Understanding local search and why it’s important for your business

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Word of mouth was once an accounting firm’s primary means of gaining new clients, but these days, your prospective customers likely rely on local search as a type of modern-day word of mouth. Unfortunately, if your online presence doesn’t show up in local search results on the major search engines like Google and Bing, prospective new clients may never know your business exists. The good news is you can change that by understanding local search and how to improve it for your business.

What is local search?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is what ensures your site shows up in the results when someone searches online for a business like yours. When a user searches with local intent, they take their search a step further by specifying a nearby location. That is local search. For example, if you go online to search for the best Italian restaurant near you, you’re conducting a local search.

Here’s why local search is important for your business

According to Google, nearly half of all internet searches are for local businesses. Of the individuals conducting those local searches, half of them engage with the business they searched for on the same day. To capitalize on this consumer behavior, your business must be highly visible online. The following tips will improve your business’s local search ranking, making it easier for customers to find you.

5 ways to improve local search for your business

When users search online for a business or service, search engines always supply a few local results because most people are looking for something nearby. But don’t take for granted that your business will be at the top of the list when someone queries the services you offer. You may be surprised to find that your business doesn’t show up at all. To find out if it does, perform a local search for the services you offer. If you can’t find your business in the results, it’s time to change that. The following tips will boost your visibility in local searches:

1. Update your Google 'My Business' profile

This is a free service that is accessible via web or mobile app. Even if you have a great business website, it is important to secure your Google "My Business" profile. By doing so, you establish your business’s online identity and appear in Google local searches and Google Maps. It also allows you to obtain valuable online reviews to show prospective clients that you’re a top accountant in the area.

2. Keep your business profile information up to date

Simply entering your business name and location isn’t enough to show up in a local search. Even if someone searches for the exact type of business you have, if your business profile information is incomplete or missing, you risk not showing up at all. And even if your business does show up, consider how an incomplete or lacking result looks compared to a gleaming up-to-date profile that boasts glowing reviews. To make sure that is the case, monitor your business profile periodically, especially for reviews and to update any relevant business information that has changed.

3. Maintain your business website

Not only can an outdated website lose customers and cost your business money in other ways, failing to keep your business website updated also harms your Google local search ranking. The links, articles and even SEO practices employed on your website affect your business’s local search ranking. Take time periodically to ensure that all website links are functional, that you share accurate and valuable information on your site, and that you follow SEO best practices. These are all important factors that impact your business’s local search ranking.

4. Establish your online presence on top review sites

In addition to Google’s My Business profile page, be sure your business is listed on popular review sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages. Monitor reviews and be responsive to demonstrate you care and are actively involved in the customer experience. And remember, regardless of the type of review you receive, always respond in a positive, constructive way. Never be defensive, even in response to a negative review.

5. Provide a virtual tour of your business

Today’s consumers are highly visual and web-savvy, which makes a virtual photo tour of your business an excellent tool to help boost your local search ranking. Google not only allows businesses to add a 3-D virtual photo tour to their business profile, the search engine rewards businesses that do by giving them preferential treatment when it comes to local search rankings. Your photos will also show up in Google Maps. Search results of business profiles with photos are twice as likely to generate interest as profiles without them.

By using these simple tactics to improve your business’s local search ranking, you can boost your visibility in online local searches, and ultimately, your bottom line.

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