If you are a local business owner then you know that the bigger picture is that all online marketing actions (SEO, social media, pay-per-click, etc.) should focus on a few things:
- Getting new first time customers/clients
- Enhancing profitability for the business
- Expansion of awareness/exposure if your “brand” is an issue
- Although this always is taught first, getting new clients and becoming profitable should be any business’ goal, especially if the business one day wishes to sell the business to another party
A local business often faces a series of challenges when it wishes to grow and expand. One of the biggest challenges is to enter a new geographic where it has no physical presence, even though the business knows that it can fulfill customer demand for the desired product/service.
There are over 20 online methods which can be considered by any local business owner wishing to grow and expand into a new geographic area. Not all are “search” related, and these methods MAY be beneficial to your business.
You are welcome to review them and then filter them to which are most appropriate by:
- What your prospective clients would deem as acceptable and appropriate for your business category
- Then filter further the methods by what best represents the image you want to convey for your business (or that of your client)
Over the upcoming series of posts, you will become familiar with the basics of the 20+ methods.
Today’s post will cover the first method:
Traditional Local SEO
Please note that some of these principles may refer to something called “Parasite SEO” or “Next Best SEO“. That is where you rank another web property other than your main website for the desired keyword. Such a “parasite” property could be:
- One of your YouTube videos or your company’s YouTube channel
- Your company’s LinkedIn business page
- Your location’s listing on Yelp
- Your local chamber of commerce directory page (if you have a page dedicated just to your business)
- Your specific page on the local BBB site
Traditional SEO And Its Core Principles
Even though this post is about reaching new geographic areas, a brief history on traditional SEO needs to be discussed. If you do not understand these, then you risk being “left in the dark” and have significantly-lowered chances of ranking in the search engines for the towns in which you wish to expand.
You also risk spending WAY too much money by making basic mistakes!
Traditional search engine optimization is based on several principles. Those principles drive the need to consider the strategy as a viable marketing option because it can help make the phone ring, get new walk-in customers, or get new e-mail subscribers/social media followers.
Those principles are:
- Your website is ranking at/near the top of the organic (free) search engine results for keyword phrases (user queries) which have some sort of demand AND possible “buyer intent”
- The fact that the search engines are ranking you at/near the top is a tacit “endorsement” that your business (or that of your client) should be deemed more trustworthy than other options
- If someone took the time to enter such a query (keyword phrase) into the search engine AND clicked the link to some page on your website (home page or other page) then there is a PRESUMED increase in likelihood that the person may take further action and contact you, show up at your location, purchase something from your website or join some sort of list that you control
Do people today make buying decisions from online properties OTHER than the search engines? Yes they do. There can be business review sites, social media sites, classified ads and other properties which can generate new business; and to say otherwise would be wrong.
Does a number one organic (free) ranking, however, still help you increase the odds of increasing profitability? Most certainly! This is because you are providing what people are seeking (e.g. a solution to their problems).
Why It Is More Difficult To Achieve The Same Outcome (A # 1 Ranking) Than In Previous Years
Ranking your business’ website (or your client’s website) however is significantly more challenging than it was even just 3-4 years ago. The actual hard costs to anyone doing the marketing likely are much higher than they were from the 2009-2011 era.
Many of the reasons for this cost increase stem from the various Google Panda/Penguin (and other) search engine algorithm updates. Here are just a handful of reasons why the costs went up and the difficulty to earn a # 1 ranking became much more challenging:
- For a third-party consultant/agency to help a client reach a number 1 ranking in the search engines back in 2009-2011, most of what was needed was acquiring a volume of links which had the optimized keywords in the actual text of the link (aka “anchor text”). It didn’t matter where those links appeared so long as you had a volume of sites pointing directly to your website. On-page optimization, for some time, appeared to have dropped in importance.
The consultants/agencies didn’t have to spend too much “hands on” time on a client’s website. All they had to do was invest in “bulk link building” software and cheap overseas virtual assistants to pump out high volumes of links.
- Google made its change in 2012 with the beginning of the Panda/Penguin and other updates. These required the SEO professional (company employee or consultant/agency) to begin to evaluate where to start acquiring links from authoritative websites. This required more “finesse” than just bulk-volume link building. As in most industries, with the need for finesse comes premium pricing.
- Some of the Google updates then forced the SEO professional to also prevent the “too good to be true” scenario from happening. Many companies had links which were almost “too perfect” and were properly-optimized everywhere. Google updated its algorithm to “slap” (drop the rankings for) websites which didn’t have a “link profile” which was more natural-looking. Hence, the need for “de-optimized” links became more important. Again, more finesse was now required.
- The same thing later happened with the on-page optimization. If a company’s website pages were “too perfect” and had too much properly-optimized content then it didn’t look “natural”. The SEO professional now had to invest more time on the actual website’s on-page SEO factors.
- The SEO professionals who then built their own TRULY private blog networks also got “slapped” recently because some of the way they structured the sites that they used to help clients. Many of these outside websites were structured in ways which left blatant “footprints”. Once the search engine algorithm picked up on these footprints, it was able to negate any benefit that these privately-constructed sites were bringing to help a client’s website rankings.
- Finally, Google is starting to evaluate the quality of the content on OTHER pages which link to your page, not just the text of the link (“anchor text”). The need for quality articles, videos, images and other media – on authoritative websites – linking back to your desired web page has started to skyrocket. Again, with the need for quality – instead of bulk volume – comes higher costs due to the need for finesse and more precision.
