How Pet Businesses Can Get More Clients with Local Search in Five Easy Steps
Help Local Customers Find Your Pet Business Online
When I work with local pet business clients, one of the most common questions I get is "How do I get more local customers?" My answer is always to make it easier getting found online, or in other words, by "local search." Now, you might be thinking, "I don’t need to be on the internet, I get all my new clients from word of mouth." Although there is some truth to that, word of mouth is only one part of the equation in this day and age. Let me explain.
How many pet parents do you think are looking for a pet care service like yours today, in your local area?
3? 10? 50? More?
The actual number doesn’t really matter so much; it’s more about how they go about searching for help that’s interesting.
A recent study by LSA discovered that as many as 53% of pet parents looking for a local veterinarian use search engines such as Google to find help for their pets. The equivalent numbers for groomers is 60%, for pet supplies 67%, and pet shops an incredible 71%.
For argument's sake, imagine there are 100 people searching for your type of pet service today. That means between 53-71 of them used a search engine to find help for their pet online.
Will they be able to find your pet business online?
In other words: if you go to Google.com and type in the words My town + My Service (for example: ‘San Francisco Dog Groomer’), can your pet business website be found at the top of Google’s search results, or at least on the first page of search results?
If the answer is no, then you’re missing out on 53-71% of potential new clients finding your pet business! That’s a lot of lost revenue over time.
In this article, I will share my five steps for getting your pet business listed as close to the top of the list as possible.
Step 1: Search For Your Own Business Online
Step into your potential new client’s shoes for a moment.
What words would you use to look for your particular type of pet service?
Perhaps it’s "Dog Walker in Your City," or "Pet Store in Your Town." Now open up your Internet browser and type in those words to see if your pet business can be easily found.
When you run a Google search for your own business, be aware that Google saves your browsing history. So they will likely show your business as listed higher for you, than for a complete stranger completing the exact same search.
There are ways to get around this problem that let you surf the internet without your browsing history though:
If you’re using Chrome as your internet browser, then simply open a new ‘incognito window’ and do the search to get an ‘anonymous’ search result. See further instructions from Chrome here.
For Firefox you need to open a new private window, instructions here.
For Apple phones and devices, instructions here.
How did it go? Could you find your pet business?
Here’s an example where I searched for "dog groomer in Alameda." As you can see, at the top of the search results are the "Google My Business" listings, followed by Yelp profiles, and then there’s the first pet business website. For more popular areas, you’ll often find paid advertising listings towards the very top of the page too.
You may notice that your pet business's Facebook page, Yelp profile, or "Google My Business" listing scores higher than your website. Or perhaps you don’t have any of those type of listings and your actual website couldn’t be found either. And that’s okay, at least for now (although at the end of this article, you’ll know how to change this!).
For now, what you need to know is that your main local marketing goal should be to help your potential new clients find your business website, because that’s where you have full control over how your business is presented.
PLUS your website is ultimately where most potential clients will turn to learn more about your services, whether they first found you on Yelp, Google’s search or heard about you from a friend.
In the next step, I’ll show you how to get your pet business listed among the "Google My Business" results at the top of the local search results.
Step 2: Discover Google’s Best-Kept Secret for Local Businesses
In step 1 you learned that between 50-70% of all pet parents looking for a local pet service like yours use a search engine to find what they’re looking for—and of course you want to show up when they’re looking for you, right?
In this step I will let you in on Google’s best kept secret for local businesses.
It’s called "Google My Business."
Never heard of it?
Don’t worry - just think of "Google My Business" as a combination master dashboard for Google Plus, Google Maps, Google Search and Google Places.
In other words: whenever anyone searches for your type of business anywhere on the Internet, they’re likely to see your Google My Business listing in one shape or another.
Here’s an example.
I used Google search to find a dog trainer in San Francisco, and Google swiftly presented me with the following search results:
As you can see in the image above, the local search results from Google My Business are presented right at the top of the page, just underneath the "paid for" listing.
And of course we know that the higher on the page your business appears, the better chances of pet parents finding you!
And what’s even better: it’s super easy and FREE to get your business listed in Google My Business and start controlling how your the business appears in Google Maps and Search:
List your business hours, phone number, address and directions
Showcase your own photos.
List your website.
Stay on top of and respond to customer reviews.
You can list your business even if you don’t have a brick and mortar location.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Go to Google My Business and follow their instructions to either find your business (it might already be listed) or to add your business and then go ahead and claim your page. Claiming your page is super important, because your listing will not go live until you’ve done so. And also, claiming your page means getting a good old-fashioned postcard with a unique code in the mail. How fun is that?
