The coronavirus pandemic has swept the world and changed our economic outlook, lifestyles and society in a matter of weeks. For proof, look no further than the webinar we recorded in partnership with local search thought leaders Localogy on March 12, “Helping Small Businesses Win Locally in 2020.” At the time, we didn't know the impact the pandemic would have on small businesses everywhere. But while our webinar was not originally focused on the coronavirus, we can't help but see it through that lense now.
For your small business to succeed in the coronavirus economy, you need the right solutions to help you stay ahead of the curve. At Web.com, we want you to weather the current crisis and come out the other side stronger and more committed to your business goals than ever.
The tactics outlined in our webinar and in the summary below are perhaps even more relevant now that the economy is shifting so heavily to an online focus. You'll learn about the importance of a modern website, leveraging social media and taking advantage of the latest tech and analytics. Use our tips to help your business succeed locally during the ongoing crisis and after it has passed.
There are generally at least two ways your customers find your business in a local search: they either find your website or your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Organic search evolves quickly, so being aware of the factors that inform your ranking helps ensure your business is found when it matters most.
So what informs the local search ranking for your website and your GMB listing? No one can say for sure. However, through study and experimentation, we can get a fairly good sense of the most important factors.
Below are graphs created by Moz that detail what factors influence Website and GMB rankings for local searches:
Interestingly, the same eight factors are in play for both the listing and the website. Additionally, Google My Business Signals, Link Signals and On-Page Signals carry a lot of weight for both.
So what do these charts tell us? If you want your local business to win in search rankings, you need to make sure that you’re Google My Business Listing is up to date and that your website is optimized while delivering an excellent experience.
Quick Tip: go to business.google.com/create to claim or create a listing. Go to business.google.com/manage to manage a listing you already control. Also, consider downloading the Google My Business App in Google Play for Android or the App Store for iPhone and iPad for the same capabilities on mobile.
Optimize Your Website for Local Search
A modern website is built for search engines as much as it is for customers. Here, we break down six factors that make a modern website:
1. A Modern Website Is Mobile-Friendly
More and more consumers are using their mobile devices to shop and explore the web, which means your website should be easy to read on those devices.
Search engines like Google understand that users prefer website designs that are responsive on mobile devices. That's why they introduced their mobile-first index in 2019. What this means is that websites that are responsive on mobile devices will receive ranking priority versus websites that aren't. It also means that moving forward, only websites that are mobile-friendly will be indexed.
2. A Modern Website Is Easy to Navigate (for Users and Search Engines)
What do you want customers to do when they land on your website? Do you want them to go to your products and services pages, your gallery or your contact page? Whatever your preference, you need to make sure your site is easy to navigate.
Creating links to these pages may seem obvious, but something that’s easy to overlook is whether search engines like Google can crawl your website.
An XML sitemap ensures that search engine crawlers like Google read and index every page of your website, and it’s something that all web designers need to be aware of. Fortunately, many modern website builders automatically generate XML sitemaps, giving you peace of mind that your website can be found in a local search.
3. A Modern Website Has Relevant Copy
“Who are you? What do you offer? How do I do business with you?” These are the types of questions you want to make sure you answer when customers come to your website. Some good call-to-action statements such as “Contact us” or “See our portfolio” can also be effective.
Ideally, you have the bandwidth for a blog, a resource section or a fleshed-out frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. It’s worth bearing in mind that the more questions you answer on your website, the likelier you are to rank for related search queries.
4. A Modern Website Has Eye-Catching Imagery
This was true in the early days of the World Wide Web and it’s true now. A high-resolution logo and imagery are as important for your brand as it is for customer experience. The key visuals on your landing pages tell customers whether they’ve landed on the right page.
Ideally, you have high-quality pictures you captured yourself or with help from a professional photographer. However, you can still achieve great results with stock images.
Just make sure you have the rights to the images you use. There are millions of images that are public domain, but if you still struggle to find what you need, consider a service like Shutterstock. Many website builders also give you access to high-quality images.
5. A Modern Website Loads Quickly
Speaking of images, you’ll want to make sure the images on your website are uploaded with some form of compression. Image size affects load speed, which is an essential factor for user experience and rankings in Google.
There are numerous free website speed tests you can use online. One of the most trusted ones is Web.dev, which happens to be backed by Google. If your site has issues with load speed, this test will tell you what's slowing it down and provide suggestions for resolving the issues. Web.dev also scans your site for other accessibility and SEO issues, making it something you’ll want to run at least once.
6. A Modern Website Provides a Secure Experience
Creating a secure experience is a change that Google and other internet giants like Mozilla placed a great emphasis on these past few years. These companies want to ensure that their users enjoy a secure internet experience, and the best way to do that is to ensure that the websites they drive traffic to have an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate encrypts information that is sent from the server to your computer, blocking ill-meaning actors from intercepting and changing the information that you see on your computer.
If you’re building a new website, you’re in luck. Most website builders include an SSL certificate that is installed as soon as you publish your website for the first time.
If you already have a website but don’t have an SSL certificate installed, this should be at the top of your priority list. If your website provider doesn't offer SSL, then you should consider finding a new provider.
Getting people to visit your website and learn about your local business is great, but it’s not always the most convenient or frictionless method for starting conversations with potential customers in your target area. When we use the term ‘friction’ in marketing, we’re referring to how much effort it takes your audience to complete the action you want them to take.
Two of our favorites for local businesses are the Call Now and Message Us call-to-action buttons on Facebook. These buttons allow your audience to start a conversation with your business directly from Facebook, bypassing the process of loading your website, hunting for a contact us section, and manually filling out their information or dialing your phone number.
Combined with Facebook’s powerful location and persona targeting, these call-to-action options can help your local business turn more local impressions into conversations.
You can’t know how effective your website, online listings and social media presence are if you don’t have analytics resources set up. And while many online website builders provide some tools, it’s also worth setting up Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google My Business.
Google Analytics, in particular, can provide you with data concerning where your website traffic is coming from, down to the country, state and city level. You can also break down what channels are driving traffic to your website, differentiating volume and behaviors from organic search, social media or specific directories.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console provides search traffic data specific to Google Search, telling you what keyword phrases customers are using to find your website. It also offers valuable tools you can use to manage your presence in Google. The following is a quick breakdown of some of these tools:
Coverage - tells you if any of your pages have errors preventing them from being indexed in Google and what those errors are.
Links - tells you what pages link back to your website as well as the anchor text that is used to create those links. You can also disavow certain links if you think the source is spammy and potentially harmful to your reputation.
New tools are added to Google Search Console all the time. Some of the newest tools that are in their beta phase help you run speed and mobile-friendly tests on your webpages among other helpful features, making it a must-have for all website owners who care about their presence in Google.
Google My Business
Google My Business includes analytics tools from the same dashboard you use to manage the details of your listing. It can provide helpful insights into what search terms customers are using to find your listing, as well as data regarding how people interact with your listing, informing you how many users click-to-call, ask for directions to your business, engage with your photos and more.
Watch our webinar to learn more about the topics covered in this article. The solutions outlined above are relevant to almost all local businesses, especially during the coronavirus crisis. Up-to-date listings, a modern website, a social media strategy and a good grasp on your analytics empower your small business to succeed online.