A Helpful Acronym To Remember When It Comes To Online Marketing
All of the above, and much more, force a quality SEO professional (in-house or third-party) to understand better how to make a company’s website meet three basic measurements. The acronym you are welcome to use can be “A.R.T.”, “T.A.R.” or “R.A.T.” Those three measurements, at a “birds eye view”, are:
- Authoritative: Is the website attempting to rank # 1 authoritative for that particular keyword phrase (query)? If someone from Google manually reviewed the # 1 ranking (instead of the robot/algorithm doing the “reviewing”), would that person deem the current # 1 site to be authoritative on the subject?
- Relevant: Is the website attempting to rank # 1 offering relevant, timely (or “timeless”!!) information that truly can benefit the website visitor?
- Trustworthy: Is the site, overall, trustworthy? Is it free from spam, mobile-friendly, have practices in place to protect visitor identity, have full disclosures, and other security/reassurance measures in place?
Why Does Google Need All Of This?
The reason why Google – and any other major company in the internet search/social media industry – need to have so many hurdles and filters now to earn a # 1 ranking? The primary reason is that they are publicly traded companies (see here)!
They need to generate revenues AND beat quarterly analyst estimates just like any other publicly traded company. They assume that the harder they make it for the average business to earn a # 1 organic (free) ranking, the more likely that business is to resort to spending money on the paid advertising platform (e.g. Google AdWords).
That is the primary way that the search engine makes its money. Remember that making a search is free to you, so they have to monetize each page somehow!
Pay-per-click advertising is a very viable strategy, and it will be discussed in a future post for local businesses. Companies, however, which were used to getting traffic from the search engines – but had search rankings drop – typically “stampede” into pay-per-click in an attempt to make their phones ring. With any new marketing strategy, however, they are going to make mistakes and likely overspend.
Guess who benefits at that point? That’s right, the search engine or social media platform!
That makes reaching their quarterly earnings estimates a lot easier!
The search engine companies have to make institutional investors (mutual funds, hedge funds, etc.) want to invest in internet companies as an industry overall. They also compete for dominance within the industry itself. Each search engine company (and social media company) wants mutual funds to consider its company to be the leader (from an investment standpoint) within the internet company sector.
All of this means is that they need to gain institutional investor market share on two levels. To do so, they need to make their OWN platforms the most “Authoritative, Relevant, and Trustworthy” that they can. By doing so, each attempts to convince the average searcher to use their platform exclusively over all of the other options… and hopefully click those paid ads on each page!
“Thanks For The History Lesson…. But What Does That Have To Do With The Website I Want To Rank?”
Even though all you care about is using the search engines to help you expand your business into a new geographic area, please consider re-reading the above history. The reasons why I recommend this are:
- By understanding what is really going on, you likely won’t be subject to someone selling you a “black box”
- You may be able to reduce your costs to expand into the new area
- You will know what to post on your website (or other web properties you control) in order to get someone from the new geographic area to take action
- You MAY be able to expand and get results faster than you expect
- You can use pay-per-click budgets more artfully and get better data to then use for longer-term SEO strategies
- There is less risk (no guarantees of course!) that your website will incur some sort of penalty from the search engines
If nothing else, you also may be able to refute easily the false promises of the multitude of SEO solicitation calls and e-mails you get each week! Use the above history to shut them down. Hopefully, you will be removed from the contact lists of the substandard online marketing companies just looking to trap you in some kind of unhelpful, long-term contract.
Expanding Your Geographic Reach
With all of this history, here are some simple ways to make it possible for your website to gain exposure in a new geographic market. For this, you will want to achieve as much Authority/Relevance/Trust as possible regarding the new geographic area:
- If appropriate, add a new page to your website specific to that new market. Consider this to be a “landing page” and add lots of beneficial, unique and helpful content about the specific new area.
- Should a page on a local authority website for that area (e.g. that town’s city government page, the convention and visitors bureau website, or school district website) provide confirmation about your service then have an “outbound” (external) link to that content on your new region-specific page. This way the search engines see that you are linking to something relevant and authoritative in order to make your page helpful to any page visitor.
- Since you want someone in that new market to do business with you, consider some sort of incentive (if you are legally permitted) to have them contact you. If nothing else, make it easy to have that person contact you.
- However you can, get links from authoritative sites in that new geographic area to link to your new page. If you have to make a small donation to a charitable organization in that area, and have them link to your new page, then do so. Otherwise contact a quality local SEO professional who knows how to get local links.
- Make sure that the new page is in your website’s sitemap. This makes it easier for any search engine to index/crawl the new page properly and quickly.
- If appropriate, syndicate an online press release with a link to the new geographic-specific page. Use a quality press release distribution service and attempt to have something truly “newsworthy” to share so that the press release readers derive actual value. That “value” can vary, but make sure it is worth someone’s time to read the release!
- Hire a good SEO professional to help you gain further trust online in the new geographic market. The SEO professional does NOT have to be local, but it should be someone who understands the principles of gaining trust in any local market around the United States.
Wrapping This Up
Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read this post. I hope that you now understand a bigger picture of search engines, from the perspective of the search engine company.
Remember that by doing so, you likely can:
- Make your website (or parasite page) more authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant in the search engines and get your phone ringing more
- Cut your overall marketing and advertising costs because you will be much more precise with your budget
- Have higher odds of longer-term rankings because every time something is published on your behalf it is quality and looks natural. This likely would cut your costs because you wouldn’t need to “stampede” into pay-per-click advertising and make high-cost mistakes in the process
- If the quality is good you even may have people voluntarily share it with their friends and colleagues. This cuts your costs to acquire a new customer/client
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how a deeper understanding of this big picture can help your business grow by, hopefully, making the phone ring with new customers or clients!