Are you trying to get found in search results? Let’s face it, when it comes to small businesses and local services, owners can often feel every dollar as it’s spent, lost, or earned. The pressure to produce income and bring in qualified leads can also distract from creating an impactful marketing strategy. So let’s talk about the marketing tactics that small business owners should cover as a bare minimum – to reach their most qualified prospective customers.
To keep things simple, we’ll use mechanics as a small business example throughout this post, but these concepts can apply to any small businesses such as dry cleaners, local retail shops, boutique grocery stores, house cleaners, childcare, and more.
Focus on Tactics That Help You Get Found in Search
One of the greatest things about search engines is that companies can find customers when they’re in a time of need. In the age of Google and smartphones, most people Google first and do some research before taking action to purchase a product or service. When someone’s searching for the answer to a problem, they have a need and are typically considered a more qualified lead. They’re closer to the purchasing stage.
If someone’s searching for “mechanics near me” or “how to repair breaks on my car”, then they’re most likely looking for a mechanic because their car is showing problems. A mechanic who provides answers to these questions on his website has an opportunity to start building trust and a relationship with the person searching for answers.
What’s the best way to get your answers to show up in search results?
#1. Establish Your Google Business & Bing Places Pages
Before I dive into the more involved tactics on getting your answers found in search results, I want to make sure your company is getting top billing for local searches. This means establishing your business location by claiming your Google Business and Bing Places pages on these popular search engines. By doing this, you’ll show up on a Google map when someone searches for your product or service in a nearby zip code.
The benefits to doing this?
- Your business listing visually jumps right off the search results page
- You can make it easy to drive searchers to your website
- Searchers have convenient access to relevant business info and directions
- Your business looks established and real
So what about reaching prospects who haven’t allowed Google to use their location or that might be a little further away from you? That’s when we think about some long term and short term tactics that will help increase your small business’s visibility in search results.
#2. Blog Regularly to Invest in Your Long Term Search Results Visibility
The best way to show up in search results is “organically”. This means showing up as a search result that Google or Bing has determined highly relevant based on the content of a webpage (includes copy, images, and links to and from the page).
For experienced searchers, organic search results are considered the most trustworthy answers to search queries. You’ll notice in this example above, I was searching for “trustworthy mechanics” and the top organic search result is by Edmunds, an automotive resource. What this immediately says to me is that there aren’t any mechanics out there blogging about what they do and why they do it – or perhaps they just haven’t spent much time optimizing their web presence. This means there’s an easy opportunity for mechanics near me to start blogging now and gain a digital advantage reaching me as a prospective customer in need of a car repair.
As a searcher, reading the Edmunds article will be helpful to me because I’ll be learning how to find a good mechanic, but at the end of the day it doesn’t provide me with an immediate answer to my question. Edmunds establishes itself as a trustworthy resource because they’re providing me with helpful information — perhaps I’ll trust their recommendation for a mechanic near me. But imagine if the top search result was published on the blog of a local mechanic? A mechanic who blogs about the different troubles one might need a mechanic for and who shares his or her own personality and style diagnosing and treating car troubles through his blog posts? If I found a mechanic through his own unique answers to my problems on his blog, I’d have an opportunity to get to know his or her business better before stopping by. Each blog post offers another opportunity to build trust and develop a relationship.
#3. Try PPC Advertising to Show Up Immediately in Search Results
If you feel like your company page showing up in Google maps isn’t far reaching enough and you need to get found quickly in search results, that’s where PPC (Pay Per Click) ads come in. It can take some time to establish authority with Google’s search algorithm and that’s where PPC may help.
A PPC ad is a kind of digital ad that shows up alongside search results.
PPC ads show up above or along the side of search results which can be good for visibility but at the same time, some searchers see ads for what they are – ads – and deem them less trustworthy than organic search results. PPC ads show up for certain keywords you decide you’d like your ads to show up for. A mechanic might bid on the search term “brake repair” and create a PPC ad and a blog post or landing page that speaks directly to brake repairs on their website that the ad will link to.
PPC can be quite an undertaking for someone who hasn’t encountered it before. If you can allocate 10-20 hours a week for a couple of weeks to setup your AdWords account and campaigns, once you get your campaigns running it takes much less time to maintain and optimize them. Google and Bing both even have resources available to help you understand how AdWords works and how Bing Ads works. You can even get in touch with a Google or Bing representative who will help you optimize your campaigns. Alternatively, there are PPC marketing agencies out there that you could enlist to manage your PPC campaigns for you.
Consider trying PPC if you have a decent sized budget (it can easily get expensive and should be monitored closely early on) and either a trusted partner to run your campaigns or you can seriously commit to the time it will take to setup your campaigns. The reason I suggest PPC ads over display ads for small businesses is because you can reach prospective customers in their time of need and you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ads. It’s a little less of a guessing game than display ads can be, where you’re left wondering if you chose the right website, the right time of year, and the right messaging.
#4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Invest in Channels Your Customers Already Use
As we noticed earlier, a blog post on Edmunds was the top organic search result when I looked up “trustworthy mechanics near me”. While Edmunds may not be a mechanic itself, Edmunds is establishing itself as an automotive resource for consumers. As a mechanic, you could consider contacting Edmonds to see if you could sponsor a couple of articles on their website or ask if there are other ways to develop a partnership to the benefit of your small business and Edmunds. At the end of the day, the goal for both parties is to help consumers answer their automotive questions. Why not work together towards success?
Similarly, other small business owners that offer services might find that websites like Angie’s List might be a good place to monitor and highlight their business listing online. Local storefronts might see more success being active on location based review sites and apps like Yelp or Foursquare. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how they found you and where they go when they’re searching for products and services like your own! This kind of information is key to optimizing your digital content to have stronger online conversations with your existing customers and quickly reach prospective customers.