Traditional marketing and advertising can cost a lot of money. If you’re a smaller, locally-owned business, you want to see a quick return on investment (ROI), which means you need to be where the majority of your potential or return customer will find you.
As of January 2020, there were 22.31 million internet users in Australia, 88% of the population. Of those 93% started their sessions with an internet search and 95% of those chose Google, which is why it is imperative that you optimise your online presence for local search. Businesses that fail to do this will have customers finding other providers before they find your business. Why? 75% of Google users won’t scroll past the first screen.
For many local business owners, things like local search engine optimisation (SEO) and website design are probably not where their expertise lies. Luckily, there a number of low-cost, easy-to-use local marketing tools that will simplify the process of taking your business online.
In this guide, we’ll outline five steps to crafting an online presence that will make your business stand out to customers and search engines alike.
Build a Website
This first one might be too obvious: if your business doesn’t have a website, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. Lucky for you, building a website for your business is super easy. You no longer need to have coding or design skills to build a slick, attractive website. There are a number of low-cost solutions like Wix, Squarespace, and Wordpress that will provide you with templates and editors to do it all yourself.
Before you get started, however, it’s important that you determine the purpose of your site. For plumbers, this is pretty straightforward and simple. It needs to accomplish two things:
It should be very informational in nature, with all your contact information and details on the products and services you offer; and
It needs to have an EASY and straightforward way for your potential customer to communicate with you, such as a quote request form and your phone number.
Choose a Domain Name (or ‘www’ address)
A businesses website is often referred to as its shopfront. And just like in the real world, if your business is hard to find, potential customers will probably move on to the next “shop”. That’s why it’s essential when securing your domain name that you make it simple and easy to remember.
Domain names are easy to register and cost around $20 per year to maintain. But before you pull the trigger, always do a search to see if it’s also available across social platforms. Using a consistent brand name across the internet will help your customers find you and only takes a few seconds.
Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
When developing content to populate your website you should identify keywords that are important to your industry or business. In its simplest terms: what are people going to type in a search engine when they are looking for a plumber? These searches would most likely be something like “Plumbers near me” or “gas fitting service in xyz city”. Whatever services you offer, make sure the associated keywords are on your website and Google listing.
Optimising your website goes beyond just keywords. There are a number of factors that make up Google’s local SEO algorithm. Businesses that want to be found should make sure their name, address, and phone number (commonly referred to as NAP) are consistent across all business listings (especially on Google and Facebook). For local businesses, updating and accurately listing your business is one of the easiest ways to improve local search rankings.
Claim Your Business Listings
Before the Internet, getting your business listed in all the right directories was much easier. Most businesses didn’t need to do anything except buy an ad in the local Yellow Pages, and maybe get listed in an industry-specific directory depending on the type of business they were in.
Now there are a seemingly endless number of online directories to choose from. Finding the right one can be difficult. We recommend you start by claiming your Google My Business listing, setting up a Facebook page, and making sure your info is all correct on your Find a Plumber profile on the MPAQ website (www.mpaq.com.au). There are a lot of sites out there so it’s also important to do some of your own research to make sure you’ve covered everything, but those three are absolutely necessary.
Once you’ve claimed or created your local business listings, it’s important to take the time to optimise them so that it’s attractive for both searchers and search engines alike. The first thing you should do is upload high-quality photos of your business. Photos are important because they help tell a visual story about your business. They let consumers see what it’s like to do business with you, so they know what to expect when you arrive.
Uploading pictures will also draw searchers in and encourage them to click through to your listing. According to Google, profiles with pictures see 42% more requests for driving directions from Maps and 35% more click-throughs to your website than businesses that don’t. Photos also help increase engagement. When uploading images, you should include pictures of your offices, branded fleet, team members, and, of course, your logo.
You should also take the time to update the hours of operation for your business. Not having accurate hours of operation can be frustrating to the consumer. This is especially true if they have a leak and need a plumber ASAP, only to find you’re closed.
Impressive photography can only get you so far. If your customer experience is underwhelming your reputation and Google Reviews will eventually reflect that. Today, it’s more important than ever to have a review management strategy in place to keep up with the competition.
Collect and Manage Online Reviews
In today’s digital age, social proof is more important than ever as many people will turn to social networks like Facebook and Google to learn from the experience of others and see where their money will be best spent. So, next time you complete a job well done, ask the customer to leave a review and help your business.
Online reviews provide businesses with the dual benefit of boosting your local SEO ranking while also helping build trust and credibility with consumers. This makes it easier for consumers to find your business and impacts their buying decisions.
Why does an optimised online presence matter?
Traditional marketing and advertising are still an effective means of getting the word out about your business, but it isn’t enough. To take your business to the next level, you also need to emphasize your online presence and reputation. Doing so will pay huge dividends down the road. If you want to turn browsers into buyers, customers must be able to find, connect, and support your business.
Article written for Master Plumbers Australia and New Zealand by Daniel Carroll, Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia