Advanced tips for building an amazing website for your local business

In 2020 no one needs convincing of the value of a website. It is mandatory for all businesses. What is still less obvious is the difference between a good and bad website. A good website will rank well in Google, attract qualified traffic and convert that to new businesses. A bad website…not so much.

In this article we share some non-obvious tips which will elevate your website from good to great so you can stand out from your local competitors.

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Setting up your site is the easy part

I totally get that setting up your website may not seem that easy if you are a first timer, what with hosting choices, content management systems, analytics and the rest…but believe me, once you get your head around the practical steps to get your site live you will see what I mean when I say the real work only starts once your site is live.

We’ve tried to make this initial setup as easy as possible with our 4 step tutorial on creating a blog. That really is the best place to start, and infact it does also provide some more advanced tips in step 4: content and marketing. Other than this short intro to getting set up, the rest of this article is also dedicated to more advanced tips to make your website much more sophisticated so come back here once your site is up and running.

Finding a host

Choosing a host is one of the fundamental decisions you will need to make when setting up your website. The choice of host is something that will impact site performance and either make your life easier or more difficult. This is why we spend so much time testing all the most popular hosts to see which perform the best in terms of both speed and uptime. Checkout the results of our comprehensive testing and see who we recommend.

Installing WordPress

Gone are the days where you need to create a MySQL database and manually configure these details and others to set up WordPress. If you choose one of our recommended hosts you won’t actually have to install WordPress manually at all…

Instead all the hosts we recommend offer a one click WordPress installer. You simply enter the name of your site, set some login credentials and the rest is done for you.

Choosing a WordPress theme

One of the main selling points with WordPress is the enormous number of off the shelf themes available. If you don’t want to spend the money on a bespoke design you can certainly find something suitable among the 1000’s of free and premium themes available on the web.

We have developed many free WordPress themes ourselves and we have also written about the best premium themes for local business sites as well. Check out those links and you’ll be sure to find something you like.

Add Schema Markup to Your Local Business Website

Have you ever wondered why some businesses stand out in search results with photos, ratings, locations and hours listed along with links? It’s all thanks to structured markup, also called schema, a way of telling search engines more about the content on web pages. Adding schema to your local business site improves visibility by increasing relevancy in and adding more information to search results.

What is Schema?

Schema.org identifies schema as “a set of ‘types’, each associated with a set of properties.” The types follow a hierarchy subdividing them into categories. The properties of each type are used to describe content to search engines and add more meaning to data. For example, Google may find your business address on your website, but without knowing what the words mean, the search engine can’t tell how the information relates to a location-based search. Using a type such as LocalBusiness and its accompanying properties describes the text so that the search engine can associate it with relevant keywords.

Why Your Business Needs Markup

When search engines have more information about the content on your site, the details are displayed to potential customers in search results. These “rich snippets” may include reviews, location, hours or logo images depending on the schema you add. This can be especially useful if you’re trying to gain visibility for your business in local search results. Tagging your address and contact information makes your business more likely to appear in local searches and will help you stand out from competitors not using markup.

Another benefit of schema is added detail when pages from your site are shared on social media. Including schema types helps third-party applications pull important information from pages and display it in a recognizable way in news feeds so that your business isn’t lost in a sea of irrelevant updates.

Powerful Schema Plugins

While it might seem overwhelming to consider adding yet another element to website design and maintenance, schema markup is worth the time. According to Search Engine Land, case studies show the potential for up to 30 percent more organic traffic when markup is used.

You don’t have to slog through a long learning process to implement schema on your site. These WordPress plugins provide straightforward, user-friendly tools to add markup to posts and pages. Both free and premium options are available to make your business stand out.

All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets

This free plugin promises a “nice format” for results from the major search engines and in Facebook feeds. By taking advantage of the power of schema to create rich snippets and provide accurate information for shared pages, All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets has the potential to increase click-through rates and customer engagement.

Schema

Billed as a lightweight free plugin, Schema uses the recommended JSON-LD format for linking related data without slowing down page load times. The plugin allows you to create and edit markup types as needed to build a library of descriptive properties specific to your business. Functionality can be extended throughout your website by using Schema with other plugins, such as Yoast SEO and Visual Composer.

