Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Business Website Essentials


Telling a small business owner to “assume the perspective of your customer” is one of those classics easier said than done problems. It’s not for lack of trying, but owning a small business isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. And when you put that level of passion and commitment into something, your unique familiarity with it can be tough to shake.

Yet this is the simplest way to quickly optimize your website. By deeply considering your customer’s perspective and buying journey, we can make decisions that put everything in the right place for the customer to easily and quickly complete their interaction with your business and maybe even leave a nice review to boot.

While it’s absolutely essential to have each of these elements be part of your website, the specifics of their presentation need to be in consideration by your specific customer demographics. Most notably will be the difference between the information on an online store, where the priority is to drive sales, versus a traditional brick and mortar business, where the priority is to get them to visit you.


The must-haves

Contact information

Much of your web traffic will be coming from customers looking to use your website as a tool to communicate with you. Whether by email, phone, or in person, the information that helps them accomplish this needs to be a top priority. Placing an easily found “contact us” link in the top right corner of your website is never a bad move. But if your customers aren’t web-savvy, consider putting your address, phone number, and hours of operation right on the home page. Additionally, if your business location is a little off the beaten path, consider using a map application on your website to help people better understand your location.

Product information

This is a growing priority for small businesses online, as a huge number of searches now happen on mobile with the intent of “in the moment” product research, sometimes even in-store. This means that the more specific information you can have online about what you sell, the better. This may even lead to customer conversions while they are in a competitor’s store.

Keeping an up-to-date and functional product catalog online can be a lot of work, but it is most certainly worthy of consideration given the potential value. This is particularly important if your demographic skews younger and more web-savvy.

Business description

Give a quick, easy-to-find snapshot of your business and history available for people interested in learning a little more about you. Keep in mind, if people are looking at this part of your website, they are likely close to buying. Make sure you put in a little marketing effort here to help seal the deal. Make it concise but include things like business history, location, relevant achievements, and philosophy. It’s also not a bad idea to include customer testimonials if you have them.

Quicklinks to social channels

Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all great tools to help foster a direct line of communication between your business and its biggest fans. Your website should prioritize getting those follows and likes as easy as possible by installing a quick link widget into the footer or header of your website. That way, no matter where your customer goes on the site they are always one click away from connecting with you on Social.

Content/media

It’s becoming more and more common to see small businesses feature active content strategies and it’s easy to see why:

  1. Content is authentic – No one likes being sold to, and content is a great way for a business to build a relationship while leaving the hard sell on the shelf.
  2. Content is made for local – A good content strategy can help a business establish itself as grounded in its local area through authentic stories that are for and about their community.
  3. Content is hyper-targeted – Based on how you answered the first three questions your website, at least a little, is likely targeting customers at a specific part of the sales funnel. Having a fully realized content strategy allows you to add balance to your site. For example, if your site is designed to drive new sales, perhaps the content can be targeted toward customer retention by adding value to those people already in the fold.

Easy content strategy win = how-to videos

These can be extremely effective and easy to produce. Plus, creating how-to videos gives you the platform to demonstrate your expertise. Double-win if it’s related to your business.


Putting it all together with design

When considering design and layout, it’s completely appropriate to look at it as an opportunity to infuse some of your business’s personality into your website’s look and feel. But heed this warning: design is where it’s most critical to consider the customer’s perspective. Too often small business owners create a website that works perfectly for themselves while failing to consider how it will work for their customers.

Here are two top-level considerations when choosing a design.

Mobile functionality is king

This has to be top of mind at every stage of design. While most modern design templates are mobile functional, it’s worth taking a second look at the ones that do it best. And if you haven’t updated your website since the inception of the smartphone, you might want to think about a redesign.

Keep it simple

You may have noticed that this article really pushes the need for priorities. With that in mind, consider putting only the most crucial information on the home page. Your home page must include easy links to contact info, product info, and business description. After that, it becomes really dependent on your goals and objectives. But when considering the perspective of your customer, oftentimes less is more.

