Let’s say you’re an above average business owner when it comes to promoting your business to the correct audiences. Let’s even say you have a marketing plan that looks roughly 12 months out and isn’t currently stuck in the 1980’s.
Guess what? If that’s you, and your business is considered a “local” business by virtue of having less than three locations and serving customers via a storefront (primary) and a website (passively), then you’re better off than 86.3% of your peers (including competitors).
You see, marketing a local business takes a lot more strategy than what color koozie to slap your logo on to gleefully distribute to adoring fans this football season. In fact, it takes:
(a) knowing who your best customers are,
(b) what they like (and don’t like) about your store and then,
(c) encouraging more of those like-minded customers to check you out.
Why is all that knowing so important to your strategy?
Because if you’re going to win the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, you’ve got to know it and keep it at the forefront of your local business digital strategy. And, if you’re winning at SEO, you stand a much better chance of winning in the other components of not just your digital strategy, but your overall marketing strategy too.
Getting found is today’s digital strategy challenge and the cost to get there is climbing.
You can expect to pay between $20 and $200 per hour for assistance on projects and short term work, and $500 to $1500 per month for longer term work. Of course I have skin in the game when I say it is worth it, so by all means finish reading this post and check out a few more articles on SEO for local businesses. You’ll want to be knowledgeable when you complete that online form for an agency or individual with expertise in helping your business get found and maximize all that Google My Business has to offer.
Because I’m mostly a nice guy currently running a fun agency helping organizations with local search, I’m going to give you a quick guide to help you navigate the beginning steps of how SEO can improve your local business digital strategy.
- Optimize your Google My Business listing
- Build citations for your business
- Optimize your website with keywords
- Develop some key off-site Search Engine Optimization
Let’s dig into each one of these a little more. See, I really am mostly a nice guy.
Optimize your Google My Business listing.
You’ve got some work to do before you go claim your listing (or create a new one) on Google, so please spend some time gathering together this info and having it handy as you complete your listing.
- Find at least five, and preferably eight professional photos of your business. Look for those that showcase who you are, what you sell, and by all means, how you make life better for your customers. Please don’t use the overexposed shot of your store front you took the day you first opened when you were drunk on possibilities (and perhaps something else, but hey, that’s your business).
- If you have a near professional video of your business, your services or products, then by all means have that ready too!
- List out the five main, or core things you provide. Have a trusted friend, colleague or even better, customer verify that your list is spot on.
- Determine your Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) and write it down for consistency sake. It’s important that going forward (and back), you are listing your business address exactly the same. For example, if you’re on 418 South Gay Street, make certain that if Google finds you at, “418 S Gay St” that is how you list your business from henceforth and forever more.
- Add your business details to your Google profile, including the aforementioned NAP, hours of operations, service area, payment type accepted, and additional services.
- Write a short, easy-to-read description and make mention of the things you offer (keywords). Make sure to list the city associated with your street address in the description.
- Submit your listing and follow Google’s verification steps.
- Add coupons (if appropriate) and offers.
- Once you’re all approved and setup, return to your listing and share an update, post about upcoming seasonal sales, and remember to use those keywords you worked hard to list out.
- Now, the hard part….get at least 10 customers to write a real review on your listing. It’s important they take the time to do more than give you 5 stars and move on. Encourage them to write about their experiences and your stellar customer service.
Build Citations for your Website.
Citations are simply “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages. Some people may refer to citations as “web references.” The terms aren’t what is going to help you, the fact that you are talked about by other businesses is what matters.
Local search directories include places like: Superpages, Yelp!, Kudzu, Insiderpages and AngiesList. You can create or claim your business listing on each of those similar to how you did with Google My Business. You’ll also want to search for industry specific directories and claim your listing there too.
Remember! Use that consistent NAP we talked about in the “Optimize your Google My Business listing” above.
Optimize Your Website with Keywords.
Chances are, the person or team who built your website took care of this for you already. Then again, leaving your business to chance is probably why you’ve invested your time in this blog post in the first place. It’s better to verify it yourself before skipping this step.
Remember those core services you listed and sought advice for in step 1? Well, make sure your website text makes mention of those same services and also calls the website visitor’s attention to the fact you are located in city x. Keywords have to be sprinkled throughout your content in a way that appeals to human beings. Cramming every paragraph with keywords turns off humans and upsets the search bots. Don’t be a crammer!
If you really want to get sexy with SEO, then ask those 10 customers who wrote you a review what they typed into Google when they found you the first time. Oh wait, they found you through word of mouth? Go find 10 more customers and ask them then. It’s imperative you understand how people search for information and places to spend their money today. Gone are the days of typing, “digital marketing” into a search bar and seeing the 12 best results right away.
Nowadays, you have to develop what we call, ‘long tail keywords’ and phrases to ensure your best customers, and the ones most willing to spend money are finding you. For example, finding this post relies on knowing you need help with your digital marketing strategy and that SEO is a function of that. Therefore, you would type in, “how seo can improve local business digital strategy” or maybe even, “how seo can improve my local business digital strategy.”
See how that works? Pat yourself on the back for bringing sexy back to seo.
Develop some key off-site Search Engine Optimization.
Remember soon after you took that overexposed photo of your store front how the local Chamber of Commerce and merchants association showed up with a few reporters and you got your picture in the local online newspaper?
Well, you’ve got to go get some more, “street cred” and fast! Street cred in this instance refers to more of those links you develop from other sources, this time from highly reputable industry and PR worthy sites.
Some great examples are industry blogs or articles who post frequently about topics you care about. You’ve got to invest the time to get them to share your news and a link to your website, but the pay off in Google terms is near priceless. Think about something new you’re about to unveil in your stores and pitch the local media on covering the announcement. Do all this at least four to six times over a two-month period and you’ll be well on your way to a link building machine.
To wrap this up, there are literally tons of articles on link building strategies, media pitches, website optimization and more, but these four steps taken in order are what I’ve seen as a successful, straight-forward approach to improving your digital marketing strategy by starting with and developing a solid SEO plan.
If you’d like to know more about review sites such as Yelp!, check out our FREE eBook by clicking the button below.