The vast majority of people today find businesses online. Sometimes consumers search via business name, but if the consumer is looking for a category, i.e., “tires,” it is important for your business’ name to pop up.
Assume people searching for tires or auto service know what they want, but not from whom to obtain it. The question becomes how you enhance your chances of being seen – and selected.
Most people discover a new business using search engines, with more than 75% using Google. Even if your dealership is right around the corner, customers will still search for you online. The strategy for getting your name to show up near the top of the list is broadly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is an entirely different process for local businesses than for those who depend entirely on the internet to attract customers. A small business has an advantage because it serves a specific geographic area. SEO for small business is dramatically easier – and less expensive to execute.
It is surprising, therefore, how so many tire dealers ignore this advantage. They understand legacy advertising like Yellow Pages or radio spots, whether they invest in them or not. In the current competitive environment, to ignore local SEO is to relegate your business to the subordinate pages of the search engines, rarely to be seen. It is said that only 7% of people visit the second page of Google when searching. The joke is, “Where should you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google.”
Given the significant upsurge in consumer reliance on search engines for initiating a business relationship, no dealership can afford to ignore online marketing.
One of the key reasons that local SEO is easier and less expensive than SEO for more broad-based businesses is the dozens of online local directories that point people to your business. Being listed in these directories is called a “citation.”
A citation is a mention of your business online. And, “mention” means that your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is accurately listed in a directory. It is the minimum information you can offer to be listed.
Sometimes directory information is limited to NAP. In many situations, however, it can include a website, pictures, videos and mission statements. Your listing is typically free, but sometimes you are given the opportunity to enhance your listing with advertising.
It’s important to note that while consumers will occasionally find your business by going directly to a citation, it would be overly hopeful to put too much reliance on people visiting an online directory to find a tire dealership. The good news is that Google will sometimes display your listing in the organic search displayed to a prospect. The mere fact that you show up on an online directory increases the likelihood your business will show up in a Google search.
The more places you are listed, the more frequently you will be found online. And the more often a business appears online, the higher it is positioned in a Google search. Google gives you credits for being seen broadly and consistently.
There are lots of things that go into the algorithms that determine your relative position on a Google page. The numbers of citations and their consistency with how you are listed on Google My Business is among the more important.
The term “clean” applies when the information that appears in online sites is accurate and consistent. While you can include a wide variety of information and images in your listing, the key elements that must always appear – and appear exactly the same for every listing – are the following:
A. Your company name. This is not your corporate name, but the name that represents what you are called by the average consumer – your brand name. It is also important to eliminate all variations that may appear in the structure of your listing. For example: Jones Tire vs. Jones Goodyear Tires.
B. Your address. This is the street address where you deliver services, not an office address if it is different. It’s also important to keep abbreviations consistent. If Boulevard appears in your Google My Business listing, do not list Blvd. on Yelp. If you are shown in Google My Business as being in Fort Lauderdale, do not change to Ft. Lauderdale in other listings.
C. Your local telephone number. Do not list an 800 number or a tracking number or an extension. Use the exact same phone number in every listing you claim or correct in existing listings.
D. Your website URL. This should be the home page of your website, not a landing page or any other subordinate page on your site.
Consistency is key. If any of the above elements varies from site to site, it is a bad reflection on the serious image you are trying to convey. And, while we usually think of image as impressing other humans, consistency also impresses Google’s sophisticated crawler robots. Conversely, inconsistency conveys less trust in your online image and will relegate you to the lower parts of the listings Google provides searchers.
To some extent the same thing applies to duplicate listings. Always strive to merge or eliminate a second listing on any online site.
Perhaps you are wondering how your listings got “dirty” in the first place. Quite often it is a matter of different people submitting information at different times. Or a business may have changed locations. It is nearly impossible to remember all the places where you have entered the business address, so often the old address hangs out there for years.
The problem gets multiplied when data aggregators get involved and “scrape” information from other online directories. One incorrect listing can multiply many times in a short period. In fact, if Google sees the same incorrect information showing up too many places, it can auto-create a whole new listing for your business.
How do you go about “the fix?” The easiest way to start is to get a handle on where you stand. There are free scanning services that will help with this. One such service you can use for free can be found at http://Bit.ly/mysites17. This will provide you with a list of about five dozen sites and indicate whether you are listed, point out where your listings are inconsistent and where there you might have duplicate listings. It is a good place to start.
Once you have a list of problematic citations, the next step is to fix them. Most of the top directories have a clear way to make corrections and to contact them if you need further help.
Google My Business and Bing Places are the most important sites to make sure you are listed correctly. If you need help, you can actually speak with Google on the phone. To do this, log into your Google account and go to the site: https://support.google.com/business. You will find a place to ask for help, enter your phone number and, within seconds, someone from Google will call you back. For Bing, go to www.bingplaces.com.
Some things are never truly finished. You just do the best you can. Citations are no exception. Things change, sometimes shortly after you fix them. So, relax. Your objective is to get the most important sites correct and complete, and to monitor them carefully.
Just by reading and executing a few ideas in this article, you will be ahead of the vast majority businesses with which you compete.
This is not an instant-results process either. It can take some time for sites to absorb your changes and to index new listings. Eventually, however, your clean data will circulate around the internet and your ranking will begin to rise.
Going the Extra Mile
Being listed in online directories can enhance your local online presence. This “presence” is often defined by the resulting Google page ranking shown by typing in a keyword (tires/auto service/oil change) and the name of the city in which you operate. Some suggestions to include consistently:
1. Accurate NAP (name, address, phone number)
2. Hours of operation
3. A business email address
4. A description of your service offerings, particularly if you have some that are unique.
5. If you serve a diverse population, include languages spoken
6. Forms of payment accepted
7. Special industry accreditations you or your staff may have
8. Any accommodations you make that help you stand out with customers (e.g. courtesy drop off)
9. Links to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+
10. If the site offers reviews, make sure you are registered for that option
11. If the site offers the opportunity to show photos or videos, always do
Roger McManus is author of “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry” (Amazon) for owners of tire and auto service businesses who are trapped as the hub of their business wheel. Learn more at www.RogerMcManus.com. Roger works with the Automotive Marketing Foundation to engage tire manufacturers in a TIA and TDAC-sponsored connected social media effort for tire dealers and consumers. He can be reached at [email protected]