Despite the rise of e-commerce and on-demand delivery services, research has shown that 90 percent of consumer purchases are made in-store. That’s great news for local small businesses, but only for those with a strong online presence. Consumers use the Internet and search engines to find out what is available close to them, and for more information on products and services.
So how do you build an online presence that will drive foot traffic to your store?
Local SEO for Small Business Owners
Introducing local SEO, a game-changing strategy for driving foot traffic to your brick and mortar store. Apart from optimizing your business's presence on global search engines like Google, local SEO enables you to target potential customers through more localized and geographically targeted search engines like Yelp.
This low-cost tactic is especially useful for driving foot traffic to small businesses with a lower marketing budget such as independent retailers, restaurants, and privately-owned professional services.
Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEO Optimization
Research has shown that 97 percent of consumers are already using local search as a channel to inform purchasing decisions. And out of that, 43 percent of them actually take the next step of visiting the store and convert into paying customers within 24 hours after coming across it in local search engine results.
So how do you capture those 43 percent? These are the steps you should follow:
1. Set Up a Google MyBusiness Page
This is basically a local listing of your business on Google, a functionality catered specifically for small and medium businesses. You can learn how to set up your MyBusiness Page in this instructional video.
2. Conduct In-Depth Keyword Research
You need to make sure you’re visible on leading search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Here are the steps you should be taking to achieve a high ranking in search engine result pages:
- Identify Your Target Customers: Figure out exactly who needs and wants your products or services and are willing to pay for them. Need help? Check out this customer persona development guide for beginners.
- Conduct Keyword Research: Find out what your target customers are searching for online. Brainstorm, check out local forums and news listings and develop a list of keyword phrases that could pertain to you. Use Google Adwords to identify how many monthly searches each of those phrases have in your location. You’re looking for results that get a medium amount of searches and eliminating those that get none.
- Use Keywords: Make sure these keywords appear on your website and in all your online communication, including blog posts and social media profiles. For assistance, check out this Hubspot website optimization guide and template for beginners.
3. Optimize Your Website
Some of you probably think you don’t need a website. Many businesses seem to be doing well with just a Facebook page. However, part of local SEO is your actual website as well as what is being said about your site around the web - it’s not just your local listings and social media pages.
If you want to develop your own website, make sure it is mobile-optimized. Mobile search usage is growing each day exponentially, and you need to make sure you don’t lose anyone because your website could not be viewed properly on mobile devices! Check out Weebly, it is an incredibly easy to use drag-and-drop website building tool, and you’ll be able to create an online presence that is both desktop and mobile optimized!
Make sure your page loading time is less than 3 seconds. Any longer and user experience will be compromised. This will lead potential customers to leave your website without reading anything or viewing any of your information! Use Google's Page Speed Online to see how long it takes to load your website.
4. Identify and Provide the Key Information Your Customers Are Looking For
Normally this would be placed in the website optimization category, but it is a point all on its own because it is crucial. It is also worth noting that if you use the right keywords on your website and have high-quality content, it can give your search result rankings a huge boost!
Make sure you give your potential customers all the information they need to make the decision to visit your store. This includes basic information such as the name of the business, the location(s), all the contact details, opening and closing hours, and more. Make sure the content is easy to read and find on your website.
Lastly, create great quality content that answers the questions or needs that your customers have about your services. For example in the format of a FAQ section or a blog. Make sure to include keywords and keyword phrases that you identified in your initial keyword research.
5. Create Local Business Listings
List yourself on local search engines like Yelp, Bing, and Foursquare. This will ensure that potential customers in your immediate geography will be able to find you and become aware of your existence. It is incredibly important to make sure that all the information you share on Google, your website, and local search engines is consistent and up to date.
You should constantly update and optimize your listing information to drive physical traffic to your store, and encourage your customers to rate you and leave reviews on these listing platforms! You can even extract some of the reviews to incorporate into your website. Validation by other consumers in the form of ratings and written reviews is one of the strongest factors that affect consumer decision-making behavior.
Your Key Differentiator
On Google, you are very likely competing with much larger companies that have access to much larger marketing budgets. Purchasing keywords and running Google Ads to compete directly with these ‘big boys’ will eat into your margins and might even leave your store unprofitable.
Apart from larger corporations, your competitors might be fellow local businesses who are targeting the exact same customers in your market. Run-of-the-mill tactics like slashing prices to attract customers, giving out fliers or running events are simply not going to go unchallenged.
To get an edge over large companies and your local counterparts, an optimized local search engine presence is going to make all the difference in the world and can be done at a very low price point. Stay focused, constantly optimize, and track your business growth - you will be able to see results almost immediately!
Annette is based in Singapore and specializes in content and growth strategy. She has had prior experience developing and driving a growth strategy for a global cyber security business and now leads growth projects for a variety of startups and SMEs, including Flag.io, an online business listing service. Apart from being completely obsessed with the Internet, Annette loves long train rides and is an avid collector of animal hats. The perfect lion beanie continues to elude her.