The pandemic negatively affected businesses, both large and small. Many shuttered their stores, some permanently. One of the positive things that came out of this was a call from many consumers and organizations to shop and support locally.
Cited as reasons to support local merchants was the fact that they hire locally, so the money remains in the community and makes for a stronger local economy. Another strong argument is that shopping locally strengthens local relationships and makes for a closer community. The American Independent Business Alliance even suggested that local merchants are more prone to carry locally produced goods.
In spite of these calls and initiatives, many local businesses are still fighting for survival and can help themselves by employing these two tactics. The first is to be discoverable. Word of mouth is great but with more people searching online, getting found is critical.
One of the challenges for small, local businesses is that there’s nowhere near as much data or studies readily available. What is known is that more than half of local retailers (56%) hadn’t even claimed a free listing in Google My Business in a November 2018 study of more than 2,100 merchants by Brandmuscle. Not only had most small business owners neglected Google, but they also disregarded other freebies like Yahoo (79%), Yelp (66%), Bing (82%), yp.com or the Yellow Pages (81%), and the BBB or Better Business Bureau (84%).
At the time of the study, 57% of local merchants said they managed their own digital marketing. Another 25% had an agency or vendor, and the corporate office performed 18%. Irrespective of the sources of responsibility, it’s important that all of the free choices listed be claimed. In doing so, merchants may also discover existing records with outdated information. Cici’s Beyond Pizza was one who uncovered 14,000 inaccurate listings. The same report said local merchants who were listed on one or more of the listings were overconfident about its accuracy and didn’t check them periodically with local data management tools.
Claiming just the Google My Business listing opens the door to local search engine optimization (SEO) not just from Google, but other search engines as well like Yelp, Bing, and Apple maps to name a few. However, because the vast majority of searches are done on Google, the following tips are mostly directed there.
When consumers conduct a search on Google, they receive a snack pack box and/or an organic listing. The snack pack shows a map with information about the top three local listings below it. The organic results simply list the business and pertinent information. A study by Marketing Psychology showed that 33% of the clicks end up as a snack pack while 40% go to the regular organic results. This makes it important to rank in both for maximum success. With more people on their smartphones, what this also means is that local businesses need to be sure that their websites are optimized for mobile searches. A BrightLocal study reported that 61% of mobile consumers are more likely to contact a local business that has a mobile-friendly site. If in doubt, conduct a test by visiting Mobile-Friendly Test – Google Search Console.
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