Whenever one talks about SMEs in India, approx. 51 million is the number that floats around. This is a big deal (US has 6 million SME’s), especially for companies trying to target these SME’s and for the country they do business in. SME’s in India generate 80% of all jobs in the country.
Though the point of discussion here is not the numbers, we are here to talk about SEO for Small businesses and Startups, or any business targeting local customers for that matter.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a branch of digital marketing which concentrates on pulling local customers to the business at exactly the time they are looking for the product or service provided by you. It makes local businesses visible to local customers when they search for the services/products.
Essentially Local SEO is like SEO, bringing one major difference to digital marketing- the target audience is your local customer, i.e., customers in your locality or city.
This is very different from your usual marketing strategy- in the sense, everything is digital and you take the help of search engines, content and websites to direct local customers to you.
Why Is Local SEO Important?
If you run a small business or have started a new business recently, one of the first things you would like to do is to gain customers who are in close proximity to your store or business.
Of course, you can print information brochures or pamphlets, advertise in local papers, or put on hoardings to do this but these would
- Be Expensive
- Be targeting an entire community instead of potential customers
- Not have a trackable matrix on how successful the marketing effort was
- Disappear when you stop paying for it
You would be spending unknown hours hoping this works and keep putting in the time that you could have otherwise used to gain and help customers.
Local SEO efforts are digital in nature, and can be used to target specific people. This in turn ensures that:
- Only interested people come to you
- You have a trackable matrix to follow up with your leads and monitor your efforts
As a small/new company it is preferable that you optimize cost while increasing revenue. Local SEO would help you to do that.
How To Go About Local SEO?
For most folks who are new to this, Local SEO can be confusing, especially with all the so-called SEO experts around making it expensive for them.
Local SEO doesn’t need to be expensive if you use some of the following tactics that can increase your business locally:
1. Local Business listings
If you have had the chance to go through newspapers sometime in 2015, chances are you might have heard about Google My Business (GMB) by Google, that aims to bring 20 million SME’s online.
This is not only for SME’s- any business small or medium, and startups that target local customers can use this. Apart from GMB there is Bing Places and various other free business listings that one should be on. Some of the most prominent ones in India are as follows. (click on the link and register)
Business Listings in India
This remains true for any business which targets local population and wants to keep its costs minimal. Of course you can also go the content marketing way mentioned in our previous blog.
2. Build a website
If you have had the chance to visit any of the above mentioned business listings, you would have noticed that all of them ask for your web address.
Considering how 400+ million Indians use internet, and a chunk of these users look for services or products online before they make the actual purchase, it is logical to assume that every SME/startup would have its own website to cater to that need.
Also, people with maximum liquid disposable income (like those who buy things from Flipkart and Amazon) would primarily research online before making a purchase through web or via a physical store.
In case you don’t have a website, here are some free or inexpensive services that can help you build a website. These are arranged in terms of the cost associated, features and ease-of-use.
Most of the (paid) tools mentioned above have a free version, but when you are running a serious business, you need an image/reputation both online and offline. Online image depends on your website and the associated domain. Paid tools are reliable and come with a dedicated domain, thus increasing credibility for your business and visibility for your brand.
3. Start writing content for better SEO and higher search ranking
One of the most obvious mistakes that we have seen businesses make is to create a good looking website and assume that it would be enough for them to get the results they require.
Though search engines do require a well built website, they also need to show relevant search results to their users. For a machine, relevant search is the good content that matches what the user was searching for. This stands true for any kind of SEO including LOCAL SEO.
There are 2 ways to go about it,
- A dynamic website whose content keeps updating everyday
- Create an attached blog/updates page.
A good example of the first option is e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Amazon who, by the very nature of their business, have new products, pictures and reviews (which is fresh content) on their website.
Blog is the best option for companies that do not sell hundreds of products like the ones on e-commerce websites. A good example to follow would be the Zapier blog.
Good content would drive traffic, period!
4. Online Reviews
Once you are online and visible to your existing and potential customers on various directories and listings, social media, and on your own blog. The customer would be tempted to review or leave a comment.
More so when they are not satisfied or when they are very happy with your product and services.
Google, for instance, takes the online reviews of your company into consideration while showing the search results. Most listings have an option to filter by average customer reviews.
Keep your customer happy and ask for a review (you should have seen this on various apps that you already use on your phone) when you think you have done a good job.
5. Go Social
When I started looking for a place to live in the new city I moved in, the first thing I did was to join a bunch of Facebook groups and pages that catered to people’s house-hunting needs.
Most service providers weren’t there. The ones who were using the platform didn’t leverage it for good brand positioning or probably did not know how to get a favorable message across.
If you are trying to gain customers locally, it is pertinent to have a Facebook page, Twitter handle, Linkedin, and Instagram accounts. These would drive traffic onto your website, eventually leading to higher ranking and more business.
If you are a local business (a store, retail outlet, clinic, etc.) or a business that’s trying to target local users (startup or established), this should definitely make sense to you. If implemented well, this will give you some momentum.
Use these suggestions and let us know how it helped.