In its own way, SEO has become a world filled with endless content. It seems like content nowadays can get lost in a sea of never-ending blog posts, youtube videos, podcasts. Content is all around us. With over 7.5 million blog posts published per day, it can feel discouraging to start writing your own content. This is just with blog posts alone; think of all the other content that gets published on top of that (social posts, videos, advertisements, commercials, etc.) Still, that’s not to say that you should avoid publishing content altogether. No matter your niche, you will always have curious readers/followers out there, interested in learning more about a given topic.
Still, for any small businesses that provide a B2C service, it’s always important to build out your online visibility and focus on putting yourself in front of your customers. However, when it comes to small businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores, an entirely different SEO strategy is required. That’s where local SEO comes into play.
Normally, SEO efforts would be used to generate traffic through your website, but this applies more so for businesses that provide more labor-intensive services such as roofing and plumbing. As with any marketing campaign, the difference always comes down to the product/service you provide.
When it comes to small businesses such as the ones mentioned above, it’s generally easier to build a local presence rather than focusing on growing the visibility of your website. That’s not to say that this effort should be ignored, rather you should spend more time and energy on building out your presence on Google Maps while managing your business’s reputation.
When it comes to small businesses, especially those in Philadelphia, it can be hard to establish yourself given the surrounding competition. For restaurants especially, Philadelphia is a very saturated market, with plenty of competitors all offering a similar experience. So when focusing on a strategy, it’s important to make yourself stand out as much as possible.
How Local SEO Can Help You Stand Out in a Saturated Market
Standing out among the crowd may seem like an impossible task, but with these tips, you can learn how to boost your business’s online visibility and reach more potential customers. Here are just a few of them:
Building Out Reviews for Google My Business
First off, for any small business, your main marketing strategy should always be directed towards building out reviews. No matter what, reviews will always play an important part in a consumer’s decision-making process.
When a person is deciding to go out for dinner or lunch, depending on what they choose, they will almost always have a few choices in mind. Especially for restaurants, having more (emphasis on “more”) positive reviews during a customer’s consideration stage will almost always put you on top.
Reviews hold a very powerful sway on a customer’s decisions as they can be seen as a vote of confidence. Having others vouch for your business and offer their positive experience is a sure-fire way to attract more attention to your business and make its experience more appealing.
But the real question is how can we acquire more reviews. Surprisingly this answer is a lot more simple than you might think. Always, always, always establish a relationship with your customers and make their satisfaction/experience your number one priority. Obviously, this is a lot easier said than done, and as a marketer, I can’t really provide the relationship for you. You have to execute that part. But all kidding aside, establishing a relationship or at the very least, providing a consistently positive experience will almost always guarantee you a review.
Now in a perfect world, that would be the case, but in most instances, you’ll still just need to take the next step and manually reach out to some of your customers. Occasionally you’ll have customers who were so satisfied with the service that they’ll leave you a review just because they were that satisfied with the encounter, but you still shouldn’t bank on this as it doesn’t happen often.
But bad reviews happen as well. So to offset any bad reviews it’s still important to focus on acquiring good ones to balance out the score. If you have only five 5 star ratings and one 1 star rating, you’ll have a 4.3 rating. Now say you were able to achieve a couple more 5-star ratings, you’ll now have a 4.65 star rating. Anything over 4.5 stars should always be the goal.
Another factor to consider when building out reviews is that you should always focus on both quality and quantity. If you have only six 5 stars ratings, you’ll obviously have a perfect score, but customers are still likely to choose a business with a slightly lower rating with a higher number of reviews. Quality and quantity will always win in this scenario.
How to Reach Out To Customers For Reviews
Now when reaching out to customers, it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Google provides you with the option to send out a “review me” link directly from your Google My Business profile.
You can send this link however you like (calling, texting, email etc.) When considering this technique, just know that sending a text with your link will almost always have the highest chance of being seen and used. Still, if you have these channels available, it’s not a bad idea to incorporate email marketing into your review strategy.
The next step isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s still a nice thing to do, again to build a relationship with your clients. Always like and respond to your reviews. This will also encourage others to leave a review when they see that your business is communicative and appreciative of them and that you’re willing to take the time for taking the time to show appreciation towards your customers.
Likewise, you should always prioritize taking the time to reach out to anyone who may have left a bad review. Never and I repeat never make things personal if someone leaves a bad review. It’s almost impossible to satisfy everyone and there will always be situations where you just happened to encounter someone on a bad day.
Still, make the effort to reach out to them and show that you care about their experience. Prove that you want to learn how you can improve and offer a better experience the next time they come. I guarantee you that most of the time no one will even respond back to you, but it still shows to others that you care about your business and that you’re committed to providing an exceptional service.
In some very rare cases, if you rectify the situation, they might actually remove the bad review. This is very rare and I’ve only seen this happen about once or twice. But still, it’s generally good practice to show that you care. Likely the reviewer won’t notice, but others reading the review certainly will.
Other Than Reviews, What Else Should I Do?
In the same light as reviews, you should make building out your Google My Business profile a top priority. This is what potential customers first see when they’re searching for options and as we all know, first impressions matter. So in this case, you should be focusing on building out a full profile that highlights every aspect of your business.
You’ll have reviews that will likely lead customers to your profile, but from there, you’ll need to create a profile that entices them to choose your business. Restaurants especially should prioritize this. This can be anything from uploading pictures of your restaurant to having up-to-day menus posted. You want your profile to show a complete picture of the experience you’re offering and letting customers know what they’re getting before they even show up.
Highlight pictures of your food, showcase your employees, or even just upload pictures of the interior of your restaurant. Either way, these profile additions will help customers determine if your business is worth visiting.
Another strategy to consider, especially for restaurants is being featured on websites that highlight their business. In a way, this can be seen as a form of PR, but utilizing this strategy is especially beneficial when your goal is to boost online visibility and increase traffic to your website. This method will be harder to achieve than acquiring reviews, but it’s still an effort worth making. Thrillist for example is a foodie website in Philadelphia that highlights different restaurants for different occasions and themes.
Bars can use this strategy also. It may be more difficult for those not in the food industry, but you should still find any local websites related to your niche that you can highlight your business.
Using Social Media to Increase Brand Awareness
While social media isn’t technically a ranking factor, you can still use it to boost visibility for SEO factors. Especially for bookstores who don’t have access to many niche websites, it’s a great idea to create a social media profile where you can engage with customers and grow a following.
For anything published on social media, it should always be a mix of these three things: personal, educational, and entertaining. On top of this, you should always engage with your audience too. This will create more of a community for your followers and encourage others to follow you as well.
One of the most successful factors of marketing, especially in today’s world is word of mouth and brand trust. By interacting with your social following and creating engaging content, you’ll almost always see an increase in people wanting to visit your business. Even more so, it’s a free channel too! You don’t have to pay anything to manage this (unless done through ads), and if done right, all the work will be done for you and you can just watch it grow from there. So with that, it’s a no-brainer to be active on social media if you’re a local business.
Social Media, Reviews, and SEO Are All Great Tools to Boost Your Business’s Online Visibility
All in all, with all of these channels available at your disposal, you should set the time aside to prioritize and implement these strategies. With these, you should slowly but surely see a boost in your online visibility and thus drive more traffic towards your business. Incorporate these few things into your marketing strategy and surprise you now have a marketing strategy. Test out some of these ideas, let me know if it works. Feel free to contact me as well if you have any questions or are interested in discussing SEO further.