I don’t need to tell you that your target market is already using Google to find their wedding suppliers, information during their wedding planning process, and to find wedding inspiration.
You are probably aware that search engine optimisation (SEO) is a channel of customer acquisition.
Most of you understand that SEO equals increasing visibility, which equals to improving SERP rankings, that equates to more clicks, and thus, a higher chance of enquiries, and most important of all, more money for you.
But what about local SEO?
How do you optimise for people planning their wedding who are near to your business?
How can you get your business to show up in Google Maps?
What can you do to make your wedding business rank in the top positions in Google Maps?
Read on to find out how.
Why Should You Trust Me For Local SEO Advice?
Just about everyone on the internet claims to be an expert in this and that.
I am an expert in nothing but I’m forever learning, testing and measuring.
I know a lot about digital marketing, I have a full-time role in SEO, and I have achieved real revenue-increasing results for my clients.
Those are my credentials in a nutshell.
How To Leverage Local SEO: A Guide For Small Business Owners In The Wedding Industry
Wedding photographers, wedding florists, wedding caterers, wedding stylists, and wedding entertainers such as bands, DJs and pyrotechnic professionals tend to be service area businesses (SABs).
What exactly is a service area business?
Unlike a business with a shopfront, SABs visit, deliver, or carry out goods or services to local customers. For example, a wedding photographer based in Sydney can carry out the work in the Blue Mountains, a Newcastle based wedding florist can deliver flowers to a wedding in the Hunter Valley, and a DJ from Western Sydney can travel down to Kangaroo Valley for a wedding assignment.
The opposite of a service area business (SAB) is a storefront. This is where customers come to your business location.
A wedding reception venue is a prime example of a storefront.
Many wedding professionals work out of a home office and provide services at their clients’ location. Others may share a co-working space or lease their own commercial space. Sydney’s largest event styling companies, Decorative Events, is a hybrid. It has both a physical showroom in Alexandria and provides event planning and styling all across Sydney.
Even for a multi-million dollar business such as Decorative Events & Exhibitions, they do not have complete GMB coverage. As you can see in the screenshots above and below, the business has maximum visibility at its Alexandria warehouse location. As you move away from this location, it has less visibility for the search term event planner.
And this is what makes local SEO and GMB optimisation so exciting. It has the ability to level the playing field (or at least, reduce it somewhat) due to the way businesses are displayed in the map results.
What this means for you is that even a small wedding styling or wedding planning business can take on the likes of DE&E!
So What Is GMB?
Google My Business is another one of Google’s platforms. Like most things with Google, getting a Google My Business profile is free of charge.
“Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to promote your Business Profile and business website on Google Search and Maps. With your Google My Business account, you can see and connect with your customers, post updates to your Business Profile and see how customers are interacting with your business on Google.”
Source – google.com/intl/en_au/business/faq/
I’ve bolded the important bits for you.
The last sentence is particularly interesting too as Google is basically telling you that they will reward GMB profiles that are proactive in posting updates.
Traditionally, most wedding businesses have focused on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. As most of you will know, reaching users on these platforms have been significantly reduced – unless you pay for it.
Some wedding businesses (wedding photographers in particular) also invest time and energy into SEO. But when it comes to local SEO, many wedding businesses fall short.
What Is Local SEO And How Does It Differ From SEO?
Let’s say you need an auto electrician to fix a broken tailgate light.
An auto electrician isn’t a service you frequent and typically speaking, most people don’t know where their nearest auto electrician is. So you type auto electrician near me into Google search.
Google returns a map listing with a number of relevant businesses.
But let’s say, you’re not at home. In fact, it is late in the afternoon and you discover that you need an auto electrician immediately. You could carry out the same search as before but now you want to find a nearby auto electrician who is still open.
In this situation, you may fire up your Google Maps app instead of using the Google search bar. This is because you want driving directions to the business you pick (and you want to see some options relative to your location).
Searching for auto electrician near me who is open, Google Maps returns the following (see below):
As you can see, Google Maps has returned the nearest car services relevant to your search query. That is, the business provides auto electrical services, it is open, and is close to your current location.
Many people use Google Maps everyday to find cafes, restaurants, and services near them instead of the traditional Google search bar and this is why GMB SEO is relevant for wedding businesses.
The foundations of search engine optimisation are Authority, Trust and Relevance. From rewording the wording on a webpage to link-building, SEO efforts relate to increasing a website’s authority, trust and relevance.
