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What’s your preferred search engine when surfing the web? If you’re like 90% of the people browsing online, it is probably Google. This means that most of your target audience is using Google too!

Even if you prefer Bing, there’s no avoiding the fact that your business needs to play ball with Google. You can’t build a successful online presence for your company without investing in this search engine.

Sure there are literally hundreds of ways that your prospective clients can find your business online. However, we guarantee that Google will act as an important touch point no matter what route these people end up taking.

Here’s an example:

Say you own a bicycle repair shop and you’ve just opened up a new location that caters to a new area. One day, a person is riding their bike and notices your store. They think to themselves, “That place looks like a good one to remember!”

Unfortunately, a few weeks later when they need to get their bike repaired, they can’t seem to recall the name of your business. So they turn to Google to do some research on bike repair shops in the local area.

Here’s what they may find:

Snapshot showing local business search results in Google

(Please note: This is just a sample from near where our office is located.)

With a Google Local Listing page properly set up, that prospective customer will be able to find your name, phone number and directions to your business in mere seconds. This listing will appear here, even if you haven’t been able to set up a website yet.

It’s a worthwhile time investment and it’s free!

Incredibly, there are still many local businesses that aren’t taking advantage of this free form of self promotion.

There are several reasons why this can happen, including:

  • They can’t find the time
  • They don’t understand how this can help their business
  • They find the process of setting up a Google My Business page too complicated

Don’t feel bad if you’ve found the process a little daunting. Our team does this type of thing for a living and we still think the process could be simplified. On top of that, Google rolls out major upgrades to their local search algorithm every few months, so you need to make sure your business information is up to date!

In all seriousness, you need to find the time to verify your local business listing with Google this week and we’re going to walk you through everything step by step. Accomplishing this will provide a significant boost to your local SEO and remember that it is FREE to do!

Getting Started with Google Local Listings

Google has worked hard to make the process of search as simple as possible for users. Unfortunately, they haven’t done the same thing for business owners. Their Google My Business policy seems to be changing all the time.

Google Places used to be the route you’d take to get your business verified and listed. But Google Places pages have been retired.

You’re going to get your business verified with Google My Business. It’s an all-in-one platform that allows you to manage a brick and mortar location or larger brand.

Unfortunately, this new platform really hasn’t made things any simpler because there are now:

  • Google Business Listings
  • Google Brands
  • Google+ Pages

Which one are you supposed to create for your business?

On top of all that, Google has made it clear that they would “unverify” any accounts that have remained inactive for at least 6 months. This means that you need to login to your account once in awhile (even if all your contact info is up to date) to keep your Google My Business page active.

If you maintain a blog for your business website, you can share content through your Google+ page.

All things considered, the whole process of getting verified can be rather frustrating. Some even suspect that this is a deliberate decision to make Google Ad campaigns seem more appealing.

But if you follow these directions, you’ll get your Google My Business page set up in no time!

(Our agency will take care of this whole process for you as a part of our basic local SEO package. So please contact us if you don’t want to mess with all of this.)

Let’s get started by heading over to https://www.google.com/business.

1) Click the “Get on Google” Button

You’ve made your way over to Google My Business and the first thing you need to do is click on the blue button that says “Get on Google”:

Homepage screenshot for Google My Business setup process

2) Find Your Business

The next thing you’ll see is a map of the United States. Here Google will ask you to search for your business by name or by address. There is a chance that your business may already be listed with Google. If this is the case, you’ll want to claim that listing and not create a whole new one.

Business owner gets his Google My Business account verified in North Carolina

We recommend that you search for your listing by name and by address. If you see your business in the drop down, click on it and claim the listing as your own.

If you don’t see your listing after entering the appropriate information, then click enter anyways. You should see something like this:

Business owner can't find his business listing on Google

Click on that second option so you can create your new listing and enter the full details for your business.

3) Get Your Business Listing Verified

Now it’s time to get your business listing verified on Google. This process is used to ensure that you have provided accurate information and that only the real business owner or manager can access the listing.

Depending on the type of business you have, there are different ways to get your listing verified:

  • By postcard – Google will send a postcard to the business address you provided for your listing. This postcard will have a verification code that you can enter once it arrives (usually in 5 days). Be sure to login into your account and enter the verification code within 30 days of receiving the postcard!
  • By phone – This isn’t available for all business types, but it’s quicker if you can do it. Be sure that someone is available at your listed business number when Google calls and enter the verification code they provide.

If you’re a business owner that manages more than 10 locations, you may be eligible for bulk verification which you can learn more about here.

4) Check on Your Local Listing Regularly

Congrats! Now you have verified you business on Google, but remember that you can’t just forget about your listing. Be sure to keep your login handy so you can check back in on your business profile every few months and ensure that everything is up to date.

