How the explosion in “near me” searches can drive more customers to your business

If you haven’t searched using the terms “near me” on your smartphone, you’re in the minority. According to a recent Google report, “near me” searches have increased by 200%. What is a “near me” search? It’s simply when a smartphone user searches retailers, restaurants, gyms, banks, ATMs, dry cleaners, and whatever else “near me.” It’s a hyper-local way to search and is exploding in popularity. This can mean big business for you, if you know a few key ways to show up in “near me” search results.

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Mobile searching is completely changing the way people shop today. Uberall recently polled holiday shoppers in the US and UK and reported that 83% of US shoppers used “near me” searches, which aligns with previous data from earlier in the year stating that 82% of shoppers use “near me” searches. One of the most critical points about these “close to me” search results is that more than 90% of survey participants said they were likely to click on the first set of results. You might be asking yourself, “How can I make sure my business shows up in searches ‘near me’”?

It’s not rocket science to improve your online presence and maximize local search results, but there are a few key steps you must undertake.

1. Claim your business listings and keep them updated

As we’ve written before, the first step to taking control of your online business reputation is to claim your listings on all the popular online review sites like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. Even if you have never intentionally created a business profile on these sites, chances are your customers are already leaving you reviews, and these platforms automatically create a profile for your business (whether you know it or not). Yet, according to a national study, only 33% of of all Yelp listings and 44% of Google listings have been claimed. Ridiculous! Don’t be “that guy.”

It’s also very important that you regularly review and update your information listed on these sites. That same national study showed that only 23% of businesses update their listings, meaning they’re less likely to show up in local searches and are probably ignoring customer feedback posted online. So you can get a jump on the competition by simply claiming your listings and keeping your business info current. After all, if potential customers are searching for businesses like yours “near them,” and are comparing hours of operation or ratings, it stands to reason that you want that information to be correct and your reviews to be positive and recent. That leads us to step two.

2. Read and respond to all reviews

Dealing with online reviews can seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s the nature of doing business these days. And it’s actually not too hard if you keep it positive and look at every review (good and bad) as a chance to show all of your potential customers that you take feedback seriously and you value their opinion.

Research suggests that simply responding to reviews has a positive effect on revenue. Just responding, independent of whether you resolve any concerns, shows current and future customers that you care and are willing to take the time to engage with them. This may seem like a small thing, especially when “business is good,” but when you engage with customers on review sites, you can learn how to improve your product, services, or even attitude. Look at it this way: large companies pay huge amounts of money to collect customer feedback, and online review sites provide it absolutely free. Occasionally you’ll get an unfair review from a “negative Nellie,” but others will provide useful feedback on how you can improve. Don’t underestimate the power of reading and responding to online reviews.

3. Get more reviews to boost results in “near me” searches

The best thing you can do to improve your rankings in local searches “near me” is to increase your “star rating”–and the way to do that is to get more reviews. While it’s up to your customers whether they will post reviews or not, you can improve your chances simply by asking them to provide feedback. Remember, asking for a “5-star” or even a “positive” review is a huge no-no. Just ask your customers if they’d be willing to share their feedback and you’ll be surprised how many have good things to say about your business. Seven in 10 customers will leave a review if you simply ask. So, just ask!

And don’t even think about trying to influence customers with special deals, freebies, or promotions if they leave a good review–or try to buy positive reviews from companies promising they can improve your star rating. Review sites have strict policies about this, not to mention the FTC, who will smack you down with the fist of doom if you violate this policy.

The best thing you can do to improve your star rating and your ranking in “near me” search results is to get more reviews.

4. Use the best reputation management software

You might be asking yourself, “When do I have time to manage my online reputation?” We understand. Small business owners are the busiest people in the world. The good news is with the right software you can automate the tasks that take the most time, and help you manage your online presence easily. Recent studies show Womply’s small business software saves the average customer 10 hours a week. Imagine what you could do with 10 extra hours a week!

Take action: See why 150,000 local businesses (and counting) use Womply’s reputation management software.

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