It’s crucial that restaurants, contractors, doctors, franchises, plumbers and any other small businesses, have a solid local SEO plan that enables them to compete with corporations and larger outlets. The following tips will help your small biz ensure it can compete on the same playing-field as the big guys.
It doesn’t matter in which industry you are in. There will always be a bigger guy who’s been in the business for longer time than you, with more connections, more content, more presence, more friends, more affiliates, more partners, etc.
And unless you’re literally coming up with something quite innovative or disruptive, it doesn’t make any sense to try to compete with them. Even more when your business idea or revenue stream comes from proven business ideas that can hardly differentiate themselves.
I know, it sounds bleak.
Fortunately, there is a caveat.
Local businesses often have an easier time when trying to compete with the bigger guys when it comes to local relevant searches.
Google loves local business and tends to favor them. Sometimes even before paid terms. Thus it’s important that small business owners understand the importance of having a website or web presence that’s been optimized for local searches.
This article will show you the four basic things that you need to do to have a stronger local SEO online presence, and this be able to compete with the bigger guys at a local level.
These cost-effective strategies will give small to medium businesses a better chance to rank and compete organically versus bigger websites.
1. Have a complete Google My Business profile
Google is first a collection and ranking database, and then it’s a search engine. This means they crawl the web in search of anything they can find, so they can index, rank and monitor information. And then they serve it according to what they think the user is looking for.
As such, Google is no different than a relational database with lots and lots of data points connecting each other.
But in order for Google to make this process a reality, they must make sure all information is being properly categorized, updated stored. Thus, Google loves content that’s been properly organized and that is fresh, and if possible, local enough to serve specific needs.
As Google aims to be the de facto search engine for all web searches. They favor websites that pay attention to local ranking factors.
And the first and probably most important local factor for small businesses if having a complete Google My Business profile. Which means that you want to keep your information up to date, including: work hours, contact information, recent pictures, logo, business address, etc.
You also must have uploaded pictures from your business products, as well as your team, offices, branches, etc.
And speaking of branches, don’t think that by having a single Google My Business profile is enough if you have more than one office. Think of Google My Business as the new version of Yellow Pages, with each branch or outlet having their own profile. Google knows this and they can give you the option to create a business profile with branches, so be sure to use them when you’re optimizing for local.
They even give you a dashboard to let you know what’s going on with your business, including visits, views, clicks, and more.
2. Allocate a paid marketing budget into highly targeted local terms
While completely optional, it’s important that ALL small and medium business consider the power of paid ads in search.
This option is not only good for what advertising can do for your business. It’s good because by having a complete Google AdWords profile, it forces you to identify and update important factors.
Besides having an even more complete profile, which as we’ve said, Google loves. It’s equally important to advertise your business.
I remember how in the old days small businesses loved to print flyers or postcards for their potential customers. Nowadays that is not only considered inefficient, but it’s even bad for the environment.
While display advertising could be considered some form of digital pollution, fortunately it’s nowhere near the levels of pollution caused by paper advertising.
So, given that small businesses where already doing some form of paid advertising, it’s extremely important to advertise where your potential customers are, and start doing some online advertising ASAP!
AdWords is probably your best bet when it comes to online advertising.
3. Seek and promote user-generated reviews
If it’s hard to bring paying customers into your brick and mortar shop. It’s even more difficult to do it into your brand new website.
In the web, many things can be faked. So if you already have some sales or other form of customer data, it’s crucial to get them to review or comment on your business or website. This is sometimes called User-Generated Content (UGC).
Fortunately, now it’s easier than ever to collect reviews for your website or shop. You can do so freely via Google My Business too. Or you can do it using any of the many online review sites out there such as: TrustPilot, Bazaarvoice, PowerReviews, Yotpo, TurnTo, and many more customer review management tools.
4. Aim for hyper local content
There probably isn’t a better strategy for ranking locally than creating a piece of content aimed for a hyper local audience. This type of content tends to rank at the top spots seamlessly as long as it’s been properly optimized and more importantly, contains useful information.
Think of this content as the typical chit-chat you would have with passersby or your regular customer. You would probably start by talking about how warm has this season been. Just to move into discussing local issues such as politics, sports, infrastructure, etc.
As a dentist, for example, you may not know much about public policies or infrastructure projects, and even if you do, you shouldn’t be praising about it online! What you should do instead is talk about maybe how the local policies will affect dentistries or the local health. You could also talk about how produce from the local farmer’s market is good or bad for your gums or teeth, etc.
That would be considered hyper local content, since it mostly affects and relates with a local audience. While being at the same time irrelevant for a general search. Given what we’ve mentioned before, trying to compete with the big buys for generic forms is futile.
5. Check for Google updates and keep your website up to date with the best practices
If you’re like 78% (I made this number up, but is probably even higher!) of the population, you’re using your mobile phone for consuming content, and your laptop or desktop computer for working or generating content.
You might have noticed your search results are constantly changing and adapting to your device. Well, Google knows that you like to perhaps scan and then read concise things in your phone, so they have come up with something called Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP.
It’s basically a new structured approach (remember Google loves structure and order?) to web content. One that favors speed over design. Content over ads.
This is but one fo the constant best practices being created on a regular basis regarding web standards. And if you make sure your site is using them, Google is going to love you back.
Of course there’s a ton of information and things to remember in order to have a site that’s been locally optimized. While this list is not comprehensive, it’s a good starting point for those wanting to optimize their sites for local search. It’s cheap, it’s mostly free and it works!
Image by Bertram Atherton