For local, Mom & Pop sized businesses, SEO is often a daunting task for a variety of reasons. In some cases, you might be unsure of what SEO is. In others, you might not have the internal resources to do it yourself or money to hire an agency.
To help simplify the concept, we often define SEO as being visible in the places your customers search and interact. From searching on Google to social media or a venue in your community, there are many ways your business can interact with your ideal customer. No matter your situation, the following tips will help guide you in finding your local SEO community.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Instead of spending time looking for a magic pill to reaching your customers, take a minute to brainstorm. You know your customers best, especially the customers that are unique to your specific market and services. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do most of my customers find my business?
- What is a typical day for most of my customers?
- Are there community resources that can help leverage my visibility?
- How am I currently getting in front of my customers?
Doing this brainstorming exercise will help build a picture of how you can approach finding your community.
A great example of a company leveraging this exercise is Red Beard Sailing. When Red Beard opened their doors, they were an online-only boat dealer located outside of Baltimore, MD. They knew they needed to find a way to connect with the boating community face-to-face. Fortunately for them, the Annapolis Boat Show is one of the largest in the nation. After brainstorming their best options for face-to-face engagement, Red Beard decided to leverage the boat show by becoming a vendor. Being a vendor allowed them to showcase their boats locally and provide in-person demos.
Step 2: Research Your Competitors
As with most things in life, there’s usually no reason to reinvent the wheel. Odds are you have a handful of local competitors (if you don’t, lucky you!) that are having success. Take some time to research the different ways they are interacting with the local community. Considering looking into:
- How they interact on social media
- Whether or not they host or sponsor local events
- Whether or not they’re using any traditional advertising methods in the area (e.g. billboards, radio, newspapers, etc.)
After completing this step, you should come away with a handful of ideas that your business can adopt to become more visible in your community.
Circle Home, a Maryland-based mortgage lender, saw an opportunity to stand out by crafting an aggressive digital marketing strategy. After completing some research, they noticed that their local competition was not investing in a multi-channel approach. The result was a brand new website, SEO, PPC, and social media strategy that continues to drive them consistent leads.
Step 3: Ask Your Customers
Loyal customers can be an excellent resource for learning more about your business. The one thing that many business owners forget is, you have to ask for feedback! Whether it’s through a survey or asking directly, learning more about how your customers found you will go a long way towards building your local SEO strategy.
If you need a tool for surveys, Google Surveys is free and easy to use.
Step 4: Do a Google Search
For this step, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine you’re new to the area and need your service and then hop onto Google. Type in search terms that are relevant to your business. For example, if you own a coffee shop, you could search “local coffee shops” or “coffee near me.” Examine the Google search result. Do you see your business? Is it easy to find your contact information or your website?
If you’re having trouble finding your business in a search, a good starting point is to set up some basic business profiles. These would include:
- a Google Business Page
- a Yelp listing
- a Facebook business page
You should also double-check to make sure that your website has your correct hours, address, and phone.
Cloud 9 Acupuncture realized that Google was favoring one of their two locations and not giving both locations equal visibility. To help drive traffic to both locations, Cloud 9 created an additional Google Business Page. The new page has raised its visibility and helped them stand out in both their target markets.
Step 5: Think Outside the Search
As stated earlier, local SEO can also include offline community building. Take some time to think about how you can bring your customers together to engage with each other. From starting a volunteer day to hosting an event (barista art night anyone?), there are endless ways you can build a local community through your business. Doing so will, in turn, help develop more loyal customers and increase your visibility.
In the case of Expressway Cinema Rentals, they decided to invest some time and energy in building up the Philadelphia film community. As a film and video production rental house, Expressway recognized that one key to their longevity was an active local film community. To help support that effort, they launched a series of filmmaking boot camps and gear expos to educate young filmmaking professionals and keep the community informed on the latest gear.
With these tips, you’ll be on your way to finding your local SEO community in no time!