Recent research has shown that many small advertisers spend all of their marketing budgets online. These businesses, like poker players, go all-in: investing their entire marketing budget on Google and Facebook ads.
Large businesses approach the online space differently. They apportion their considerable advertising dollars across online and traditional media, seeking synergy in their efforts.
Small business owners often wear many hats and cannot, or rather do not, spend a lot of time on developing marketing strategies. They simply have too few people trying to do too many tasks. Neglecting to budget resources, whether time or money, for localized SEO has significant opportunity costs for these businesses.
Put the Customers Ahead of Rankings
The mobile-first Google environment gives small local businesses chances to shine in search that previously were unavailable. The big brands crowded them out at the top of the listings.
Today, by strategically optimizing the site for the business location, a small business can show up for targeted local searches more easily than it ever has before. The key to this visibility is to make sure that the site offers what an out-of-town searcher might look for as well, as the local clientele.
Create a customer-first, local-first approach to achieve success.
Here is an example of a customer-first, local strategy:
I recently sadly had to look for where to purchase funeral flowers to send to a funeral home in an area that I was unfamiliar with. I found a florist in the area by searching for “flowers for funeral + place name.” Not only did the florist’s site include content on flowers for funerals, but it even had confidence-inspiring photos of some of its work. The phone number was prominently displayed, and I immediately called and made my purchase. My curiosity was pricked, and I asked several questions and found out that the shop was local, not part of a chain, and had carved out several niches in the flower market, including flowers for funerals. Although very busy, the owners had developed a marketing strategy and developed their site to bring in the right customers.
As fate would have it, I encountered another florist in another town, griping about how online is hurting her business. The local shop did not have a clear strategy or even an up-to-date site and was relying on online ads for marketing. The contrast was sharp.
Glom Onto the Free Stuff First
SEO is more than just optimizing the site. For small businesses, there are search freebies that should not be missed. Here are just a few.
- Google My Business is free. It takes a few hours to set up a business listing. This is the table stakes, so to speak, and many businesses set up a very basic listing and fail to flesh it out or keep it up-to-date. Accuracy is important, particularly for small businesses that have storefronts. It is always amazing to look at a listing and realize that it does not reflect current hours of operation. Additionally, for businesses that are tucked into strip malls, listings that include storefront pictures help bring live customers to the businesses.
- Yelp and TripAdvisor offer free listing services that any qualifying business should take advantage of to improve its online visibility. Both are large sites and often dominate the top search listings, so the old adage applies: If you can’t beat them, join them.
- Facebook Pages combined with Facebook Ads create a powerful one-two marketing punch. Just as with Google My Business, it is important to go beyond the very basics and create a page that engages and informs. I am an avid, but awful, golfer — and my personal Facebook feed includes postings from several golf courses. One simply posts pictures, no engagement required. They are merely pretty pictures, and do create an urge to go play the course. Another course recently posted a short post, asking folks to rate — by difficulty — the three Par 5 holes on the course. This post drew instant engagement with many ratings, comments, and likes as responses. This lively engagement created a desire to play the course, just to test out those difficulty ratings that I had assigned. Both courses post regularly on- and off-season, so they always have a share of mind. Both are small businesses looking beyond the ads for their online marketing.