Local SEO Emergency'21 if your business had to go online
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many companies had no choice but to go online. In the business world, this situation caused a serious boost in creative approaches, bold development, and digitalization of most spheres. Thereby, we can't but mention that also a number of questions arose, including the expediency of local marketing.
What to do with your company's listings if you don't have a physical location anymore? Do you need to think about local SEO if you work from home? How to reach users on Google Maps without an address of your business location?

In this article, RocketData experts hurry up to answer these and other topical questions regarding the local promotion of your business.
What is the problem?
Today, many companies have to join the online world and eventually digitalize their way of goods and services sales. Due to a large amount of information and operational work that needs to be carried out for successful transfer from offline, many business owners and managers feel confused in matters of what marketing tools to choose, refuse or continue to use them just in a slightly different way.

We hasten to say that nothing should be reinvented in local SEO — almost every business type can find local marketing possibilities on Google My Business (GMB). All you need to understand is what type of business you should look the information and guidelines for.

Staying on GMB brings companies undeniable benefits because the most important thing here is that the business known to the user will not disappear anywhere. People will still be able to find their favorite brands, they will simply be notified that the use of services or the purchase of goods is performed in the other way now.

So, let's get down to the point.
Now you're not just a brick-and-mortar brand. What should you do first to identify in what way to apply local SEO?
First of all, you should understand which of the following categories your business belongs to: Service Area Business (SAB), Home-based, Virtual, or Hybrid one. Let's take a brief overview of each of them:
SAB
It doesn't matter whether you have a physical address or not. The main thing is that you serve your clients face-to-face at their locations.

Here go plumbing, painting, cleaning, landscaping, etc.
Home-based business
Your physical address is you home. You can both serve clients at theirs and at yours location. But the point is you need to serve your clients face-to-face.

Here go dog walkers, beauty specialists, teachers, fitness instructors, etc.
Virtual business
You can have one or several addresses. But all operations are made virtually and remotely. Clients don't come to your location, neither do you.

Here go master-classes, banking, different clubs and virtual courses.
Hybrid business
It's a mixture of all types. Usually, such companies have a brick-and-mortar space where you can come and take service at the place; pay online and come to take your order; from which you can order and wait for the delivery by the courier.

Here go cafes and restaurants, all kinds of stores, banking, insurance, etc.
Particularly the Hybrid type became very popular during the pandemic in 2020 cause this model gives flexibility to how businesses can vary their performance apart from classical offline service.

In this regard, we can't but say that due to the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses came to the threshold of the online world and can actually decide which type suits them most now. For example, if you are a beauty specialist and have to refuse from your salon, you can decide whether to receive clients at home or to visit them at their places. If you choose both — you can be a Home-based business or a SAB. Some businesses like insurance companies can choose whether to go totally online and become a virtual business or to be a hybrid one and see their clients face to face.

Let's imagine the type of business identified. Now you need to understand what you can do with your Google listings to save your relationships with existing and potential customers.
Dos
So, what are the common dos to perform your local strategy without an address in its traditional understanding? In fact, for each type of business, there are special guidelines on Google that explain in detail what SABs, home, virtual and hybrid companies should do with their listings. Read them thoroughly. Here, we collected some universal pieces of advice on local SEO to help your business. Let's take a look:

1. Pay attention to your address on GMB

Google's guidelines say that the address should be in any case. Even if it is your home address, warehouse, or any other sort of location. Let's brief what each type of business should do in this case:

  • SAB — you must provide your address when creating a listing, but then it is required to hide it. Instead, you should set your service area — cities or postal codes where your SAB serves. It is possible to enter up to 20 areas and there shouldn't be more than two hours of driving distance from where your business is situated.

  • Home-based business — here several situations are possible.

    The first one is when you serve your clients at home and want your address to be visible — you're welcome! Just put a signage and you can easily use every Google advantage like you're a brick-and-mortar company.

    The second situation is when you serve your clients at home and want your address to be private or you serve clients not at your place — here, just act like you're a SAB: hide your address and set a service area following the same rules.

    The third is when you do not serve anyone in-person (e.g. only virtual consultations) and just work at home — usually, Google doesn't allow you to create listings for such a business. But 2020 came and changed everything. So, if you used to meet your clients face-to-face earlier and plan to do it after the pandemic, you have the right to create a listing like a usual home-based business. Time changes and we'll see how Google adapts their guidelines on this point.
  • Virtual business — if you are an owner of a virtual business you have strict limitations to performing what is listed above. Your listing will be concerned ineligible and you simply won't be able to promote your business for maps ranking and local pack. But there are some other ways you can follow not to lose your position on Google. Pay attention to:

    - Organic user engagement on Google — focus on the high-quality content and links you earn. That will help you to raise your Page Authority.
    - Paid opportunities for being visible on Google — use geotargeting for the proper regions.

