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A Guide to Local Online Marketing for Hospitality Businesses

Are you looking for a way to promote your hotel, restaurant or small local business?

Local optimisation of your food or hospitality business website can result in a significant revenue increase. Fifty per cent of people visit a store or business within a day of finding it in local search results. Nearly 18% of local searches lead to a sale, in comparison to 7% of traditional online searches. The benefits are clear, and initial costs are not inhibitive.

Optimising your business for local search isn't difficult, but it does require consistent effort. The following guide will outline some of the ways you can ensure locals searching for products or services you sell will find you instead of your competitors.

Step 1 - Claiming Your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a local directory displayed in Google search results. It’s a simple way to create a detailed listing about your company while having a significant impact on local search engine optimisation (SEO).

 Creating a Google My Business profile delivers a vast range of marketing and tracking benefits, and all of the information you need to get started is on the Google help page.

How to Get Started on Google My Business

To get started head to google.com/business, click on ‘Get on Google’ and follow the guided process. Enter your business name or address to find out if it is already listed. If your business doesn't appear, or the suggestion given is not your business, select ‘Add Your Business’ to get started.

You’ll be asked to enter your:
•Business name
•Street address
•Postal code
•Main business phone

Choose the category carefully as it will determine the appearance of your listing. This information is used to give individuals looking for local services the best possible match.

Next you’ll be asked to verify the address you have entered. You’ll be sent a card via regular mail containing a code that should arrive within 1-2 weeks. You will need to enter the code to verify that the address is accurate, after which Google will list your business.

While waiting for the verification code, you can customise your profile by adding a profile picture and cover photo.

A cover photo can be chosen from the Google My Business library, however it’s best to use your own quality image that best represents your business.

To complete your profile, you’ll need to add several other important elements:

•Hours of operation
•Website URL
•A virtual tour: This feature is particularly useful for restaurants, cafés and hotels to show potential customers of the positives of the venue.

  • Introduction: Use this field to provide more information about your business, a few sentences will do, and be sure to mention your location once again.

Step 2 - Making the Most of Google My Business

Google My Business is a wonderful tool for establishing your online reputation, so work on building the profile and enriching its content.

Post relevant content often: Promote your website and interact with your audience by posting links, questions and images. Use this opportunity to learn something about your audience.
Use hashtags: Strategically using hashtags can help you reach a larger audience. Easily link your content to trending topics to reach a larger number of potential customers.
Connect with relevant users and start building your network: Join Google+ communities and other relevant groups to promote your business and maximise your reach.
Encourage customers to write reviews: Google My Business reviews are vital for establishing your online reputation and you should aim for a minimum of 5 on your Google My Business listing. Ask satisfied customers to leave a couple of lines about your business so potential customers searching online might choose your business over others.

Step 3 - Basics of Optimising Your Website

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

 The title tag is the blue link that appears on Google search engine results pages (SERPs). Most content management systems allow administrators to add title tags and meta descriptions to each page of a website.

To optimise a title tag for a local search, include your business location alongside the keyword. For example, if the title tag is ‘Affordable Boutique Hotel Accommodation’, change it to ‘Affordable Boutique Hotel Accommodation in Brisbane’. This is a locally-optimised title tag that can have a positive impact on your website’s search engine positioning.

Meta descriptions inform the user what a particular page is about. While it has no impact on SERPs, it’s a call to action that will encourage visitors to click through to your website. A meta description can also contain a geographic term alongside other keywords, giving the audience more information about the company and its location.

Step 4 - Name, Address & Phone Information

Your business NAP information (name, address and phone number) should appear in the footer of your website. It gives the audience essential contact information and has an impact on local optimisation.

An example of a website footer that has essential NAP information for local optimisation purposes.

NAP information should:

Be crawlable text: Search engines can’t crawl and index information in an image, so make sure the footer contains actual text.
Be identical to your Google My Business information
Use Schema markup: Schema markup is code that enables search engines to “extract” and present more information. It can be used to display an address, a schedule of upcoming events and any other type of relevant information.
Be location specific: If you have more than one business location, create a separate page for each and include the relevant NAP data on the page. Alternatively, have the information about all of your locations in the footer of your website’s homepage.

Step 5 - Adding Content to Your Website

Well written, detailed and useful content is a powerful tool for your business website. Including location information in page copy will enhance your local optimisation efforts. Ensure all content is written naturally, as excessive use of keywords and location information can have a detrimental impact on your website’s ranking.

It’s important for companies that have more than one location to create optimised content for each. If you own several cafés in different parts of Canberra, for example, create a separate page for each venue.

While not strictly written content, image Alt tags give search engines additional information about your business and its location. Upload a photo of your café to your website, and include your company name, industry and address in the Alt tag.

Step 6 - Getting Positive Reviews Online

Obtaining reviews should be part of a broader marketing strategy. The number of people looking for products and services online is growing, and peer reviews are often considered more credible than any others.

Where to get business reviews

According to a 2013 study published by Search Engine Land, nearly 80 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they believe in recommendations from a friend or acquaintance.

Here are some of the most popular places where reviews can be found:

Yelp: This local online directory has an incredibly active audience dedicated to rating their experiences. Yelpers, as Yelp members are called, will frequently write reviews about restaurants, cafés, hotels and eateries. Create a Yelp profile and ask your social media followers to leave an honest review about their experience with your company. Respond to reviews, both positive and negative, because addressing customer dissatisfaction issues will show you’re listening.

