This class, taught by Savannah Carabin with the Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority (BEDA), is the first installment of BEDA's "How to get your Business discovered on the Internet" office hours series. The next installment will be on Wednesday, July 13th at 8:00 am.
In summary, there are a view websites you'll want to list your business:
Better Business Bureau
Angie* (formerly Angie's List)
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
*Typically for professionals providing a service like plumbing or roofing
We did an exercise where we googled our industry to find a provider that offers that product/service near us. For example, "cupcakes near me" or "ATV lodging near me". We posed the question, "where was your listing?", "Were you listed at all?" The importance of the exercise was to show that if search engines (like Google) don't have enough information about you, your listing will not be prioritized because that means the customer probably won't get enough about it.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Savannah covered what SEO stands for and how the more content you have available on the web about your business, the higher your business will rank in comparison to your competitors because there is more information available. Savannah shared you want to have accurate information about your product/service and go into detail. Although having a website is the best way to optimize your SEO, the goal of this class was to cover alternative ways to boost your SEO and rank your listings higher than where they are at.
Savannah used an example of googling for prom dresses. In the search query box, she typed "prom dresses near me" and google auto-populated a list of options with additional keywords in bold such as "Princeton, WV", "Beckley, WV", "Stores", "Plus Size", "cheap", and "shops". These bolded words are examples of additional keywords you can incorporate in your business listings in order to be found when someone searches for your business.
Next, we walked through an exercise using www.answerthepublic.com and Savannah searched "Hatfield McCoy Trails". The site provides a spoke and wheel with keywords "why", "can", "where", "which", and other question-words with the most googled phrases people searched pertaining to those particular phrases. Savannah encouraged incorporating the questions asked into descriptions businesses post on the internet -- in short, answer those questions! It doesn't necessarily have to be a Q&A format, but incorporating the answers into what you publish online.
Google Business Profile:
Formerly, "Google my Business", this is a perfect place to update holiday hours, showcase new products, reply to reviews, showcase your menu, and more. We used the "cupcakes near me" example and how SweetThingZ in Bluefield appears first because she has an active Google Business Profile with updated information. It is important to put all information you can to answer any question a potential client may have.
How do I manage my Google Business Profile Listing? You can search your business listing and scroll down and hit "claim this business" or you can go to www.google.com/business and sign in to claim your business. If it appears the business is already claimed and you recognize the email, use that email to log in. If you do not recognize the email, you can use the "Account Recovery Help Guide" or Request Access straight from the page. Savannah showed an example of an ATV Lodging Business with a relatively great Google Business Profile and how it shows booking information, amenities, and contact information. An example Savannah used was, "how many of you traveled somewhere and wanted to know if where you were going was kid-friendly or ADA-accessible and didn't know unless you called or just showed up? -- this is something you can outline in your Google Business Profile so folks have the confidence to know ahead of time"
Savannah logged into the Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority's profile and shared how folks can see where their traffic comes from, how many phone calls are received from someone viewing the respective Google profile, and provides a map of where everyone is that asks for directions to your business -- a great marketing tool to figure out where your clientele is coming from!
Let's ask Siri:
Savannah showed an example of how she asked Siri to find "ATV lodging near me" and there were four businesses that appeared. The first business was permanently closed, the second business didn't have any photos, the third business has photos/reviews/little details, and the fourth business had one photo and no additional details. Humans have a short attention span and will select the first listing with photos because it appears more active -- whether that is true or not. We selected the third business as an example of how the eye is drawn to it first and saw their information was indexed from booking.com and there were some helpful details like phone/address and basic amenities on the listing.
Next, we walked through how to gain access to the Apple Maps listing by visiting Apple Business Register and logging in to make changes to a listing or claim a business added. For this particular class, it is recommended just to focus on the Apple Maps listing although Apple has a variety of other business services.
The best way to add additional content to Apple Maps is by claiming and managing your business's Yelp Profile. Apple Maps and Yelp are integrated by which Apple indexes Yelp. Similarly with the Google Business Profile in a way you will want to add as much information as possible and ensure your amenities/additional resources are added like a menu, reservation details, etc.
Savannah shows a side-by-side comparison of if you search for restaurants using Google vs. Siri (Apple Maps). Much to everyone's surprise, the options of where to eat were different on Apple Maps vs. Google Maps -- further expressing how important it is to be on both. Clients or potential clients could be using an Android, Apple, Google, Samsung, or some other device to find you, be sure to be there.
Next up we covered the best sites to list a tourism-related business. Savannah noted that you don't have to be a lodging business for this to pertain to you, if you are a restaurant and find folks are visiting you from out of the area, that includes you! If folks who are not local patronize your business, listing on tourism sites is for you.
Savannah walked us through how to list accommodations, things to do, restaurants, and vacation rentals on TripAdvisor at tripadvisor.com/createlisting
Next up was information on the Expedia Group which is Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire, and Vrbo. Posting a listing on the Expedia Group should publish listings on those respective pages but businesses are encouraged to check to make sure all information is accurate on all sites.
Savannah covered Angi (formerly Angie's List") and HomeAdvisor. These are websites where people who provide a service like pressure washing, plumbing, roofing, etc. should list their business. HomeAdvisor is powered by Angi, so listing on Angi should replicate your listing on to HomeAdvisor but businesses are encouraged to double-check.
How Social Media plays a role:
Posting on social media can feel like a chore, but Savannah encouraged everyone to make sure their Facebook profile has accurate hours of operation/email/phone number/address/offerings at a bare minimum, but adding additional details (like answering questions from "answerthepublic.com") in the description can help boost your appearance on the web higher because it is content to pull from. More information on Facebook = Indexed by Google to improve SEO!
First, we walked through utilizing Facebook Events. Savannah used the example of how someone can search for things to do during the Fourth of July weekend on Facebook and use the advanced search tools to input dates and search for family-friendly events only. Folks were also encouraged to post events on eventbrite.com because Google indexes Eventbrite. In Savannah's search, she was able to find a "4th of July Bash" at Crumpler Mountain Resort and then looked at Crumpler Mountain Resort's Facebook Page to verify legitimacy by looking at their "about" and "services" section.
Then, we took a look at searching the "Hatfield McCoy Trails" on Instagram. Right away, we were flooded with a feed of photos. For this exercise, Savannah pretended to be looking for a place to stay. She selected a photo of a cabin and was able to see it was geo-tagged with "Local GOAT ATV Resort". By pressing the geo-tag, she was able to see information about the resort to potentially make a reservation there. Everyone is encouraged to not only post/use hashtags/geo-tag their business, but encourage their customers to do the same.
Things to Consider:
There are a thousand ways for a potential client to find your business, so you want to be where they are going to search. Savannah shared a few key tips:
Imagine you are visiting somewhere brand new, how are you going to find information on that place? Pretend you're visiting Winston-Salem -- see what pops up when you search and what sites people listed their businesses on
Eliminate vias when posting/sharing information. Write as if the person reading has never visited your establishment or used your product/service before. There is nothing worse than feeling out of the loop or feeling like you don't know enough to ask a question without feeling silly. Don't make your customers feel that way! Answer what they may be uncomfortable asking. Do I need a trail pass? What trails connect?
Make your call-to-action crystal clear. What is a call-to-action? It is the next step you expect a potential client to take such as "Book Now", "Get an Estimate", or "Learn More". Make sure your customer knows how to book, get an estimate, or learn more. is it a phone call? email? link on your website?
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