How to optimize local SEO to grow your pet sitting business
For any pet sitting business that wants to expand its reach, you can’t go wrong with investing in Search Engine Optimization. Here at Time To Pet, one of the primary goals of our pet sitting software is to automate a lot of the everyday aspects of your business (like invoicing, scheduling, and getting paid) so you can focus on growing and running your business instead of your business running you.
One of the keys to growing your business is increased visibility. According to Wikipedia, SEO is defined as the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results — often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. Essentially, SEO helps you move up Google’s search results when a potential client searches for a “pet sitting company near me.
SEO is one of the largest and most complex internet marketing strategies out there. Therefore, we will focus on more of a beginner’s guide to local SEO. Local SEO is essentially the same thing as SEO, but it is focused on providing results to the searcher based on their location. For example, if I’m in Boston and I search “Dog Walking Company,” results for a dog walking business in Los Angeles don’t help. In this article, we’ll touch on some high-level ideas, best practices, and a bunch of helpful tips and tricks for how you can best utilize local SEO for your business.
Think of Local Listings as the Yellow Pages of the modern era. Just like how you may have flipped through the phonebook looking for a good plumber a decade ago, your clients are flipping through the world wide web looking for a dog walker or a pet sitter today. Luckily for you, there are a ton of virtual “Yellow Pages” available, and the vast majority are free! All it takes is some time, and you can list your business on all of them.
But what, exactly, is a local listing? Just like in the Yellow Pages of the phonebook, a local listing published online will include the name, address, phone number, and/or website of your business. While we’ll cover some of the most essential places to list your business below, it’s important to know what makes a local listing vital to a company’s success, especially if you’re the owner of a smaller business competing against larger, more established companies.
When you create a local listing for your business, it is important to include as much information as possible about your business that the site may ask you to provide. This allows search engines like Google to better understand the type of business you’re running and helps to determine where your business is placed in a prospective client’s search results based on its relevance to the keywords they input into the search engine.
Creating multiple local listings is also extremely beneficial for your company’s SEO, as it offers more indicators that your business is authentic and more firmly establishes its location. This will also allow for the creation of more “backlinks” that connect back to your website. Backlinks, which are also known as “inbound” or “incoming links,” are links that connect one website to another. The more backlinks you have for your business and its website, the better, as they will add more credence to your company’s digital footprint, which will further strengthen the local SEO for your business and cause you to move further up in the search result ranks. The further you are able to able to move your business in the search results, the greater your company’s reach will be and the more prospective clients you’ll be able to attract.
Our favorite tool to list your business is Local Pet Care. Local Pet Care is a service created by the team at Time To Pet to help connect pet parents with local, independent, experienced pet care professionals. Customers of Time To Pet get access to a 100% free premium listing on Local Pet Care (premium means more visibility to pet parents). If you are not a customer of Time To Pet, you can still request access for a free standard listing. The major benefit of Local Pet Care is that it provides you a backlink, a opportunity to share information about your business, and puts your business in front of pet parents looking to find their perfect pet care pro.
One of the most essential listing sites is none other than Google. Google My Business, to be exact. Google My Business will walk you through the signup process, which should take less than 10 minutes and keeps the listing creation as simple as possible with easy step-by-step instructions. When you are all done, it will be easier for customers to find you in Google Search Results, and they’ll be able to locate you on Google Maps too.
Yelp is another crucial site that you should list your business on. While it is considered the industry giant in customer reviews — its core is as a listing service. If you haven’t signed up for Yelp yet, then check out our Yelp 101 blog post. While you’re at it, make sure you are on Facebook too! Here is our Facebook 101 blog post.
Yahoo! and Bing are two great places to get listed as well. Yahoo! has a couple of paid offerings, but you can always choose their Basic Listing for free. Bing, on the other hand, offers listing services for free and makes the process as pain-free and straightforward as possible.
One thing to keep in mind — consistency is key. Make sure your business name, address, phone number, website, etc. are the same on all of the listings. These should match up with what you advertise on your website, as well. You may not see the results right away, but getting listed on these sites is building the framework for a very successful SEO campaign and a very successful business!
Now that you’ve listed your business on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and your other preferred listing services, it’s time to shift your focus to reviews. Reviews come in a number of different forms. Say you are looking for someone to mow your grass — you may ask your neighbor with the immaculate lawn who takes care of their landscaping. Their subsequent recommendation for Bob’s Lawn Care is a review.
