Understanding Local Business SEO and Marketing with Google
If the words are not on the page then you are unlikely to rank
Fact is that for many local businesses serving local communities today, they just aren’t going to (nor should they) rank globally or nationally for singular business keywords like “Plumber” or “Electrician” or “insert common service”.
If they did, the SERPs would be a little useless.
It’s one of the reasons why we get personalised and localised results. Results returned based on where we are searching from, returning (in theory) results from those localities serving that marketplace.
For local businesses looking to play, their route to market online is a mix of advertising or being listed in local directories that rank, or paying for PPC or social media ads to raise awareness.
There’s a tiered ecosystem in place – and the SERPs (search engine results pages) are structured to maximise return for Google and the players who make it to the top.
If we look at this SERP for “electricians” we will see that at the top above the fold so to speak, we have ads. Google ads, that look a little like organic results but to the trained eye are just ads.
Paid Inclusion Local Organic SERP
These ads are paid for by companies (usually not direct service suppliers) who act as lead generation vehicles offering placement via a combination of CPL (cost per lead), CPA (cost per acquisition) or straight up paid inclusion ( pay a joining or monthly fee).
Local trades people seldom (if ever appear in these ads) simply because the CPC’s are often out of their price band. They just fail to see the value in paying £2 or £3 per click for an unknown quantity. Many have websites that are years behind the curve in terms of layout or ability to convert and track the sale and for a lot of them, the whole Internet marketing gig is just headache inducing.
Local Pack – The Carousel of Hope
Businesses do get an opportunity to appear in the ‘local pack’ as it’s known, but these are limited and often randomised to show whoever the algorithm at the time deemed worthy. In areas of high concentrations of competing businesses and population, those chances to be seen are ever diminished.
The “Organic” SERP
Here’s the stuff that appears below the fold and the local pack SERP for “Electrician in Folkestone”.
Full of directory type websites.
Few local businesses appear here, and the two that do is made up of the savvy guy who bought a decent domain name, and another who uses rich snippets generated by a * hubspot local page product.
* Golly gee, they even get the privilege of being able to link back to the people they paid for the local SEO service too, so no footprint there…
The Aggregators Are The Innovators
In short, the aggregators are winning and the small guy isn’t and despite Google’s efforts to half heartedly level the playing field, the fact is that for most local businesses looking to appear in search, they need to work real hard to win and pay a small fortune for the opportunity.
Factors like a local address, postcode and phone number on a webpage help (I’ve seen local websites appear organically for some local queries whereby they had local info on the page) but for the most part, they simply aren’t set up to target their local areas effectively, they lack the authority, and most crucially lack the landing pages.
Take a pretty dominant site like this for example. Look at the query for site:www.checkatrade.com/Search/Electrician/in/ and we’ll see that Google lists around 2050 urls
All of their pages are listed with local business who pay to be included. Including a map and a list of services. Premium spots appear to exist upon some of the pages and… in essence, it’s a search engine within a search engine for local results with reviews.
Just like a Yell, a ThomsonLocal or whatever other local directory type service you care to mention.
I guess you could say it’s a great business model for Google and lucrative for the aggregators but not such a great deal for the local businesses with services to offer who are having to pay. This then drives up costs for consumers as businesses seek to turn a profit.
CPC’s north of £5 per click – 1000’s of monthly searches for variants of Electrician in London (postcodes boroughs etc) for example, it soon adds up and there’s money on the table.
Arguably you could also say it’s a good deal for the searcher as they get to see grouped listings with reviews, and social proof scores and what not. However, that’s not to say that today in 2016 small business owners can’t or shouldn’t be doing the same.
What should a small local business do?
If they can’t get passionate about their business online and talk to their customer base, and interested parties then they’re missing a trick and can’t really complain when their competitors are suddenly everywhere.
If site owners made more of an effort to be strategic in what they do, then they too could begin to rank for queries like these through creating content that was more tightly focused on their areas of service. Some do already, but a lot don’t and that contributes to the reason why they end up paying third parties to be listed, who then drive leads via PPC or other channels.
