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How even small companies can rank at the top of page one in Google

Guy Willett - Ready Steady Go SEO

When I speak to many SMEs they often complain that they’ve tried SEO and it didn’t work for them. They often say that they simply don’t have enough money, time or skill to compete against multinational companies with six figure budgets, entire marketing departments and post grad trained online marketers. At this point, I ask them would they like to be above all their competitors on page one for very little effort, time and expenditure. At this point they normally think I must be referring to Adwords or some magical underhand black hat technique that will likely incur a Google penalty.

The answer. No, on both counts. The answer is to focus most of your efforts into local listings rather than fixate on organic listing positions. They feature on the first page of a Google search, below Adwords at the top of the page but crucially above the normal top 10 organic listings. Not sure what they look like? You’ll have come across them numerous times if you use Google or Bing search engines, and let’s face it that’s what over 95% of the UK use. The local listings ‘pack’ normally comprises of a map with 2-5 business entries underneath. The companies shown are largely offering services the searcher typed that are closest to the searcher. 

So, what’s that catch? Well they only appear for certain phrases. For example, in my line of work ‘seo agency’ and ‘seo consultant’, ‘seo services’ and ‘Birmingham seo services’ all have a local pack listing. However, ‘seo expert’, ‘seo audit’ or ‘seo consultation’ don’t. In general, many phrases referring to an organisation type (with or without a location) do show whilst many services and product related phrases don’t. Of course, for most companies the fact that someone is looking for an organisation that supplies a service is generally what they want!

Any other limitations? This depends on how competitive your service is? The fewer competitors in your region, as well as those who’ve bothered to develop their local listing, the more likely you’ll show up and the greater your regional coverage. Of course, this will mean that small companies that rely most on local business will benefit the most. Those reliant on national mail order or international trade will obviously benefit less. However, there is a further benefit that all companies benefit from in their listing; the reviews that are also displayed. It’s a great opportunity for any company to highlight all the positive feedback its received. 

Any other advantages? Well, your own local listing also appears when you type in your own company name into Google on the right-hand side if you’re a single site organisation. If multi-site it appears if you type in the company name and the site location. In this profile, more info is shown and recently this can include other social media profiles as well as any Facebook reviews you’ve got. Given that someone has searched for your organisation by company name but didn’t have your web address then this likely is the first online impression they’ll get of your company. Wouldn’t you want this to look at good as it could to ensure they go to your website?

I can’t see my company in the listings? Your listing’s existence is largely dependent on your presence within a number of specific directories, like touch local and Scoot. In addition, and less obviously, they also include social media listings like Facebook and Google+ and review sites like Yelp and Foursquare. If your company has been in existence on the same site for over 12 months, then the likelihood is that a partial profile on some of these directories already exists. The devil is in the detail however. Most of these profiles are developed at different times by different people and this is where inconsistence start. Even an issue like terming Ltd or Limited in your company name creates these problems. The greater the inconsistencies, the less likely the search engines will be to show a listing, or more frequently, rank it above others with more consistent listings.

So what’s the answer to getting my listing where it rightfully deserves to be seen? It’s a five-stage process. First, if you haven’t claimed your business on GoogleMyBusiness and Bing Place for Business then do so, it a simple verification process. Second, ensure all your directory listings are consistent, making sure the NAP data (Name, Address and Phone) are formatted correctly. Third, choose the business activity you wish to be known for and then stick to it as closely as possible across all listings (keyword research can be useful at this point). Fourth, fill out your profiles in listings as much as possible whilst keeping an eye on consistency of data across the listings. This includes photos, logos, opening times, payment terms etc; the more complete a profile the better. Finally, link your social media profiles and start getting great reviews for your business on Google+ and Facebook.

What if I do nothing? Well your businesses may lose out on a lot of potential local business. However, even if you’re not that concerned or your business isn’t geared towards local business it’s still worth checking your local listing profile. Why? Some prospects are alarmed when I tell them that their local listing has either been already claimed by someone they have no knowledge of, or that they have a number of bad reviews that anyone searching for their services or company will be seeing. In either case, there is action you can take.

Sounds like a lot of effort? If you like the idea of taking advantage of an untapped resource that for small businesses but don’t want to do it yourself then contact Ready Steady Go SEO. We offer a free no-obligation local SEO audit to show you where you are in relation to three competitors of your choosing. If then you want us to do the work for you, then we provide a very cost effective package that address the six points as well as help you manage your online reputation through getting online reviews quickly. In addition, as a Chamber member, we can offer a 50% discount the first time you use our SEO services.

Guy Willett