If you own an RV Park or hotel or something else in the hospitality industry you may feel like you can put Local Search Engine Optimization on the back burner. After all, the local people have a place to stay. However, they have visitors, maybe they are having some extensive repair work done on their home and need a place for a few days, or perhaps they want to go on a “staycation.” I know that I have spent a lot of time camping near my home. I enjoy getting out and learning about where I live. There is a local market for hospitality.
Locals aside, as soon as someone’s phone enters your area, any searches performed are “local.” You come to a new city and search for a place to eat, your phone doesn’t tell you your favorite haunts back home, it brings up places that are local to where you are now. I like to go on road trips without reservations, which allows me to travel as far as I want today, then find a place to stay that catches my eye. I search “locally.”
What is Local Search Engine Optimization?
Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) is defined as optimizing your business’ web presence for increased visibility in local and localized organic search results. What does “organic” mean in a search? According to Wikipedia, organic search engine results are, “the query results which are calculated strictly algorithmically and not affected by advertising payments.” This tells us that the things we are about to talk about affect the algorithms. Yay, that’s the free stuff.
In 2018, a Google company representative said that 46% of queries have local intent. At the time, Google was processing 5.8 billion global daily queries (that number has gone up since then). Flash forward to 2020, consumers are doing more to support local businesses. In fact, Mary Ellen Coe, President of Google Customer Solutions said that consumers searches for supporting local businesses during the pandemic have increased 20,000%. (Google) That is an incredible increase – are you taking advantage of it?
Here are 8 ways to optimize your presence in local searches:
- Optimize web presence.
- Make customer service a priority.
- Manage your Google Business Profile listing.
- Manage your social media accounts.
- Produce quality photo and image distribution online.
- Have local offline marketing campaigns.
- Cultivate business to business relationships.
- Build a contact base (email, text, etc).
1. Optimize web presence.
You need to have a website that is up-to-date and functioning. It should have the ability to book reservations, one or more ways for a potential customer to contact you, and it should have some great photos that make your resort inviting. A website is never simply done, if there are not continual updates the search engines think you have gone out of business and begin ignoring you. You need to have something new happening on your site, ideally once a week, absolute dead-end minimum, once a month. These “happenings” can be:
- A new photo.
- A review.
- A question that is answered.
- An article.
- Updated hours.
- Anything that makes some kind of change on your site so search engines keep noticing you.
You also need to make sure that your site’s security is up-to-date, that your themes are working, and that your site is being backed up. There’s nothing worse than getting hacked and losing everything or being attacked by spammers and having to rebuild. Think of all of this as your website’s security system, you wouldn’t leave your office door unlocked and your surveillance turned off. It’s just a safe business practice. Swan Haven, LLC is happy to handle all of this for you.
2. Make customer service a priority.
A lot of today’s customer service is done online via text, email, messaging, posts, etc. More and more people prefer to contact a business without making a phone call or walking in. Answering their queries promptly should be a high priority. Having a great question and answer section on your site or Google Business Profile listing is a must. Making sure your listed hours and holidays is correct is a huge thing. Nothing turns off a customer faster than coming to visit and you’re closed.
Respond to every question and every review – positive or negative. Offer solutions to negative reviews and give thanks to positive ones. This helps build a relationship with your customers and potential customers see the value you place on people. It encourages them to connect with you from the start.
3. Manage your Google Business Profile listing.
We go into this in more depth in our article, “5 Ways to Maximize Your Google Business Profile Listing,” so we’ll just touch on a few highlights here. An absolute priority is to claim your Google business listing. In fact, it’s so important we’ll forgive you if you take just a moment away from this article to do it. Just be sure to come right back here! Now you need to manage your listing. At least once a day, if not more often you need to respond to messages, reviews, questions, etc. We suggest you set up the Google alerts to let you know when there is activity. Add a photo of your own each week, or review photos that customers have posted. Make sure they are of high quality and are appropriate. Remove anything that is spam or low quality.
4. Manage your social media accounts.
There’s chatter going on, are you involved? Has someone visited your Facebook account lately and found only the sound of crickets chirping? Did someone stop by to check out the latest on your blog and discovered that the latest thing was six months ago? You need to be active, show that you are in business and that they are missing out by not stopping by. You can post a quick camping tip, a funny meme (just make sure it won’t offend someone), even a recipe. Your goal is to provide something of interest to the customer to keep you uppermost in their minds. Respond to their posts, even if it’s just a thumbs up.
5. Produce quality photo and image distribution online.
Add some visual graphics. Pictures of what you have to offer, spotlight something fun so people wish they were there. Be sure to have the best pictures at the top and add geotags to increase search engine visibility. An appealing photo has a big impact on your click-thru rate. But make the picture applicable, don’t put up something that is misleading or might be considered spam. Remember, when people post a review they can add photos. You need to check out any pictures to confirm they are not spam or worse. Videos are great, too.
Hint: you need more than two videos in order to get a video subtab on a mobile device.
Some of the best photos or videos highlight an activity, something people are doing. Be sure to get permission. Maybe you hosted a yoga retreat – get some photos. Did you have a bonfire activity? Post some pics. Did someone get stuck in the mud? Show people coming together to help get them out! Tell the tale, create an adventure, make the most of the journey visually!
6. Have local offline marketing campaigns.
Not everyone is online, are you reaching them? There are many options, some of the best include supporting the local community. Surveys show that people find value in a business that supports the school (fundraisers, logos on sports equipment, even a small scholarship), local families in need (have a bin for donations for the food bank, this shows visitors you care and gives them an opportunity to help), or local improvement (if you have a pavilion with that makes a great gathering place, offer it for a community meeting to discuss the decreasing wetlands), and more. Take a look around at what’s happening and become involved in some way.
7. Cultivate business-to-business relationships.
Become friends with other businesses in the area. Join the local chamber. Offer to put up a bulletin board with a section for fishing, hiking, swimming, etc, and invite local businesses to post there. Offer to have a flyer available in your check-in packet with coupons featuring local businesses (for a small fee or in trade). Many businesses have guests come for various reasons, make it so they think of having them stay with you.
8. Build a contact base (email, text, etc).
Make your contact list a priority. This is gold, you have a valid contact for a customer who already knows the wonderful things you have to offer and wants to return. They have given you permission to contact them and want you to remind them of the fun time they had.
The key to all of this is to place your focus on the customer. Your goal should be to create a relationship with them so they remember you and the next time they come directly to you, not via a search. This makes it so they don’t think about booking with “the other guy”.
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