- Be sure to fill in ALL the information Google asks for accurately, no matter how irrelevant it might seem. Your detailed profile will help clients not only find you but help you stand out from your competitors (who most likely haven’t taken the time to do any of this!).
- Pay special attention to getting the business category, address, phone number, and web address right.
- Upload 3-5 photos of you, your business, and your team, plus perhaps some photos of what you’re really known for (whether that’s show-poodle grooming or beach hikes with energetic pups!)
- Write a thoughtful and welcoming introduction to your pet business.
In the next step, I'll show you how a little spring cleaning can help you get your pet business found faster!
Step 3: Spring-Clean Your Web Presence
In this step I want you to search for your business again online, just like we did in step 1. But this time around, I want you to take special note of all the listings, review pages and social media accounts such as Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and Yellow Pages that mention your business. Then, I want you to conduct a quick audit of your business details.
Go to each listing, log in, and make sure that all your business details are being displayed in exactly the same way.
- Is your business name spelled exactly the same way in all listings? No abbreviations or variations allowed. For example Becky’s Dog Walking and Dog Walking by Becky are different variations of the same name, but they need to be corrected so they look identical.
- Is your business address or service area displayed exactly the same way in every listing? For example if the address says Bark Road in one listing and Bark Rd. in another, then correct this so the spelling is exactly the same.
- Is your phone number correct in all listings?
- Is your website address displayed and correct in all listings?
- Are your opening hours correct?
Why am I asking you to do this? Because it helps your customers (as well as search engines) understand that you’re one and the same business, and over time this will help you get more inquiries and web visits!
Step 4: Get Reviews and Get Found
I want to talk about the value of reviews, and why you should encourage your clients to leave as many reviews as possible for your pet business.
But before you tell me you really don’t want to deal with Yelp—hang on, there’s a new review guy in town.
Well, perhaps not entirely new - but this one actually encourages you to ask your clients to review you AND your reviews will land you the prime top spot on Google Search!
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Of course I’m talking about Google My Business. In the previous step, you learned about how to optimize your Google My Business page for your pet biz, and because you verified your business page, you will soon be able to respond to and manage reviews in your Google My business Dashboard.
Let me show you why you have to get some Google reviews under your belt to be seen online.
Take a look at the Google Search image below, and tell me which local search result stands out the most to you (the local search results are those underneath the map).
Let me guess - the one with the star rating, right? Thought so.
How do you land yourself some pawsome star reviews for your business?
It all starts with asking your clients for reviews. If you never ask - then the answer is always no, right?
After your Google My Business listing has been verified, start encouraging your clients to leave a review after successful grooms, or pet sitting sessions.
The key is to make asking for reviews routine. Perhaps add a signature to your outgoing emails, or print a business card with a blurb along these lines:
“We hope you’re happy with your service here today, and if for any reason we didn’t meet your expectations please reply to this email and let us know why so we can improve our service. If you loved your service please consider leaving us an honest review on Google Maps to help other pet parents find us."
Include a link to your Google Maps listing and explain that on mobile phones they'll need to use the Google Maps app to leave a review.
Take the Pet Pro Poll!
What is your number 1 source of new business?
Step 5: SEO-Proof Your Pet Business Website
In this step I want you to go to your business website and locate where, exactly, you’ve placed your service areas, your address, and your phone number. I’ll wait for you to come back!
Okay - where did you find your contact details? In the contact us page? Somewhere else?
Here's What You Need to Do to Help Google Find Your Website
Imagine a pet parent typing in "dog groomer San Francisco" into the Google search box. Google’s job is then to go and find all relevant pages that match that description and present back the best picks to the pet parent. That's what Google does for a living - so they really, really want to get it right!
Google can only find your website if it has enough information to work with, meaning they use the words and information you write on your page to be able to find your website when someone runs a search. If Google is not quite sure about your website, then they won't show it in the search results (and the pet parents will never find out about your business).
To make it as easy as possible for Google and other search engines to find your website, we need to include your service areas or address on every page.
You can accomplish this by simply opening the editor of your website and add all the service areas you cover within the text of each page.
Or you could add the information in the header and footer of the page, meaning that it actually appears on every page without you having to type it in a hundred times.
Here's an example from a website I made:
Make Sure They Know They Are in the Right Place
Once a pet parent has found your website, you only have three seconds to convince them that you’re the right service for them. So, by placing your service areas AND your contact number in the header of your website, you’re making it super easy for them to see that they’re in the right place and they will continue to read about your services, or contact you straight away.
That’s it! Follow these five steps for local search, and pretty soon you should start seeing new local customers in your pet business.
© 2016 Linda Liebrand