When it comes to people looking for a pet sitter or dog walker, however, quality recommendations can be a bit harder to come by, especially because you can’t tell if your neighbor has a great dog walker by sight alone. Instead, you would need to speak to your neighbor directly or to the person who walks their dog. In some cases, this is very easy to accomplish, but there are also going to be prospective clients who have a much harder time of it. There may be cases where they are new to the area and unfamiliar with their neighbors and local businesses. Or perhaps their neighbor with the dog doesn’t need to hire pet care services and is able to handle their pet’s walks themselves. In these cases, those clients (and those of us in the pet care industry) are quite fortunate for the way the internet has revolutionized the way clients write and read reviews.
While Facebook, Google, and most of the listing services provide clients the opportunity to leave and read reviews, Yelp is the industry giant. If you are looking for a great Mexican restaurant, for example, it’s safe to assume you can check Yelp for some honest feedback. As you would expect from a company that manages reviews, Yelp is incredibly focused on providing trustworthy information to consumers. With that being said, requesting reviews from your clients is never a good idea. Yelp has automated software that is used to help users distinguish between real and fake (or solicited) reviews. While the software isn’t perfect (sometimes a real review will not be recommended), it does a great job of leveling the playing field for small businesses.
So if you can’t request reviews, how do you get them? Well, Yelp suggests saying things like “Check us out on Yelp” in your communications to your clients or adding a Yelp badge to your website. You can even add a link to your Yelp page in your company’s email signature to make sure your clients don’t miss it (and while you’re at it — don’t forget to add a link to your Facebook and Google pages too). For more information, check out Yelp’s support page on Reviews.
Once you’ve gotten your first review — it’s a good idea to reply. Whether that is saying thank you to a positive review or addressing the dreaded negative review, Yelp suggests keeping these three things in mind when responding. First, reviewers are your paying customers. They have invested time and money into your services and may influence whether or not someone else chooses to do so, as well. It is important to be mindful of how you approach them and how your interactions reflect back on your company’s branding.
Secondly, your reviewers are human beings. Treat them with the respect you would expect them to treat you and your staff with.
And lastly, your reviewers are vocal and opinionated. Responding to negative reviews should be handled with care and, if done the right way, can sometimes turn an unfortunate situation into something positive. Yelp has excellent guidelines on responding to reviews that we would recommend taking a look over, too! If you haven’t claimed your Yelp business page yet, check out our blog on Yelp here.
Reviews on Google and Facebook can be handled much in the same way you handle Yelp reviews. Remember — with companies like Yelp, Google, and Facebook making it so easy for your customers to talk, it’s important to be a part of the conversation!
While in the past social media was primarily thought to be a way to keep up with friends and share funny cat videos, it has become a crucial part of every company’s brand management and promotional efforts. Where having a Facebook page or Instram account for your business may been seen as a nice bonus, nowadays they are pretty much a requirement. In fact, any strong SEO strategy for a pet sitting or dog walking business incorporates a significant focus on social media, as the two actually go hand in hand. Think about it — your goals for your website include getting new clients to view what you have to offer and encouraging them to contact you. While your social media goals might be more about brand awareness and customer engagement, the endgame is always to draw people to your site and get more people to consider hiring your company.
Before thinking about social media strategies, however, you need to first think about which social media platforms you want to invest in. The key questions to ask yourself are, “Where are my customers?” and, more importantly, “Where are my customers active?”
Having a presence on Facebook (with nearly 2.9 billion active users) is always a safe bet. If your business is not on Facebook yet, check out our Facebook 101 post. Just as almost every business has a Yelp page for clients to leave and seek out reviews on, so too do they have a Facebook page. These days, Facebook pages and groups are especially important to local businesses, as many people congregate there to discuss their experiences and share their recommendations. Many small businesses may find it easier to advertise themselves and engage with their customers on Facebook than on Yelp, for example, as your target audience can be much more accessible.
Additionally, it is highly recommended that every pet care business start an Instagram account, as there’s nothing people love more than to see cute pictures of their pets having fun, and it can be a great way to capture potential customers. Depending on the amount of time you can commit to social media, you might also want to consider creating an account for your business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Once you’ve decided on which social media platforms to use, let’s talk about some of the benefits for your pet sitting business. In addition to increasing your SEO, a commitment to social media can help to increase your brand recognition, provide you with a better understanding of what your clients (and future clients) are looking for in pet care services, establish you as an industry expert, and help to grow your business!
