Stagnating businesses, desolate streets, a shrinking population, and a future riddled with uncertainty. This has become the common tale of many small towns and cities across America as more and more people seek greener pastures.
But in recent years, some outlying towns and faraway suburbs in over 11 states are changing this narrative.
Charming towns like Vineyard, Utah and Harrisonburg, Virginia are in the midst of a technology and business boom, attracting families and young job-seekers. If you own a business in a small town or city, or near a thriving metropolis, now is the perfect opportunity to shake things up and do some digital marketing.
But don’t get too intimidated. There’s one facet of inbound marketing that’s relatively easy and inexpensive to start. It’s called local search engine optimization, or local SEO.
This strategy lets potential customers find your business, despite your remote location. Unlike the traditional advertising methods you’re accustomed to, like radio or print ads, local SEO yields potentially higher returns but with less effort on your part. Instead of making noise to acquire leads, local SEO works by enhancing a business’s discoverability when people search for nearby businesses and location-based services online.
The best part about local SEO is that the learning curve is not so steep, so anyone can go the DIY route and achieve the desired results. Or you can skip the learning curve and hire an SEO agency in Virginia right away to maximize the benefits.
Click to Brick: Local SEO in a Nutshell
Local SEO is an effective way to promote your products or services to local customers at the exact moment they need them. It involves optimizing a website to rank better for geo-specific queries on Google, Bing, or other search engines. It also includes improving a business’s discoverability using multiple digital channels, like online listing directories, social media, and paid advertising. All these online activities boost your chances of attracting more customers to your brick-and-mortar location.
Even if your business doesn’t have a fixed address, say you have a mom-and-pop stall at the weekend market, local SEO helps keep your brand in a privileged position in public memory. Create enough buzz online, offer a memorable customer experience, and they’ll likely come by your stall whenever they’re in the area.
Local SEO is effective not only because it gives small, local businesses the chance to compete with the big guns, but it also caters to today’s tech-savvy, more informed consumers. Today’s consumers demand information at their fingertips and have higher standards when it comes to convenience, which is why 80 percent of disposable income in the US is spent within 20 miles of home.
That doesn’t mean, however, that customers go to the nearest shop they can find.
Their decision to drive to a store and make a purchase is informed by their online research, which can include local search rankings, reviews, and social media engagement. A business that’s within the tight radius of the searcher and scores high in terms of relevance (meets the searcher’s exact needs) and prominence (the business stands above the competition) is likely to get more foot traffic, and ultimately, higher profits.
Consumers are likely to bring these habits with them when they travel or visit nearby towns, which is why local SEO is not just for businesses in big cities. With high-speed Internet and spotless cell coverage now spreading farther into distant areas, there are even more reasons to stay connected with the world.
How Small Town Businesses Benefit from Local SEO
The benefits of local SEO and digital marketing in general to small-town businesses are tenfold and go beyond being discoverable.
You’ll also gain the following when using digital marketing methods:
- Get the first mover advantage - Being the sole player in your industry in your location doesn’t guarantee success. Even if you don’t have competition in your area, building an online presence today gives you the first-mover advantage. You’ll have the opportunity to start with a clean slate and fresh mentions on the Internet. When done right, local SEO can give you instant visibility and increased foot traffic when customers search for your offerings online. Once you’ve made a mark online and reached the top ranks, you’ll gain control over that segment and be more prepared for future developments in your niche.
- Be a local fan favorite - Small towns are known for their friendly atmosphere and close-knit community. Once you get into the locals’ good graces, they’ll gladly support or spread the word about your business. Local SEO is anchored on this goal. It’s meant to help you keep and maintain a good reputation among customers in your area. By setting up your online citations, managing online reviews, optimizing your website for geo-specific keywords, as well as tapping into local influencers and social media, you’re keeping your businesses on the local radar. In a small town with a good amount of companies to create healthy competition, local SEO is your ticket to being “number one.”
- Attract tourists and customers from nearby towns - It doesn’t hurt to connect with visitors and potential customers in distant areas. But missing out on easy foot traffic and sales does. In a town of 500 residents, a strong online presence will keep your business afloat by letting tourists know you exist and making it easier for them to find your address or know the areas you serve. Whether your town receives 50 to five million tourists per year, you’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain by simply setting up profiles in online directories.
- Grow your business - The leads you gain from location-based sources are likely to visit your store or click to call because there’s already the “intent” to make a purchase. It’s no surprise that 70 percent of mobile users “click to call” a business directly from Google search results, as revealed by SearchEngineWatch. This option alone can increase your click-through rates and conversions, which could only translate into higher sales and profits.