Rich Snippets WordPress Plugin

For an investment of $20, you can take advantage of seven shortcodes provided with the Rich Snippets plugin to add schema markup anywhere on your WordPress site. When you need more than the basics, use the shortcode generator to create your own. Thanks to this flexibility, Rich Snippets has a wide range of applications for local businesses in any industry.

WP Rich Snippets

Increasing traffic through better relevance in search results is the ultimate goal of schema, and WP Rich Snippets provides the tools you need to add important markup. With subscription rates starting at $69 per year, this premium plugin uses Schema.org types and properties and includes useful add-ons to increase its functionality.

Using a plugin makes it easier to take advantage of the benefits of schema for your WordPress website. With identifiers for everything from your address to reviews, you can make your site stand out in search results and attract a larger local crowd. Find a plugin designed to meet your needs, and start making markup work for your business.

Capture Google My Business Reviews

With 90 percent of consumers saying they consider online reviews to be on par with personal recommendations, collecting reviews for your business is more important than ever. Google’s addition of an aggregated review section to Google My Business pages gives more power to feedback left on any platform, potentially changing the way customers make decisions about where to purchase products and services.

Reviews from the Web

Google has always showed reviews for businesses with Google profiles but only displayed reviews left on the Google platform. Take a look at your Google My Business page now, and you’ll find a “reviews from the web” section. This new area displays reviews left on any site on which your business has a presence, from Facebook to niche industry listings.

What does this mean for your business? Having all reviews visible in one place can impact the first impression consumers get when they do Google searches for your products and services or perform mobile searches for businesses like yours in the area.

A More Detailed Online Reputation

Before Google’s idea to curate reviews, users had to go to several different sites to read feedback and make decisions about the best companies from which to make purchases. The new format means your Google My Business page will serve as a “snapshot” of your online reputation.

This gives new weight to the importance of reputation management. Google reviews still appear first, but star ratings and feedback from other sites are clearly visible on your Google My Business page. Whereas you may have been able to overlook a few bad reviews on an obscure niche platform in the past, now every review carries the potential to affect how reliable your business appears to customers searching on Google.

Improving Mobile Visibility

Local search often goes hand in hand with mobile usage. When consumers need something while running errands or traveling, they look for the closest place to meet these needs. The kind of feedback a company has may influence their decisions even more than distance or convenience, and the reviews displayed on Google My Business pages are given preference in mobile search results. Whether a customer clicks on a search listing or finds your company using a navigation app, reviews from fellow consumers are the first things they see. Feedback from other sources, including critics, is displayed lower on the page and may not appear “above the fold” on smaller mobile screens.

Boosting SEO

Google considers “review signals” as ten percent of its ranking algorithm and includes factors such as reviewer authority, relevant keyword content and diversity of third-party feedback when determining a company’s placement in search results. Collecting more reviews on any platform now provides fresh content for your Google My Business page, prompting the search engine to index the page more often and potentially bringing your business up in the SERPs. Regular review activity and a higher amount of positive reviews may place your business in the “map pack” at the top of results and increase the likelihood of consumers clicking on your profile.

A consistent review collection and monitoring strategy should already be part of your company’s SEO plan, but with the Google My Business update, it’s time to hone your focus to make the most out of every review. Work to strengthen your reputation management tactics, keeping a careful eye on feedback and responding to complaints with proactive solutions. Make the customer experience your top priority to encourage positive reviews and turn your Google My business page into a powerful tool for directing fresh traffic to your business.

Using Social Media to Market Your Local Business

You hear a lot about the power of SEO to draw in local customers, but can social media have a similar influence? Adding a local focus to your current social strategy has the potential to raise brand awareness and increase engagement with customers in the immediate area. Make local social media marketing work for you by harnessing some of its most beneficial aspects.

Community Building

Social media is all about a community mindset, so it makes sense to use social platforms to market to people living in physical communities. Having a strong online community means local customers already have their eyes on your social media feeds and are waiting for the updates you post. Limited-time offers, daily specials and one-day-only sales are of interest to people living within driving distance of your business, and this is the sort of information they look for from the brands they engage with on a regular basis.

Targeted Engagement

Posts announcing events or details pertinent only to certain locations attract a more relevant audience when you target them to those areas. Take advantage of location-based tools on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to show location-specific updates to groups of customers who are in the position to take immediate advantage of them. By narrowing down your target to specific cities or towns, you increase the power of your posts to influence local purchasing decisions.