At the time of writing, Proximity (otherwise known as Distance) is the biggest local SEO ranking factor.
What this means is that local SEO has a significant geographical component to it. Businesses are recommended based on the exact location of the user. If you’re in a different city or a few suburbs away from the user, you have little chance of being found.
On top of Proximity, the other optimisation goals relate to Prominence and Relevance. I’ll cover these later on in the optimisation section.
The easiest way to demonstrate the difference between local SEO and SEO is to jump onto Google.
When a user searches for a wedding florist, the will see the following – a map result with two to three recommended businesses.
As the user scrolls further down the page, the will see these blue links. As you can see from the following image, the search results vary. That is, some pages take you to blog articles, some pages belong to business directories, and some are actual websites of wedding florist.
If the user moves to another location and performs the same search (e.g., the above search was carried out at home and then the user searches for wedding florist again when at work), the results in the map will be different.
This is local SEO.
In most instances, the blue links on the search results page will remain the same for the same search irrespective of the user’s location. This is organic SEO.
Local SEO will serve you the closest and most relevant business based on where the searcher is, whereas, organic SEO has lesser geographical factor.
Therefore, the above image should make sense to you. The numbers represent the GMB ranking position in the map results. As we move further away from Ermington, the ranking position naturally drops.
For example, searching for wedding florist in West Pennant Hills will yield the following results in Google Maps (see below).
Flowers by Helen Brown is in fourth position behind Visually Creative, Flowers and Weddings, and Hills Wedding Flowers.
What’s impressive about this is that Flowers by Helen Brown is quite far away from the user. From the above image, you can see that there are other businesses closer to the user in West Pennant Hills that have poorer ranking positions in the map results.
I’ll explain why this is the case later and what you can do to replicate this type of result for yourself
What Role Does GMB Have In Local SEO?
What you may have missed in the previous example is that the map results was the first thing displayed on the search result page.
This tells us that Google places businesses near the searcher as the most important thing to display. Far more important than the information found on the pages found within the organic search results section.
Going back to the previous example where a user searched for a wedding florist in Google, we saw Flowers By Helen Brown come up in the map result.
When someone clicks on this, they will be given the following information – a list of nearby wedding florists, a map with markers indicating where these wedding florists are, and an option to contact the business directly, look at its reviews and photos.
Where does Google get this information come from?
From the GMB!
In the above screenshot, the left side of the screen displays organic search results while on the right hand side is the GMB listing for Flowers by Helen Brown. A GMB must exist in order for it to show up in Google Maps.
In a later section, I’ll go over how you can fill out every detail on your GMB so that you can improve the chance of your business showing up in the map results
What Does GMB Success Look Like?
All the visibility in the world won’t matter unless you start getting phone calls and enquiries. And even these are only metrics.
As a wedding business, the goal of doing local SEO is to get more bookings. More bookings = more money.
But how will you know if it is the GMB listing that is generating more leads and sales?
Simple – by adding a tracking code so that you can see how much traffic the GMB is driving to your website. We’ll cover how you can do this in a later section.
So now that we have covered the groundwork of what local SEO is and why it should be important for your wedding business, let’s dive into the actionable bits.
Things (And Tools) That You Will Need For Local SEO
1. A Website For Your Wedding Business
I am going to assume that you have a website for your business.
You will need access to the backend of your website so that you can make changes to the content.
It is 100% possible to rank a GMB in Google Maps without a website. These are typically exact match domains (EMD). They’re easy to spot (see below).
At the time of writing, EMDs can be used to manipulate local SEO.
2. A Verified Google My Business For Your Wedding Business
Before a GMB can be seen by the public it must first be verified. This involves requesting a postcard from Google and inputting a unique code to verify that the postal address is legit. If you have a landline phone, you may have the option to verify your listing.
You will need admin/owner access to the GMB profile so that you may add/remove information.
Depending on your business, you can either be a shopfront or a SAB.
3. A Well-Researched List Of Keywords Relevant For Your Wedding Business
The nature of search continues to be based on individual search queries (aka, keywords). You will need to do your own keyword research to understand how your customers are searching for wedding services.
Typically speaking, local SEO keywords are quite different to organic SEO keywords. If you haven’t performed a formal keyword research for your wedding business, now is the time to do so as it sets the foundation for your SEO (both organic and local).
