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How to win at Google’s game: Local SEO and what you need to know

By Justin Di Vilio

Let’s talk about Google. Who isn’t talking about it, right?

When shoppers search for a new boat or motor, Google wants to send them the results that will be most helpful to them. The search engine giant looks for online signals from businesses like yours (things like your name, hours and phone number; online reputation and how strong of a resource your site is for customers) to ensure it’s sending searchers to websites that will meet their needs.

Today, 50 percent of all mobile searches are done in hopes of finding local results, and 61 percent of those searches result in a purchase. Local search is a growing opportunity to drive sales for your dealership. Jumping on the bandwagon now can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Now, let’s walk through the online customer research phases of the digital path to purchase and see how local search can improve your chances of converting online customers at every step.

Phase 1 – Search: Are you on Google My Business?

If I were thinking about buying a boat or looking to get service done, my first step would be doing a quick search for a local dealership on Google, and many of your customers would do the same thing. If Google thinks your dealership is the best match for what they’re looking for or if they search specifically for your store, the search engine might display your Google My Business profile next to the search results. This is where my eyes are drawn on every search I do.

Your Google My Business listing is a powerful tool packed with information like hours, contact information, address, customer reviews and even what hours the dealership is most likely to be busy. Your listing sends strong local search signals to Google and helps the search engine match you with shoppers in your area. Setting up a Google My Business profile is free, and it’s an easy step toward improving your local search rank.

Phase 2 – Research: How strong is your online reputation?

After shoppers finish their initial search to find dealerships near them, they start researching their options. Your online reputation can have a huge impact on whether a shopper chooses you and on where Google ranks your website in search results.

When a shopper searches for “New Mercury Verado Outboard,” Google wants to make sure it’s sending them to a reputable local marine dealer (like you!) instead of a shoe store two states away. There are two big factors Google takes a look at when deciding if you’re a good fit: how well known you are in your community and what your customers think about your dealership.

To show Google that you’re a prominent member of your community, include links on your website to local organizations, like your chamber of commerce, yacht club, marina or programs you sponsor. Your “About Us” page is a natural spot to include these links.

Fostering reviews is a great way to show Google (and shoppers) that you have happy, satisfied customers. When someone makes a purchase, make it easy for them to leave feedback about their experience. Include your preferred review platform on your website, social media channels, on store signage and near your point of sale. Then, continue to provide great service your shoppers will want to share with their friends and family!

Phase 3 – Website Visit: Does your website meet customer needs?

Finally, when they’ve finished their research and picked you as a dealer they might want to work with, many shoppers will visit your website. Are they able to find what they need when they get there?

Take a moment to think about the questions your customers ask you in-store, then with these questions in mind, navigate through your website to see if you can find the answers. Your contact information should be listed in the header or footer of every page, and details about the products you sell and services you offer should be easy to find. If your website is confusing to navigate or lacks important product or business information, it’s time to make some updates.

Get a head start with just a few easy-to-manage steps, including building out a strong Google My Business profile, keeping tabs on your online reputation and ensuring your website is a strong resource for your shoppers. Need help getting started? ARI’s Digital Marketing Services can help.

For more information about ARI and the products and services they offer to help dealers manage their digital marketing and online presence, reach out to Justin Di Vilio, business development manager for ARI’s marine division, at 414.973.4460 or by email at Justin.DiVilio@arinet.com

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