Reprinted from the VASTA Voice, September, 2019
I’m an independent instructor. If I want to be on the first page of a Google search for voice teachers, I don’t have a chance of competing with education businesses that have big marketing budgets.
I’ve got an edge on the big guys, though, for a certain and very common type of search. The “near me” search. You may have used this search term - sometimes at the suggestion of the search engine itself – in looking to find a service provider in your area.
With no budget to hire an online marketing djinn, my website will show up on Page 1 of Google if someone within five miles of my studio searches for “voice teachers near me,” or “vocal coaches near me.” That’s about 185,000 people. If you want to know how I do it, keep reading.
Before I get to the list, I want to advise you to keep your wits about you in the face of scary words. It’s hard, I know. Most of us hate this ever-changing and technical marketing stuff, but it’s part of keeping our calendars full.
Please remember that I’m no expert in marketing, and if I can do it, you can do it. IN FACT, if you think you can’t do it (whatever “it” is) please go to YouTube and find some nice person who will explain what you need to know. I’m limited in the amount of explaining I can do in an article of this length, but cyberspace is an unlimited universe of information. Someone out there will help you understand each of these bullet points.
You don’t have to do all these things. Any one of them will help you in your quest to appear on Page 1, and the more you do, the more likely it is you’ll achieve that coveted placement.
8 Ways to Optimize for Near Me Searches
1. Good Looking with a Nice Set of Keywords
Have a professional, attractive website with lots of keywords
Search engines don’t much care if your site is pretty, but your potential clients do. You have about 3 seconds to capture their curiosity and make them want to see more. Most drag-and-drop site builders make it easy to create a great site. Use Pixabay or Pexels for royalty-free images, and Canva to create terrific graphics.
Keywords are the words or terms your potential clients would type into a search bar. Note I said “your potential clients” not “your college professors.” In the copy on your site – especially your home page - use the kinds of words that your clients would use, and answer questions they would have.
YES: Cara is a voice coach, speech coach, and dialect coach. She helps actors and public speakers from around the Greater Wellwater, NC area as well as online.
NO: Cara holds an undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and a Master’s in speech-language pathology. She has tutored and taught classes to all levels of theater professionals and professional speakers.
2. Create a Google My Business Profile
There are also business listing pages for other search engines such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo. These listings ask for information about your business so it can show up as being relevant to certain searches. Give it as much information as you can. The two biggest pieces of advice I can give you about this is to list your address and use your potential client’s vernacular (See the previous point.)
Here's the link: Google My Business
3. Utilize the Google Search Console
In their own words, this tool helps you “understand and improve how Google sees your site.”
Google has a surprising number of rules, and you need to play by them to make Google like you. Recently, for instance, my Google console told me that one of my pages was not displaying navigation on the header of one page. I had 30 days to fix that or my site would not show up for anyone except those who typed in my specific address. Yikes!
Here's a YouTube video about Google Search Console
4. Make Mobile Phones Like You
According to some trustworthy online marketing diviners, upwards of 80% of “near me” searches are made from mobile devices. If you’ve ever looked at a website on your phone that wasn’t optimized for phones, you know both how squirrelly they can get and how off-putting that is.
If you’re using a drag-and-drop site builder you can easily edit your site’s laptop/desktop version as well as its mobile version. Be aware that those are two different editing pages, and you have to attend to both of them. Wordpress sites are not as easy to manipulate, but they are somewhat more reliable. Take the time to make sure your site is mobile-phone-friendly.
5. Keep Search Engines Interested
If nothing changes on your website, Google will think you’re not interested in it, so they’ll lose interest as well. Things you can do to keep search engines interested:
Post valuable information that will benefit your ideal client.
Blog regularly. Your entries don’t need to be long, and can occur once or twice a month.
Post photos and videos. Make sure you indicate your location when you post. You can invisibly “tag” each image or video with additional information, which should include your name, what you do, and your location. If you don’t know how to do that for your web platform, ask the “help” in your website builder or search the answer online.
Create and delete pages as needed. If you’re having a recital for your students, for instance, create a page for that and delete it after the fact. Again, make sure a local address is indicated on the page.
6. List Your Events
If you don’t already have it, create a list of sites that will allow you to announce events. No matter where you live, there are between two and ten sites you can utilize to post your events online. Some are simple calendars (check your local newspaper) and some are ticket sellers. Take a look at their front end (what the customer sees) before you enter information on the back end.
No event is too small. For instance, say you decorate your lobby every year during the first week of regular school-year lessons. Turn it into an event by listing days and times your lobby is open, putting some brochures and candy out, and featuring a 10-minute talk on “How the Performing Arts Improve Your Child’s Academic Progress.” Boom! An event!
7. List Your Own Self
If you’re a member of an association, organization, or foundation, be sure your profile is filled out completely, including your address.
Additionally, you can look for listing sites that serve your geographic area and your area of expertise. Type “list” or “listing” of “your profession” in “your area.” The search engine will probably show you one or more opportunities you may have missed to list yourself. Make sure you include your location.
8. Location, Location, Location
YES: Eric works with students from Derbyshire, KY schools Austin Middle School and Bennet Middle School. He also schedules private clients at his office in the Pemberley Office Building, 123 Darcy Circle, Derbyshire, KY.
NO: Eric works four days a week for the Derbyshire public schools. He’s available to see private clients at his office on weekends.
Tag social media posts with locations.
Share locally relevant news items on your social media.
Make sure you have ONE way of listing your location, and you are consistent between posts and platforms.
Your Google search console will show you the analytics for your website, so you can enjoy watching how implementing some of these tips get you more attention online!
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