Build for speed

By keeping things simple and prioritizing mobile functionality you are likely also building for speed. But this point is critical enough that it bears repeating. Your site needs to be fast! According to a study from Forrester Consulting, 40% of shoppers will wait no longer than 3 seconds of load time before abandoning a retail website. As well, Google uses load time as a factor in determining your search rank so a slow site might even be keeping customers from finding you when they look online.


Final thoughts

All in all, it’s a pretty swell time to be building a website for your business. Hosting is cost-effective and secure, design templates have never looked nicer, and there is plenty of great content out there to help guide you through the process. But if you are ever curious if your website is serving you well, just follow this tip from Kevin Lao at Google: take out your phone, pull up your site, and ask yourself “do you like what you see?” Now go to your closest competitor’s site and ask yourself the same question. Your answer will tell you all you need to know.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

What are Listings and Why Do They Matter?

 


Listings are an online summary of essential information for your business that serves as a powerful tool to help customers find you online and in real life. Here’s what you need to know:

NAP+W

No, we didn’t fall asleep on the keyboard. NAP+W is the acronym that explains all the information that should be included in business listings.

Name
Address
Phone number
+
Website

These four pieces of information are the business listings starter pack. They provide the basic information potential customers need to have in order to research, contact and locate your business.

Want to score some major bonus points? Include information like hours of operation in business listings—it’s what consumers are most interested in!


Will my listings work?

The effectiveness of a business listing depends on the information’s presence and accuracy. Listings are available through a variety of sources, including search engines, online directories, maps, or social sites. When it comes to listings presence, more is definitely better. Availability of as many sources as possible will create multiple avenues for consumers to find your business. But (and this is a big but), presence only pays off if the listings are accurate. Listings are accurate if the information is correct and consistent across all potential sources. Seems easy enough, right?


Why are listings important?

Listings with good presence and accuracy will undoubtedly pay off for your business. Here’s how:

No more hide and seek

Just as the brightly lit bat signal guides everyone’s favorite caped crusader (that’s right Superman, we said it!), accurate and readily available listings will help guide consumers right to your business’s doorsteps.

They even have similar shapes. Coincidence? We think not…

If a business’s listing is incorrect or missing, the majority of consumers will feel less confident about the brand, likely leading them to choose a competitor’s product or service. The availability of accurate listings ensures customers are actually able to find brick and mortar locations while they’re open for business. This means the money in the business owner’s pocket and, just as importantly, it means the business can be reviewed.

“In my humble opinion…”

An ample review pipeline is an essential tool for developing a business’ online reputation and fostering brand loyalty. Reviews allow customers to communicate their experience with a business to potential buyers, but if consumers can’t find a business listed online, their opinion of it won’t be well-informed. Accurate listings create the opportunity for transparency between businesses and consumers in the form of reviews, and the availability of this information will help increase a business’s visibility.

All aboard the search engine

Consistent, accurate listings and the generation of reviews will directly benefit a business’s visibility by boosting its ranking in local search engine results. Search engine optimization is a complex tool, so why not take advantage of it by simply ensuring your business is listed accurately! Increased visibility means more customers, and what business owner doesn’t want that?


Now what?

This listing low-down provides a basic definition and describes the benefits of business listings. Create listings on sites worth lots of points to improve your listings score. We’ve ranked them by importance using a lot of key factors—how many sites reference them, traffic, demographics, and more.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Get Listed on the Local Search “Big Four”



You may not be aware of it now, but it’s likely that your business has suffered at the hands of incorrect business listings.

And as a customer, I’m sure you know from experience the impact it can have. To put it bluntly, when someone is trying to buy a product or service and an incorrect listing makes that process more challenging, that customer will waste no time finding another place to spend their hard-earned money.

Don’t let your customers lose out on business because of incorrect listings—claim and correct them instead!


Out with the old, in with the new

As you are probably aware phone books are starting to corner the doorstop and firestarter market. As tech-savvy generations age and account for larger percentages of our population, target customers are continuing to shift further away from paper and toward digital. 63% of people under 40 never use phone books to find local listings. This means having your business listed online is critical to tapping into a huge demographic of potential customers in the up-and-coming 80-million Millennial generation.


