How to do SEO as a local business owner

Since you’ve clicked on this blog post, you’re likely wondering why these pesky SEO people from across the world are harassing you on an hourly basis and peddling their services incessantly. Well, wonder no more, despite the fact that there are indeed a shit-ton of crappy SEO’s out there, rest assured that search engine optimization is a valuable weapon in this new world of marketing.

You might already know this and you’ve likely wondered if you can just do the damn work yourself. Well…I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, like any valuable profession, digital marketing is fairly complex once you factor in all of the elements that come into play. Also, consider the fact that Google (and Bing and Yahoo to a lesser extent) change the rules on a fairly consistent basis which leaves us SEO’s on our toes and always learning.

Can you learn how to do the work yourself? Well sure! Just set aside 8 months to a year and get into a solid group which is rocking online and have them teach you. Or scramble and become a blind mole digging aimlessly and hoping to piece things together in the right order. Then, learn bit by bit as you turn theory into action and you’ll slowly start to see some results on your website. Oh yeah…make sure you keep running your original business as well.

As a small business owner and proud physiologically unemployable, dog-loving nut-job, I can assure you that the death of any small business is the idea that you can and or should do everything yourself. Still though, for all of you stubborn-as-a-mule DIY types, your friends at LickchopSEO have complied a list of 5 things you can take action on that will help you get started on improving your website’s visibility in the search engines. As an added bonus, you’ll make it easier for an awesome digital marketing agency like LickChop to jump in and do the heavy lifting once you’ve covered the basics.

We were born ready, how bout you? Shall we begin?

1) Know who you’re targeting.

It’s crazy to me how many clients we get where the customer doesn’t exactly know how their potential clients are finding them. Let’s make this simple, if YOU were lookign for YOU on Google, what would you type in? There is no right or wrong answer here and you should just think for a minute to decide on the best way to find yourself online. Whatever you decided on is a great, don’t sweat it. We’ll use it as a starting point for the next step. While there are countless blog posts on how to use it, I’ll keep my overview of the Google Keyword Planner brief.

Once you log into this fancy resource from the big G, you can use it to get a good sense of what people are searching for in regards to your particular niche. Say you sell dog toys (Lickchop, indeed). You might type in:

“Dog chew toys”

Google KW Planner

Note that this would be referred to as a search query. Note the average monthly searches in the picture above and don’t pay any mind to the competition column.  Why you ask? Remember the main purpose of this tool is to sell Google Adwords and the competition is indicative of other people buying into that particular keyword. The good thing is, if people are buying ads for any particular keyword, it’s because the terms, in this case ‘dog chew toys’ is valuable.

Please not that at this point, anything that exists has been searched for in some capacity. There are 3 billion people online as of 2016 so the odds of your niche being un-searched are pretty much nil. As a slight ninja tactic, I’d also recommend typing in the name of the company or business (your main competitor) who is killing it in your niche and see what keywords are associated with them. Doing so will usually yield different and better keywords than you originally thought of. I highly recommending this resource to read more about using the Google Keyword planner to educate yourself further. Just knowing more about keyword phrases can come in handy when you begin to dive deeper into your search engine marketing and hire an agency to achieve maximum results.

2. Find out where they hang out.

Since this is in regards to online marketing, I’m referring to where your potential clients hang out. With so many social media networks vying for the attention of the public, there are options aplenty. Knowing this, you can bet that a different set of people are on Pinterest vs. Twitter, Google Plus vs. Facebook, etc.

A good way to start understanding where you can interact with your potential clients is by searching for groups within places like Facebook or Google Plus or find out where there are active influencers in your niche. Twitter is a great place follow authority figures who you can connect with and develop a report.

Social Media platforms for marketing

If you wish to expand your small business into a brand, it’s best to keep up to the minute on the latest trends and developments in your niche. Remember, you might be great now, but you can quickly get left in the dust if you don’t keep up with the speed of information in the digital age. It’s no longer good enough to be good, you must also stay relevant.

In summary, your dream clients are online. Find out where they spend their time and get into their social (network) circle. With some effort and time, you can be seen as an expert in your field and it’s hard to put a price on brand equity like that.

Protip: Don’t join groups and be ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl’ who spams their product or service immediately upon participating in a group. Follow the old adage that people purchase from others that they know, like and trust. The only way to earn those feelings is to provide value and service. Gary Vaynerchuk said it best in the title of his book: Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. In other words, give, give, give…then ask.

