call to a business that same day.
If so, is your URL included so they can get to your branded website? Are the photos listed for your business accurate and appealing? Are your hours and contact information correct?
What if they aren’t familiar with your business specifically, but instead are using search terms like ‘wine tasting’, ‘vineyard’, or ‘cabernet sauvignon’ in your neighborhood? Will they find you in the top results?
Here’s the reality:
The search provider wants to meet the user’s needs, so they are going to prioritize the results based on information accuracy — collected from multiple data points — and the frequency with which similar searches provided relevant results for similar seekers.
The more information you provide to these platforms, the more likely your customer is to find you when using them.
Simply existing on the platform isn’t enough. Here’s how to elevate your listing.
Get your free checklist to optimize your business listing on the most popular platforms.
Improve SEO and help customers find you!
The basics: Verification, contact info & hours
If you’ve been in business for a while now, crawlers have probably already indexed your business information and designed a listing for you. It may just need to be verified, or is waiting for you to optimize it.
If you are a brand new business, you can kick-start your marketing by initiating business listings yourself. This way web crawlers start searching for you sooner, and customers can find you faster!
The first step is verification.
This is how you can unlock full access to the listing.
Verification is done. Now what?
Next stop: accurate contact information. Start with a NAPU: your Business Name, Address (with the pin on the visual map in the correct place), Phone Number and URL.
Be sure you use your exact business name and not a variant of it. This could hurt search engine discovery and should be consistent across the web. Look at the detail in this example.
- Correct: Appa’s Vineyard & Winery.
- Incorrect: Appa’s Tasting Room OR Appa’s Vineyard OR Appa’s Winery OR Appa’s Wine Tasting.
Given the rise of ‘Near Me’ searches, best practices suggest using your local number instead of toll-free. Whichever you use, make it consistent across your website and various business profiles on the web.
Don’t have a website? Use the link to the social media platform your brand is active on and can be reached through!
Don’t forget your business hours!
They are an important part of your business profile. If your office closes midday for a lunch break, you can account for that in your business hours online.
This is important because if a potential customer is looking up your business and the hours aren’t listed, they may go to the next recommendation on the list. By comparison, if hours are listed but the customer goes to your business and you are closed, they could report your closure to the referral site and impact your business information moving forward.
Some services will even send you texts and email reminders to add or update holiday hours automatically, making it easy to communicate upcoming changes to your schedule.
Elevate your listing: Going beyond the basics
Once you’ve got your foundation built, consider the following “Extra Credit” opportunities to further enhance your list and attract new guests!
A detailed business description
- A messaging option (either by email or SMS)
- Add labels, keywords and/or tags (each platform calls these something different, but they help customers find you when they use general search terms)
- Add photos of your exterior, interior, products and people
- List products (if applicable/available)
- Incorporate news and special offers
Consider photos, which are a huge part of consumer perception. As a verified profile manager, you can flag irrelevant photos for removal from your business, but you can’t really control unflattering photos.
There are certain criteria from which you can request a photo to be removed from your profile: content that is not relevant, poor quality photo, privacy concerns, sexually explicit, profane, regulated goods, copyright, illegal, hate speech, and harassment.
So if it’s a photo of your dirty bathroom, your request to remove it will likely be declined. The best thing to do is to upload your own relevant and appealing photos to the various profiles, and keep new content coming so the less desirable images aren’t prominently displayed.
Top of the class: Engagement & analytics
Finally, let’s talk about how to take your listing beyond basic communications and out to your potential audience. Discover how it’s the perfect tool to collect information.
Reviews & Engagement
Most listing sites have a review program or the ability to ask questions about the business. By verifying your listing you can streamline the management of these engagements by setting up email alerts to notify you when new customer comments or questions get added to your profile.
If a review is posted, respond and let them know you received it. Thank them for coming in, and welcome them back.
Some profiles also have a questions section where anyone can respond — not just the verified owner. It’s important to monitor these and interject if misinformation is being spread or to thank the users who answer correctly on your behalf.
A little bit of appreciation for a brand advocate goes a long way, and will hopefully encourage deeper advocacy and business support!
Each platform will have its own version of available analytics, but it’s a good idea to review your listing performance and identify any key takeaways that can better support your marketing efforts.
Google My Business will tell you how and where visitors found you and what actions they tool. It will also tell you what keywords were searched when users found your listing. Facebook Business Page will provide follower demographics, optimal times of day to post and on-page actions taken by visitors.
And if all else fails, just remember…
“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Whether you want it to be or not, your brand exists in places beyond your social media accounts and company website. It’s a big, big world out there, and as a small business, you want to do everything you can to stay in touch with it.
Megan DeCicco is the founder of Solutions On 2nd, LLC.
She has spent over a decade in marketing and local tourism, working directly with businesses, Chambers and DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) in Santa Barbara Wine Country. One of the most important lessons she has learned working with local shops, tasting rooms and restaurants is that as a small business – every dollar counts.
While there are a number of “free” tools out there for small business — from social media to search engine business listings — they require time to set up and maintain. If managing these tools falls to the very bottom of your growing “to-do” list each week, that’s where Solutions On 2nd comes in. It’s your vision and we can help!
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