1. Research competitors and differentiate yourself
Competitor research is important because as a local business, you’ll want to be able to offer additional value in the market. Google Search is a great place to start. You can see how your competitors are positioning themselves within their ads. In this example, the below shows Google Search Ads results for local Nottingham plumbers. Terms such as “No Call Out Charge”, “Fully Qualified Plumbers” and “1Hr Response” are great selling points.
Now, you must be thinking, how could I differentiate myself from all the other plumbers who more or less provide a similar service? Entrepreneur.com says: “If you have no differentiator (and many startups don’t), invent one”.
Here are some methods of differentiation you could use as per MarketResearch.com:
- Product – most notable but easily duplicated and could be short-lived
- Service – training, installation, speed, ease of doing business etc
- Distribution – suppliers, manufacturers, distributors or retailers you work with
- Relationship – employees and customer service could be an effective means to differentiate. Perhaps add a review service such as a Trustpilot rating
- Image/Reputation – this can be established through your current customers who can later become your advocates
- Price – again, this can easily be duplicated. However, depending on your product, customers may choose to pay more if there is an added value in doing business with you
2. Get your website basics right
Online users are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of the experience they expect from a website. They want a fast loading website as a minimum requirement. As a local business, you may not have the budget of the bigger, national or international firms, but you can at the very least get the basics right. Jon Martin, our Technical Director at Hallam, recently discussed how to balance fast web page load speeds with rich content.
From the above stats, you can see how much of an effect a slow website can have on your chances of converting new users into customers. Page speed or page load time is becoming ever more important as we shift to a more mobile-first world with slower 3G internet connections. Google PageSpeed Insightsshows you how you can reduce the loading time of your website.
You can test your website’s mobile speed with Google’s free tool and see how you could decrease bounce rates.
3. Improve Google My Business listing and customer reviews
Your online reputation as a small business owner could be the deciding factor when a prospective customer is searching for your product/service. Luckily, with Google My Business, you have a level of control when it comes to managing how people perceive your business. My colleague, Stan Dunthorne, has created the easy guide to optimising your Google My Business listing.
Some of the common mistakes to avoid include:
- Duplicate listings
- Setting up unnecessary new listings after a change of address
- Business name misuse e.g. adding unnecessary promotional messages
Customer reviews aren’t anything new, but you would be surprised as to how often this is overlooked. 30% of people said reviews were key when judging local businesses so I would ensure this as a top priority as part of your digital marketing strategy.
4. Create interesting blog content
If you’re in a very competitive industry – and most local businesses are – you would need to think about a content strategy that will drive results. Working with smaller businesses, it’s often the case that it’s highly unlikely to rank on the first page of Google for a broad term related to their product/service.
For example, “Plumbing Nottingham” would be near impossible if you’re just entering the market.
Firstly, this would require a large budget and resources that wouldn’t make achieving this affordable. Secondly, ranking for a broad term may not eventually lead to more customers. This is where your blog content plays an important role.
Write the perfect blog post with this blogging guide from Rebecca Bull.
- Putting the audience first
- Making sure it’s SEO friendly
- Correct tone of voice
- Showing readers they can trust you
The below screenshot is an example of how we increased organic traffic for a local business in Nottingham through researching blog content that they could produce in-house.
5. Consider Google Ads for your small business
Previously known as Google AdWords, Google Ads is evolving.
However, the principles remain the same and the fundamentals are covered in this helpful small business PPC guide from Google.
There are eight stages to follow:
- Set your goals
- Do your research
- Define your budget
- Set your structure
- Choose your keywords
- Be relevant
- Use strong messaging
- Look at the whole picture
New Google Keyword Planner
One of the key stages when creating your Google Ads Search campaigns is selecting appropriate keywords. Google Keyword Planner has been updated on the new interface to help with this.
New features include:
- Volume trends – spot seasonality trends
- Breakdown by platform (device) – desktop/tablet/mobile traffic splits
- Improved forecasting tools