I found the Digital Synopsis headline to be both amusing and instructive: “Why Page 2 Of Google Search Results Is the Best Place to Hide A Dead Body.” [https://bit.ly/2mOxk10] Their point, of course, is that 95% of web searchers won’t look past page one of Google results. Indeed, 67% of all clicks go to the top five listings on page one. [https://bit.ly/2ru3xe0]
Getting your business on page one is increasingly difficult. A few years ago, signing up for Google’s local search feature (then called Google Places, now Google My Business) almost guaranteed that small-market dealers could be found on the first page of results. At that time, up to seven spots were dedicated to local results. This page section was known as the “seven pack.”
Today, algorithm and technology changes have reduced the number of local spots to three, known as (you guessed it) the three-pack. The reduction in size is enough to make a sober webmaster seek out a six-pack.
What you can do to get found - and get more customers
Google’s current algorithm provides national reach combined with local focus. Antique dealers can’t compete with the mega-budgets of national companies, but they can dominate local search results and achieve a place in the coveted three-pack by fine-tuning the following five elements of local search:
1. Start with a good website. A properly executed website will be optimized for search engines and serve as an online hub for reviews, maps, citations, social media links, details about and photographs of your business. A good website is “mobile responsive”; that is, just as readable on the small screen of a mobile phone as it is on a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer (in fact, the reason Google went from a “seven-pack” to a “three-pack” in local results was to accommodate smaller screens).
The following do not qualify as “good websites”:
- Do-it-yourself website builders given away with the purchase of web hosting. Yes, I know hosting companies make promises about how wonderful such sites are, but I’ve studied the source code behind many such pages and found them lacking in keywords, header tags, meta-data, and other information that Google bots rely on to determine what a web page is all about. Building a website, like building a house, is not a job for amateurs.
- Directory-style online “antiquing maps” that offer a “website” if you buy their advertising package. Such sites function well to provide citations to a website but are not replacements for a locally-optimized website.
- A Facebook page. I’ve seen dealers buy a domain name and have it forward to their Facebook page, so that when someone enters “YourDomainName.com” they end up on your Facebook page. That may seem like a clever way to promote your business and save some money but consider this: The only people who will be able to type in your web address or Facebook page will be those who already know the name of your business. Tourists traveling along the interstate looking for antique stores won’t know your business name; they will go to Google (not Facebook) and search for the name of a nearby town and the keywords “antique store.” Unless you are on page one of the results, you just missed a customer.
2. If you haven’t already, sign up for Google My Business [https://www.google.com/business/]. It’s free. Although it appears simple to set up, innocent mistakes can render it almost useless. It’s important, for example, that you are consistent in your entries: “123 Main St. Anytown” is not the same as “123 Main Street Anytown.” Page details are read by bots that will see the discrepancy as two different addresses. The Search Engine Journal [https://bit.ly/2CJfz9R] has a thorough guide that can walk you through the steps of setting up Google My Business. If, after seeing the level of detail required, you aren’t inclined to take the plunge, there are countless Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies that will do it for you for a modest fee.
3. Get lots of local citations. A citation is a listing for your business in a local directory that links back to your website. Directories might include the Chamber of Commerce, visitors center, shopping directories, church websites, and so on. The more the better. Such local links confirm to the Google bots that you are, indeed, a local business.
4. Social proof. Link your website to your Facebook or other social media page, then engage with your followers.
5. Get (and monitor) reviews. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google Reviews, Yelp, Trip Advisor, or other review sites. Yelp discourages customers from asking for reviews, but Google encourages it:
“Remind your customers to leave feedback on Google. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.” [https://bit.ly/2IcrG2e]
A post on Search Engine Land titled “How to Get Good Online Reviews That Build Business” lists a half-dozen ways to encourage customers to leave reviews. My favorite is to hand out a business card (to happy customers) that lists a web address where they can leave a review.
Analyze the competition
The above steps will help you optimize your local presence but won’t tell you how high the competitive bar is set. To do this, you’ll have to analyze your competition in greater detail. Here’s how to accomplish that:
- Search on <antiques yourtown yourstate>
- Note which of your competitors are in the three-pack, and which appear organically on page one. At the bottom of the three-pack is a “More” button that will bring up other local listings. Check as many as you need to.
- Click on each listing. A pop-up will appear on the map; scroll down to examine the store’s reviews and citations. Tap the “website” button in the upper left-hand corner of the pop-up
- Copy the URL of the website’s home page (the web address) and paste it into the free SEO audit tool at https://www.seoptimer.com/. The tool will provide a visual representation of the quality of the website (from Google’s perspective) and give the site a letter grade. The report can be downloaded as a pdf. Repeat the audit process for all your top competitors. Then, audit your own website, and compare the results. This method enables you to pinpoint exactly what your competitors are doing that’s bringing them such good results.
As I read the above steps, my ears ring with a chorus of “Who has time for all that?”
I get it.
Being an antique dealer can take over your life; I’ve been there. I suspect that the reason so many stores shortcut the website process is that they are short on time, money, or both. But that doesn’t negate the need for a locally optimized site. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone who will do it right.
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