3. Make sure you’re mobile ready

Last April, a massive wave of concern swept through the search marketing landscape, and the dreaded ‘Mobilegeddon’ came upon us mere mortals. In reality, Google was primarily favoring websites that had the decency to optimize their websites for mobile screens. In case you’ve been living under a rock, most people carry computers in their pockets. These machines are also known as ‘Smartphones.’

I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

A webiste that is not mobile friendlyJokes aside, we live in an age where a vast majority of people in developed countries can access the web and get online through their smartphone browser to search the internet. Many times, they have the unfortunate displeasure of navigating websites that aren’t responsive and don’t work well on mobiles devices like smartphones or tablets.

You know the sites I’m talking about. The pages that load and display zoomed out and the links look awful and are hard to click. It’s crucial that you get your site to be responsive and display correctly on mobile devices.

Thankfully, it’s not overly difficult to fix this issue, and it’s something I would consider a high priority. The reason? Google has publicly claimed that their mobile friendly algorithm will have a significant effect on search results moving forward (from April of 2015). If you haven’t been affected by this change in algorithm, you soon will be, it’s just a matter of time.

Further reason to act: Mobile has now overtaken the desktop as the dominant way that people are finding out about products and services online. If that statistic alone doesn’t make you want to take action, then you still don’t get it.

4. Reach out to your present clients for reviews

There is an expression that many people in the marketing world echo repeat time and time again:

“The easiest people to sell to are the ones who already buy from you.”

I’ve learned this is true in my own experience, and if you’re in business for any amount of time, you’ve likely noticed it as well. In reality, you’d be surprised that only about 20-30 eager customers can sustain a business. Not a profitable business but they can keep the doors open.

Since we’re establishing that the people who know like and trust will be repeat customers for you and your business, wouldn’t they also be your best advocates? What better way to have a potential client looking to find your company online and see the glowing reviews from your adoring fans. Their own passion or your brand will shine through as they sing your praises and promote for you.

Here’s the small problem, most small business owners don’t make the time to ask for reviews. Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul famously writes about the ‘Power of the Ask’ is a favorite book which teaches to ask for what you want to get it. So the question for you reading this is, have you asked? Trust that your patrons see the work you put into your business, and they want to help you. You’d be surprised how quick they will act to assist you once you make the request.

If you feel uncomfortable asking directly, feel free to add it as a note in your newsletter with a link to your Google Plus, Yelp or Facebook listing. You ARE collecting emails and engaging in email marketing, right?

How reviews can help your businessAnother way to get some reviews is to offer a contest to your customers with the cost of entry being a review to your social media sites. Get together with your staff and or significant other and have your heart warmed at the kind words people will write about you. Pick your favorite review and offer a prize of your choosing.

As an added incentive, once you get past 5 reviews, you’ll see a snazzy little star graphic next to your map listing (Note the business that doesn’t meet this basic qualification in the graphic to the right). It helps draw attention and help you stand out from your competitors. One more thing, start with Google reviews and get at least 5 written on your Google Plus profile and then move on to targeting Yelp and Facebook.

Google still owns search, and it makes sense to focus our marketing efforts in order of the people who will bring us most business and targeted leads. Get to getting…some reviews!

5. Find local resources to link to and from.

There is mounting evidence that linking to outbound authority links is a sound on-page SEO tactic. It helps to make your site more trustworthy in the eyes of search engines and it also allows you to be considered in the same breath as some of the big players in your field.

This tactic is as easy as it sounds. Find an authority site in your particular niche and link out to them in an elegant and organic fashion. Sometimes marketers abuse this tactic and make feel forced and unnatural. We’re looking to add value to our readers as we write so keep that in mind and make sure the outbound link makes sense.

Linking out
You’ll subconsciously develop a level of trust with your reader as well is you steer them in the right direction and help them find solutions to their issues.

Also, be creative and don’t just link out to Wikipedia articles. Look around and use tools like BuzzSumo and see if anyone has an authority article written about your service that has social sharing and links. Odds are, it’s a quality piece of content. Don’t be afraid to have your website visitors link to an external site, they got their answers from you, didn’t they?

I hope you’ve found these tips valuable. Sometimes, knowing where to start with your online marketing efforts can be daunting. As an SEO ninja, I would implore you to start with your online presence as it has the potential to tell your story and increase your brand awareness on autopilot 24/7 once it’s running like a well-oiled machine.

Start with these actionable tips and learn to be more versed in the language of SEO. At any given moment, a new lead can come in from a random mobile phone search, and your site can get to work for you.

If you enjoyed this post, please like it and share with any friends who may find value in it. Also, feel free to ask me questions in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Until next time….paws up!!!