The following article will explain the steps any business can take to create a continuous flow of high-intent customers without spending a cent on marketing.
This article will cover:
The wrong popular belief of many businesses
A quick explanation of how Google works
How to build your business's trust and relevance
Google My Business
Google Search Console
Increasing your business's authority
5 ways to build up a website's domain authority
Creating links to your website
The wrong popular belief many businesses believe.
Many local businesses in South Africa and abroad spend anything from hundreds to tens of thousands of Rands on creating a beautiful website to attract customers to their shop or services offering.
But after their website was launched, no customers ended up coming through their door or visiting their website.
And this is because none of their customers could find their business online.
As a popular belief goes, launching a website is enough for customers to find your business.
In some cases, in very unique niches, this may be the case, but for most of the South African businesses, having a website is only a small part of attracting new customers.
Unfortunately, just having a website go live on Google doesn't mean anyone will find your website unless they search directly for your business's name.
Luckily search engines, and specifically Google, understands that not every mom and pop business or start-up has years of digital experience and knows how to code.
So they have created platforms and services to help everyone have an opportunity to showcase their business and products to customers who may be searching for their offerings online.
This creates an opportunity for start-ups to compete with established businesses and established businesses to compete with larger corporations if you understand how to get your business and offerings to show up in search results.
Or if you have the budget, hiring a digital agency to perform search engine optimization services will speed up the process.
But for now, let's understand how you can do it yourself.
Before discussing how to make your business visible to customers in South Africa, let's quickly understand what Google is looking for.
When a customer enters a search query, Google will look for three things when offering up a website in the search results:
It is important to build these three important key principles if you want your website to rank in the search results.
We find the easiest way to understand this concept is with a real-world example.
Let's imagine, for a moment, your Toyota sedan has broken down.
You would need to find a car repair centre that can fix Toyotas sedans. Not just any repair centre would be able to do the required repairs. Therefore you would need to find a repair centre that has an offering relevant to your needs.
The first place you may think of taking your car is the Toyota Repair Centre. Why? because you know that they only repair Toyotas and have the most knowledge about your sedan. They would be the authority on the subject.
Although you know that the Toyota Repair Centre can complete the job, a friend may have informed you that the Toyota repair centre charges twice as much as Repair Centre B who also repairs Toyota sedans.
And because you trust the advice from your friend you may now choose Repair Centre B.
So to sum this all up. When a user enters a search query, Google is looking for businesses (websites) who are relevant to what is being searched for, are authoritative on the subject and a business who has customer reviews/testimonials from customers or recommendations from other businesses.
Okay, so now we understand how Google decides which websites show up in the search results for any query.
Let's jump into how to set your website and business up online so that you start to rank highly.
How to make your business look legitimate to customers and Google. Building Trust and Relevance.
Search engines want to ensure that if they offer your business up in the search results you will still be there when a customer arrives at your door.
Google doesn't like fly-by-nights.
So to prove to Google that your business is there for the long run and ready to serve customers you have to verify your business on their platforms.
Firstly, and most importantly for local South African businesses to attract more customers, is Google My Business (GMB).
GMB is a free platform from Google that hosts businesses from every niche across the globe.
So what is a Google My Business Listing?
Have you ever typed a business's name into Google and seen this block in the search results. This would be a Google My Business listing (this is our listing below).
Or if you type a more general search into Google such as "restaurants near me", you may see results with multiple listings as the photo show below.
The Google Listings are the list of businesses that show up in search results when a local search is performed before the actual search website results.
For local South African business, many customers are searching for and finding businesses like yours on Google Listings and Maps.
"92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. (Source: SEO Expert)"
Showing up in both of these results are extremely important when a business wants to attract more customers to their store or website.
Having a GMB profile for your business increases your business's visibility online dramatically and is a must-do for any local business.
A study from Yext found that,
"75% of local mobile searches result in a visit to an offline business within a day, and nearly 30% of those visits result in a purchase."
Therefore not having an accurate and rich listing could be causing your business to be losing customers to your competitors. This is especially true if your business is a location-based South African business.
Creating a profile with Google My Business will take about 3 minutes and is a hassle-free process.
After your listing is created, you need to verify your business.
Once you have created a profile, Google My Business will ask you to verify your business in a couple of different ways including:
Usually, Google My Business will want to send a verification code to your business's location via the post to ensure your location is accurate.
This normally takes 22-28 days to arrive.
Once you receive the code and verify your business on the platform you will be able to fully manage your profile.
Once verified you will be able to add and manage your business's:
Photos and videos
Respond to reviews
Services and product offerings
and more depending on your niche.
Completing all of the fields above on your business listing will not only help your business rank higher in search results but also once a customer sees your listing, be more likely to choose your business.
Google My Business also has built-in analytics which gives you insights as to how customers are engaging with your listing.
The analytics include:
How customers found your listing, via direct or in-direct
Where customers saw your listing, on maps or search
Customers engagement, including call, request directions or click through to your website
For a local business, this is vital information to help a business understand how customers are finding their business and areas for improvement to attract new customers.
How does Google My Business listing help my business rank in search results?
Talking back to the three key pillars of helping your business show up in search results. A verified listing shows search engines, including Google, that your business is:
Relevant to what is being searched because your Google My Business listing includes your business's niche, products and services and hours.
And Trustworthy because you may have reviews from customers or other businesses and your business is verified with Google My Business.
Check how your business's information appears online with a free business scan. We offer this scan because most businesses don't know how accurate their information is online. There is no sign-up and takes about 3 minutes.
Another Google product that a website should be verified with is Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is another free platform from Google.
The platform lets you easily learn a huge amount of information about your website.
Amount of users visiting your website
Where the users are coming from
Devices used when users visit your site
Which of your website's pages are the most popular
and much more
Understanding your website's performance is incredibly valuable when trying to get your website to rank highly in the search results.