Because we mostly deal with small business owners, we honestly understand how hard it is to survive out there. While global businesses have armies of marketers responsible for driving sales, the average electrician or hairstylist isn’t really confident in the power of online marketing.
But the truth is, every business regardless of its size needs a strong online strategy in order to thrive. Even if you do all your business locally, advertising on billboards and relying on word-of-mouth is not going to cut it.
If you want your business to grow, you need to step out of your comfort zone. Rather than sticking to what you know, consider taking the time to build a strong online presence for your small business in order to encourage growth.
Today’s business world is all about competitivity. But even if you have the best product (or service) in town, your business is most likely not making the sales it deserves if you ignore the Internet as a viable promotion instrument.
If you’re worried about the complexities of online marketing, don’t. I’m not saying that learning the online marketing ropes is easy, but it’s certainly approachable. To make things easier for you, we have put together a series of steps that we personally use with every client that owns a small business and wants to grow using online marketing.
Use the following tips to place the most fundamental building blocks for establishing an online presence for your business and encourage sales growth.
Step 1: Set up a Google My Business listing
This is the very first step, and it’s quite crucial. Because Google is the biggest SERP provider, it’s essential to claim and verify your local Google My Business (GMB) listing.
A listing on Google My Business will drastically increase your business chances of showing up on Local Finder, Local Pack, Google Maps and organic rankings in general. Claiming your GMB entry is totally free and is as easy as including basic information such as the business address, phone number, business hours, payment methods, etc.
You can get started with your free Google listing using this link. After you set it up, your business will automatically appear on every Google-developed platform that deals with local businesses (Google Maps, Google+, Local Finder, etc.)
Step 2: Tend to your Google Reviews
The reviews you receive on Google are one of the most important online selling points. As a rule of thumb, you should always try to maintain the star rating above 4. Make sure you have at least 5 reviews – if you’re under that number, ask your most loyal customers to help you out.
Stay away from shady practices like buying fake positive reviews or creating multiple personal accounts and using them to boost your rating. Even if you don’t get penalized for doing this, the reviews will be removed once the associated account gets deactivated for inactivity – this will look like you purposely deleted negative reviews, which is bad for business.
Step 3: Set up a Yelp listing
Yelp is a globally used service that people use to find top-rated products and services near their location. Your business needs new customers and Yelp is going to deliver them.
Keep in mind that Yelp is not restricted to fancy restaurants and cafés. The service features everything from local moving services to plumbers and electricians. Just like Google’s My Business, Yelp is powered by real user reviews and photos. You can claim a Yelp business listing from this link and start tending to your business profile.
Once you set the whole thing up, you’ll be granted the ability to track user views and see how many customer leads are generated through Yelp. Even more, you’ll be able to link the Yelp listing to your website and politely respond to user reviews through direct messages or public comments.
Step 4: Build a strong Social Media presence
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a necessary part of every small business. Whether you like it or not, you’ll eventually need to take the time to set up informative & eye-catching profiles on the platforms that can help you sell your goods or services.
If you have the time, you can use Facebook to drive traffic to your business website. Even more, a well-established Facebook business page can be used as a customer service channel. This will enable you to raise your brand’s awareness and build trust with your customers. Keep in mind that no matter how small the business, a poor social media practice can impact your business image.
You don’t need to be on every social network available. If you’re into a boring niche like accounting, gaining traction on youth-dominated networks like Instagram or Snapchat is unlikely (but not impossible). Take the time to study the what each social network is about and see where you can leave your mark. For starters, make sure your business is present on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
While it’s important to remain active on social media, you don’t need to manually post daily updates. There are tools like Hootsuite, Sprout or Buffer that will allow you schedule your posts in advance and deploy them on all social media channels at the same time.
Step 5: Make sure your business appears in Facebook Places
Local businesses should use every available opportunity to promote their products and services online. Facebook Places is one of those opportunities that are often overlooked by business owners. This is unfortunate because listing your business on Facebook Places goes a long way in improving your social media authority which will steer more customers your way.
