Nowadays, customers are starting their decision-making process earlier than ever, and it is often in places where companies may not be officially represented, such as forums, social communities, blogs, etc. According to a recent shopper study, conducted by Synchrony Financial (formerly GE Capital Retail Finance), people are thinking more carefully before making a purchase in store and nearly 80% of consumers research online before buying a product. The survey also found that nearly 60% of the people are asking their friends, family, and colleagues for advice before taking a decision and 40% checked online reviews before making a purchase. The results confirm that first impressions of the brand and the company are occurring on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engine result pages. Moreover, if customers don’t find a particular business in the search engines, social media might be another touch point that they might encounter on their decision journey.
The growth of communications media has created an environment where there is no longer a universal marketing channel to reach every audience. Very few people nowadays only watch TV, listen to radio, read newspapers, or only use the Internet. So to stay competitive, companies, in particular local businesses, need to integrate offline and online marketing tactics. Thus, they will not only benefit from the increased reach, but also strengthen their marketing message on the multiple channels that people use.
Although Google still says that they don’t use social signals directly for ranking, the well-managed social media handles have a great impact on business visibility as a way to drive visitors and traffic to a company website. Back in 2014 Matt Cutts from Google explained in this video that Google treats social media posts like any other web pages for search. Matt made it clear that there is a correlation between the increase in ranking and increase in social media shares rather than causation and the quality of the content is what drives people to share in, link to it, and visit a website. We can conclude that if the business gets good traffic from social media it will contribute to improving the site ranking in SERPs (search engine result pages) based on traffic signals. One of the prominent trends we’re observing in SEO for 2016 that will most definitely continue in the next years, is that more social media content is being indexed on search engines. Successful local businesses have to stay on top of trends, so it’s no surprise that local owners must embrace this SEO trend and utilize social media in their marketing and SEO strategies.
Here are our 9 suggestions to help you boost your local SEO with social media:
#1 Use the right social media
New social media platforms and apps seem to pop up faster than you can say your business name, but that doesn’t mean that local businesses need to create an online profile for each social media. Many local businesses fail to maintain an effective social media presence as it is time-consuming and challenging to acquire the complete knowledge of the social site. Thus, it is important to participate on the platforms that will generate the most relevant and qualified traffic, both online and offline.
For example, if you are a beauty salon you can take advantage of Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can share before and after photos, pictures of new styling products, or upcoming deals with your followers. However, if you are a health care provider you better do not waste your time on Pinterest or Instagram and focus on Twitter, YouTube, blogs and health discussion forums. There you can provide medical information, raise awareness about a disease, show your expertise on a topic and build trust, engage with patients, caregivers, and colleagues.
Knowing what you want to achieve on social media can help you define a strategy to choose the right social media platforms to attain your business goals. A few ideas that can help you decide which social media channel to be active on:
- Track down where your customers are on social media by sending them a survey via email, ask them in person or over the phone. To find your potential fans you can also check social audience statistics provided by authoritative sources. Here is a good collection of interesting social stats for 2016 created by Brandwatch.
- Do some research on which channels your competitors are and how they are using social.
- Consider the social networks types, their characteristics and does a particular platform make sense for your content. For example, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr are image-based networks. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine work for video content. LinkedIn is a business-focused platform, while Facebook is a personal network, where people usually go to relax and catch up with friends. Live-streaming and news sharing are the main characteristics of Twitter. Foursquare and Skout are location-based networks.
Once you figure out the right social media channel for your business make sure to let your clients know where to find you. Social media stickers, window clings, and decals that say “Like Us on Facebook”, “Follow Us on Twitter”, “Find Us On Foursquare” or “Review Us On …” are a great way to quickly increase your social following and reach a highly targeted audience that you can market to. Also, add your social media handle to promotional emails that you sent to current clients.
#2 Use keywords in your social profiles
Make a list of the most relevant keywords to your business and then include them in your social media profile name, descriptions, page categories, or subcategories. For example, if you have a Facebook page, note that local businesses appear in Facebook search under Places. Thus, use your keywords in the subcategory. Take a look at this example where we searched for used cars in New Jersey:
#3 Keep in mind the NAP consistency
After creating your social media accounts, include your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) in them. Ensure it is consistent with the contact information on your website and your business listings across local directories. Using different variations of your NAP can confuse not only your customers but also search engines.
