SEO and Local Businesses

It’s no secret that the internet is more important to businesses than ever before. These days, having a website or a presence on social media isn’t just a perk. Each is something that consumers expect: Skimping on this stuff can seriously hurt your reputation with clients and potential customers.

The importance of the internet isn’t just something for massive companies like Amazon to worry about. It’s also a vital concern for small local businesses. While such businesses once relied on local word of mouth, a great location, and a listing in the Yellow Pages to attract customers, the current business environment demands more. Businesses must invest in an online presence, digital marketing, and — perhaps most importantly — search engine optimization.

Understanding SEO

“Search engine optimization” is the practice of making an online presence as appealing as possible to search engines. It’s an essential investment because so many of us use search engines and intrasite search functions to locate products we will buy and businesses that we will respect.

Google is easily the most dominant search engine in town, which makes a lot of big-picture SEO synonymous with making Google happy. There’s more to SEO than that, though. A comprehensive SEO effort should make your business more effective not just on Google, but in other prime search areas.

Mapping your business’ future

One such area: maps applications. These days, customers rely heavily on apps like Google Maps to get around. If you were to search for “good Chinese restaurant” on Google, you would see your search paired with an inset map. Click on that, and you’ll be over on Google Maps seeing your search represented visually on a map. Similar to its competitors, it is also possible to search directly in Google Maps without stopping at their homepage first.

That’s why Google Maps marketing, business directories, and other listings are so crucial for SEO. If your businesses aren’t findable on these platforms and with the right information, then customers will drive right by you following their GPS directions to somewhere else.

The reviews are in

Maps apps aren’t the only apps that have their own built-in search functions. There are also apps built specifically to help consumers find reputable businesses (apps like Yelp, for instance).

Business owners and Yelp don’t always get along, and there is certainly a lot of fair criticism aimed at it and its competitors. But it remains crucial for businesses to do well on Yelp. That means getting good reviews and faring well in searches within Yelp’s app.

Just as with Google and a business’ broader online presence, Yelp and a business’ Yelp listing represent an SEO challenge. The right keywords (along with a careful management of your business’ reviews and customer interactions) can make your business a bigger hit on Yelp.

Mastering the marketplace

If you run a retail business in this day and age, there’s a good chance that you have a presence on marketplace websites like eBay or Amazon, which allow third-party sellers. Customers on these sites aren’t likely to scroll through page after page of similar products just to find yours, though, which is why your sales listings must be carefully monitored to maximize SEO within these sites.

Even if you aren’t in retail, you may find that apps and websites are becoming an important part of connecting you with your customers. The name of an item on your menu could make the difference between connecting with a customer on GrubHub or Seamless and getting lost in a sea of results that those apps deem more relevant. 

Go local

SEO is more complicated than you might think, and it is absolutely essential to all kinds of local small businesses. Partner with local experts to outsource SEO and digital marketing, and start reaching the customers that your business deserves.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.