One of the most important aspects of managing your company’s social media accounts is your total number of followers and finding ways to increase that number. Unfortunately, growing your follower base can be a lengthy process, but it’s always best to grow your following organically. While it might be tempting to use some shortcuts to gain followers (like buying followers), Google can actually detect “fake” followers and some social media platforms like Instagram will do periodic sweeps for spam that wind up eliming these bought accounts. As long as you focus on providing great content to your followers, your audience will continue to grow. But remember — just as important as growing your following is interacting with them as well!
Next, Social Media is a great tool to use to share your content with your followers. We’ll get into more detail about content and link generation, but in essence — the more people who link to your content (and your website), the more authority and relevance your business will have on Google. When you release a new blog post, share it with your followers. Hopefully, they will share it with some of their followers too! And while your number of followers does matter, it is important to remember that the quality of your content is most important here.
While social media makes it incredibly easy to share with people across the world, there should still be a more focused approach to your content, especially in the beginning. While you may have international goals for your pet sitting business, it all starts on the local level. Ttry and interact with some other local brands in your area on social media and establish a network of local connections that you can rely on for referrals. That’s why it’s important that, every time you attend a local event, post pictures from it, and encourage others to interact, post, comment, and share too! Other businesses will be much more likely to work with your company if the support is mutual.
Social Media is a vast topic, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. For more detailed information, check out The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Local Businesses written by Neil Patel or do a quick Google search on “Social Media SEO.”
Last but certainly not least is SEO Optimization. Besides being incredibly important to your SEO strategy, one thing the previous three topics have in common is that they occur off of your site. Because SEO Optimization occurs on your website, on the other hand, it can be much harder to master. But don’t worry, we’ll spend some more time talking about how to optimize your own site to make it easier and more appealing for search engines to find.
Because optimizing the SEO on your own website takes some technical skill, we will provide a fundamental overview of some best practices. We’ll also link to some other helpful articles that dig deeper into making some changes.
If you’ve spent some time researching SEO — I’m sure you’ve come across the phrase “Content is King.” While the phrase is accurate, it’s important to remember that not all content is created equal. If you’re looking to move up in the search results, be sure to produce high-quality, original content. Your content should be of your own creation and should provide value to the people visiting your site. Don’t stuff your content with keywords like “pet sitting” if it’s not related to the topic at hand because Google’s software is sophisticated enough to recognize when that occurs. Keywords should fall naturally into place.
A good test to see if your content any good is to read your blog out loud — does it make sense? Does it seem like you said “dog walkers” ten times too many? See how it reads and make edits as needed. You can also use a browser extension like Grammarly to help with editing your content, as well. After you’ve gotten the hang of creating good content, you have to make sure to stay consistent. One good blog article a year is not nearly as effective as a good blog article every couple of weeks.
Similarly to using appropriate keywords in your content, you should use relevant keywords on your website too. I’m sure you’ve seen those sites that have a bunch of nonsense listed in the footer. While that may have worked in the past, search engines have evolved to the point where it doesn’t anymore. Therefore, it’s important to ensure the content on your home page, the about us page, the services page, and the contact us page flows nicely. Try the “read out loud” test again and see if it makes sense. If it does have good flow, the keywords should sound like they fit in — not that they are forced in.
Now that you’ve created high-quality content and have a strong focus on appropriate keywords, it’s time to think about a link strategy. Google uses links to and from a website as one way to determine the authenticity and credibility of that site. Be sure to consistently link to your website from your social media properties and from your local listings. You can also create alliances with other local businesses to share links. For example — you might recommend a vet on your website, and that vet might recommend you as a dog walker. Most importantly — create an authentic link strategy. While it may be a slow process, taking shortcuts can negatively impact your SEO strategy in the long run.
Last but not least — one of the most important aspects of Local SEO Optimization is NAP. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. This information should be included in the footer of every single one of your pages. If you choose to only implement one of these suggestions, we strongly urge you to do this.
Local SEO can be massively important when trying to make your pet sitting business visible to potential clients. It also helps you stand out from the competition. In order to utilize local SEO to its full potential, you want to ensure you that keep up to date with your social media profiles and use them to engage with both existing and potential clients. You should also take steps to make sure your business is visible on as many online listings as you can using sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo, Bing, Foursquare, and more. When listing your business information on these sites, keep your business details uniform everywhere to avoid confusion and to help your standing in the search results.
Most importantly, however, make sure you do a great job taking care of your clients and their pets, as there’s no better endorsement than fantastic customer service! Happy sitting!