Many businesses were forced to make unforeseen changes as a result of the pandemic and abruptly change day-to-day business operations. People’s spending habits also had to change when social distancing came into play and resulted in curbside pickup and more online shopping. To remain competitive, many small and medium-sized businesses were forced to rebuild their websites or pursue new online marketing strategies.
Restaurants and grocery stores weren’t the only types of businesses affected. With the huge surge of Canadians opting for online shopping, many businesses scrambled to accommodate. People still seem to be continuing to shift toward the consumer mentality of buying everything online.
For a business to thrive, and in certain instances even survive, there was a sudden need to refocus their digital marketing efforts. For SMBs in a local market like Calgary, it may mean switching gears to embrace a strategy focused on search engine optimization.
Local SEO is essential if you’re looking to drive more traffic through organic search, attract new business and beat out the competition online. This post is going to cover the benefits of adopting a solid SEO strategy to remain competitive during this strange online transition.
Reasons to Consider Stepping Up Your SEO Strategy
Some SMBs see SEO as an extravagant expense, while others wonder if you get a reasonable return on your investment. If you’re not quite sold on the importance of local SEO, we’ve got five big reasons you need to adjust your SEO strategy.
Improve Your Search Visibility
How visible is your page on Google? There are many businesses that leave a lot of potential customers on the table by not focusing enough on organic search.
Businesses can generate organic traffic by ranking for keywords and search queries that are relevant to their products or services in search results. However, in order to rank high enough in those results to make a meaningful difference, you’ll need to have an SEO strategy (or at least cover the basics).
The Organic Search Boost
Have you tried a PPC campaign with Google Ads? How did it pan out for you? Again, most companies spend a lot of money on pay-per-click ads only to see a quick spike, followed by a plateau.
However, when you focus on building organic search traffic by targeting relevant keywords. It’s easier, more productive, and more affordable than continuously running pay-per-click campaigns.
Generate and Convert More Leads
Consider what products or services your business provides. There are opportunities to reach different types of customers by approaching your products from unique perspectives and creating content with keywords set to target different search intent.
For example, if you sell products that appeal to different demographics, you can target long-tail keywords that appeal to each one. By doing some keyword research and creating content for each demographic, you can target their individual needs and increase your visibility.
For example, say you have a company that sells t-shirts with dogs on them. Your product can reach a wide range of people, but those people might perceive your company from different perspectives. A university student may be one of the types of people that want to wear your t-shirt, so you create some content with that demographic in mind. Is the university student your only potential target? Probably not. What about the student’s parents or grandparents? You can use this as an opportunity to use some keyword variants that have relevance to each audience and create content targeting them specifically.
People turn to search engines to find useful information, solve problems and have their questions answered. When you manage to solve more problems for more people, you’re more likely to appear more prominently in search results, drive more clicks, and ultimately convert more leads.
Edge Out Your Competition
Just because you’re not leading your industry’s organic search presence doesn’t mean it’s too late. Take a look at the websites ranking on the first page of search results for your niche. Where do you fall? Who’s ranking at the top?
The sites ahead of you in the search results are your competition. You can start by analyzing what they’re doing to reach the top of the list. Perhaps they have some really informative content that addresses topics that are meaningful to their business, or maybe they are a more established business with an authoritative web presence and tons of high-quality backlinks.
If you’re fortunate to find the positions in the search engine results page are up for grabs for a keyword or search query that would be valuable for your business, make a note to create a landing page or piece of content that could help you take advantage and jump to the top of the search results.
Paid Searches Cost More & Convert Less
Paid searches fall flat when compared to building organic searches. It turns out that a lot of people ignore ads displayed in search results in favour of organic results.
Not to suggest that there’s no place for paid search, but they generally fall off over time. Organic search visibility takes longer to build but delivers long-term results.
How To Improve Your Local SEO
Hopefully, you now see the importance of building a solid SEO strategy. Once you embrace the opportunity, it’s time to get down to business, and that means some old-fashioned hard work on your part.
