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Local search has become a de facto standard for businesses that service consumers in specific locales. Your online presences is just as important (if not more important) than your offline presence.

If you are new to the scene of Local SEO and search optimization for your local or small business, here are five Google local SEO tips to help you navigate through the steps needed to ensure that your business has the presence it needs to earn the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results you deserve.

1. Attractive and Click-Worthy Title and Meta Descriptions

This is often an overlooked opportunity by many local SEO campaigns. These HTML elements are customizable features which are used to represent your website in search results. Typically, titles range from 50 – 60 characters and descriptions can range up to 200 characters.

In years past these titles and descriptions were used to incorporate keywords and help with rankings. Current SEO best practices tell us to use these titles and descriptions as an opportunity to improve user experience and attract clicks. Your meta titles and descriptions need to be a clear depiction of your page content, be persuasive, and of course specifically unique. Including your city in the description is recommended. Targeted keywords should be as close to the beginning of the paragraph as possible but not at the expense of user readability.

Use this opportunity to set yourself apart – do you offer 24/7 service? Free shipping? 25% off for first time customers?

2. Keep a Consistent and Prominent Online Presence

Whether your business is brand new or has been around for decades and moved locations several times, it is extremely important to make sure that your business name, address and phone number is consistent and visible across the Internet, no matter where someone may find you.

This consistency instills consumer trust and builds your authority. The consistency also plays a large role in your local SEO performance. The Search Engines want to understand your company and have confidence that you are a legitimate company.

Here is a starter list for online business directories where you can establish your presence:

  • Citysearch
  • Merchant Circle
  • YellowPages
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Houzz
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Local Trade Affiliations

3. Claim Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing for Full Control

Over the years Google My Business and Bing Places for Business have built their database of business listings. Even if you have never claimed your business listing the Search Engines may still be showing a listing for you!

It is critical for you to claim this listing so that you have full control over proper categorization of your business, description, address, and business hours.

There is a simple verification process for your GMB listing. Google mails you a postcard containing a PIN number you need for verification purposes. This confirms to Google that you are whom you say you are and indeed own the business you are attempting to claim.

4. Manage, Respond To, and Grow Your Reviews Online

Nowadays, both personal word-of-mouth referrals along with online reviews can influence whether or not we stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant, hire a plumber, or even order a shirt from an online retailer.

The importance of controlling, managing, and growing customer reviews is finally catching the attention of businesses. A BrightLocal survey indicates that:

  • Online reviews are trusted as much as personal recommendations by 84% of those surveyed.
  • If asked, 70% of consumers will leave a review.
  • Positive reviews encourage 54% of consumers to visit a website.
  • Local businesses are trusted more when they have positive online reviews.
  • Less than 10 reviews are read before a consumer forms an opinion.
  • Reviews older than 3 months are not deemed relevant by consumers.
  • Over half of consumers agree that star ratings are important.

Seeking quality reviews on an ongoing basis is good business practice and keeps your brand in the forefront of consumers’ minds, helps you stand out from competitors, and also helps to minimize the one-off bad review you may get.

Don’t have the time or find it awkward to ask your customers for reviews? Consider our online Reputation Management Services that offer a fully automated software system that actually works behind the scenes to grow your reviews.

5. Structured Data Markup for Local

This markup language provides more information about your business to Google once it has been implemented in your website code. Most businesses use only the basic markup. This provides opportunities for business owners to outdistance their competitors by utilizing uncommonly used markup.

Google has a Structured Data Testing Tool you can use to determine if your markup implementation meets the required standards.

Want to learn more about how to win at Local SEO? Here are some additional articles by other SEOs in the industry as well as articles by our own team:

You can also call 1st on the List at 1-888-262-6687 if you have specific questions. We’d love to help you optimize your business for Local Search!

Additional Local SEO Marketing Tips and Articles:

It’s every business owner’s worst nightmare.