The Internet’s hottest spots

With 85% of consumers browsing online to find your business, it’s more important than ever to be showing present and accurate NAP (name, address, phone number) data in the internet’s hottest spots. For this article, we will narrow our focus to “The Big Four”: Bing, Yelp, YellowPages, and Google. These four listing hubs account for 85% of all search traffic and provide businesses with access to 314 million monthly users, these are the listings you want to be claimed, corrected, and working in your favor for free.

(1) Bing

Bing is a big up-and-comer in the digital world. This engine now accounts for 30% of all searches performed online. That’s a huge amount of traffic for local consumers looking for your business. Accessible from Bing Places, getting a business online is as easy as one, two, three!

(2) Yelp

Traditionally known as a review platform, Yelp has evolved into a one-stop-shop for your businesses to manage information and reviews, as well as post photos, promotions, and events for your customers all under the roof of one little listing. Yelp is a huge draw to businesses because it has so much to offer and so much traffic! With up to 36.3 million monthly users looking for reputable and trustworthy businesses, wouldn’t it be great to get found on Yelp? Get started now.

(3) YellowPages

Aptly named for its predecessor, YellowPages (or YP as we more affectionately know it) has taken over where the original Yellow Pages left off. With a built-in user base from its paper days, YellowPages has already wormed its way into customers' hearts and become a reliable source for listing information. On top of all that, YP has some of the highest US local search numbers in the game, making it the perfect place for your business to get found online. Get started here and get YellowPages working for those local businesses of yours!

(4) Google

“Just Google it” has become a common phrase in most of our daily lives, so it should come as no surprise that its listing source, Google My Business, makes our Big Four. Unique to the other three, Google’s demographic reaches far beyond the female decision-makers, 45+ age group, and $60,000+ income earners using Bing, Yelp, and YellowPages. In fact, part of Google My Business’ draw is that its listings are seen by everyone who uses Google. With up to 175 million monthly users across every demographic, that’s a pretty big draw.

Not only does Google My Business get you found in searches, but on Google Maps as well! Accounting for 78% of mobile travel usage, if your business isn’t on found on Google My Business, there’s a good chance it’s not getting found in real life either. Don’t send customers driving around in circles; get your businesses on Google my Business now.


Accuracy really is everything

Now that we’ve talked about where to be listed online, let’s talk about how your business information should be listed online—100% accurately! Customers trust Bing, Yelp, YellowPages, and Google to give them the correct information they need to find the business they’re looking for, and when the information is incorrect, customers lose major trust in the brand. Not only can inaccurate business listings and inconsistent NAP data diminish your brand, but did you know it can also affect search engine optimization (SEO)? Yep, you read that right! Listings with false location information are the #1 negative local ranking factor when it comes to SEO. So, not only can false listing data make it hard for customers to find you physically, but online, too.

As you can very well see, being present and being accurate where it matters most in online listings is crucial to survival in today’s dog-eat-dog digital world.

Critical Data For Online Business Listings

Listings for local SEO

If you want to rank well in local search, you need consistent NAP data, website, hours, and more across all major listing directories. This is essential for search engines to validate you as a credible local business.

The more accurate and consistent data there is about your business across the web, the more search engines will trust the validity of the business. And the more the search engines trust the business, the higher they will rank in local SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

According to Moz in their 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, 13% of professionals list citation signals as the most important element in the Local Pack Ranking factor.

 

local listing factors

Moz, 2017


What’s in an online business listing?

The information contained in business listings can vary across verticals and directories—but some key pieces of information hold true across them all.

NAP Data

The most crucial data held in a business listing is the NAP data-name, address, and phone number information. NAP data is critical for the online visibility of any business, and every listing source contains this information for the businesses listed. Having correct NAP data ensures that not only will consumers find your business online, but that consumers will also have accurate, up-to-date information on how to contact you.

