It’s Paul Stevens, of Bootstrap Local Marketing again. I am regularly talking to businesses about Search Engine Optimization for local SEO in Northumberland County, where I live. One of the hardest concepts to get across to local businesses is SEO for local results. Most businesses believe that they need a website. Not all businesses are sure why, but they understand that there are customers on the internet, and a web site can help corral them.
Generally what happens is that they pay for a website, they discuss how it looks and what they want on it with a web site developer, and then they sit back and wait for results.
They could get lucky. There might only be three other businesses offering what they offer in their local area. When someone does a search for their specific product or service, their site might come up on the first page of Google, and they may gain some business that way. But what happens if there are more than 6-8 competitors? Unless they have put in some time or effort, or unless their webmaster understands online marketing, they may be relegated to the area either below the “fold”, the spot lower than the last entry shown on a computer monitor, or worse yet, page two, three or even further back.
I have talked to businesses that told me “Everyone knows I’m here. I don’t need a website.” You can look on this site for posts about specific case studies. Here’s one link on my “Survive the Bridge Repairs Hastings” website. Here’s another. Just think about this for a minute. How many house sales occur in Northumberland County in a year? What percentage of those sales are coming from people moving in from someplace else? What percentage are from people moving from one community in the county to another? If you are living in Cobourg, more than 100 new residents move into town in any given year. Now how many of them are going to use the internet to look for a service provider or retail outlet when they need something? Compared to how many are going to just know where you are? If you are in Cobourg, trying to market locally, shouldn’t you put some effort into local SEO in Northumberland County at least?
Think about your town…Hastings, Warkworth Campbellford, Cobourg or Port Hope. How many auto mechanics, gift shops, lawyers, dentists, home renovators, landscapers, rental cottages or whatever are competing for business there? There are only ten spots on the first page of Google. But even then, some of those ten spots are going to be taken up by directories, like Yellow Pages, Yelp, Weblocal, Canpages etc. In the image to the left I have circled all of the directory results. Yellowpages and Goldbook have a lot of weight. You can have a tough time landing your website ahead of them.
The middle of the page can be covered with businesses lucky enough to show up in the “Google Seven Pack” as map results, as you can see. (Note: Since this article was written, Google has reduced the seven pack to a three pack making it much harder to show up higher than the various online directories).
Have you claimed your Google Places listing by the way? A smart business might show up two or three times. I have helped clients achieve as many as eight results on the first page of a Google search for certain keywords. That’s the kind of competition that is out there. What can a business do?
Well, there is a lot a business can do. Another question to ask is “what are you doing now?” How effective are your current marketing dollars? Are you marketing for results, or are you just broadcasting your name around in a shotgun approach, hoping your marketing message happens to hit someone who is looking for your product by chance? Or are you making sure your marketing message is going to be found when someone goes looking for it?
We all only have so much time and money so you need to be careful with both, and use them in ways that will provide the biggest bang for the buck. The fact that your company comes up when someone puts your company name in the Google search field and hits enter may be exciting and entertaining, but when people need your service or product, are they entering your company name? Or are they entering something more generic like “24 hour plumber Campbellford” or “Cobourg mortgages” or “kitchen renovations Port Hope”? I think the latter examples are more like it.
If you want to get found for “24 hour plumber Campbellford” then someplace on your website, it better say “24 hour plumber Campbellford.” And while you are at it, maybe mention “emergency plumbing Campbellford” and “Campbellford emergency plumber”.
Ranking on the first page of Google for “Cobourg plumber” may be tough, even though the town only has 18,000 population and 12 plumbers. It could take a couple thousand dollars and 2-4 months to get more than one listing on the front page. But it might take 3 weeks and eight hundred dollars to dominate searches for “emergency plumber”, “pipe repair”, “drain clearing”, “leak repair” and “24 hour plumbing”. A lot of people will be searching for “Cobourg plumber” but a business can make a very good living by dominating all of the “long tail keywords” like the various examples I have used above…phrases that no other business is bothering to target.
If you want to improve your local SEO in Northumberland County for your business, you need to stop and examine how you currently get business. Talk to your best customers. Try typing in some searches for your products and services and see what comes up. You could find half a dozen low competition niches that you could effectively own for your local area. You could have 3-6 listings on the first page of Google for each of a half a dozen searches. If this SEO effort only brought in 2 new customers a month, and you were able to turn them into happy satisfied customers, what kind of a boost could that much business and the word of mouth referrals give you? How much would it add to your bottom line? A one-time effort on your part could pay dividends for the next couple of years, and provide a 3, 4, or 6 times return on your investment. What kind of a return is your current marketing generating? Get in touch with me and I will help you find out.
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