Wake up to find that a disgruntled customer has written a terrible Google or Yelp review of their recent experience at your restaurant, salon, office or store. Their words are harsh and blown out of proportion.

But what can you do about bad reviews on Yelp? And should you really worry about one bad review on Yelp or Google+? When do these bad reviews start having a negative impact on how potential customers perceive you? What average star rating will start turning people away?

A recent study by Bright Local asked the question, “What average star rating is too LOW for you to consider using a local business?”

  • 4 star rating = 92% of users will use this local business.
  • 3 star rating = 72% of users will use this local business.
  • 2 star rating = 27% of users will use this local business.
  • 1 star rating = 13% of users will use this local business.

The good news is you don’t need a squeaky clean, 4/4 or 5/5 star rating profile on Yelp or Google+ to attract new customers. The study shows us that people are a little forgiving and can overlook a few bad reviews that may drop your star rating by one point. Most are comfortable using a business with a 3/4 star rating.

Here are a few ideas to help protect yourself against bad customer reviews on Yelp before they happen:

  • Make sure you ask your loyal customers to write a review for you so there are more positive than negative reviews.
  • Be sure to respond to any bad Yelp reviews to show others that you care and are genuine about providing a good experience for everyone; your desire to make things right can go a long way. Here’s some advice from Yelp on Responding to Reviews.
  • Learn from bad reviews – is there an underlying theme in your reviews? Does food take too long? Is everyone complaining about your receptionist? Perhaps it’s time to take action and correct any truth there may be to the bad reviews.

We’ve also written a few other articles about Customer Reviews with more detailed advice:

Do you need help with some online reputation management? Give us a call at 1-888-262-6687!

Negative Online Review CommentsIt is every business owner’s worst fear ….

A customer who has a less than ideal experience and tells ten friends and posts the story on multiple online reviews sites, giving you a bad reputation and scaring off potential customers for months to come.

Recently a study by the Temkin Group  and shared on Marketing Charts shows that consumers are more likely to share bad experiences, but there is definite hope for companies can recover and even turn a negative experience into a positive one.

So what can you do in terms of your online review management reputation? First let’s explore the consumer review study’s findings.

1. A bad experience is more likely to get feedback.

32% of consumers give feedback directly to companies following a very bad experience, compared to 23% who do so following a very good experience.

2. Word-of-mouth is still the most popular way to share a bad experience.

60% of 25-34 year olds tell a friend directly following a bad experience, while 31% share it on Facebook and 20% write a review. The good news is the stats are very similar when they  have a good experience!

3. A poor response to a bad experience will cause customers to spend less.

62% of consumers who rated companies’ response to their bad experience as “very poor” decreased their spending with the companies.

4. A bad experience followed by a good response can save you … and make you money.

Only 21% of consumers who had a bad experience followed by a “very good” response from the company decreased their spending, 29% increased their spending!

Key Online Review Management Takeaways

The key takeaways from these statistics in terms of online review management services and strategies:

  1. Be prepared for bad feedback from customers. It’s inevitable that you can’t please everyone 100% of the time.
  2. Customers will share their feedback in many ways. Be prepared to respond to feedback that comes directly to you as well as online reviews that get posted on Facebook or online review websites.
  3. Have a clear policy for responding to feedback. You may not always be the employee hearing about a bad experience; make sure that your entire workforce knows how to turn a bad experience into a positive thing.
  4. Use a bad experience a chance to increase your sales. Nearly 1/3 customers who had a very good response to their negative feedback ended up spending more money with the company! Negative feedback is your chance to prove yourself and turn the customer into a super shopper.

If you are considering implementing an online review management reputation system at your business ask us about our new Online Review Management services which help you monitor online reviews, respond to reviews so you can actually make money from bad reviews and so that you can constantly be growing your positive reviews to help outweigh the inevitable few bad reviews you get.

Call us at 888-262-6687 or visit our Online Reviews Infographic to learn more.