Turning Events into Experiences

Today’s brands are doing everything possible to transform ordinary events into memorable experiences for their customers, and customers are responding with increased brand loyalty. The local aspect of social media is an especially powerful way to harness this trend. With the emerging popularity of live streaming video on Facebook, Periscope and Instagram, it’s possible to broadcast milestones simply by tapping a few buttons on your phone or tablet. This lets locals “attend” events even when they can’t be there in person and provides an incentive to stop in as soon as they can.

Encourage customers who do come to in-store events to create their own content and share it with a location-based branded hashtag. By linking the online social environment in which your audience spends a great deal of time to real events, you generate excitement about your brand among a wider group of local followers.

Local Word-of-Mouth Advertising

Every time customers share photos from events at your store, leave a review on your Facebook page or recommend your products to their social media followers, your company benefits from free advertising. Encourage the practice by offering special deals your audience can share with friends and family via social platforms.

Pinning Down New Leads

Lead generation and networking take on special importance in local marketing. Meeting people in person is a good way to solidify business relationships, and LinkedIn makes it possible to find potential leads with their search function. Social Media Examiner suggests setting up ongoing searches for people whose professions make them likely candidates for your products and services. Groups on LinkedIn and Facebook are also good ways to connect with and market to potential customers.

As with all marketing, targeting a local audience via social media requires knowing the behaviors and desires of your ideal customers and catering to what they want. Taking a targeted approach allows you to tap into a market segment with local influence and bring greater awareness of your brand to people living and shopping nearby. With 78 percent of the U.S. population reporting they have at least one social profile, adopting a local strong strategy has the potential to make your business the talk of the town.

Capture Email Leads for Your Local Business

An email list is one of the most valuable marketing tools your business can have. A growing list of contacts means more chances to showcase your products and services to an interested audience.

Statistics show spending a single dollar on email marketing has the potential to return as much as $44.25. How can you turn such impressive numbers into a reality for your local business? Try these tactics to capture targeted leads from consumers in your area.

Build a User-Friendly Contact Form

Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you online by designing a streamlined contact form. Every time a customer sends a message, you get a potential lead. When replying to questions, include a signup link along with a call-to-action to generate interest in your email list. Make sure both contact and signup forms are easy for mobile users to fill out.

Offer Exclusive Deals

Most customers will gladly sign up for an email list if they get discounts or free stuff in return. Create an opt-in box on your website with a clear incentive for those providing contact information. This could be a discount off their first online purchase, printable coupons to be used at your physical location or the offer of a free item with a purchase of any size online or in the store. White papers and e-books with relevant local information also generate interest.

Add an Option at Checkout

If you sell products or allow customers to book services online, the checkout screen is a smart place for an email opt-in box. During the account creation or payment process, include a checkbox with a call-to-action telling customers what they’ll get by signing up. Make it prominent enough to be noticeable so that it doesn’t get overlooked as fine print. Since you also gather shipping information at this point, you’ll be able to segment these contacts by location as they come in.

Target Ads with Localized Landing Pages

PPC and social media ads can be targeted to appear only to customers in specific areas. Targets may be as broad or as narrow as you want, right down to the town where your brick-and-mortar store is located. When running a campaign with a highly local focus, create a landing page with information relevant to customers in the area. Include the details of the deal mentioned in the ad for visitors who click through, and prompt them to sign up for your list so that they don’t miss future promotions.

Go Old-School

Limiting email lead capturing to your website could mean missing out on sales opportunities from the customers who stop by your physical location each day. When they check out, let them know the benefits of joining your email list and ask if they would like to sign up. You can also have a paper signup sheet at the point of sale. This same “old school” tactic also works to gather leads at trade shows and local events.

Don’t forget to mention your email list to customers who get in touch by phone. If they’re already interested enough to contact your business, chances are they’ll be attracted by the information and deals your emails deliver.

Building and maintaining a list of engaged and interested customers from the area surrounding your local business gives you a better chance of generating conversions both online and in your brick-and-mortar store. Focus your efforts on gathering quality leads, monitor the returns on your efforts and adjust your tactics to maximize the channels through which the most customers connect with your business.

Charles has been building and promoting websites and services in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and China for nearly 20 years.

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