Main street American businesses have a lot of competition these days. Big box stores and online giants are dropping prices and hurting small local alternatives. Sometimes, running a local business can feel like a blast from the past.
But local businesses have a future, too. They’re better in some ways compared to their modern competitors. The best-run small businesses know how to invest in modern technologies and digital marketing in order to come out on top in an increasingly unfair marketplace. To make it as a small business owner, you need to consider how to make the internet work for you. In particular, you need to think of search engine optimization, or “SEO.”
Rest in Peace, Yellow Pages
Remember the Yellow Pages? That big city-wide phone book was once one of the most important things in local business. Returning and future customers would crack open the big yellow book, find the relevant listing, and give you a call (or even just drive to your address). It was low-tech, but it worked.
These days, the Yellow Pages are dead. What killed them? Search engines, of course. In some ways not much has changed: Customers are still looking up businesses and then heading off to spend their hard-earned money. The only real difference is that search engines are the new Yellow Pages.
With that, you’re doing something similar to skipping a Yellow Pages listing back in the day when you neglect to invest in SEO. In fact, you’re ignoring perhaps the primary way in which most customers discover you and locate your business.
Search is a local phenomenon now
The whole idea of the internet is to connect people. Early in the so-called “information age,” much was made of how far those connections could go. The internet could (and still can, of course) help you send an email from Moscow to New York in almost no time. It was groundbreaking that we could do things like play video games against people in China or England.
That’s all very cool, but not too relevant to small businesses. So it makes sense that, early on in the search engine era, SEO was of more concern to big, national businesses (and especially to e commerce giants).
Search engines figured out pretty quickly that they could be useful in a much more local way. Google pioneered “local search,” surfacing nearby results when it seemed most user-appropriate. Suddenly, searches for “auto repair” no longer turned up online encyclopedia results for cars and auto mechanics. Instead, the query turned up a commonsense list of nearby auto shops.
Or, more accurately, it turned up a list of local auto shops with a good presence online. Without a website, there wasn’t much of a way to be included. Google has listings for businesses on things like Google Maps, but the engine isn’t there to do your job for you. It is very very important to take a proactive role in making sure that your local business’ online presence looks great to customers as well as to their all-important algorithm, explain the SEO experts at Link Graph. Doing so is a simple matter of outsourcing the job to the right company.
On the go
One area in which mobile search seemed particularly important to Google (and other other search engines, consumers, and small businesses like yours) was mobile devices. Until the late 2000s, there wasn’t much of a market for smartphones other than Blackberry’s pre-smartphone multifunctional devices. Today, however, the vast majority of Americans own smartphones.
Plus, they use those phones to perform searches for local businesses: Stores, restaurants, bars, and so on. They look at reviews and search for things nearby on Google Maps. You can use this to your advantage – for example, you can use software like Maptive and create a radius around your business that will help you narrow down the location of the customers that you want to target. Increasingly, smartphone apps and searches are directing traffic to small businesses. So, without good SEO, a great location only goes so far.
SEO isn’t everything to your small business, but your small business isn’t much of anything without SEO. You’ve worked hard for your business, so make sure that your online presence is working hard for you and invest in SEO services.