Foursquare: Popular among Smartphone users, the app makes it very easy to look for local businesses, and read reviews. Create a Foursquare profile and participate as you would on Yelp. Publicise your Foursquare presence and consider having special offers for individuals that sign in to your business.

Yahoo Local Listing Reviews: Google may be the world’s most popular search engine, but don’t ignore the others. Yahoo listings is another great opportunity for establishing your online reputation.

How to Increase the Number of Reviews You have

Reviews are usually written by individuals who are either incredibly happy, or incredibly dissatisfied with a product or service. However, there are additional strategies you can use to increase the online reputation of your business:

1.Contact bloggers: Ask popular bloggers to visit your business, try the food you serve or use the products you sell. Bloggers with high website traffic and large social media communities can heavily influence the number of reviews about your business.
2.Use all communication channels to ask for reviews: Use your social media channels and email newsletters to encourage reviews. Make it easy by providing links to your Yelp or Google My Business profiles.
3.Don’t get discouraged: One or two bad reviews aren't going to destroy your business, and if you address the issues by responding calmly and in a timely manner, it’s a great marketing opportunity to improve customer relations.

Step 7 - Building Local Citations

A citation is simply a listing of your business online, whether it links to your website or not. According to MOZ, citations are one of the most important local SEO strategies alongside NAP information, Google My Business, reviews and on-page SEO.

Citations show that a company is part of a local community and representative of a particular industry. Some small businesses don’t have a website and rely on citations to provide some information about them.

Where to Get Local Citations

Yellow Pages: Create a free listing for the best geographically-relevant citation.
TrueLocal: Popular local directory that offers online reviews. Add your business by clicking the Add a Business button on the homepage.
Aussie Pages: A local business directory that accepts free citations.
Aussies R Us: Local directory that organises companies by map location.
Aussie Web: Another local search directory.
StartLocal: A directory that categorises businesses into industry such as accommodation and travel, retail, restaurants, recreation and entertainment, etc.
White Pages: Excellent reputation and very high authority.
Local.com.au: Local business directory for Australian companies that offers both free and paid inclusions.
Eatability: Excellent local citation opportunities for restaurants, eateries and cafés.
dLook Australia
WOMO: Local citations and customer reviews
Local Business Guide
Australian Guide
National Directory
Australian Business Listing
Enterprise Search Australia
City Base

Other citation opportunities include:

•Press releases
•Articles and guest posts submitted to relevant websites
•Forum signatures and community board profiles
•Social media profiles that contain contact details
•Image alt tags

When creating citations, your address and contact information should be the same every time. Google Guidelines is a terrific resource for creating citations for your business.

Tools for Finding Citations

Building and maintaining citations can be a lengthy and cumbersome process. However, there are tools to simplify the task and keep track of progress.

MOZ Local: Enter your business name and post code. The tool will provide information about your local listings on Google, Bing and other major search engines.
WhiteSpark: This local citations finder is available on a subscription basis, but it does offer a free trial. It enables you to enter a search phrase and get a list of all relevant local citations, build new citations and research the local SEO efforts of competitors.
•Google search: Enter your local citation in Google search and get information about websites that have featured your business. Use your company name or address to track citations and discover new local listing opportunities.
GeoRanker’s Local Citation Finder: A freemium model tool that enables long-term tracking of local optimisation efforts.
Yext: Local citations finder available on a subscription basis. Most of these tools can be used for competition research, so you can see what other businesses are doing well, and develop ideas for creating new citations.

Step 8 - Increasing Domain Authority

Domain authority takes into account the age, popularity and size of a domain name to measure its power. It is used as a search engine ranking factor, with the number and quality of backlinks providing evidence of good reputation (Open Site Explorer can be used to explore your website’s current domain authority).

Focusing on quality link building is one of the best ways to influence domain authority and boost your website’s search engine ranking.

Quality Local Link Building Tips and Strategies

Writing unique and intriguing content is the best way to accumulate natural backlinks; people see the quality of your content and create a link to the particular page.

However, there are other ways, to acquire backlinks and improve your local SEO efforts:

Write quality press releases and target local media: If you have something newsworthy to share, local media and websites may be interested.
Partnerships with local bloggers: Writing valuable content for popular blog sites is mutually beneficial to you and the blog owner. The blogger will get fresh content written by an industry expert and you’ll get increased exposure. Include your NAP information at the bottom to create a citation.
Local awards: Create a scholarship or award for a local school or individuals in need of assistance. Create a page on your website that describes the award, as well as the application criteria and guidelines. Reach out to local organisations or businesses that may be interested in getting involved. They can list information about your award on their websites, providing quality, local backlinks to your site.
Host local events: A good opportunity for getting local media on board and generating some buzz. Create a new webpage dedicated to the event and use social media to promote it. Source local partners who can provide links from their site back to yours.

Effort & Focus

Improving your local ranking requires time and effort, so be patient. Focus on the quality of your website content, build a social media marketing strategy, interact with your audience on a daily basis and be part of the online community. In time you’ll enjoy excellent local search engine positioning, resulting in an increase in customers and profit.

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