If you’re running a single store, traditional bricks and mortar business, there’s a good chance you’ve still not fully taken advantage of the benefits to be had from growing your digital presence. Back in the day, if a consumer wanted to find a local retailer or service supplier, they’d generally do one of two things; open up the Yellow Pages or ask friends and family members for recommendations. Fast forward to 2014 however and the most common way to find local services and retailers is via the internet. As such, if your business isn’t currently utilising powerful local digital marketing approaches, regardless of whether you’re a retailer or service supplier, there’s a very good chance you’re missing out on potential sales and leads and letting your competition jump ahead of you with their local presence. As such, here’s three tried and tested ways which you yourself, as a small local business owner, can use to grow your online presence.
1. Social Media
If you’re not using social media to grow your business’ online presence, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Even on a local level, growing a strong, loyal and relevant following on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google + (there’s another benefit on this as well which will be looked at shortly) is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to build up your overall digital presence.
Once you’ve setup and populated your profiles on the chosen platforms, you need to build a following which, believe it or not, isn’t as difficult as you might think. First things first, import your customer database into each platform and send an invitation to your current customers and request that they ‘Like,’ ‘Follow,’ or ‘Circle’ you on each social site. This can give you a great foundation for your followings, especially seeing as though when it’s current customers you’re working with, you know there’s a good chance of interaction from them.
From there, there’s a few things which you can actively do to help grow your social following. Participating in local Twitter chats can be a great way of interacting with and building relationships with others in your area who you may not already be familiar with (think of them as an online networking event) and even following those who follow your close local competitors can see some great results. Of course, the other option is to consider paid advertising on the likes of Facebook and Twitter which can work wonders in terms of increasing targeted brand awareness…so long as the message you’re using is right.
Ideally, you need to spend time each day both building your social presence, interacting with your fans and followers and sharing and curating content, however every little helps and once you get familiar with the platforms, you’ll come up with your own ways of growing your following, sharing content and generating interaction.
2. Google + Local
Before we even begin to take a look at local SEO, you need to ensure you’ve signed up to a Google Plus Local page for your business. Hopefully you’ve acted on the suggestions in point 1 and set up a Google + page but whatever you do, make sure you verify your page as a local business. This generally involves Google sending a postcard with a PIN number on it to your physical location, however once all set up, you stand a very good chance of appearing on the map listings on the first page of search results for terms relating to your business. Of course, as with everything Google, there’s all sorts of factors which affect who shows on the listings, however if you’re signed up, you at least stand a chance of showing.
It shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to set up your Google Plus Local page from scratch and it’s time well spent, especially if you end up seeing yourself showing on the map listings for relevant search terms.
3. Local SEO
Many business owners will have a general idea as to what SEO is however perhaps not the fact that it’s as powerful marketing technique for local businesses as nationals and e-commerce stores however if you’re not appearing at the top of Google for search terms relating to your businesses local offerings, it’s likely that competitors are and you’re missing out on valuable leads, enquiries and sales. Local SEO doesn’t have to be too complex and you certainly don’t need to worry about advanced techniques, at least not in the first instance. The first steps should be simply to get your website optimised for local terms, start building some citations, encouraging reviews and watching your positions increase as a result! If you’re not experienced in SEO however, you’re probably asking how you can go about this?
If your website isn’t optimised for local terms, you don’t stand a chance of ranking. Having researched the most suitable keywords to optimise your site for, you need to make sure you get these in the title tags of the relevant pages, that you write enticing meta descriptions and ensure your H1 tags contain your main keywords. Keywords, of course, on a local SEO job should always include core localisations in all optimisation. In addition, write compelling page copy which talks about what you do and where you do it, without trying to stuff keywords and make it read as though it’s written solely for search engines.
Above that, consider implementing local business Schema markup to provide strong signals to the search engines as to the area you’re based in. This allows the spiders to understand, in their terms, your core location and contact details and potentially reward you for it in search engine positions.
On top of on-page optimisation, you need to work on getting citations for your business across the web. Citations in short are mentions of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) and can be obtained from local and niche directories. Be careful to only submit yourself to relevant and specific directories as opposed to random ones for the sake of it. You need to maintain relevance at all times.
You’ve hopefully setup your Google Plus Local page earlier on so spend some time encouraging your current customers to leave reviews on there. This not only showcases to potential customers that you’re a genuine and trustworthy business but also sends signals of trust to the search engines. Whatever you do, however, don’t be tempted to leave your own reviews as this violates Googles terms and could see you getting your page banned…the last thing you want!
All in all, if you’re not currently focussing your marketing efforts on growing your digital presence, there’s a good chance you’re placing an emphasis on the wrong areas and are letting competitors overtake you. It’s important to move with the times and see digital as the future. If you’re not there, you’re not being found and when you’re not being found, you’re missing out on business!