Local SEO Tips to Get You Started
From building a hyperlocal website to becoming a fixture in the community, there are plenty of ways you can boost your local presence. But start with these essentials:
- 1Create profiles on online directories. The first step to a strong online presence is getting your business’s NAP (name, address, phone number) information listed across local and nationwide online directories. No need to list your business on all listing sites and directions. Choose about 10 with high domain authority or relevance to your niche or location. While there are countless industry- and location-specific directories to choose from, start with the big guns first, like Facebook, Apple Maps, Google My Business, LinkedIn Company Directory, Yahoo! Local, Bing, Better Business Bureau, and Foursquare, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and Manta.
- 2Spruce up your citations. After adding your business to these lists, the next step is to make sure your NAP information stays consistent. If your business has already been listed by other parties, claim the listing and update the NAP information. Make sure each listing has a detailed description of your business. If the listing has a multimedia option, give searchers a glimpse of your business with high-quality pictures or a video. This is the simplest way to get your business to rank in local searches at low to zero cost.
- 3Build a website. No matter the size of your business, having a website is a necessity. It’s a way to put your business on the digital map. It’s a lead-generating machine that still works even when your store is closed. It’s also likely the first place consumers would look to get an impression of and information about your business. To direct relevant traffic to your site, optimize it around local search queries. These are actual search terms relevant to your products or services and location. Check out this simple but helpful guide for navigating local search by Search Engine Land. If the budget is tight, there are plenty of free website builders and inexpensive hosting services available. You may also hire a professional team to create and manage your site; many offer affordable packages, with limited features that are enough to get you started.
- 4Generate buzz through social media. If you don’t have the budget for a website, having two or more social media pages can make up for it. Find out which platforms are more popular in your area and set up the pages with the same NAP information mentioned in your listings. Before you post anything, make sure you know who your target audience is and create personalized messages. To achieve the best results, you may have to do some detective work, like scrutinizing how competitors in nearby areas or other businesses in your area are doing it. Get a head start by using your current customers’ demographic data to customize your social media audiences.
- 5Create a positive local reputation. Word-of-mouth referrals are still effective, so while you venture into the world of online marketing, you may still want to keep your local reputation and image spotless. When tourists ask around, you’d want to make sure the locals know your business exists and that it’s worth the recommendation. Build a loyal following and boost your mentions online by sponsoring local businesses, events, and organizations or get local blogs and newspapers to promote your business. Tap into local networking opportunities by joining your local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau. All these can help boost your online and brick-and-mortar traffic.
- 6Become an industry authority. Local SEO is not all about geo-targeting. Earning inbound links is just as important, as it makes your website score higher in terms of relevance and prominence. High-quality links from local online magazines, blogs, and newspapers are the most powerful types of inbound links. They guarantee higher rankings for place-based keywords. Another way to get your domain authority up is to strengthen your website and social media pages with informative, helpful content. Posting how-to’s, guides, and other types of engaging content on a regular basis make a good impression to visitors and search engines. Google, for instance, will place your website at the top of local search results if you’re giving searchers the most accurate, industry-related, and helpful information.
- 7Experiment with geo-targeting. There’s more to geo-targeting than optimizing your site for location-based keywords. On top of navigation, consumers also use their smartphones to find the nearest gas station and food joint or call for a tow service if stranded. GPS also enables weather-related geo-targeting. For example, if it’s a nice, sunny day, you can use that information to entice locals to visit your farmer’s market stall via social media. If you run an indoor rock climbing gym, don’t let a rainy day pass without reminding the locals that there’s an option to stay fit and have fun without getting wet. This technique won’t take much of your time, but it can make a big difference to your business. It offers many opportunities to connect with your audience in real-time, and it works because of the weather influences purchase and activity decisions.
- 8Reporting, Analytics, and Monitoring. You'll be presented with real-time reporting and collaboration build through our proprietary user dashboard and sales system. We will establish key metrics and performance indicators to measure real success for your business that can be seen in real time, anytime.
- 9Craft personalized, hyperlocal messages. Keep customers interested in your brand by speaking directly to them. Tap into the small, mundane things that make your locality unique and familiar, like seasonal events, local holidays, landmarks and attractions, and collective sensibilities when crafting your social media postings and website content. Consumers tend to choose brands that reflect their lifestyle, values, and aspirations, and what better way to do that than offering content that’s tailored to them? Apart from words, give them a visual, too. Post engaging photos and videos of your store and products, your staff interacting with customers, or anything that would make people think your business is close to home.
Metropolitan areas are ever-expanding and creating regional business hubs and small-town powerhouses in their wake. These areas will become attractive to tourists seeking a weekend getaway, young professionals shifting to a more laid back lifestyle, millennials looking to start a family in a peaceful area, and even retirees.
Adopting a local SEO strategy ahead of time will prepare you for the winds of change that are bound to sweep over your town. And with mobile devices connecting nearly every corner of the world, there’s no reason to stay hidden.
Get found online today by working with the local SEO experts at Alkries, LLC. Schedule a discovery meeting today.