#4 Use user-generated content
Ask your customers to take a picture, record a video or write a review while using your service or products and tag the posts with your business name when they share them to social channels. Then pull the tagged user-generated content and utilize it for your site. Regarding the SEO and the website traffic, users’ comments and reviews can be a source of long-tail search queries including color variations, sizes, models, or specific uses. Although, long-tail keywords will drive less traffic to your site in comparison to generic terms, the traffic will be more focused and visitors might be more interested in your products and services. Moreover, long-tail and geo-targeted keywords offer local businesses better chances for getting first page rankings.
To save time and resource use widgets such as this Instagram plugin for WordPress to add this kind of content on your site and show your tagged photos in the sidebar of your website.
You can encourage current clients to generate content by running promotions and contests. For example, set up a contest for your fans to leave a review on your Facebook page or submit photos with your products to Instagram or Twitter by using a specific hashtag for a chance to win a prize. The viral effect will drive new exposure to your local business.
These marketing methods can help you boost your brand awareness, increase user-engagement both on your social media profiles and website, and improve your website traffic.
#5 Use hashtags in your marketing strategy
Nowadays, people are using social media as search engines. For example, Facebook sees 2 billion searches per day and Twitter serves approximately 1.6 billion queries per day. Local businesses should think of hashtags as keywords, therefore it is important to use a handful of hashtags relevant to their businesses. Using relevant hashtags can improve your business visibility.
It is a good practice to use both specific and generic hashtags, too. Broad and trending hashtags can help you increase online brand visibility. Specific hashtags might feature your name and location. You can also use product and brand hashtags in your posts if your local store sells particular products. Create unique hashtags that incorporate popular and high-traffic keywords and keywords that represent the goal of your campaign. Do not forget to include those hashtags into flyers, leaflets, and other traditional promotional materials to encourage people to bring customer conversations online.
#6 Promote local events on social media
Start making announcements on social media about your upcoming local events and advertise them on your social profiles. By posting regularly on Facebook groups or Twitter, for instance, you can generate a lot of interest with local groups. Also use specific hashtags regarding the events. Facebook offers affordable advertising and you can target precisely your audience. Create a page for the event on Facebook, associate the event with your Facebook Page and then promote it after defining its audience and budget.
#7 Geotag photos on social media
Some social networks such as Facebook and Instagram allow you to geotag images with geographic coordinates or the name of your business location when you upload them. This can greatly improve reach with the local audience when used alongside relevant hashtags.
#8 Get backlinks from local bloggers and influencers
According to Moz’s 2015 survey on the top local search ranking factors, one of the most important factor are the link signals, in particular, the linking domain authority and quantity.
Whether you are launching a new product/service, or organizing a local event, try to reach out to bloggers, influential local web forum user and active and high-profile social media followers. By regularly providing them with interesting and valuable content, you encourage them to spread the word and share links to your website. The domain authority of your site will improve depending on the credibility and influence of the sites that provide backlinks to your site.
Moreover, it is worthy to build and maintain good relationships with your partners and other local site owners in your industry. People who have a good relationship with you are more likely to make a recommendation and link to your site. For example, if you own a local vegan restaurant and there is a healthy community event, join forces. Frequently, organizers create Facebook events to let people know where and when offline events would take place. Team up with the event’s host and ask them to link to your website or Facebook page. Both you and the host will engage with audiences that could not be reached by traditional marketing techniques.
#9 Boost your website traffic via social media links
Include links to your website on the “About” section of the social properties you own. When someone’s not even logged into the social network, they will still see your website link. Also, don’t forget to add links in your status, pictures, videos, and posts.
Twitter and Pinterest, for instance, are excellent sources of backlinks that will increase your website traffic. Whether a user links to your website in a tweet, a retweet or a pin, an inbound link is created. Although search engines don’t put the same weight to these backlinks as the inbound links from blogs or other websites, they are still vital for your local ranking strategy. If the business gets good traffic from social media it will contribute to improving the site ranking in SERPs (search engine result pages) based on traffic signals.
Search engines keep making updates and changes to their ranking algorithms or search quality algorithms to provide relevant and unique content to users’ searches. Using the tips above can help local businesses to leverage social media for better local search rankings, boosting social media engagement, and last but not least winning new customers. If you haven’t use any social media, be sure to create a social media profile on the most relevant social platform regarding your business or niche today! If you already have one – audit your current social media presence and if the social networks you are using serve your business goals, start using them actively and wisely to get most out of them. Well-managed social media profiles and the execution of regular social media campaigns will bring qualitative traffic to the website.
Does your local business use any social media platform? Has it increased your business visibility and improve local search ranking? Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.