Working on a political campaign for a couple of years, I heard the oft quoted phrase “All politics is local.” more times than I can count. I think it applies to search as well.
Obviously, local search isn’t everything. There is a national market for many businesses. Deep Ripples is an Indianapolis search marketing company but we certainly don’t limit ourselves to the local market. However, most small businesses are attempting to focus on a specific town, city, state, or community. Since small business makes up the bulk of business as a whole, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that optimizing for local search should be a priority for the small business owner.
Local search optimization will involve many of the same strategies and tactics of general SEO, things like making your website search engine friendly and getting plenty of quality, inbound links, but there are a few more that are important for local search. I’ll only point out one in this short post: what are curated links?
Customer reviews are carrying more and more weight these days with the search engines. While there may not overwhelmingly conclusive evidence, there is strong consensus that having more reviews makes a difference. Of course, reviews have always mattered to humans, and they will certainly be swayed by the nature of the review, both its quality and its conclusion, but the search engine will be less concerned. By that I mean, what words the reviewer uses will influence what reviews get displayed, the engine doesn’t seem to promote businesses based on merit.
Mike Ramsey is a local search marketing expert in Idaho ( follow him @niftymarketing ) that has a great list of basic strategies for using and dealing with online reviews.
Do not fabricate fake reviews. Lying online can be fatal for a business. Don’t do it. It will bite you in the end.
Look at every review about your business found on the search engines. However, I recommend not obsessing about the bad ones. Take them seriously, learn, respond, and move on. DO NOT get involved in an argument or encourage others to do it on your behalf. It will not help.
Find a way to thank those who have left reviews. Reward but don’t pay for reviews.
Find out which sites reviews are gathered from. See the original blog post for helpful info about this point.
Choose a few sites to promote. Base this on the info from the previous point but suffice it to say you might want to emphasize starting with Google.
Come up with a campaign that fosters legitimate feedback. Make it easy for your customers to know what to do. While it makes sense to create a campaign, I would encourage it as ongoing best practice. Make it part of your normal follow-up with clients and customers. Also, if you do a campaign, try to avoid getting a ton of reviews during a short period of time. I don’t know that this has any effect on the search engine but it does look a little funny to the humans.
(Taken from Extremely Nifty Guide To Reviews And Local Search)
Reviews are extremely helpful, both for improving organic search engine rankings as well as influencing human searchers. These basic strategy tips will help. It is worth the time and effort, especially for local businesses, even if takes a phone call to get each review.
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