A stroll down Main Street is not what it used to be. Your windows and facades may be enticing and inviting, but they are not enough to keep you competitive in these technological times. You also have to paint a pretty digital picture if you want your business to stand out from the competition. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that potential customers will stroll right past your business and on to the one that showed up in their most “near me” mobile search. In fact, over half of “near me” searches result in a store visit. If you want to stay strong on Main Street, you need to get into the “click to brick” game. The most important player in this new marketing game is your online presence. So, how do you up your online game so you can stay strong on Main Street? Strengthen your local search engine optimization (SEO).
You Have To Be Present
It should go without saying that to develop an online presence you have to be present on digital channels. However, a large number of small businesses still rely entirely on traditional means of marketing. These businesses lack a website, social media profiles, a mobile app and so on. A 2017 study shows that 29% of small businesses still operate without a website, but that number is expected to shrink to roughly 8% by the end of 2018.
These digitally deprived companies cite a number of reasons for their slow adoption of a branded website or social media accounts. The most common one by far is that business is going well enough without it. Why rock the boat, right? There’s a significant distinction between getting by and thriving that a lot of small businesses forget — sometimes because they’ve never known what it’s like to thrive.
Creating a comprehensive digital presence may be the key to experiencing that feeling of having a thriving business. In one case, Bad Pickle Tees saw their sales double by creating a website to sell their goofy t-shirts for food lovers.
It isn’t enough to just be present online, you need to be active too. No one is going to bother following a social media account that hasn’t been updated since 2015, nor is anyone going to revisit a website that has no new content or an outdated design. You have to invest the necessary time if you want to be successful in building a digital presence.
Optimize For Local Search
“Near me” searches have increased dramatically since the rise of mobile. In fact, one-third of all mobile searches are related to location. In order to capitalize on these micromoments, you need to optimize your small business’s presence for local searches.
Start simple with business directories. Remember, you don’t need to spend hours getting into every business directory you can find. Hone in on the ones that matter like Yelp, YellowPages, Google My Business, etc. Then, seek out the indexes and directories that are geared toward your niche. For example, a construction company could list their services on directories like Angie’s List, Houzz and other related sites.
Don’t overlook video either. YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. If you apply basic SEO strategies like keywords in the title and geotagging to videos on a YouTube channel, you will be making it easier for search engines to associate your brick and mortar location with potential customers’ needs.
Do It Better Than The Competition
The old saying of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer rings true in the digital age too. You should study your competitors and their online efforts like a hawk. If you’re only just bringing your business to the digital environment you’ve got a lot of catching up to do and the road can be hard to navigate without a little help. By studying your competitors and their digital efforts you can:
• See which SEO keywords and featured snippets are commonly targeted
• Understand which social media platforms are the most popular and why
• Gain inspiration for content ideas
• Know your competitor’s target audiences
• Learn how to engage with customers online and enhance that customer experience
All of this studying isn’t necessarily about copying your competitors but analyzing their efforts to find big-win opportunities. For example, if the majority of the competition is focusing solely on creating written blog content, maybe there’s an opportunity to gain a notable online presence by focusing on video content instead.
The above strategies can be simplified into a simple three-step process: Show up, attract attention and prove why you’re better than the competition. Showing up is the easy part. Once you’re there, it is really up to you to decide how much time you want to invest in building your digital presence. Studying the competition will help you to find and capitalize on big-win opportunities in the digital space.