NAP data is also important for search engines like Google to display your business in geo-targeted searches. If someone is searching for “good seafood” in the Boston area, the local Boston seafood places with correct NAP data will appear. Of course, Google gives search ranking priority to businesses with correct NAP data—how else are they supposed to tell where you are, what you do, and if you’re even a legitimate business at all?

The stats

Consumers are looking for your business! What exactly are they looking for?

  • 53% of mobile searchers are looking for directions
  • 50% are looking for business addresses

Think with Google

Despite the importance of accurate NAP data, our data shows that many businesses are failing even at this basic step into the world of listings.

  • 86% of businesses have either missing or incorrect company name information listed across all listings sources
  • 72% of businesses have either missing or incorrect address information listed across all listings sources
  • 71% of businesses have either missing or incorrect phone number information listed across all listings sources

Data were taken from the 140,000+ local businesses in our system

Hours of Operation

One of the most important details about your business to include besides NAP data is the hours of operation. When a consumer is searching for their business (or their goods/services), they have high purchase intent and are likely searching for an immediate need.

The consumer will likely visit a business after the business is shown as “open” on their Google search.

hours of operation

If your business has no hours listed, the consumer would have to go out of their way to find out whether you’re open or closed from their website or a phone call. Or, worse yet, they drive to visit your business and find that you’re closed! Now they’re not only inconvenienced by not knowing your business hours, but they’re also upset for wasting their time. Let the negative reviews commence!

If your competitor has their business hours listed, they’ll likely capture that consumer. People just want their needs fulfilled—they’d be happy to spend their money at a business that has their hours correctly listed if they were coming in-store to make the purchase.

The stats

  • 73% of purchases that result from mobile searches happen within the same day, and most (63%) within a few hours
  • 76% of consumers report that they expected hours of operation information when conducting a search
  • Over 60% of consumers find that knowing the business hours helps them make their purchase decision

Localeze, 2015

Consumers are often looking to make purchases the same day that they’re searching, so make sure they know your store is open when they go looking!

Websites

Does your business have a central “hub” of information to direct users to online? Throw that website link into your business listings. Consumers will often travel from Google search into a business website to get a feel for the business and learn more about what they’re offering. So obviously, including a link to your website is important for their online presence.

The stats

  • 93% of businesses have either missing or incorrect website information listed across all listings sources
  • Only 7% of businesses have their website information correct across all listing sources
  • Nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website (Clutch)

website accuracy

Website accuracy by industry

If a user can find your website, they’ll get a better impression of your business, and likely have a more positive experience. With nearly half of small businesses not having a website, you can make your business stand out on the SERP by including your website data in the listing information.

Other listing information to include

Depending on your business vertical, there may be other pieces of information important for you to include in their online business listings.

  • Payment methods
  • Services
  • Brands
  • Holiday hours
  • Photos
  • Social profiles
  • And more!

The more information you include across all listing sources and directories, the easier it will be for consumers to find your business and purchase your products and/or services.

6 Reasons Your Local Business Listings Need to Be Accurate

 


As a business, how likely is it that potential customers will come through your door?
The whole point of an online presence is to entice customers into your store, your leasing office, or your showroom so you can convert them to paying customers rather than just browsers online.

Further, nothing is more frustrating as a customer than finding out that you have been given the wrong information about where a business is located. As a customer, how likely are you to give this company your business? Not very. In fact, according to Placeable, 73% of consumers stated that they lose trust in a brand when the online listing shows incorrect information.


1. Missing hours of operation information can be a dealbreaker

There are many things that people look for in listings, whether they are looking at that search engine on a PC or on a mobile device. The top piece of information that most people look for is the hours of operation since their search is likely for a business that they frequent quite often.

In fact, in a study conducted by local data aggregator Localeze, hours of operation were noted as the most helpful feature in selecting a business during the local search. 76% of respondents reported that they expect this information when searching and 61% believe that it is a feature that helps them to select a business.

Even if people are new to a business, it doesn’t give people a good impression if the business hours are not listed and they don’t know that it’s only open from 11 a.m-to 6p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.Imagine that potential customer who is ready to spend their money in-store, but shows up on Monday at 7 p.m. only to find it closed. That customer is likely going to do another search on a mobile phone to find a different store and spend their money there.


