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Use your website to boost footfall to your small business

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By Luke Budka, Director of TopLine Comms

Search engine optimisation (SEO) advice articles tend to focus on increasing website traffic instead of increasing footfall, when in fact more than one-third of all mobile searches are related to location – potential customers looking for something nearby such as a hairdresser, pharmacy or a garage. These articles recommend complicated, time-consuming and expensive tactics that are typically too difficult to implement, and they more often than not focus solely on a company’s website.


The following five tactics will help ensure you don’t fall into the aforementioned traps:

Google My Business, Bing Places, Apple Maps Connect

Google was used for over 75 per cent of searches in 2017 according to Netmarketshare, with Bing and the other search engines hoovering up the rest. It’s therefore important your business has official representation on Google and Bing in the form of business listings tied to each giant’s map product. 

Here are easy to follow instructions on getting your business set up on each:

Google My Business 

Bing Places for Business 
 
Even though Apple products use Google for search, Apple does have its own maps software. This means you can claim your business listing on there as well, which gives you a chance of appearing when searches are made on any device using iOS, macOS or watchOS (the Apple operating systems).

Apple Maps Connect (set up from a PC or iPad) 
 
Google claims the percentage of ‘xx near me’ (e.g. ‘shoe shop near me’) searches is growing, and it’s hard to appear for these if you’re a small business and don’t have correctly set up business listings on Google, Bing and Apple Maps.

Digital reviews

This is a new take on an old tactic but still really important. In particular, reviews left on your Google My Business listing. Encouraging your customers to leave reviews online should be built into your aftersales process. Here’s the official advice from Google:  

Tip: Google also encourages business owners to reply and respond to reviews – a more active profile could lead to more prominent placing in the map deck – the map listings that show up in Google or Bing when you conduct a search:
https://support.google.com/business/answer/3474050?hl=en-GB 

Bing no longer collects reviews or ratings so nothing to do there. 

The more reviews you have on your search engine business listing, the more likely it is that business listing will appear in search engine results when someone’s conducting a local search.

General business listings

Consider what your customers are searching for and then do the searches yourself. Aside from the ads, what’s returned on page one in Google? A deck of map-related business listings? Great, we’ve covered that above. But in addition to that? Common results include popular business directory listings (Yelp, Yext, Thomson Local etc.) and freelance portals like checkatrade.com.

Years of solid SEO work could see you overtake these listings but this is likely to be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. So, as the adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. Signing up for freelance portals that are commonly returned when prospects are searching for your product or service is a great way to quickly gain exposure. 

But don’t stop there. Have a look at the kinds of businesses returned within said portals – what makes them stand out? What will you need to do to compete with other businesses selling similar products? Reviews? Pictures? Certifications? Guarantees? Do your homework and then work out how you’re going to get what you’ll need to compete. 

Facebook business page

Everyone loves Facebook right? Your customers are definitely on there, so you need to be too. A Facebook business ‘Page’ is very easy to set up and can be done in less than 30 minutes. As with Google My Business and the other listings, its quality will be reflected by the amount of time you choose to put into it (regular update, new photos etc.) and how much you engage with customers/prospects. 

Arguably the most important reason for having a Facebook ‘page’ is because it connects your business with Facebook Messenger, one of the world’s most popular messaging apps. But don’t underestimate the goodwill and promotional power of friends and family either – they’re bound to be keen to see you and your business succeed, and if you regularly post pictures of completed projects or your latest products, then you’ll benefit from their social amplification. 

Google website

If you don’t even have a website and you find the thought of setting one up terrifying, don’t despair. Google has realised there are a lot of businesses in the world without websites (60 per cent of small businesses globally) and have designed a free website builder product just for them.

First step, make sure you have an active Google My Business profile. Then visit: https://www.google.com/business/how-it-works/website/ 

Google claims it takes ‘minutes’ to complete and they’re not lying! It is very quick and easy to set up. The customisations are pretty limited, but you can secure a website address, upload pictures and add contact details. You will then have a basic one-page site. 


While the tool is free, it’s worth purchasing a custom domain (such as a .com, .biz or .net) when setting the site up (you’ll be prompted to make this purchase during the set-up process) otherwise your web address will end with www.example.business.site. Doesn’t exactly role off the tongue!