This service is mainly used by mobile users to find local businesses near their location. Keep in mind that Facebook will automatically add your business to the Places directory as long as it’s listed as a local business.
If you haven’t created a page for your business, you can claim your Facebook Places listing by searching for your business name using the search bar and clicking on Places. If the page is not yet managed, you can click the Is this your business link and go through with the verification process.
Step 6: Claim your company page on Indeed
Small business owners often overlook creating a company page on Indeed. Even if you only have one or two employees, having your business listed on Indeed just goes to show that you take your job seriously.
Even if most of your customers won’t land on your Indeed page, informed shoppers will appreciate it. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up hiring the next employee of the month though Indeed once your business gains enough traction.
Keep in mind that getting listed in a directory as large as Indeed will help you with your SERP ranking. Building your brand’s authority is crucial in getting your brand noticed by search engines and a listing on Indeed will definitely help.
Use this link to claim your Indeed page and start updating the listing with your company information, your logo, operations photos and more.
Step 7: Start getting into Local SEO
If you have a fierce local competition, a good local search engine optimization will likely put your business ahead of the pack. Your website can serve a much higher purpose than a static reference.
Local SEO is a broad topic, and you can find plenty resources that will help you apply local SEO tactics to your business. Local SEO is not rocket science, but it requires careful planification and a lot of research. For starters, you’ll need to make sure that your on-page SEO contains keywords related to your city, zipcodes and even phrases used by the locals.
Your title tags need to contain local keywords capable of instructing search engines that the page is directly tied to a particular city. This will make it much more likely that your business website will show up in searches originating from your covered geographic areas. If you’re feeling progressive, you can deploy emerging local SEO tactics to surpass the competition.
Step 8: Set up a blog
While setting up a blog on your business website is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching organic traffic, it’s a slow process that will take you a lot of time. It requires a lot of passion and persistence along with a knowledgeable understanding of the subject matter.
If you decide to do it, regurgitating the same generic stuff over and over again is not going to cut it. For the best results, you’ll need to propagate valuable information about your niche and write in a way that will keep your audience engaged.
Think about content that will convey real value to your readers: write about the things you regularly deal with, the best practices of your niche and the latest technological advancements in your industry. But don’t expect to see results straight away.
Good content will eventually build up in popularity over time, but you need to keep the consistency and quality as high as possible. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can easily outsource the writing part to a qualified freelancer using sites like Upwork or ContentWriters.
Step 9: Embrace YouTube
I know this might sound weird but hear me out. Since YouTube is owned by Google, uploading videos with a title that includes the name of your business and its location will help your rank higher.
Even more, Google has the habit of featuring YouTube videos in a higher ranking spot when compared with videos from a competing video sharing service. With over one billion of unique monthly visitors, you can’t really afford to ignore YouTube. Even if your video doesn’t get viral, it will help you rank higher in the long run. If the quality of the video is good, you’ll likely reach the local population if you use the right keywords.
Video content is a much more engaging format than written content. This is precisely why most marketers are shifting their priorities towards video marketing. We suggest that you start small with a company presentation video and work your way from there.
Don’t invest in equipment and editing software. Start small by using cheap services like Fiverr to test how the video content performs in your niche before diving into more advanced video marketing strategies.
Step 10: Launch press releases with local news agencies
Once you get this far, your business is roaring to get the popularity it deserves. At this point, you should start thinking about deploying local press releases using the local news agencies. You can get your press release out for free or in exchange for a modest sum or discount. Local news agencies are usually affordable for a small business and the impact is really meaningful with the local population.
Another thing to consider (if you have the means), is to keep a steady stream of local press releases. You can announce staff recruitment campaigns or introduce a new product/service to the public. This will serve the purpose of cementing your brand’s recognition among the local population and help with the search ranking if the publication is also present on the Internet.