You know, back in like 2013 I thought to myself “damn, there’s no real competition on local SEO, I bet in 5 years it’s going to be crazy competitive”.
Yet here we are. The year is 2020, an orange man is president, and local SEO STILL looks like this:
If you’ve ever used Google in like the last 7 years to do a search for a local service, accountants, lawyers, cleaning services, catering services, restaurants, car shops, marketing agencies, etc, you may have noticed the flow of results looks something like this.
- Sponsored ads
- Google+ Business Listings (local SEO)
- Organic search results (traditional SEO)
If you only get one thing out of this article, let it be this. Your Google+ listing shows up before your website. It is the single most important asset used to help people find your business.
It blows my mind how little effort and attention people put into their Google+ listing. Not only does it show up first (aka it drives more traffic) than organic listings, but it highlights your reviews, your website, your hours, how to get to your business, and even a click to call button, straight from the search page.
Here’s how to hack and optimize your local SEO to dominate the local listings.
Reviews Are King
Reviews are king of local SEO. To rank for the #1 spot in San Francisco for accountants I don’t need a fancy website with tons of backlinks and onsite meta optimization.
All I need (basically) is 30 reviews with a 5 star rating, and BOOM. I’m not only am I now the highest rated accounting firm in SF, but I rank above everyone else in Google.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do in order to easily drive millions in revenue for an accounting firm in San Francisco. Talk to your friends and your clients, do some good work, do some free work, and get 30 people to leave you a 5 star review.
It blows my mind how many businesses/industry in LARGE cities completely ignore local SEO. In San Francisco you could easily rank for the following:
- #1 “business lawyer” with only 37 reviews
- #1 “catering company” with only 28 reviews
- #1 “marketing agency” with only 15 reviews
- #1 “cleaning company” with only 39 reviews
- #1 “auto insurance agency” with only 39 reviews
- #1 “brazilian jiu jitsu gym” with only 26 reviews
The list goes on and on. San Francisco is not a special snowflake. There are SO many industries, in so many cities, that pay almost no attention to their Google+ listing and its impact on local SEO.
The main factor that causes your listing to rank is reviews. Get more reviews than your competitors, and you will get the majority of the traffic/business from search.
After your total quantity of reviews and average rating, the next most important factor in where you show up is the location of your listing.
When I search for a local business, Google will try to match me with ones that are closest to me. That means if you want your listing to rank first, you need to have it be located as close to your customers as possible.
Location matters for brick and mortar companies, but it might be even more important for businesses that DON’T have a physical presence. If I run a cleaning company I may not have a store front so I might operate out of my house or a low cost area, but that isn’t where I should put my business address.
Spend that $50-$100 a month for coworking space and put your address as close as possible to your customers. This will give you a HUGE advantage over every other company that is competing on search.
Location and reviews are probably the two most important parts to how you rank locally, but the keywords both your listing AND reviews will matter a ton.
The keywords in your business name/title will play a big factor. If I run a gym called “Koby Jiu Jitsu”, I want to have a title of “Koby Jiu Jitsu | San Francisco BJJ”.
The more keywords in your business name that relate to the service people are searching for, the better. If you don’t have search related keywords in your name, for example if you’re a law office called “Arnold Johnson & Associates”, make sure your add on keywords on your title and it isn’t simply your business name.
It also matters what people say in their reviews. Someone take someone who says:
“5 Stars! Great job, love these guys, will come again” – John Smith
Awesome, a nice 5 star review, but it’s not as good as someone who SAYS what they used you for.
“5 Stars! Arnold was the best business lawyer I could have asked for. Not only did he help me set up my operating agreement, but he helped protect my company from liability so when an unhappy client tried to litigate and take us to court, we were easily protected.” – John Smith
Having the keywords you want to rank for in the review, will help you rank for people who are searching for related services.
Don’t Get Yourself Banned
Great so you understand why you should get good reviews, you understand the impact they have on local search, and you know what your listing/reviews should be saying.
Don’t go out tomorrow and get 30 reviews in one day.
Don’t get all of your reviews in the same location from the same IP.
Google will ban your listing if they think you are trying to game the system. Personally I think this is kind of dumb, they want you to get reviews, but they don’t want you to “go get” reviews.
What this means is that if they think you are getting reviews in unathentic methods, you will get in trouble. So don’t go from having 0 reviews to 30 within 24 hours. Space it out. Talk to a couple friends or clients every other day so they come in spaced out every ~48-72 hours.
Don’t set up an ipad in your office or restaurant where people sign in to give you a review. Have people go home and do it in their own space. Google can tell “where” people are when they leave you a review.
The best way to do this is to set up a systematic approach to cultivate reviews. In my cleaning company days it went something like this.
- Phone call to client. Where you happy with our service?
- No? Shoot. How can we fix it?
- Yes? Awesome. Would you mind leaving us a Google+ review? *shows how to do it* You’ll get a $25 refund on your bill for helping us out. 🙂
Boom it’s that easy. Hardly any businesses are doing it, yet taking care of your Google+ listing is one of the highest ROI activities small local businesses can do.
Not only will you gain a massive new source of revenue from the local search, but you now get to tout to the world that “We’re the #1 XYZ business in our city!”.
Combine that with some Facebook display ads for killer branding and go make a shit ton of money.