The average small business spends between $5,000 and $11,000 having a professional website built. With that kind of investment, most merchants expect to see results right away. However, with nearly 1,000,000,000 websites in existence, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
In order to start seeing a positive ROI on their websites, businesses of all sizes need to find ways to drive traffic to their digital properties beyond online listings and digital offers. In most cases, that means relying on search engines to bring in the crowds. According to Mediative, a digital marketing company which is the sponsor of this series, 44% of online shoppers start the shopping process by using a search engine and 84% of clicks on Google search results go to an area above the fourth organic listing.
Appearing on the first page of search results for popular keywords and terms requires a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. The three pillars of any local SEO strategy include: Website optimization, directory optimization, and social media.
Business owners should make sure that the information on their websites is optimized for local search. This means having a “store finder” feature that’s easily accessible, with up-to-date pages for each business location. It also means keeping basic store information, like name, address, phone number, and hours, accurate and consistent. Keywords, titles, and meta data should all be optimized for local search by including the city, business name, and zip code within the content of each page.
Off-site optimization is also important. Having a strong presence on outside websites—such as local directories and review sites, like Yelp, Google+, Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor—is one way that merchants can improve their search engine rankings. The business information posted on directories should be consistent across all pages.
Social media plays an important role in local SEO strategy, as well. Merchants who integrate social media into their local strategy mix can expect to see much higher levels of engagement. In fact, local pages on social media have an engagement level that’s an average of 8x higher than corporate brand pages, according to Mediative.
Businesses can improve the SEO of their social media pages by running contests and offers, or by encouraging followers to share content and leave personal reviews. Merchants should also share locally-targeted content when they believe that content will be useful to their audience of local consumers.
Local search experts like William Harris, vice president of marketing and growth at Dollar Hobbyz, say it’s important for small businesses to share “high quality content.” Specifically, Harris recommends that merchants get creative with what they publish online with SEO in mind.
Harris says a local coffee shop might consider producing an infographic showing how much caffeine is in each of its drinks. The shop can promote the infographic as a “Find Out How Awake You’ll Be” guide, posting it prominently on their website and company blog, and distributing it through social media channels.
“The infographic will get social shares, link backs, and engagement from your audience, which will help drive more traffic,” Harris says.
Here are three additional tips that small businesses should consider for optimizing search engine results.
- Establish a consistent NAP.
In addition to having consistent names, addresses, and phone numbers listed on their own websites and online properties, small businesses should make sure their NAP profiles—industry lingo for contact information—are being listed correctly by data aggregators and local blogs or news sources. Vendors like Mediative, Yext, and Localeze all work closely with merchants to improve the accuracy of their local business listings with automation tools.
- Focus on quality website content.
All online content is not weighed equally by search engine algorithms. The best way to ensure a particular website shows up in the first page of search results is by using relevant keywords and fresh, conversational content. Each category on a merchant’s website should have its own page, and product pages should include the product name in the URL. The better the content a merchant publishes, the easier it becomes to get high quality links from referring sources, which search engines look for when determining page rank.
- Run geo-targeted paid search campaigns.
Once merchants have covered their bases by establishing consistent profiles and generating quality website content, they’re ready for more advanced practices in search engine optimization. Geo-targeted search campaigns are one way that merchants can drive traffic with phone calls and in-store visits. Paid ad campaigns can be targeted to individual markets with unique goals, such as promoting specific offers or increasing overall sales.