Everyday, my company helps small business be found on the internet. The majority of our clients are mom and pop shops that only need to target local residents within a five mile radius. When I first meet with a potential client, they occasionally think that they need to target an entire metro area. While that might be a goal one day, the way people are trending (especially with high gas prices) is sticking to their local areas. The high gas prices are not the only issue to factor into the equation. These days, our younger generations just don’t care about driving. You can see this as fewer and fewer teenagers are getting their drivers licenses.
So, if my target market is within a five mile radius, it should be obvious that my if I am located outside of a city such as Atlanta, I should not be targeting Atlanta (usually.) If my business is service based and travels to the client, I should want to target a five mile radius even more. It makes zero sense to travel 30 miles to go paint a house, when there are 18,000 homes that need to be painted around my office. Still, some business owners do not see the logic in this. They will likely be the ones that do not survive the next few years, especially as we transition into a mobile age.
Here are some basic ways to build your local market through SEO and content marketing:
Home Page SEO
As it is with any large city with a metro area, locals almost never search an entire metro area when they know what they are looking for. If I live in Norcross, Georgia, there is no way that I would ever search for a chiropractor in Atlanta. My returned results would be 20 miles away. So, the first thing I want to do is establish my true local market for my client. This should be included throughout the meta code.
- Title – Use your primary keywords towards the front of your title. You have around 60 characters to use, so choose wisely. If it were me, I would put the main service and local market closer towards the front. If the market is saturated with that particular service, try winning somewhere else. For example, if I was marketing for “apartments in Marietta, GA” (which is extremely saturated), I would win with another angle using “Pet Friendly Apartments in Marietta, GA”. I can then position my client to win as the local pet friendly apartment community, and eventually the great content marketing and basic SEO techniques used will push my client up the rankings for “Apartments in Marietta, GA” as well. It’s a double win.
- Description – The description should be informative, compelling, and include your local market as well. Include keywords, but don’t awkwardly stuff keywords. We have all come across search engine results with descriptions that literally make no sense. Not only will I skip over this, but search engines are working on filtering through these types of tactics. I still come across them, but this might be due to the fact that the local market just isn’t saturated with decent digital marketers. If this is the case, your creative description can outrank these poorly written meta descriptions.
- Meta Keywords – This is an indicator that has been phased out by most major search engines, mostly due to keyword stuffing. Matt Cutts recently addressed the issue, letting on that your time is better spent on creating a great meta description. Move on.
Content Marketing for Small Business
I am still a firm believer that if your content sucks, your web presence will suffer. Creating great content is not only an opportunity to increase your on page SEO, but it is also a great way to increase your natural links. Putting thought into the content you produce is essential. Targeting a local market offers you great opportunities with your content, especially when using a blog to build your web presence.
Here are a few things to consider when writing your content:
- Keywords – Is your content keyword rich? A better question might be, is your content over saturated with keywords? Google is getting better and better at penalizing those who try to game this system with stuffing keywords everywhere. Your keywords should come naturally. When I include keywords in titles, links, bolding, etc, they must be used with the user in mind. Will my keywords help the user find the content they need? Will the keyword linked take my customer to a page that will help them? Use keywords strategically, to not only make the search engines happy, but also to help your customer.
- Blogging – Using a blog to help boost your site’s keyword density is a great way to boost your search engine rankings. This isn’t breaking news. However, last year especially, Google started pounding the companies who tried to game the system who were using content farms to try and boost their SEO. This means that your content needs to be original. It doesn’t need to be anything ground breaking, but it does need to be from you. If you’re going to spend time writing content, you might as well make it useful to your clients. Small businesses can use blogs to help solve problems that their customers come across. They can even take the spotlight off of their business every now and then, and share exciting news about what is going on in the local area. Creating great blog content will help you, your client, and even help potential clients find you when they search for something other than a “home remodeler in Norcross, GA”. Great content also attract natural links. These have been used as indicators of quality. If you want to increase your search engine results, create great, keyword rich, useful content.
- Video – A staggering amount of US citizens have cut the cord to their TVs. Around 1/3 of the US population has a connected TV. The increasing adoption of streaming video into the home should light a fire under your butt. Start making video content yesterday! This seems to be one of the most difficult pill for small business owners to swallow when it comes to digital marketing. Many business owners think that they need to create video series on a high quality production level. As mentioned above, the bells and whistles don’t really matter anymore. All that matters is that your content rocks. Small business in a local market could kill it with YouTube if they wanted. For example, a plumber could make a YouTube “How To” series with his iPhone. By focusing on easy fixes, like “How to unclog your shower drain”, a plumber could earn trust and win over the client who used the video series for easy fixes, but needed a plumber for the more technical fixes. I would imagine that for the majority of plumbers, driving out to a customer (high gas prices…), and unclogging a drain (taking him away from working a bigger job), would end up being a waste of his time. Helping someone in your area with an easy fix, that doesn’t really pay well for the business owner anyways, with a simple YouTube video will leverage the business’s credibly in the long run for those big jobs that they really want. For added SEO value, you can place that video in your blog with written content. Now, if a user lands on the blog post, they are now under the small business owner’s banner and branded site. Worst case scenario is that the person cannot perform the task, and needs to call the business owner to help come fix it.
- Photography – Are you stumped over why Facebook would pay out $1 BILLION for Instagram? Are you wondering why Pinterest is taking off like wild fire? Photos, as content, are huge! Users are no longer sending text based updates alone. They are taking photos. The web user is quickly jumping on with photography and video as a content source that attracts attention (natural links and social indicators). Small businesses can make a few huge wins simply with implementing photography into their content marketing plan. Photos pull your content marketing strategy into the mobile world like nothing else. For your SEO needs, tagging, titling, and using content to describe your photos adds extra benefit as well. If you’re small business client isn’t comfortable with pulling out their iPhone to create videos, take the time to train them to use mobile photo apps like Instagram. This adds extra value to all parties involved.
If you use all of these basic local SEO tactics, you will still only be scratching the surface. As you implement them, your client’s world dives deeper and deeper into how you can leverage SEO and content marketing into local dominance via search engines, mobile, and social media.