Today, we have a guest post from Krystal Taing, the Business Listings Manager at RioSEO - a company that helps enterprise brands rank well and successfully market their businesses online.
This holiday season, whether via desktop, mobile, or voice-activated assistant, 80% of consumers will be using a search engine to find information about businesses in their local area. Sure, some will be shopping online, but 90% of annual local commerce -- an estimated $5 trillion -- still happens offline. And if last year’s early start to the shopping season is any indication, the time to prepare is now; in 2016, we saw major Black Friday sales starting the week before Thanksgiving.
Is your online presence accurate and optimized to appear as the best answer for local searchers’ immediate shopping, dining and other needs?
The opportunity is too great to miss; some retailers can generate 40% of their annual revenue during the holiday season (NRF). Most of the information in your Google Local listing--including your business name, address, phone number, website, work hours, customer reviews, photos, and map pin location--comes from your Google My Business page. Managing and optimizing your profile can earn you more traffic by improving your local ranking, helping you appear in more relevant search results, more often.
Remember, you’re not just preparing for your customers to convert online. Many customers research online for holiday purchases, then travel to brick and mortar stores to find the products there. In fact, for many consumers, smartphones have become a "door-to-the-store," and that is particularly true during the holidays. According to Google, 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day.
Google considers a number of factors to determine local rankings, including three leading parameters the search giant says it measures:
Information about your business is also collected from your reviews on Google as well as your citations and mentions across the web. As you’re preparing for the holiday season, run through this checklist to make sure your local presence on Google is optimized to win you business.
1. Improve your overall GMB account health with a deep cleaning.
Before traffic to your GMB listing ramps up with holiday shopper searches, it’s important that you clean up your duplicate listings and ownership conflicts. These are two of the most common issues that hinder location discoverability and searcher experience for enterprise brands.
2. Add special hours for holidays & events.
According to Google, listings with business hours get 13% more requests for driving directions and 42% more click throughs to their website. Hours often change over time as businesses respond to the market, or come under new ownership or management. With shoppers purchasing early and last-minute, it’s essential that you set your hours and check them twice. Special hours allows us to publish special hours for days at a time without overwriting your primary weekly hours on Google. If you’re planning special events, flash sales or the like, be prepared to make your updates.
3. Correct your NAP & maps data.
Correct your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) data across the local ecosystem to make sure it’s consistent and holiday ready. NAP consistency across local citations is a crucial SEO factor for small and enterprise businesses. This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are a few ways that local businesses can get it wrong and hurt their SEO. The first is having incorrect information in a citation. This can be from changing your phone number or address without letting directories know, inheriting someone else’s old phone number, pushing incorrect information through data aggregators, and many other scenarios.
When your local citations contain incorrect business information, search engines receive mixed signals, eroding their trust in your brand. Google strives to always provide the best possible information to consumers, so they don’t rank untrustworthy information highly. With Google’s User Suggested Updates, you’ll want to ensure incorrect data isn’t overwriting your information. Be sure to review these often.
Next, conduct a map pin audit. Can consumers find you easily when they click for directions in your listings? All listings for your business must use the exact same address. To help customers find (and then visit) your locations, make sure the name, address, and phone number are listed correctly on a proprietary website and across all platforms where the business is listed. If the details are incorrect or inconsistent, the location either won’t rank as high as it could for a specific location search, or it’ll confuse your customer, and that location loses out on a sale.
Having insight into your customer's’ brand interactions is invaluable, but they often happen outside your website and beyond the reach of traditional analytics. Google My Business Insights can roll up your location data for enterprise level corporate reporting, ROI analysis, measurement of the effectiveness of your brand on Google My Business and your customers' engagement with your location information.
4. Complete your listing and take advantage of the latest updates.
The Google My Business landscape is constantly changing in ways that affect both your business, and consumers’ ability to find it in their critical moments of need. Check out this Guide to Recent Google My Business Updates for everything you need to know about recent changes across several categories like Google Local Q&A, Google Posts, and Local Business URLs.
In addition to getting up to speed on the latest updates, make sure your listings are as complete and compelling as possible. Tell customers more about what you do, where you are, and when they can visit you. If you have high-resolution holiday-themed storefront photos, add them to your listings and optimize your image data! Businesses with images receive a 55% spike in “near me” search during Christmas and New Years. Not only do they show your goods and services, they can help you tell the story of your business and show potential customers that your business offers what they’re searching for.
5. Encourage Local Reviews
Finally, get social proof and word-of-mouth working for you online. Encourage local reviews and social check-ins from your customers by reminding them with in-store signage or prompts on receipts to review your business. You can approach them by email, providing a link to your Google My Business listing and asking them to share their good experience (or contact you if it wasn’t up to par, which can help prevent negative reviews, as well). We also recommend utilizing Google Local Guides to post reviews and photos of your business.
Google values social proof so the more positive reviews you have, the better. Your star rating is also displayed on the Local Pack map, which means a high rating can also improve your click-through rate from the SERPs. Reviews are a very powerful ranking signal, especially for “best” keyword queries. Google provides different local results for users searching for keyword variations of “best,” “awesome,” or “great.” Listings that have 4 or more review stars will likely dominate the local pack and the proximity filter will have less of an impact. This makes sense because most people are willing to drive further for a superior product/service. During the holidays customers will be search for “best toys,” so make sure this is part of your GMB checklist.
Hit the Ground Running Into the Holiday Season
With just weeks to go until Black Friday -- which Salesforce predicts will be the busiest digital shopping day in US history -- now is the time to get your locations up to snuff. Get found when it counts and give your holiday shoppers the best possible discovery experience by helping them seamlessly navigate their way from the SERPs to your door.
See a video discussion with Krystal on the topic of getting GMB ready for the holiday season here.