Haven’t done your keyword research yet? Learn to do so in my SEO Masterclass series. Alternatively, contact me for a done-for-you service.
4. Local Viking
This is a paid tool (monthly subscription) that I use to make edits to a GMB, schedule GMB posts, and check local rankings for SABs. Local Viking also has an organic keyword tracking feature.
At the time of writing, I have seen numerous reports of Google suspending GMBs when changes to the GMB profile have been made in the Google My Business dashboard. I even saw one user report that they added special hours of operations (at Google’s request) and by doing so, their GMB was suspended.
Changes in Local Viking minimises the risk of triggering a soft/hard suspension. It also has the ability to lock your information. What this means is that should someone suggest an edit to your GMB, the original details will revert back (it cannot prevent someone making unsolicited edits but the tool will recognise these edits as being malicious and revert back to the original information).
5. Time And Money (Lots Of Each)
Be prepared to sink some serious hours into learning, testing, and doing SEO. This is an unavoidable truth and 9 out of 10 of you will give up.
Local SEO is a hard slog.
Beyond the things that I will share here, for competitive areas such as a major city, you may find that you will need to deploy geo networks, Google stacks, and authority map stacks.
Either you do it yourself (and spend the time) or you pay a professional.
If you have neither the time or money, stop reading right now. I cannot help you.
Should You Invest In GMB SEO?
If you have an optimised website – you will gain the most from GMB SEO.
If your website gets little to no organic search traffic, addressing this should be your priority. This is because there is an overlap between the information displayed on your website and the visibility of your GMB.
If you have the capacity to take on more work – you should definitely look into maximising your visibility via local SEO.
If your business is not providing you with adequate income – fix this first. No amount of SEO is going to bring in an influx of sales any time soon. Many of you will be in this situation (I’ve been there myself). What you should prioritise right now is building real relationships with people in your industry. Get a part-time job to make sure that you can pay the bills and provide for yourself. And in any spare time, go out and hustle! Business is all about human to human interactions.
How To Rank On Google Maps (Guaranteed Method)
There is a simple and tested way to show up in the map results. You can achieve this, without any GMB SEO through Google Ads.
In the above example, you can see that Calebro Bridal Evening Wear and Menswear and Colour 18 Wedding showing up in the map results in the top two positions for the search query wedding dress shops near me.
They look identical to the organic GMB listings don’t they? Complete with customer reviews, ratings, phone number etc.
These are paid placements via Google Ads (as denoted by the green icon and green location markers on the map). And if done right, they can be an effective way to build brand awareness. However, if many users click on the ad listing, those clicks are going to add up.
In order to take advantage of this shortcut, you will still need to set up your GMB profile properly, verify it, and link it with your Google Ads account.
But if you don’t want to pay for expensive clicks and don’t want to learn the intricacies of PPC, the only option you have is to do local SEO.
How To Rank Your GMB In 8 Steps
For the better part of a year, I hunted down every source of local SEO training resource, scoured Facebook Groups, and watched countless YouTube videos from a multitude of people and so-called experts.
9 out of ten of the resources I came across were wrong, misdirection, a mixture of both, or complete junk. Luckily, I came across a few people in the local SEO space who shared tidbits regularly. Over time, I was able to piece together a course of action and I began implementing these tactics/recommendations and measured whether these actions had any positive, neutral, or negative impact on a GMB.
Jordan Peace and the chaps who run Local Client Takeover are people who I have come to respect and trust when it comes to any form of local SEO advice and discourse.
So, once and for all, I am setting the record straight on how you can get your wedding business to (i) show up in Google Maps, and (ii) begin moving up in ranking positions so that you can get more wedding-related enquiries
Follow these 8 steps to rank your GMB in Google Maps.
Step 1: Get the on-page elements of your website right (high importance)
Websites that rank well organically tend to rank better in local SEO. This is because a site that is performing well in the organic SERPs will typically have better authority, trust and relevance compared to its competitors. Therefore, thorough keyword research, optimised page titles, optimised meta descriptions, appropriate site structure, optimised H1-H3 headings, and well-written content will help your local SEO go a long way.
For most wedding small businesses, your homepage will have the most authority. This is because your homepage will typically have the most amount of incoming links. As such, the homepage is where you want to optimise for local keywords such as [service] + [location].