Analyze Your Competition
To beat your competition, you need to understand what they’re doing right. Where does your competition draw organic traffic from, and how can you use that to improve your organic search results?
There are some tools available to do the work for you, but it’s not difficult to create your own. A DIY approach will probably provide more comprehensive data, as well.
- Identify your competitors. You can do a quick search for “best (type of business)” and see what pops up. Try focusing on SMBs in Calgary to narrow down results for your area.
- Analyze your competitors’ keywords, backlinks, and site structure.
- Compare your keyword lists, link lists, and site structure with your competitors’ lists to look for gaps and areas of improvement.
Take Control of Your Google Maps Presence
When somebody in your area searches for a business in your niche, where do you appear in the SERP? Ideally, you either want to be in the first position or near the top for your location to drive new business to your door.
Google automatically defaults to local search results based on your location. This can come in especially useful for service businesses, stores and restaurants that primarily serve local customers.
Review your Google Business Profile because it contains a lot of relevant information that affects how you might appear for a particular search query.
- Business names can include a keyword or city name to improve relevance, but don’t force them in unnecessarily.
- Be sure to set the primary category for your business.
- Keep the phone number and hours of operation up to date to let customers know when you’re available and how they can reach you.
- The business description also isn’t a place for keyword stuffing, but be sure not to leave it blank.
- Reviews are definitely a ranking factor, especially positive ones.
- Make sure your information is correct and consistent across all local business directories, like Facebook, Yelp, Bing, and Apple Maps. Consistency is crucial.
Other factors that affect Google Maps ranking are your proximity to the person searching and how well-known your business is at the local level. There’s not much you can do about proximity, but you can impact your prominence.
- Encourage customers to post reviews, especially positive ones.
- Fine-tune your title tags meta descriptions
- Implement structured data.
- Try to build relevant and local links.
Build a Performance-Focused Website
If you don’t already have a website, you should probably start there, but once your site is up and running, you can start by focusing on a traditional on page SEO strategy that addresses the basics.
Use an SSL Certificate
Nothing is worse for visitors than having to worry about their personal data being compromised, especially since having an SSL is a known ranking factor for Google. Always use SSL to encrypt your website.
Create a Logical Site & URL Structure
Your website’s content should be easy to find for both visitors and search engines. That is why it is critical to establish a logical hierarchy for your content and URL structure. URLs are significant because they assist searchers in understanding the content and context of a page. If you’re creating a new website, choose the most straightforward and descriptive structure possible.
Create a Sitemap
Sitemaps are files that contain a list of the important pages on your website that you want search engines to index. After creating a sitemap you can submit your sitemap to Search Console to help Google better understand how to crawl your website.
Mobile friendly sites are essential these days. According to Statista , it was found that mobile devices accounted for 63 percent of organic search engine visits in the United States from 2013 to 2021. If customers can’t find you and navigate your site on their mobile devices, they’re more likely to move on to the competition.
Site speed is equally important. A site that takes too long to load may cause you to lose a customer’s attention. It hasn’t been officially made a ranking factor yet, but you’ll also need to be mindful of Google’s Core Web Vitals.
Write quality content for your customers, not for search engines. You can use every high volume keyword imaginable, but if it’s not useful or engaging for your customers, it’s not going to help you.
Choose quality images that attract attention. Be sure to properly size and compress your images for web prior to using them on your website. (Don’t forget to set the image alt text).
Leverage Internal Linking
Internal linking is the process of creating links within your site that allow users to move more quickly and easily from one section to another. Internal linking, when done correctly, can drastically improve the user experience on your site, drive more traffic, and make it easier for users to find specific pages and information on your site. Quick tip: Use the target keyword for the page you are linking to to include in the anchor text.
Measure SEO Success
Finally, track your organic traffic and keyword rankings to determine the success of your efforts.
It takes time to build an organic search presence, but if done properly that work will eventually pay off. With a solid local SEO strategy, you can build a consistent customer base and cut back on ad spend with a strong organic search presence. Pivoting some of your marketing to focus on digital may take some time, but can also open the door to grow your local business in a post-pandemic world.