It used to be that SEO levelled the playing field and allowed small companies to compete with major corporations. But now those corporations are ploughing huge resources into their own SEO and it’s a lot harder. So how can smaller fish make a big splash in such a crowded pond? From local search to social marketing, here are some important tips.
Know Your Target Market
With the recent Google Venice update, local search is one of the biggest trends in SEO, even though you don’t always hear a lot of noise about it. Google Maps has claimed its rightful place at the top of any search results for location-based queries, and Google as a whole is becoming smarter at detecting where you are.
What this all means is that a listing for a local search can propel you to the very top of the SERPs – in that box alongside the map where results are labelled alphabetically and pinpointed on the map. And there’s little to nothing that the big brands can do to overtake you – it all depends on where you are.
To target your local market, decide which place names your customers are likely to be searching for. Make sure these appear on your website – even if only on a page listing the locations of your offices or stores. And claim your Google Places page so you can fill out all the details and make sure you’re one of those businesses picked for the Google Maps box up top.
The Personal Touch
What can a small firm do that a huge multinational cannot? There are actually lots of things, and they come down to the benefit of being just one person, or a small group of committed entrepreneurs.
Make clear that your company is small – but in a positive way. ‘Focused’ and ‘specialised’ are great euphemisms for this that should help it to sound like a good thing. Don’t be afraid to picture your team on your website, or to have brief individual biographies on your ‘about us’ page.
The internet is a large and often impersonal place – big corporations will rarely have an individual’s name on their ‘contact us’ page. You can outperform them on this by naming a point of contact, giving a home phone number or even welcoming people to visit you in person to talk about what they need and how you can help them.
Remember that it’s your business and your decision how you compete with your rivals, big and small. You might want to keep things professional, or you might want the personal touch to demonstrate your commitment to potential customers.
Social Media Marketing
There are actually two parts to this one, and they depend on the rather fine distinction between social media and social networks.
Social networks are quick and easy to use – create a business page or account, and start posting status updates and replying to your customers. If you have a proactive customer service team, this is an ideal way to show that you resolve issues as quickly and amicably as possible. If you just want to have a bit of fun with your customers, you can run simply competitions and voucher giveaways in seconds.
Social media really means photos, videos and audio. Depending on what business you’re in, you might find that sending out pictures or videos of your products helps to bridge that gap between the virtual world of the internet and the bricks-and-mortar experience of shopping in a real-world store.
Whether you try one of the methods listed above, or you choose to take another route, flexibility is key to small businesses. You have the ability to change rapidly in response to things that are not working, or that are working particularly well. Do your best to monitor how any efforts are performing, and don’t be afraid to alter your strategy in light of your findings.
The last point is probably one of the biggest advantages small businesses can quickly change and adapt to local or seasonal trends, make this your USP!