Getting Found Online Locally!

In my last column, I discussed how to make sure that your potential customers can find your business. But I did not mention the importance of making sure your business can be found by folks in your area.   For small businesses, local search is vital. Because smaller businesses look for customers in a specific market or region, it’s important their webpages show up in searches specific to those areas. When it comes to search, proximity really matters.  Wordstream’s research shows that 72 percent of consumers who searched on a smartphone visited a store within 5 miles of their location.

For example, a boutique pet store in Rochester, Minnesota doesn’t need to show up in searches for pet stores in Toledo, Omaha or Dallas. It does, however, need to be visible in searches performed around Rochester to help boost local foot traffic.

One of the most important factors in local search results is your business’s physical location, because search results tend to highlight businesses near the searcher’s actual location. If the search was performed on a smartphone, the search engine likely knows the searcher’s exact location thanks to GPS.   If the search was performed on a desktop or laptop computer, the search engine tries to pinpoint the searcher’s location based on their IP address and probably their Wi-Fi data.

This is something you can test for yourself. Noah Turner, SEO Manager, Deluxe Corp. gave this suggestion. Search on your smartphone for “hardware stores.” The top results that show up are most likely the hardware stores closest to your actual physical location. Or, when you’re on your mobile device, you might look up ‘oil change near me.’ When people are looking for a service, you need to have a webpage to match that search.

So, what does this knowledge mean for your business? No matter the SEO tactics you use to boost your search results, one of the most important things you can do is make sure your business address is prevalent across the web.  This includes your business’s website, its social media pages, and online listings and directories.

We know that not every small business has a storefront or commercial office space. Some businesses are based out of a garage or home office.  Even in those cases, however, it’s important for you to list the physical or mailing address of your business online to help attract customers through searches performed near your location. When a search engine knows your address and the type of business you are, you improve your odds of showing up in results when a search is performed within close proximity of your physical location.

I had a recent client ask if they should consider paid search.  Building your website using best SEO practices should always be a priority, but paid search is another option to help boost business via search engines.  Paid search is a pay-per-click (PPC) business model, in which businesses bid on specific keywords and have ads appear next to search results when those keywords are used. One of the most popular paid search platforms is Google’s AdWords.

To see how this works, try searching Google for a word or phrase such as “plumber” or “carpet cleaner.” On the search results page, the first handful of entries are accompanied by a tiny square that says “Ad,” which indicates those entries have been paid for (even if they mostly look like “normal” search results).

Businesses pay Google each time one of these paid search results is clicked, and the price per click can vary based on how popular and in-demand the search keyword is.

Be aware that paid search has benefits and drawbacks:

  • Guaranteed visibility: If you’re willing to pay the price, you can guarantee that your business shows up any time a specific word or phrase is searched for. If you want your page to show up every time someone searches for “accounting services in Rochester,” you can make that happen. Paid search does not, however, guarantee someone will click on your ad to visit your website.
  • Flexible options: You can fine-tune your paid search ads to give them the best chance to reach your desired customers.
  • Paid search doesn’t help SEO. Think of paid search as “pay for play.” That doesn’t mean your page will begin to show up in searches organically in the results below the ads. For that you will need to make sure you’ve made use of sound SEO strategies.
  • It costs money. It may seem obvious, but paid search is not free. That means you’ll need to make sure a paid search strategy fits within your budget.
  • It may turn off some potential customers. Some web users may totally ignore paid search ads because they know the business paid money to be seen.

About the Author(s)

Dean Swanson

Dean is a Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE Chapter Chair, District Director, and Regional Vice President for the North West Region, and has developed and managed many businesses. The Rochester Post Bulletin publishes his weekly article on a topic geared toward the small business community. The articles here are printed in their entirety.

Certified SCORE Mentor for the Southeast Minnesota Chapter

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