Conclusion

With everything laid out for you in this post, we hope that it’s made this whole process a little less complicated. Yes it does take some time, but it is so worth it to have your business properly listed in Google local search results.

The ROI on your Google My Business page will be stellar! You can further the reach of your online brand and improve the SEO for your own website. So let us repeat that it is very much worth the effort!

If you run into any issues setting up your Google My Business listing, please feel free to contact us! We’d be happy to help.

Getting your business verified is a part of our Local SEO Essentials package. Want to get a quote for your business? Click on the button below!

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Have you heard the claim that “SEO is Dead?” If you believe this or you think that search engine optimization (SEO) just can’t help your business, please keep reading!

Think about it this way: as long as people are using search engines to find and learn about local businesses, SEO should play a critical role in your marketing strategy. Your competitors are undoubtedly looking to invest in SEO this year and we’ve put together 20 reasons why you should too.

1) SEO is an Investment Not a Cost

We’ve spoken with many business owners who are hesitant about search engine optimization. Their initial reaction is understandable. Business owners are bombarded with plenty of quick fix marketing solutions and several have sunk a lot of money into tactics that just don’t work.

They’ve come to look at marketing as just another cost. Online marketing seems to be talked about a lot, but maybe your experience so far hasn’t been so great. If that’s the way you’re approaching search engine optimization, we’re asking you to look at it in a different light. SEO is an investment and one that can earn your business a very high return.

Business owners perceive SEO as an Unnecessary cost

Does your website rank for the keywords that convert for your business niche? Are you ranking on the first page? Those who aren’t should know that they are missing out on a significant number of qualified leads every day.

By investing in search engine optimization for your website, you could start ranking prominently on the first page for your desired keywords. Thus, a relatively modest investment in SEO can yield a massive return for your business in 2016.

2) SEO Spotlights Your Best Employee

Who do you think is the best salesman for your business? It’s your website!!

Who else is out there twenty four seven promoting the services and products that you might offer? Who else does exactly what you ask it to do, without ever deviating from your instructions? You guessed it: your website! Far too many local businesses have failed to utilize this incredibly valuable asset to its full potential.

Just setting up a functioning website is not enough in today’s world. Search engine optimization helps ensure that more qualified visitors get to see and experience it. Good web design is also vital, but we can talk about that another time.

3) SEO is an Essential Piece of the Marketing Puzzle

Search engine optimization is an inbound marketing strategy, but it won’t help you achieve all of your marketing goals on its own. Your SEO strategy should be combined with social media, digital marketing and other methods that can help build your online brand, attract and convert more qualified leads.

With the right marketing mix, it’s now possible to grow your business faster than ever before. The modern business owner shouldn’t have to decide between SEO and PPC marketing. Instead, you need to decide how these can be integrated into your marketing plan in order to best serve your overall strategy.

As experts in inbound marketing strategies like SEO, it’s our responsibility to educate our clients and help them avoid possible pitfalls. We also do this for people who aren’t our clients through our blog. If you decide not to invest in professional SEO services, you’ll at least have an overall idea of how it works and why it’s important.

Truth be told, we hope you don’t go that route. Search engine optimization is an extremely effective method of marketing your website and brand to the best possible customers. It deserves a prominent place in your marketing mix in 2016.

4) SEO Provides an Incredible ROI

Many of our clients are tentative when we tell them that SEO is a long term effort. In fact, it’s should just be looked at as an ongoing effort. It can take time to see results, but SEO can lead to a dramatic increase in revenue for your company without having to dramatically increase your marketing costs. This can allow you to scale more quickly and increase your profits over time.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a different marketing approach that provides a better ROI than SEO. An optimized website can convert more and more leads at smaller and smaller incremental costs.

5) Reach Customers at a Critical Stage in the Buyer’s Process

When someone wants to learn more about a company or a service, where do they turn? To search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. That dream customer you’re looking for is surfing the web for information. He or she is looking for social affirmation of your business’s validity on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Company reaches more customers online through SEO

SEO can have a massive impact on this research and buying cycle. It allows you to position your website strategically and attract users who are further along in their buyer’s journey. You won’t be able to achieve that unless your website ranks well for the most critical and relevant keyword phrases.

6) SEO is Priced to Match Your Budget

For agencies like ours that offer SEO services, pricing can be a challenge. Why? Because it comes down to a serious discussion surrounding your budget.

Every SEO campaign is unique and needs to be customized to meet the client’s needs. That means that the cost for SEO services varies. You’ve probably come across some agencies offering base SEO packages, but we wouldn’t recommend using them. The best agencies will want to have a discussion with you so that they can understand your goals and the potential roadblocks that need to be overcome.