  • Hybrid business — here you are free to choose what opportunities in previous models are the most relevant for your company and add them to brick-and-mortar features if it is possible to get everything from GMB listings.

Whatever eligible for GMB model you choose, after making the first address improvements into your listings you should understand that it is essential to be active and consistent in working with GMB listings.

Here goes the second important step.


2. Communicate with your customers

It is the most essential thing you can do to show that your business is still there for your customers. So, how can you communicate through your company's listings?

  • Reviews — when people write reviews they want to say something about your business. And your goal is to hear it and react properly to show that you interact and value these relationships. Positive reviews can increase sales and customer loyalty, negative ones can ruin your reputation and allow competitors to take the lead. So, don't ignore this kind of feedback from your audience, respond to positive and negative words towards your business, think out your strategy on working with reviews, and stay in touch with your customers.

  • Questions & Answers — a Google tool that allows users to ask and answer questions about a business online. It is another source to give your customers the needed information right in the listing. How does it work? Customers ask any question and get a response either from you or from other users.

You should keep an eye on this tool to be sure that people get full and relevant information, cause your or other users' answers can influence a lot on the decision to contact your business. There is also an opportunity to give likes to questions and answers — this can give you an understanding of what bothers your clients the most, and what answers most successfully fill in the knowledge gap about your company. The question or answer with the most likes will show up on the front page of the GMB listing, so everyone will see it.

  • Attributes — 2020 brought the necessity to provide your clients more information about the rules in your company. To social and moral demand to take care about the health of surrounding you people, Google responded by adding the feature of setting up health and care attributes like:

    - Wearing a mask is required;
    - Obligatory disinfection of surfaces after visiting clients;
    - Mandatory temperature check;
    - Workers wear masks;
    - Workers have their temperature checked;
    - Pre-registration is required.
Don't forget that now it is possible to add senior hours, COVID-19 information links and telemedicine appointment links.
  • Posts — you can post timely texts, offers, events, products, and services, events, stories, images, polls, and videos directly to Google Search and Maps through posts on Google My Business. It helps to engage with potential users who may be looking for your company.
Mind that if you don't serve customers at a particular location or within a designated service area, you can use Posts on Google for verified entities. Should we say that it is a great opportunity to keep your existing or potential audience informed about what is going on in your company?
  • Messenger — you can get in touch with your customers in real-time from your Business Profile on Google. By turning on a messaging feature, you can answer questions in a moment and by that attract customers to your business.
Messaging is a kind of conversation between your company and your customers. Being from the other side, we all should agree that getting a quick and full answer from the business you've just written on Google can leverage the trust and the possibility that you choose it.

Of course, it seems hard to keep all these actions in mind and have sharp attention to everything. For these reasons, you can use special platforms as RocketData to keep all the information in your listing under control.
Don'ts
It doesn't matter which type of business you have when it comes to typical mistakes owners or marketers tend to make. And the biggest one is trying to fake locations just to create a listing. That is why strongly advise you not to set up:

  • unstaffed virtual offices and P.O. boxes;
  • the houses of staff or friends and relatives to create visibility of having multiple locations;
  • listings for properties that are for rent or sale — you can do it only for the sales office;
  • listings and leave them without proper management — if you want to get ranked on Google you need to keep an eye on the relevance of information, reviews, and questions from customers.
To sum up
The COVID-19 pandemic created a new reality and gave us fresh directions to think and act. It is hard to imagine if we could return to 100% traditional approaches to business management. So, we need to develop creative thinking and work with what we have, fearlessly digitalize, and don't skip the tools like local SEO, cause they can help us to grow.

More and more businesses are becoming at least hybrids, and it is unlikely they will return to their previous stage of performance. In this regard, we expect Google to change their guidelines, make them clearer and more adaptive for those who want to promote their businesses with the help of local SEO while operating from home.

Today, you may sit in your armchair but still work hard and reach your customer with diverse marketing tools including local ones. Just use all the opportunities you can.

Despite your business model, get everything from Google and GMB: specify your new location or area, add relevant information about goods, services and working hours, communicate with your customers managing reviews, comments, ratings, creating relevant posts and promptly reacting to their questions.

Local SEO is a perfect tool not to get lost — be there for your customers in 2021.
Want to save time and successfully manage your business listings? RocketData is here for your business to take everything under control — book a demo to find out more.
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