Be findable!

Who doesn’t want to be found? Whether you have a retail shop or sell your time and talent – every business needs to be findable. There’s an expression that says “if Google doesn’t know you exist, then you don’t exist” and in today’s world, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

We know that 80+% of people use the internet to do research before making a purchase. That number gets even larger when the purchase is expensive or is business related. If Google doesn’t offer you up as an option, you may never get the opportunity to try to win the sale.

For many businesses, their circle of influence and potential customers are within a certain radius of their physical location. If you’re a dry cleaners, then you know your radius may not be more than a couple miles. But if you’re a financial planner or lawyer, it may be 100 miles or more.

There are some strategies you can employ to make sure you’re found when someone in your local market conducts a search for your kind of business. None of this is a promise of first page placement but the more of these tactics you put into place and keep updated, the better your search ranking will be.

You absolutely can spend money on Google Adwords or other paid search options. But before you do that – make sure you have a strong foundation laid.

Make sure you are listed: Go to https://www.google.com/business and search for your business. You can claim your business (you’ll have to verify it through the mail or by phone). Be sure to include quality photos of your business, your team and even a few of the items you sell.

Even though Google is the king of search, don’t neglect Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, Facebook and any other directories specific to your industry.

Establish citations: Citations are websites where you can list your business. There are a bazillion of these sites, so don’t try to do it all by hand. There are sites out there called aggregators that will provide your information to all of these citation sites. Or you can use a service like Moz Local (https://moz.com/local/overview) or Yext (http://www.yext.com/).

Actively seek reviews: Most business-to-business organizations dismiss reviews as being “a retail thing.” And most retail businesses dread the review discussion. The truth is, you’re going to trigger reviews, whether you want them or not. So why not influence them so you can invite your happiest, best clients to speak out?

Unless you’re in an industry that has a very well-known specialty review site, focus on Google and if it makes sense for your business, Yelp. Don’t waste a lot of time on obscure sites that don’t get a lot of traffic.

Credibility links: Are you a member of the local Chamber? Or is your company profiled on a trade association’s site? Think about all of the places your business exists online and link to them within the context of your site. Whether it’s a membership, an award or even a media story – take advantage of the power of the other sites’ credibility and Google juice by linking directly to them.

Build your site with search in mind: Some of the basics really matter. As you write or add content to your website, remember to be smart about key words, the number of words on each page and other organic search basics.

No matter what your company does, search is incredibly competitive. You can’t afford to ignore this marketing playing field any more. But, before you spend a dime, make sure you’ve done everything you can for free to impact your listings. That will become a much stronger platform to launch from.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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