A good agency will work with you to match the budget that you have for marketing. However, you should temper your expectations. It takes a lot of work on an ongoing basis to optimize your website, so you should not expect really impressive results if you’re allocating a really small budget.

If you’re still unsure whether you can afford the investment, we can provide you with a SEO pre-analysis. It’s affordable and will provide you with a breakdown of how much it will take to get your website optimized.

7) A SEO Friendly WordPress Site Isn’t Enough

You may be thinking “I have a wordpress site that has a mobile friendly and well designed theme, why do I need to invest in SEO?” First off, it’s great that you are using a quality CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress! That already puts you a few steps ahead, but that isn’t enough.

Search engines are looking to serve up amazing content to users!

We may not know all the specifics, but Google currently has over 200 unique ranking factors that impact how your website ranks in the SERPs. The code that your site is built on only makes up a fraction of those ranking factors. WordPress and other CMS platforms really help, but you’ll need more if you want to take the cake!

Content is king— have you heard that one before? It’s for a good reason. Luckily, using a CMS makes it that much easier to add great content to your site and make sure that it is optimized for success.

8) SEO Should Be Built into Your Website’s DNA

We’ve talked with our fair share of business owners who are hesitant to spend even more money after investing in a fresh and expensive website. We understand, but search engines need additional help to fully understand your business and the services that you provide.

The truth is that SEO should be included from the ground up and built into the very core of your website. Many believe that they can spend a lot of money on a fancy website and then layer some SEO on top of that for the win. We’re telling you right now that this approach will lead to disappointment and frustration.

In 2016, your SEO strategy will have an impact on everything from your website structure to your overall web design. Don’t worry though, because agencies like ours can still help you achieve success with SEO.

9) SEO Makes Sure Your Website is Labeled Properly

How many people do you think would walk in your door if you didn’t have your business properly labeled? Not many– and the ones that do probably aren’t the customers you are looking for. This seems like a no brainer, but that is the equivalent of not making sure your title tags and meta descriptions are optimized for your website.

This optimized URL reflects the blog post title

There are A LOT of businesses that are making this mistake and there are still plenty of business owners who will be leaving money on the table this year. Don’t make this all too common SEO mistake! Invest in search engine optimization, rather than trying to sell products in an unmarked store.

10) SEO Allows You to Harness the Power of Social Media

Have you already created a Facebook or Twitter page for your business? Then you should know that these pages can and should be optimized for search engines just like your website. That combined with a social strategy that shares relevant content and engages a fan base can drastically improve the success of your website.

You should consider working with an inbound marketing agency to ensure that your social media strategy is built with this in mind. Otherwise, you may be discouraged by the results you get from maintaining a social presence for your business.

11) SEO Helps You Establish a Great Online Brand

When we say “facial tissue,” how many of you thought about Kleenex? That is the power of branding. SEO is a powerful tool that can be used to build a lasting online brand for your company.

Sites that rank at the top for search results gain trust and credibility from users. Eventually, people will come to associate your brand with a certain niche or service. That is a HUGE win for any business and well worth the investment in SEO.

We can tie this back to our last point about optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions. These can be used in a very effective way that not only entices people to click through to your site but also strengthens your brand and communicates a consistent marketing message.

You’re working hard to build a credible business that offers quality services. Unfortunately, that credibility can be damaged when customers can’t find your website online. Just to be clear, if you’re on page 2, most will not ever find your website.

A website that ranks highly for your desired keywords means that you will get more visitors. This leads to more people who are familiar with this business and more sales. Over time, this creates more fans who tell their friends about you.

An effective SEO strategy can help create a group of engaged “raving fans” for your business!

Your ideal customers have questions and SEO can help get your content positioned to answer these questions when they start searching online.

12) Drive More Offline Sales with SEO

Still not sure if you should invest in SEO this year? What if we told you that this type of inbound marketing can help drive offline sales as well?

Think about it, most people are turning to the internet to research businesses before making a purchase. This online experience influences their decision, even if they decide to make that purchase in person at a store.

Woman announces the benefits of investing in SEO

(A WebVisible/Nielsen study in 2008 found that 86% of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses when planning to buy the products in person.)

We talk to many local businesses who say they have limited budgets for marketing and that’s why they are hesitant to invest in online marketing strategies like SEO. If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this, “You cannot afford NOT to invest in SEO this year!”

There isn’t another form of marketing that can net you a better ROI, so why would you spend money on other forms of marketing and forgo investing in search engine optimization? If you have a limited marketing budget, we recommend allocating it to a method that will pay the most dividends in the long run– and that is search engine optimization.

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