When was the last time you Googled yourself or your company? Do you know what people are saying about you? What information appears most prominently to your potential customers? Are your competitors edging you out? Do you even exist in the minds of online searchers?
Search engines are the current-day storefront or Yellow Pages listing of your business. If you aren’t visible to the 81% of your prospective customers (according to Adweek) who are searching online for information prior to making a purchase, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year.
What you may not realize is that you can influence the listings that appear for your company by making a few specific updates, before tackling the bigger job of search engine optimization to help you appear in listings for your products and services.
Here’s are the steps you can take to clean up your listings:
1. Assess the situation.
Do a Google search for your company name, including any variations that may exist, the business owner or CEO’s name, and your own name. Record what shows up on the page 1 and page 2 results (these are the most prominent and highest priority listings), and be sure to include links to each result.
Also make note of any important information that doesn’t currently exist (ie: your business is consumer related and you don’t have Yelp reviews, or you have a physical location but no Google maps listing appears). Save all of this information in a spreadsheet so that you can track your progress.
2. Start with the basics.
Your Google maps listing is one of the most important areas that prospective customers will view. If you have an unverified location on Google maps, click through the steps to verify it (this may require having a postcard mailed to your location with a pin number enclosed).
Complete ALL of the requested information, and be sure to provide the maximum number of images and video clips, to beef up your profile. This is a free opportunity for a prime listing space; be sure to take full advantage of it! Enter in the keyword phrases that best describe what your ideal, prospective customers would be looking for.
When your profile is completely filled in, ask a few key customers to post reviews for you.
3. Customize your page titles and descriptions.
Did you know that Google may display specific pages of your website, and descriptions of those pages, directly in sublinks below your company’s listing in searches related to your brand name?
This is a great way to highlight your most important pages right on the search results page, and drive prospective customers directly to the information you want them to see. However, Google shows the pages they deem to be most relevant, and you have little control over that (other than having some ability to demote certain pages within Webmaster Tools). You can, however, make sure that the titles and descriptions of the pages that appear are accurate and reflect what you want prospective customers to see.
To do this, you would optimize the meta titles and descriptions of each page that appears (SEO best practice: you should do this for all pages of your site, regardless of whether they appear).
If you use a CMS, such as Wordpress, you can use an SEO plugin to edit and optimize your page titles, descriptions, and keywords. If you don’t use a CMS, talk to your web developer about editing these for each page, starting with those that appear in your sitelink listings.
4. Work from the top down.
Start with the most prominent listings and work your way down the page. Most directory listings for your business have probably been scraped from other websites, and will give you the opportunity to request updates to your contact information and/or profile.
Starting with those at the top of page one, provide updated information to all directories and profiles, even those you are unfamiliar with or don’t subscribe to.
5. Beef up your brand presence.
Noticed that there are only a limited amount of profiles established for your company? You can establish accounts on high-profile websites (general and industry-specific) to increase the visibility of your brand, and therefore your search engine results.
Start with establishing company pages and/or accounts on the most prominent channels, by creating a Facebook business page, LinkedIn company page, Twitter account, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat account (depending on your audience and goals), and updating your Yelp profile page.
From there, you’ll want to dive into more industry-focused directories, such as TripAdvisor for restaurants and hotels, or houzz.com for contractors. Some of these may charge a fee for listings, some may require additional steps to complete, but if they come up high in search results, they are likely worth the investment.
6. Don’t forget your personal brand.
Your company president/CEO, executives, and other influential representatives of the company should all have a strong brand presence for themselves, especially if they play a role in landing or managing key accounts.
Be sure to keep LinkedIn profiles, industry listings, and related mentions of their name or identity up to date with their recent accomplishments, accreditation/certifications, and changes in their role(s).
7. Enlist support.
Are you sweating just looking at this list above, or have you gone as far as you can on your own and are still not seeing results? You don’t have to go it alone!