Almost all successful business owners need to determine how to best allocate their time and in-house resources. Local business owners can have ample opportunities to grow their brands and gain meaningful visibility through online marketing efforts. Contrary to popular belief, local businesses often have a substantial advantage over large enterprises when building a meaningful presence on search engines and social media sites.
Shop Local and Search Local
Top Google rankings often go to businesses that are local, or businesses that have brick and mortar storefronts. Small business owners have an almost unprecedented opportunity to build buzz both online and offline. The right execution of a comprehensive internet marketing plan can put businesses first in line on Google, and have a line around the block at their brick and mortar storefronts.
Where to Start
Business owners need to make an executive decision whether to handle all internet marketing in-house or to outsource internet marketing. It is important determine if resources would be best spent conducting all local SEO and social media marketing campaigns in-house or hiring a third party SEO and internet marketing company.
Either way, it is crucial to start with a comprehensive internet marketing plan along with measurable goals and objectives. Many small businesses can successfully take a crash course on the basics of SEO and social media marketing basics and start to methodically grow a successful and sustainable internet marketing campaign. Other small businesses opt to outsource some or all internet marketing efforts. Outsourced or in-house internet marketing is not better or worse per se. Success depends on in-house capabilities in addition to a number of other variables.
Too Many Choices
There is Yahoo, Bing, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and more. The number of available marketing channels can be dizzying. It is recommended that business owners take a methodical approach when finding the best marketing channels. Try several different channels. See which ones yield the best results, and go from there. It is important to mention that Google+ can be influential in overall Google Search rankings.
Brief Background on SEO and Social Media for Small Business Owners
SEO has changed dramatically in the past few years. It is important to know that Google Search has always had a strong focus on increased relevancy for searchers. The core elements of SEO such as link building are still predicted to be a major part of Google Search algorithms. However, the widespread popularity of different forms of social media has made a big impact on site rankings. Social media includes social media networking sites (Facebook, Google+) local business listing services (Yelp), blogging, and almost any other platform that invites users to interact with others (forums and chat rooms).
Having a top ranking on Google can help you connect with the right audience members. Google’s focus on relevancy is intended to promote symbiotic relations between businesses and customers. Businesses thrive after connecting with an interested and engaged target audience on Google, on Yahoo, on Bing, and in brick and mortar storefronts. Logically, positive reviews and likes on social media sites will frequently result in superior site rankings and vice versa.
Search Engine Algorithms Use Big Data from Social Media Sites
In the past, SEO was largely defined by people that would try to “beat the system” by hiding thousands of keywords behind HTML code and exchanging links with other websites for SEO purposes only. Today, different forms of social media make it almost impossible to trick Google algorithms. Instead of trying to obtain a top ranking by looking like a great business, provide a great service to a local audience. Earn a top ranking with the use of social media, independent brand advocacy, and general best practice. Get people talking both online and offline for the best results.
Set Your Business Up for Success
There are a few details that need to be taken care of before launching a local SEO and social media marketing campaign. Several items to take care of ASAP are listed below:
- Fix all 404 errors on your website. Update your website as necessary. Regular website maintenance should be performed as general best practice.
- Fix all incorrect citations. A citation is a listing on a website that typically includes the address of your storefront, your company name, your phone number, your URL, etc.
- Build a business profile on social media sites such as Google+ and Facebook. Start to methodically create a following with engaged audience members.
- Invest in a mobile website. Google gives preferential rankings to mobile-friendly sites due to the widespread popularity of mobile search.
Note: It is estimated that over half of all searches are conducted on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and mobile search is predicted to increase substantially in the near future.
How to Address Multiple Business Locations and Mobile Businesses
Local SEO is still a viable option for businesses with multiple locations or mobile businesses. One of the most common ways to boost site rankings for a business with multiple locations is to create a unique website for each location. A small business can have three different websites: one for a location in Corpus Christi, one for a location in Houston, and one for a location in Austin. A mobile business can rent small office space for one day a week, agree to share office space, or simply go local by advertising the geographic location it serves.
Advantages of Being Hyper Local
A hyper local business has numerous advantages when competing for online visibility. A hyper local business has less direct competition for online visibility as it is either advertised as located in a smaller town or a specific neighborhood within a larger city. Being hyper local can be part of a small business’ niche. Attractive or well-traveled locations can present small businesses with the unique opportunity to attract business from tourists in addition to a local customer base.
Effective Internet Marketing for Local Business at Its Best
Numerous local storefronts find that social media provides a great platform to get involved with other members of the industry in addition to potential customers. Social media can be used for networking, link building, and encouragement of independent brand advocacy on a large scale. Think big. Have a plan. And use your niche location to your advantage when getting top rankings and building a powerful online presence. Build visibility and attract the right customers both online and offline. Spread the word about your business and build positive public perception. In other words, embrace what internet marketing is all about.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.