Saturday, November 26, 2016

Local SEO: Tips for Online and Brick and Mortar Success

Today is Small Business Saturday, the second of three "shopping holidays" in the long Thanksgiving-weekend that includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday (or Cyber Sunday, if you will).

We first wrote about Small Business Saturday, in 2014, when ABC News reported that the holiday was "still very much in the shadow of Black Friday," at least according to some small-business owners, who felt Black Friday continued to be the dominant sales day for all businesses.

Read: It's Small Business Saturday: Do You Know Where Your Customers Are?

Yet American Express, who sponsors the day, has reported steady sales growth for small businesses: "$16.2 billion in 2015," NBC News reports, "up from $14.5 billion the year prior, with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more.

Perhaps you've even seen the "Shop Small" logo, a ubiquitous feature at brick and mortar shops across the nation.

The Small Business Saturday Logo

Despite the folksy intimations of the logo, Small Business Saturday is actually a slick promotion, first marketed by AMEX in 2010, as a way to "show your love at a small business near you."

This year, AMEX created a short jaunty video; we were sad to see, though, that the video misses the folk appeal from last year's video, when one shop owner excitedly said, "We had a line for the first time ever!"

Another (anonymous voice) said, "It's not just a shopping experience; it's really more of a social experience. It makes the neighborhood more vibrant."

Of course, shopping local benefits your community financially and culturally. You meet the people who produce your goods; you put a face to your purchases. Also, most local businesses offer unparalleled customer service and unique goods and services.

Despite the emphasis on local, though, we know a majority of this weekend's sales will actually occur online. As NBC News reported today:

"Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT, according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago.

The National Retail Federation has said it expects total sales this holiday season to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, mainly due to the rise in online shopping."

Small, local shops may read this as bad news: more online shopping = less brick and mortar shopping.

But this does not have to be the case.

To a degree, the Internet equalizes the competition, giving even the smallest shops a fighting chance against, say, Amazon, who led the pack this year with the deepest average discounts at 42%. (Source: NBC News).

The greatest tool in any business arsenal is online marketing. As we wrote last year, small businesses can use SEO to compete against Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Of course, not all businesses have the facility to sell products online. For these businesses, however, local SEO is the best way to attract business to brick and mortar locations.

So how can a small business use SEO to compete locally and nationally?

Tell Your Unique Story

Organic SEO is a natural fit for a small business. Most brick and mortars attempt to limit prices by limit marketing costs, and by definition, organic SEO is free.

The key for any small business is to use organic SEO to tell a unique story that differentiates itself from bigger retailers. For a a local brand, quality content is crucial. And, of course, a local brand must emphasize service and experience in all content.

If your content can inspire an emotional response, you're doing the right thing.

Read: SEO & the Power of Emotions

Find Your Niche Market Online

A small business will not compete against the outstanding variety of products offered by Amazon. A small business can, however, offer well-curated products that exceed the quality and value of Amazon's products.

It can be hard for a smaller business to compete for a variety of products--in SEO parlance, keywords. For most smaller businesses, a better option (by far) is to specialize in a few key products--and a few keywords.

The more effort you put into promoting a smaller amount of keywords, the more likely you will attract specific visitors that will be interested in your product.

Read: To Compete, Discover Your Niche

Stay Local

The essence of Small Business Saturday is local shopping. As a small business, you can leverage your accessibility to locals by optimizing your website for this specific audience. Instead of competing against a national audience--and all the big retailers--you compete against local companies.

To optimize for a local audience, create hyper-specific content for your local town or audience and seek local reviews. As we wrote before:

"You can perform all the website optimization you like, but if you're local reviews do not reflect a good customer experience--well, then, your optimization efforts will be for naught."

Read: The Importance of Reviews for Local Business

Of course, too, you can take specific steps to optimize your brick and mortar location. Google My Business, for example, is an easy step. As we discussed last week:

"Essentially, Google My Business asks you to fill out your business info, paying special attention to details like your business category, so that Google can connect you to browsers who are looking for your type of product or service. The information you give to Google My Business is used to populate the local map as well as the knowledge graph, two powerful SEO tools."

Read: SEO 101: How to Partner with Google

Small Business Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites for specific local areas we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective SEO campaigns that can attract your ideal local customer.