Most SEO articles do a great job of explaining how to market your online business. Unfortunately, for those that have local mom and pop shops, this isn’t very helpful. To explain what I mean, let’s use a doctor’s office as an example. Doctors have no need to focus on ranking nationally (in most cases) because the majority of their patients live within a 15-20 mile radius. Sure, specialty doctors will get patients from further away and this article will address that. It’s important to remember that we are focusing on a specific geographical market and not the entire online population. 

Understanding the differences between marketing for online business vs local businesses

These require two different approaches. The biggest difference, which can be used advantageously, is the Google local pack. Local businesses must take advantage of this space. If you don’t know what this is, it’s the first three listings that come up with the map in the search engine results. The top business receives roughly 70% of the hits so it’s worth optimizing your site/listing to rank there. 

Online businesses do not have this advantage, unless of course they do both online and offline sales. Keyword research is still top priority for both, but ranking in the local pack changes the keywords you’ll want to rank for. 

Do your keyword research

Before sitting down and creating a page on your site, you should understand first what your customer persona. What does your ideal customer look like? After you figure that out, you can use a keyword research tool like Keywords Everywhere to get a sense of how many searches there are for a specific keyword. 

Going back to the doctors office example, let’s say we (meaning you) want to rank for physical therapy. Notice the “want”. It’s important not to get caught up in wanting to rank for a specific keyword and focus on ranking for the ones you need to AKA those with higher search volume. Perhaps “pain management” is a more appropriate keyword to generate traffic which will ultimately lead to more physical therapy patients. 

You should still have a physical therapy page on your site but then another pain management page that links back to the PT page as relevant content. If the content is good and shows authority, keywords like “pain management near me” should rank well in time. 

Optimize your Google business listing

We already discussed the important of the Google Local Pack. It’s time to optimize. Sign into your Google Business Profile if you haven’t already and claim ownership of your business. Go through the various fields and fill in all information to the best of your ability. Be sure to categorize your business properly with the primary category and also be sure to add sub categories that are relevant to your business. Verify the phone number and address match your site identically. Any differences can (and will) cause Google’s algorithms to rank other sites higher if they have a better match. It is common for directory sites to rank higher than your own because they have so much more domain authority.

Optimize your site for SEO

Many times you’ll be reading this page after you’ve already created your site. Maybe it’s been live for some time and you’re just not happy with how your ranking. It’s time to carefully and tediously review each page and all the content on your site. If you are on the WordPress platform, there are some great tools like Yoast SEO and Rank Math that can help you optimize by scoring your site in real time as you make changes. Do your keyword research first and then create content around it.

Check rankings on a regular basis and make adjustments

Google will crawl your site on a regular basis. It’s hard to say how often but let’s assume its around once per week. Search engine results are constantly being changed based on what users are finding and clicking on; they are very dynamic. As more data is pumped into the Google algorithms, your site will, hopefully, continuously improve its ranking. Checking the Google Search Console every 30 days or so and comparing to prior months will help you determine if your changes have been effective or not. Look at click-through rates (CTR) and impressions. These two metrics can provide the insight you need to make changes to your content.