In terms of adding local signals on your homepage, you should include your business’ address, postcode and longitude and latitude somewhere on the page. The best way to implement this on your homepage is via local schema.
You will also want to add geo location signals in the homepage’s page title and H tags. Keep in mind that the first geo location mentioned on the page will be the most important. Therefore, if you wish to rank for Sydney, make sure that you mention Sydney before any other suburb, city or country.
For a complete walkthrough on how to optimise your website’s on-page content including how to do keyword research for wedding service niches, enrol in my GMB Masterclass. I highly recommend this course if you are a wedding videographer, wedding photographer, or wedding florist.
Step 2: Optimise the GMB profile (high importance)
Fill out your Google My Business profile as much as possible.
I wouldn’t go so far as to try to achieve 100% completion (as to date, I still don’t know whether picking a @shortname will have a positive or negative effect).
Basic GMB optimisation includes:
- High quality profile photo (this can be a logo)
- High quality cover photo
- A description that provides a summary of the service you offer and where you offer it
- Accurate hours of operation (e.g., don’t say you are available 24/7 when you are not)
- Ten (10) high quality geotagged images that demonstrate what you do
- A business name that is not keyword stuffed
- Assigning an appropriate service area
In addition to these, there are a number of advanced actions that you can do to optimise your GMB further. These include activating and optimising the Google My Business website, map embeds on web 2.0s, syndicated press releases, authority stacks and optimising the Service section within your GMB.
For a complete walkthrough on how to do these things, I highly recommend that you enrol in my GMB Masterclass.
Step 3: Ensure that local citations are consistent (moderate-high importance)
Local SEO is based on proximity, relevance and prominence.
Prominence relates to how well a brand is established online. Specifically, the total amount of documents that reference a business directly has a positive impact on the local prominence of the business.
What are these documents that reference a business directly?
Citations fall under two types: structured citations and unstructured citations.
Structured citations are typically business directories such as YellowPages, Yelp, MapQuest, Facebook, Foursquare, Apple Maps. At the very least, you will want to have your NAP (business name, address, phone number, and business hours) on all the major directories.
Unstructured citations are any website mentions that do not fall within a directory listing. If you get featured in a wedding blog, the way they mention you is an example of an unstructured citation.
Unstructured citations can be very effective, especially if you take the time to build them out yourself.
For a complete tutorial on how to create your own unstructured citations that strengthens your website’s local signals, I share these tips via my GMB Masterclass.
For your convenience, I have listed 20+ essential citations you can create for your own business:
I recommend creating 5 citations per day and paying for a service that will index the citation URL.
As a busy small business owner, I think you will like to know that you will need to build out citations only once. It’ll take no more than 10 days and once done, it is done. With 40 or so citations, your foundation will be set (especially if they are all indexed by Google). To take your citations to the next level, you will want to build links to five to ten of your best citations.
For all citations that you create, ensure that the name of the business, hours of operation, URL and phone number are consistent with the details you set in your GMB.
In SEO, links indicate to search engines that the target web page is a reliable source of information.
When building links to your structured/unstructured citations, include a geo location keyword in the anchor text of these links (e.g., company in Sydney, this business in Sydney NSW).
At the time of writing, local SEO link-building en masse is slightly different to organic SEO. Whether this remains the same in the coming years nobody knows. Typically speaking, link-building to ‘power up’ citations involves buying links from reputable vendors. If you want to find out more, look into tiered link-building or tier 2 links.
Depending on the competitiveness of your local geographical area, do not prioritise this task.
Since there is some overlap between organic SEO (Authority) and local SEO (Prominence), it goes without saying that links matter.
The more links your site has from relevant industry websites, the more credible and trustworthy Google sees your website.
Start with some easy wins – ask your fellow industry friends to link out to you and return them the favour as well. You can do this via a Recommended Vendors page on your website.
Other link-building strategies include guest posting and link inserts (also referred to as niche edits).
Some major websites that target small business owners will accept well-written and highly actionable guest posts in exchange for a link back to your website in the author bio line. I have found that topics around marketing tend to be accepted readily.
Smartinsights.com, JPEGmini.com, Petapixel.com, and Onyamagazine.com are some websites where I have submitted a guest post and had it published.
Please be aware that many websites charge a publishing fee for guest post submissions. These websites tend to be low quality and will link out to anyone who pays. The ones listed above were all free and had strict editing guidelines.
