How are customers finding your shop?
If you’ve never paused to ask that question, well, stop what you’re doing right now.
How are customers finding your shop?
If you’re located just off a freeway and you’ve got a lot of visible signage, then you probably get a fair amount of walk-in traffic. But how are people finding you otherwise? Your potential customers are looking for a repair shop that can take their Peterbilt now or in the near future. They want to schedule preventive maintenance or get their tractor in for an emergency repair. How are these people finding you?
The quick answer is they’re searching online. They’re pulling out their phones or tablets or computers and looking for “repair shops near me” or “semi repair in XYZ” or “repair shop open weekend” and they’re looking at the top results they find.
If you’ve taken our previous advice, then you’ve put together a nice, visitor-friendly website for your shop. A potential customer landing on it can see everything you do, as well as your hours and any certifications and specials you’re running. But if you’ve ever run a Google search on…well…just about any local business, you know that the business’s website isn’t always the first thing to pop up. Instead, the first thing you often see is a map of your area and several businesses like the one you just searched for.
You want to appear in those results. You want your repair shop to be at the top of any search a potential customer runs. But how?
By optimizing your local SEO, of course.
But what is local SEO? How’s it different from all the SEO stuff you already did to your website? How can you put it to work for you?
The truth is there’s all kinds of stuff you can do with local SEO to help you give your shop more visibility. But we know you’re busy – you don’t have a ton of time to do hours of research online. So we sat down with Michael Wallace, a local SEO expert, to break down what it is and why you need it. He even provided some simple steps you can take to make sure you’re reaping its benefits.
Your Local SEO Is Your Reputation
Before we go any further, let’s define local SEO and how it relates to regular SEO. In a nutshell, regular SEO is what you control. It’s the keywords you place on your website that tell search engines what kind of content it contains.
And then there’s local SEO. As Michael describes it, local SEO is like “going into the wild on the internet to promote your business.” It’s the SEO attached to other websites – that is, websites you don’t control. Think places like Google My Business (GMB) or Yelp, as well as paid or free listings.
The biggest strength of local SEO – and most critical reason for you to use it – is that it can level the playing field without a ton of work. Traditional SEO tends to favor big brand names and high-strength domains. That’s great if you’re a giant conglomerate. But if you’re not, how can you keep up? Local SEO depends on what is basically internet word-of-mouth for your shop. When Google sees that word of mouth, it thinks to itself, “Wow, this deserves to be seen” and it elevates your business’s listing.
Let’s use restaurants as an example. How does Gina’s Pastry Shop compete with, say, the McPastry down the street, which belongs to a gigantic national brand with millions (if not billions) to spend on advertising? If Gina’s properly maintains their GMB page, and they receive a lot of activity and good reviews on that page, Google can see it. Google is incredibly smart – and getting smarter – and it will decide, “This place is well-liked,” and in response, it will make Gina’s more visible.
Your Reputation Is Your Business
No matter how much marketing you do, the amount of business you do comes down to your reputation. If you’ve got hundreds of reviews complaining about rude techs, comebacks, and shoddy installations, guess what? You aren’t going to last. Potential customers aren’t going to trust you because so many of their peers have had bad experiences.
As we mentioned in our Guide to Online Reviews, what people say about you matters. “Your website and its reviews are curated by you,” Michael reminds us. And those who are looking at your website will know that. But if you have good feedback on sites that are not managed by you, well, that’s truly outside feedback, isn’t it? Those are genuine reviews that you have no control over. When someone is looking at your GMB profile and seeing other customers who like the work you do, they find their interest in you is validated.
How to Optimize Your Repair Shop’s Local SEO
Okay, Fullbay, you may be saying, I get it. I need local SEO. But where do I start?
Have no fear, Fullbay is here to help! We asked Michael to put together some tips for the shop owner who possibly isn’t an SEO whiz. Here’s what he shared with us:
1. Familiarize yourself with Google My Business. “If there’s anything within local search that will make or break your biz, it’ll be GMB,” he says. Why? Because about 90% – if not more! – of your local search traffic (and the conversions that can drive) will come from GMB.
But GMB isn’t just a place to collect reviews. It’s also a place where you can update your shop’s information. What hours are you open? What is the best phone number to reach you? What payment methods do you accept? Keeping an eye on your GMB means ensuring those avenues are always correct and open to customers.
Google also routinely updates GMB to make it more user-friendly. You can see where people are searching from, and what search terms have led them to your GMB page. Are you becoming famous for your glow plug replacements? Are you the absolute best emergency shop in the area? Knowing what people were searching for when they found you can help you craft better marketing plans.
By the way, GMB works well for the mobile repair shop owner who doesn’t have a brick and mortar address. “GMB and most major directories have service area options that are perfect for these types of businesses,” Michael says. “Typically a P.O Box is recommended for these types of businesses, just so they have somewhere to receive mail.”
2. Encourage your customers to leave reviews. Here’s a secret: a lot of happy customers aren’t inclined to leave reviews. They got what they came for, they’re pleased, and they’re ready to move on with their lives. By asking them to leave a review – which will help your business – you’re basically asking for a small favor in return for the good service you provided. That will stick in their heads.
A verbal reminder at the end of an exchange is always helpful, but you can also put up a small sign on your front desk, or even add a note to a receipt.
3. Make sure your website information is accurate. If you change hours, or move, or stop offering a service, make sure you update your actual shop website! “Your site is the #1 source that engines crawl to confirm your location/info,” Michael says, and if that information isn’t accurate, it can cause a lot of confusion and damage. If a potential customer arrives at your shop at 7 but you aren’t open until 9, well, that’s probably lost business. Accurate information on your website might have avoided that problem!
Where Can I Learn More?
If you’ve been experimenting with the local SEO tips we’ve provided and you’re ready to take the next step, we can recommend some additional reading. Local SEO: A Simple (But Complete) Guide over at Ahrefs goes way deeper into local SEO than we just did, and it’s got a lot of practices you can start putting into place. And if you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, give Wordstream’s Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Local SEO Right Now a whirl.
Still not sure about your chances with SEO? You can always offload it to true experts. Our partners at Dieselmatic are true experts in the heavy-duty marketing field, and we recommend them to anyone who wants to grow their business through digital marketing.
The bottom line is local SEO is one very powerful tool in your overall marketing arsenal. It’s one of the keys to your online reputation, and your online reputation is what more and more potential customers will look at before they head your way. That’s a fact of modern life; it’s not going to change. So don’t push against it! Learn how to navigate local SEO and put it to work for you. Your shop will thank you!