Whether you own a tapas bar with a great happy hour deal or a pet store with premium organic dog food, your customers are on the Internet searching for your services, your locations, your hours and more. As a business owner, it’s crucial that when they search, you show up.
However, a restaurant needs optimized local listings for different reasons than a professional law firm would need them. Those reasons often define the content you need to have on your site- a PDF of your menu, a section for reviews and more- in order to guarantee your visibility to searchers.
In this piece, we’ll offer specific reasons that local listings are important in each industry, followed by advice on what business owners should do to optimize their local listings for discovery and sales.
Restaurants, Cafes and Nightlife
These days, it’s much more common for diners to arrive at a restaurant already knowing exactly what they want to order than it is for them to show up without even having looked at the menu beforehand. In fact, 80% of diners want to see the menu before they eat at a restaurant, and 62% reported that they’d be less likely to choose a restaurant if they couldn’t read the menu online. Diners search for restaurants online to research prices, cuisine and menu specifics.
Diners also frequently need directions to the location of the restaurant or bar and 67% of people ages 18-65 say they are likely to look up locations or directions for a restaurant online (46% would make a reservation online to make sure they’re able to get seated). Too far to travel for a meal? 52% say they are likely to order takeout or delivery online.
When hungry people need to find the perfect restaurant to satisfy their cravings, they’re far more likely to turn to Yelp than to any other site; on average, Yelp held a place of 3.3 in the average page listing during search. Even more impressive is the fact that a Yelp link was found in the top 20 results for 97% of these searches. Simply put, adding a yelp listing is an easy win for any restaurant owner.
Doctors and dentists, are the second most commonly searched businesses online (after restaurants and cafes). Oddly, although more people use Healthgrades than Yelp for finding doctors, Yelp is significantly more trusted. Searchers view quality of care as the most important information in reviews of doctors (especially in relation to bedside manner).
The internet is currently the most popular means of finding a lawyer, with 38% of people reporting that they had found a lawyer by using the internet. Yelp, specifically, is the most popular (58% of respondents preferred Yelp) and trusted (61% chose Yelp as the most trusted website for attorney reviews) site used for finding reviews of attorneys. This same survey also found that 83% of prospective legal clients looking up online reviews did so for the purpose of finding a new attorney.
Another interesting fact for lawyers: 70% of clients will commute for an attorney with better online reviews, tying into the fact that 48% of people searching for lawyers are looking to learn specifically about their quality of service (specifically, responsiveness, track record, reputation in the legal community and cost).
The Better Business Bureau is the most trusted and most used source for finding home improvement contractors after word of mouth, according to a recent study of homeowners (35% of homeowners reported using the Better Business Bureau for their search and they ranked it the second most trustworthy source after word of mouth). Yelp, interestingly, was ranked relatively low for this particular service; it rated a 3/8 on the trust scale and was only used by about 10% of homeowners.
However, the fact that word of mouth is an important factor in hiring home improvement contractors is not surprising. 65% of people consider reputation to be the most important factor in choosing a contractor and reputation is difficult to prove on the Internet (a factor that can be addressed through reviews and testimonials on your website, as we’ll discuss later). Homeowners also search for pricing and previous experience.
Shopping and Retail
Gone are the days of simply window-shopping and wandering through stores until you find something you like. Today, 81% of consumers perform online searchers about products before going to a store and they spend an average of 79 days researching before making a major purchase. Shoppers in both the B2C and B2B industries commonly use search engines to begin their research processes. Meanwhile, 62% of millennials now use Facebook for researching potential purchases.
When researching purchases online, shoppers tend to look for the basic information. Customers want to know specifically about warranty information, pricing, model information and the availability of financing when searching for retailers.
How to Optimize Your Local Listings
While each vertical has different reasons for needing optimized local listings, the actual strategies for doing so remain the same across industries. However, they may differ depending on what platform your listing is on.
On every platform (Yelp, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Better Business Bureau and more), business owners should claim their business and fill in all the available information. Optimize your use of keywords in the listing and your descriptions for better local SEO results, while also focusing on making your descriptions meaningful enough to encourage people to actually click-through to your site.
High-quality photos are especially important when optimizing your local listings. One study showed that people searching Yelp for local businesses spent 2.5x more time looking at Yelp listings with photos. Another eye-tracking study of Google Places found that users focus on the top left of a page much more than any other area and they also often make decisions about a business from pictures alone. However, be warned that Yahoo! only allows your business to have one photo unless you opt for the paid “enhanced” listing.
You can also encourage customer reviews, which are becoming more and more prominent in search engine listings. For example, Google sometimes only displays the name, photos and reviews of a business. Your Facebook page can also be used to drive reviews on sites such as Yelp, Urban Spoon and more.
Careful, however- offering rewards in exchange for reviews is often punished by the platform. Yelp has an especially stringent system that determines whether or not reviews have been purchased. While it might be tempting to purchase good reviews in an effort to drown out of the bad ones, a better practice for your business is to address the customer’s concerns directly. The silver lining of a bad review? Businesses with no bad reviews may give the impression that they’ve edited the page and customers somewhat expect to see a few bad reviews here and there; not seeing any may set them on edge more than seeing one or two.
Depending on the type of service you provide, your website will need to have certain types of content in order to answer your customers questions when they search for your business. However, no matter what vertical you’re in, you can optimize your local listings by filling out all the required information, featuring high-quality photos, and encouraging customer reviews. There are certain basic business principals that apply to all businesses, and it all starts with connecting customers to your business and providing them with a great experience.