Another method I acquire links for a client site is through the creation of content assets. This requires extensive research and interpretation of publicly available datasets and presenting easy-to-consume one-sentence bullet points and visual graphs and tables. Why else do you think EasyWeddings.com.au produces annual industry reports?
Personally, I prefer finding link insert opportunities for my clients simply because guest posting is hugely labour intensive. Similarly, niche edits can be added to high-performing existing pages which is a massive advantage compared to publishing a brand new piece of content.
You can also sign up to HelpAReporter.com (HARO). Respond to journalist queries and be rewarded by a backlink from an authority website such as Business.com, Forbes.com, and Huffington Post. Normally, getting a link from these publications is near impossible with cold outreach. But with HARO, you can (if you put in the effort).
The best links a wedding service provider can acquire are those from popular wedding blogs. You can either achieve this through manual submissions or advertising with them. Resources-permitting, you will want to be featured/linked-from all of the big name wedding blogs.
Step 6: Consistently add geotagged images (moderate importance)
You don’t fully appreciate the power of uploading photos to your GMB until you receive a notification that tells you that your photos got thousands of views in the last month.
If there is one thing we know about Google, the platform rewards unique content. At the very least, you should be uploading one image per week to your GMB.
This is an easy task for wedding photographers as they will have plenty of photographs to share. But what if you are a wedding planner or a civil marriage celebrant? What can you do?
You could request for professional photos from wedding photographers but they may be slow to respond. At the very least, collect as many photos from weddings as you can and upload these with a meaningful caption to your GMB.
Another way you can share more photos to your GMB is by creating your own visuals. You can screenshot your customer reviews and convert these into images. You can use a free tool such as Canva to design these using their library of attractive fonts and visuals.
Typically speaking, uploading photos will increase visibility for your GMB.
Many people will cite that Google strips EXIF data from uploaded images to the GMB and say that geotagging images is a waste of time. I still recommend adding GPS coordinates because it doesn’t take long and if it gives my clients a small competitive advantage, it is still a win.
What GPS coordinates should you input into your photos?
Use the GPS coordinates of your business location. By doing this, you are increasing geolocation signals of your photos for your GMB.
Step 7: Consistently posting unique content via GMB (high importance)
Most businesses ignore the content publishing feature of Google My Business. Most wedding business owners focus on posting to Instagram. What most people do not know is that regular GMB posting is an effective way to increase relevance for your chosen keywords.
As a bare minimum, you should be posting to your GMB once a week via the What’s New feature. The more frequent, the better.
I recommend posting at least 3 to 4 times per week. I use Local Viking to bulk upload content and schedule them out weeks in advance.
To get the most out of GMB posting, I suggest that you watch me build out a content calendar via my GMB Masterclass using Local Viking.
Step 8: Acquire keyword optimised reviews from real customers (high importance)
Consumers use GMBs to make purchasing decisions and reading customer reviews is how they judge a business.
It is imperative that you are proactive in asking your clients to leave you with a review. You will find that most satisfied customers are happy to leave a positive review.
But writing a review takes effort and this is one of the main reasons why your clients do not follow through. To combat this, I recommend that implement a feedback process where you call the client and ask them a series of questions.
For example, a wedding photographer can ask what aspect of their approach did the client appreciate. A wedding cake maker can ask what the client loved about the cake and of the selection process.
After collecting the feedback, you can work this into written format, taking careful note to insert target keywords as naturally as possible. Then you can email your client with the written draft and ask if they will publish it from their personal Google account.
More often than not, clients will happily take what you have written and publish it because it is based on the feedback that they provided you (plus they don’t have to allocate time to sit down and think about writing you a review when they could be relaxing after work).
On top of this, an advanced technique involves acquiring reviews from niche-specific local guides. That is, a local guide that reviews only wedding-related services and nothing else within a certain geographical region (e.g., only Sydney, only London, only California).
When implementing the local guides tactic, keep in mind the following:
- Experts tend to write longer and more informative reviews.
- Google tends to disregard short reviews (e.g., single sentence reviews).
- Reviews containing common spam phrases (e.g., best wedding photographer) are discarded.
Local SEO can be a viable channel of client acquisition for your wedding business.
Follow the 8 steps outlined in this guide to increase your GMB’s proximity, relevance and prominence and start seeing it move up in the rankings for your target keywords.