If only these businesses took the time to build out some localised content that contained the words that people search for, then perhaps they too could begin to compete. (Really!!)
It’s one of the reasons I put this landing page tool together, a tool that enables people to build specific localised landing pages based on their own web templates and the ability to then create landing pages for very specific localities.
It’s no panacea; people still need to put the effort into what they do.
More effort equals more reward is still a truism, nothing new there but it is a time saver, it does give people a little more focus and subject to HTML chops is a handy way of creating content that’s useful for PPC , social media marketing and local SEO campaigns.
Ok end of advert – fact is, some small businesses could do a whole lot better in the SERPs, if only they made the effort.
Using Pokemon Go for Local Business Purposes
But I’m not here to talk about those, I’m here to continue with the local business angle touched upon by Forbes.
There really is a big potential to get in at the ground floor here and stand out from the competition, IF your local offer is compelling enough.
Where I live it’s both rural and coastal and it’s peppered with various little cafés and small eateries – tourist trade is everything and at this time of the year they really must do everything they can to earn their coin.
There’s a beach hut type place that sells teas and coffees and chips and bacon butties, it’s made of plywood and painted brilliant white – For me, it’s just aching to have a huge pokeball painted on its side along with a few strategically placed sandwich boards doing similar to this.
Such an approach would tap in to a phenomena that has kids and adults alike talking and even gain attention from the local press.
Pokemon Go has more search term interest than any of our leading news storiesin the UK and it hasn’t even launched yet
The rise in search volume is pretty stratospheric, outstripping searches for news media saturated terms recently like Theresa may, Leadsom and Corbyn. That’s some pretty stellar WOM activity right there demonstrating the power of app charts and social mentions to influence user behaviour and interest.
I tried downloading the Pokemon GO app from my iTunes, but it seems it’s not available (account is tied to UK iTunes and I can’t be bothered to switch it) so I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play it, but it does look like fun and I’d imagine that people up and down the country will get pretty hooked on it, especially in the summer months with warmer weather whereby a nice walk is just the ticket.
We’ll no doubt see a slew of topical discussion on this soon, with an explosion of stories in local and national mainstream media, augmented reality apps like these are likely to grow in use and popularity as companies and providers look for ways of utilising the power of mobile and its ability to gain new customers via innovative use of features and gameplay.
Whilst Pokemon GO may well not be a best fit for your local business, AR and VR as concepts present definite opportunities which if used creatively could well help boost passing and local interest.
Be you a small business or a large brand you should definitely get in early while you can, and think creatively around how you can use opportunities like these, to boost your brand or business!
2013 – Wow, how’d that happen?
I don’t post much these days (you noticed huh?).
You could say I got bored with stating the obvious or adding to the general noise of the blah blah blah brigade.
There’s little value add to that.
“Value add” seems to be a prevailing theme that keeps popping up a lot for me these days; be it in my conversations with friends, face to face, or with my kids veiled in failed subtleties designed to try and impart that little something without the alienation part, or online in a comment or a tweet somewhere.
I tend to look a lot more before I leap these days. No point making mistakes if you just keep on making them eh!?
Today, I like to think that in a lot of my actions I’m far more considered; I like to think that I give things a whole lot more thought than I once did. Sometimes I practice what I preach and sometimes I’m pretty sure that I don’t, but hey, I’m trying! That’s all of any of us can really do, right? Continue reading
John Andrews posted today about MFA (made for adsense ) sites appearing in #1 place positions in competitive SERPS (search engine results pages)
One of his commenters remarked
A lot of our customers are small, local area businesses that serve their niche market very well, but the top SERPs are dominated by directory knockoffs like the one you mention above, often by national websites with huge PR but no real quality Maine-based services or content… Just oodles of keywords and links to sites which they extort a huge amount of money from to list.
If you follow this stuff with any level of intensity then you may have noticed a thing or two. This got me thinking about the current state of SERPs today and how frankly, nothing very much (the inception of local aside) has changed that much at all. Directories still cut it over and above singular business entities.