Every small business owner wants to get found online. But often it can feel like there is no point when there are much larger businesses surfacing first in local search results. This should not deter you; you can actually get your business on Google very easily, if you invest a little in creating a Local Search strategy.
In the last post of our 4-part Local Search series, we looked at what Local Search is and why it’s important for your business. We talked about different types of Local Search queries, understanding user intent and also how Google’s latest algorithm update has impacted Local Search results (positively, for small businesses).
In this part of the series, we are going to look at how to get your business on Google and take a look at a variety of free alternative local business directories.
Get Your Business on Google with ‘My Business’
This is the first thing any small business should do if it wants to get found online. Notice all that neatly displayed business info to the right of your screen when you search for a product or service? This is Google’s ‘My Business’ application in action. My Business is Google’s own dashboard for managing a local business’s information on Google properties, such as Maps and Google+.
Any business can rank, no matter how small or large it is – as long as the information provided is sound and sufficient. Simply put, Google is committed to helping small businesses increase their visibility online, and My Business is a product of that commitment.
Step One: Check Google for your Business
Before you get started, it’s worth checking if you’re already listed. Is there an old Google+ profile rattling around somewhere? If so, maybe you’re showing up in local search results but with outdated business information. All you need to do to rectify this is navigate to your Google+ profile (via your associated Google account) and edit accordingly.
If you don’t have a Google account, then you’ll need to create one. This is quick, free and easy.
Step Two: Create a My Business account
Make sure you’re signed in to your Google account and head over to Google My Business. First you’ll have to search for your business by name and address in the search box provided. If you can’t find your business that means it hasn’t been listed. Simply click “I’ve correctly entered the name and address. Let me enter the full business details” and fill in the key information to add your business.
Google will now create your Google+ profile with all your business details.
Step Three: Verify Your Business
Now you must verify your business so that Google knows your business actually exists and is owned by you. There are several options for verification: mail, phone or instant (if you’ve already registered your business website with Search Console). Just choose whichever suits you best.
After you’ve chosen a verification option, you may see a banner asking you to review your business information one last time before you begin the verification process. Make sure you double check everything since you won’t be able to update any information until after your business has been verified.
Step Four: Optimise Your Business Profile
Before you start to optimise your profile, it’s a good idea to take up Google’s ‘quick tour’ offer so you can quickly learn where things are. Editing your profile is very similar to creating a social media account for the first time; you add a profile photo, more photos, any other necessary business info and an Intro about your business.
You’ll notice a % completion bar beneath your profile information to help you get your business on Google. The process really is very straightforward.
Step Five: Get some Reviews
High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will almost certainly improve your business’s visibility and ranking. The more you receive, the higher the likelihood will be that a potential customer will click onto your listing and find out more about your business. Encourage customers to leave feedback as often as possible.
A great way of doing this is by creating a special link they can click to leave reviews using your Place ID. Each time a customer clicks the link, a small window will appear in their browser. For example, here is our Google Reviews link – feel free to leave one!
Other Free Local Business Directories (UK)
As mentioned earlier, Google is of course not the only business directory which you should register with. There are a great deal more. However, before you sign up to any online business directory simply because it’s free, it’s worth checking them out properly first. Most free online business directories offer a premium upgrade, which will enhance your visibility. Be careful though. You shouldn’t pay anything unless you’re sure others have had success.
These are just some of the other local business directories available. There are others that we will cover in more detail in the next post in this Local Search Series.
We recently signed up to FreeIndex and although we have received no direct business enquiries through the service so far, we are ranking in the first page for our 3 key terms, ‘Digital Marketing’, ‘Social Media Marketing’ and ‘Copywriters’.
Although we don’t surface at the top (you have to upgrade to premium for this), we think we stand out because of our profile picture, which displays our building rather than a tacky, stock-image logo downloaded that just makes a business look outdated or uninspiring. We are hopeful of receiving an enquiry soon!
We have just signed up to Thomson Local and are yet to see the benefits. However, having researched the service it seems quite competitive in certain areas yet not at all competitive in others. The look and design could certainly do with a makeover but if you run a search on your service in your area and hardly anything comes up then it’s a no-brainer really: sign up! Moreover, Thomson is obviously a well-known brand trusted by many, which will reflect well on your business.
iGroup provides free business listings to any company based in the UK. Basic listings show a web address, phone number and regular contact information. On their signup page, iGroup claims there are already 700,000 active listings and that they receive 3.5 million visitors each month. Premium listings receive better visibility, block Google Ads and allow you to add extended business descriptions and logos to your profile.
Cylex is another local business directory and have been around for almost 20 years. Although they are UK based they have now expanded into 37 countries. Cylex offers all the same services as the directories above and will even help business owners build a website with their site builder software. However, unlike some of its competitors, Cylex allows basic users to add images, videos, PDFs and a logo – which appears in search results – to their profile.
Last but not least, we have UK Small Business Directory. This local business directory features very prominently in Google search results for the keyword ‘local business directory’, so it is certainly worth considering. However, the basic option isn’t quite as lenient as others since you are only allowed to list your company name, basic info, address and telephone number.
There are three upgrade options – gold, silver and bronze – which allow you to add a link to your website and surface without Google Ads displayed alongside you. The silver option lets you add Social Media links and with the gold option you can upload a logo.
We hope this has helped shed some light on the local business directories available to you! Remember, don’t pay for anything unless you’ve seen actual evidence of results (consider contacting other businesses in your area who have upgraded profiles to get an idea). However, Google ‘My Business’ is absolutely crucial and ought to be your next step to getting found online! In the next post of the Local Search series, we’ll be reviewing one or two local business directories which we pay for.
VKN Digital will be hosting its first Business Development & Networking Event, ‘How Social Media, Mobile and Local Search will Impact Business Growth in 2017’, at the Great North Business Centre, Hatfield (Herts) on October 28th. We’d love to see you there. If interested, please follow this link for more information regarding content and tickets.