2. You can’t spell NAP data (and score a citation) without an (address)

While most people would assume that the number one reason people do a search online is for the address or location of a business, the address is actually behind hours of operation as the second most desired information. But, of course, the whole point of being in business is to make money doing what you love or selling what you love. And that happens by attracting foot traffic and increasing the customer base.

It bears repeating that if a business address is incorrect on listing sites such as Google or Bing, then customers will not be crossing the threshold. A simple thing such as the wrong number on a street address, or even the wrong town, can mean that a customer cannot find you. The US Postal Service relies on a complex system of checks to verify and standardize addresses, and many search engines will default to the USPS for correct mailing addresses.

What this means for the average new business owner is that unless a business is in an established location, getting the correct address on their listing means that both the address from City Hall and the information on USPS must be consistent. If USPS doesn’t recognize that address, then a business owner must contact them to verify their new address and get that information updated on USPS’s online database.


3. Local searchers are mobile creatures

According to Localeze, mobile-phone-based searches drive in-store purchases with more than 75% of searches ending in a purchase—if a business has its listing details correct. Now if half of the people searching for a business listing on a local search engine, such as Google Local/Maps, can’t find the store’s business listing details, then the business is going to lose 100% of their business.

For ease of use for potential customers, some of those details need to be as readily available as possible in a mobile-friendly manner. This can be accomplished with a responsive website that supports cellphone and tablet-specific versions.


4. Updated, accurate websites still serve as a first impression

At the same time, more than 60% of searches on PC platforms such as website portals, Internet Yellow Page directories and local sites have a similar chance of ending in a purchase. While mobile searches are becoming more of a standard in where a customer searches, a business owner should not discount the power of a fulsome, consistent and accurate listing that is reflective of the business website.

Any listing should be linked to the business’s website and feature the exact same information, but more of it. While a website should be enough to entice a customer to visit or buy, if those inconsistencies exist, then trust issues may arise in a business’s practices before a customer ever crosses their threshold.


5. Local searchers mix it up across multiple devices, situations, and times

People who search for listings are doing it in many more ways than when the Internet first coalesced into existence about two decades ago. In that time, we went from working on desktops to laptops to PDAs to Blackberries to Apples to tablets—and in each iteration, the methods of search have changed.

However, that has slowed over the last five years or so as web developers realize that they need to be smarter. Rather than designing three different sites for three different platforms, they have created websites that are scalable to the search device. And that has been helped along by the proliferation of types of devices in use every day.

According to Pew Research Center, In 2015, smartphone ownership in America was at 68%, with tablet and computer ownership at 45%. Statista says that almost half of American adults use their smartphones the most to search for local information online, the other half being split between computers (40%) and tablets (11%). According to Localeze, like the types of devices used, what we are searching for varies by the time of day and device. Entertainment is searched for during work hours on computers, restaurants during the evening using phones, and health/fitness evening using tablets.

The most important part of those mobile searches is accuracy. If someone cannot find your business in a local search or find inaccurate results whilst out and about, then your business has lost the chance for that browser to become a customer. So having those listings correct in all of the device formats is a must as we, and our technology, continue to evolve in the way we interact with local businesses.


6. Local search results are trusted sources of information

Last but certainly not least is the fact that local search results are considered the most trustworthy. In a study by Neustar, it was determined that these searches, such as “used games Raleigh”, are what people do the most since they put that trust in local businesses more than big box, big website stores.

Think about it, would you rather find a local store where you can get that latest purse in town right now? Or you can wait a week for delivery, which is four days past the event that you want it for! Local searches lend themselves to instant gratification and that interaction between browser and salesperson will convert that browser from someone who might get just the minimum to a loyal customer who feels like a million having spent a little more, but getting what they consider to be gold!

Those interactions are what lead people to local searches and the absolute necessity of getting your listings correct. Trust leads to loyalty, which leads to more business, which leads to happy customers and business owners.

And it all starts with that correct listing in that customer’s local search.


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