At some point in every businesses life is a membership for a chamber of commerce. There are many reasons a business chooses to join. Networking, connections mentorship are probably the few immediate reasons to pop to mind. But did you know that your Chamber of commerce membership has a hidden but important value that most business owners do not factor in when evaluating the value or ROI of their Chamber membership annual dues? Joining a chamber of commerce can put your business on the map. And I don’t mean that only figuratively. I mean of course local SEO and getting on the Google map.
Google launched its Google My Business program a few years ago with its pre-runner, Google Business and you may have heard about the now on life support Google Plus. Everyday business’ in America get robocall from a Google Partner that says Hi I’m Heather, Your local google expert. And like most robocalls we quickly disconnect.
Before explaining what your local Chamber of commerce has to do with all this, I must gratuitously point out all businesses should have a Google My Business account and should get that setup. And, don’t use the robocall people.
What helps dictate that map listing is the types and quality of the local links that point to your website. What that means is an article about your business in the local paper will do wonders to help your map listing if you are in a competitive field. But what if you can’t get a good sold local link. Let me be the first to tell you that the link from your favorite chamber of commerce might just help that.
I suppose the first question is why would a chamber of commerce help you rank in Google and help your business show up on Google maps. Chamber of Commerce usually are beehives of local activities. They meet with the mayor, get press coverage and have people linking to them for events and activities. If run correctly, they can be a treasure trove of authority that Google looks for and to gain that link is very simple. You just have to become a member.
So when I talk about a Chamber of commerce I do so by judging their Google value first and then connections and networking are secondary. That link from a well-run Chamber is so valuable that I can help prop up the link profile of your website and help Google view you differently. Places like the local BBB have the same effect but have to say I’m not an advocate of the BBB because their policies can be onerous on a small business. A good chamber provides the same level of quality without the hassle attached to the BBB membership.
Now there are some specific criteria you have to evaluate when looking at a chamber of commerce because not any old chamber will do. So how do you evaluate the strength of your Chamber of Commerce website? And make sure it meets the needed criteria.
The first thing you must look for is that the directory is indexable by Google. What that means is can google spider it. You might ask yourself how you would this but it’s pretty simple. As long as the directory is laid out with clickable links and you do not have to search to find yourself. If you look at this image you will see that the links are lined up I a way that Google can crawl them jumping from link to link. Because they can index these pages, they will give each link they find credit and credit each of those sites a link from the chamber.
This has a twofold effect on the business. It legitimizes the business showing Google that you are not a site spun up specifically to spam their index. Beyond that, it also gives Google that you are a local business residing in that city and they should give you local credit for the city you’re in. The logic works this way. I often hear from customers that they feel they should be allowed to expand to other cities simply because they say so. They don’t have a footprint in those communities and they do not support those communities. So this chamber of commerce membership is a proof source that this is a business local to that community or they would not invest money into it.
If you think of the value of all the other links out there that you can purchase if you are a local business one from a chamber of commerce is valuable and provides value regardless if it passes back the ROI.
I often hear that…does this chamber membership give an ROI? So your investment is approximately $300. So if you can find a better geographically specific link of this caliber for this price then no it is not worth it. But I might suggest that there is no other link out there that sends the same signal to Google and yet is affordable to the end user.
The BBB is an alternative to all this however that membership will cost you about $600 a year and for Houston, things like the Greater Houston Partnership are $1000. So its hard to argue that the $300 for a chamber membership annual is not worth the spend.
Now some will say that the name address phone number and reviews plus geographical region is all you need to rank on those maps and while it is true that those are some components they are no longer the only ingredients to getting on Google Maps. Google is looking for local relevant links that show your business is in the community it says it is. There are certain attributes that all businesses have and membership in a professional organization, BBB or Chamber is a way to document that in Google eyes.
But my message is this. If you have any type of ranking in Google, don’t cancel your membership to your local Chamber.