The internet is teeming with information, entertainment and opportunity. As the search engines, social unicorns and technology giants jostle for your browser time and engagement, normal folk with local businesses trying to engage local customers are left with a turbulent battle to maintain or improve their digital presence. In this post I am exploring the ever developing relationship between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Digital Marketing, through a local lens.
Search algorithms are the dewey decimal system of the internet. They organize and sort all the information and make it easy to find and retrieve what you are looking for (most of the time). These algorithms are kept highly secret and can change very frequently. Google has been known to update their algorithm up to 600 times a year. This can sound a little daunting, but not every change is that consequential. Over the last few years the updates have focused on making search a user focused process. So instead of keywords and hyperlinks taking priority, quality content and organic social sharing have taken the spotlight. The user experience is what these algorithms are moving towards, hence the importance of mobile optimization and fast load times. Don't get me wrong, the keywords you use are still a major ranking factor and hyperlinks still make a difference as long as they are credible and frequented. However traditional practices of loading up pages with volumes of keywords just will not work anymore. From a local business perspective this all works into your favour. Get your SEO right and the likelihood of you being delivered to local users over an entity you might not of been able to compete against normally is high.
The Internet of things
The internet is not just made up of pages on websites. Many of the online services we use on a daily basis could technically be called software. They are running code and performing tasks across multiple platforms on multiple devices. The majority of this information (on the open internet) can be considered by a search engine algorithm. Profile pages on networking sites, directories, listings services, advertising, the press and more can be used to increase your SEO success. Getting featured in your online local press can be huge for a business. If this happens be sure to get in touch and get them to include the right links to your business. Why? because any high traffic pages with links back to your business are considered authoritative and gold for SEO. This is where that relationship between SEO and Digital Marketing gets blurry. However the goal is the same and to be successful at both it is worth investing time (and money) here.
Listings, Listings, Listings
Listings are a great source of SEO real estate. They are often high traffic websites full of rich user content (reviews) and links back to your website and content. This fits pretty well into the above algorithm model. The secret to listings is consistency. Make sure that the phone number and address of your business is exactly the same across all the listings you can find and create. I say find and create with some gravitas. A problem RTOWN identified with our local customers is finding listings that were previously unknown to a business and tied to reviews that the business did not even know about. These "ghost" listings can damage your SEO as Google may consider them authentic even if the information is incorrect. Most listing based platforms (Tripadvisor, Yelp, Google My Business etc) will allow you to address the issues and make them right.
Importance of MetaData
Consistent listings create a local digital geography around your business. So when a user does a mobile search nearby, your chances to be top of the list are high. Add in some reviews and your chances of engagement go up dramatically. One of the most important places to get your information right is Google My Business. Here you can directly edit and update the content google will use in your business listing in search results (metadata). I recommend adding a detailed blurb, lots of photos from your business and opening hours. This helps google create a dynamic experience for it's users on all devices. Again, this fits into our user based algorithm model mentioned earlier.
The ties between SEO, Social Networking and Content Strategy are deep and reaching. They exist in a digital symbiotic relationship that feeds and perpetuates the consumption of the internet. Get the mix dialled with an effective strategy and the SEO payoff is huge. So what does that look like? It all starts with content that is credible, useful and engaging. This content can be on almost any medium (text, photo, video, audio, app), a combination of more than one if possible. It's not just blogging, every social post you put out is content too. If you identify and produce for your audience it becomes immediately shareable. This very sharing on social networks increases your audience. If the sharing goes far enough, it becomes viral. Your audience explodes along with your SEO and visitors to your website increase generating more sales and growing your bottom line. Easy right!
Going viral is nice when it happens, but it is not the goal of your content. The goal of your content is to attract genuine and authentic consumers that can be of real value to your business. Each piece of content they engage with and consume is a digital touch point, enough touch points and they become a customer and a brand ambassador. Social networks do have different ranking factor's and this is an area of much debate. More "like's" on a post does not mean better ranking. However more "like's" means it likely more people read that content, which means better ranking. This form of social marketing and content strategy is definitely in the realm of digital marketing, but the local SEO ties are undeniable.
Search Engine Optimization and Digital Marketing have so much more to them than can possibly be outlined in one article. The main take away is that SEO has changed. There are things you can do for your business without being scared away by the often intimidating SEO trickery of old. It is also still OK for you too reach out and get help. Finally, as a local business it is very important to invest in your SEO sooner rather than later. The common factor all these strategies have is time. None of it happens overnight and you simply cannot afford to wait. The longer you spend building your SEO value, the more business growth you are going to see in return.
RTOWN can help with website production, listings management, social media and more. All for an affordable monthly subscription. Combined with a customized digital marketing strategy, we can get your local SEO working to grow your business.