When it comes to marketing your local business online, search engines have become one of the most effective means to connect with potential customers who are actively seeking what you have to offer. Whether you run a consulting firm or boutique storefront, virtually any type of local business can benefit from increased search exposure.
Not only can higher search engine visibility lead to more in-market traffic coming to your website, but owning top search rankings can define your business as an authority in its local market. In essence, successful search marketing strategies positively impact a company’s overall marketing efforts, as well as its credibility, trust, and reputation.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for the Laymen
In simple terms, search engine marketing (or “SEM”) can be broken-down into two primary categories: organic search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising.
SEO, which is often a more long-term endeavor, seeks to increase a website’s rankings in the organic search results. PPC advertising, which offers immediate search engine exposure, uses a keyword-bidding advertising model that displays ads in the search results (typically above and below the organic search results.)
While these search marketing platforms have been around for many years, still many local businesses find them foreign and perplexing. To shed light on the importance of marketing your local business with search-first strategies, below I go into greater detail on both SEO and PPC, and how to leverage each with respect to your local business model.
Local SEO Strategies
Like SEM, SEO can also be categorized into certain areas depending on the type of business you operate and the keywords you’re targeting. For example, if you’re local business targeting keywords like financial planner Atlanta, there are specific local SEO strategies that you’ll want to apply. Among the most foundational strategies for local businesses are:
- Getting your business established and verified on Google My Business
- Optimize information on your business’ website (get actionable tips via this beautiful post at Search Engine Land)
- Evaluating how your business is listed throughout the web (a good resource is Yext)
- Build out listings (directories, social media sites, etc.) with photos, videos, website URL and other key business information to ensure your listings informative and attractive to potential customers.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings of your business if they are happy with your service or product
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local-specific SEO strategies that most businesses can employ in house. When investing in local SEO services, the depth of strategic throughput can increase ten-fold. Other more advanced areas of SEO that are vital to success focus on link popularity and social media.
- Employ a Link Strategy: Links to your website from other related websites (and vice versa) are one of the most important factors impacting your business’ search engine visibility. Links help to signify the credibility, authenticity, and popularity of your business. Because link building has been an abuse SEO practice over the years, trying to manipulate the system by employing unnatural links can damage your site’s SEO potential over time.
- Engage on Social Media: Social media profiles play a vital role in local business’ search visibility. The more prolific and proactive your social media presence, the greater potential your profiles will attract new followers (and in turn, support your SEO efforts.)
For companies already engaged in SEO, leveraging channels like social media can help jump-start stagnant SEO and plateaued rankings, especially when combined with ongoing content marketing and link strategies.
Local PPC Strategies
Google AdWords is the most popular PPC advertising platform. And while it’s used by thousands of businesses across the globe, many advertisers find it challenging to realize a sufficient ROI to make it work.
This is typically due to a lack of experience using the AdWords platform. In short, there are a lot of small details and nuances that can make a big difference when setting-up your advertising campaign. To shed light on some of those details (and where most amateur advertisers fail,) below are few local PPC strategies and best practices for those investing in AdWords.
- When setting-up your first campaign, be sure to select “Search Only” as the campaign type. Combining “Display & Search Ads” will dilute the focus and efficacy of your ads, and will often result in head-scratching performance. It’s best to create dedicated campaigns for “Display Only,” if you choose to using the Google Display Network for PPC advertising.
- Take advantage of Google expanded text ads when writing your PPC ads. This will help make your ads stand-out in the search results.
- When bidding on keywords, educate yourself about the various keyword match types. One of the most common mistakes new advertisers make is using only broad match keyword bidding. This will result in your ads being shown for seemingly unrelated keywords. Instead, use exact match,phrase match, and broad match modifier.
- Leverage Ad Extensions to enhance the appearance of your PPC ads. Free to use and highly-effective, the best Ad Extensions for local PPC include: Call Extensions, Location Extensions, Site Links, Callout Extensions, and Review Extensions.
For some businesses, the cost per click on certain keywords can be extremely high. For example, keywords in the medical and legal fields can sometimes cost over $10 per click. For this reason, PPC advertising isn’t always a feasible option, particularly for local businesses with tight marketing budgets.
Start with some of the local SEO strategies mentioned above. This will lay the foundation for your local search presence and help your business to begin realizing greater visibility. If your company starts testing the waters with PPC advertising, take the time to ensure your campaigns are properly established. The combination of these search-first marketing strategies can be the pivotal turning-point for any local business.