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Local SEO Helps Small Businesses Portray the Illusion of Being Huge 0

Last week I decided for the first time to take my family to see the Christmas lights displayed at the Mormon temple nearby in Washington DC. I’ve lived in the DC area for over a decade, and was always intrigued by the huge castle-like temple that could be seen from the beltway.

Local SEO Analogy

Mormon Temple in DC

To my surprise the “huge” temple was actually only about three stories high. It’s situated on top of a hill which makes it look bigger than it actually is. Small businesses can have that same illusion of being “huge” while still being small or a start-up company. In today’s competitive online marketing race, small businesses can compete locally with bigger competitors by implementing a comprehensive local search engine optimization campaign.

Search engines in the past couple of years have implemented changes to their ranking algorithms to return local search engine results (SERPS) based on the searcher’s geographic area. These changes have made it possible for small businesses to reach local potential leads without having the big marketing budget as their competitors.

People searching online look for results that are relevant to their search query. They do not care if a business is small. If they see something on the results page that gets their attention, they will click on that link. So a small business that has a couple of employees can give the illusion as being bigger than it actually is based on how it’s represented online.

While this is great news for small businesses, implementing an effective local search engine optimization (Local SEO) is critical to reach and stay in the top pages of search engine results. Many small business owners think they can manage this campaign in-house, yet if it’s done incorrectly, it can do more ham than help a small business. It can also be more expensive later on to hire an experience local SEO company to clean up the mistakes.

A mistake that is commonly made is discrepancies in business listings citations. On one business directory, a small business’ name could be displayed as ABC Inc, while in another as ABC, and in a third directory as ABC Incorporated. Search engines can treat these three listings as different companies, which will devalue the citations. This means that business references from these three listings will have little benefit to the small business of establishing online authority and moving up in search engine rankings.

Things are not always as they seem. Local small businesses can compete online with bigger, more established competitors, with an effective local SEO campaign.

Webdexign is a small search engine marketing firm based out of Germantown, MD.

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Why local SEO is important? 0

I am constantly asked by small business owners why they need to have a local SEO campaign. They think search engine optimization is simply having a website and listed in search engines.  Most don’t see the benefit of being a local business as an advantage, which can be used to attract more local prospective consumers

Local SEO is in layman terms is simply marketing strategies used to help local businesses become visible and relevant in search engine results within a specific local area for targeted keywords. In today’s competitive environment, it’s becoming harder for local companies to attract potential customers to their mortal and brick stores. Consumers are becoming savvier when it comes to product research than ever before. Local businesses need to adapt to these trends or risks of becoming extinct.

There is good news though; local businesses can use local SEO strategies to compete with big corporations and internet stores and thrive locally. While many products and services can be obtained online, there will always be reasons to use local companies.  One example is consumer service; consumers need to use local business such as in the food industry (restaurants) and health services (doctors).  Consumers need these products or services within specific geographical location. They search for places to eat out nearby. They don’t care to know about a great restaurant located on the other side of the country. Local marketing has become such a hot trend lately, that deep discount coupon websites have pop up everywhere connecting local business with potential local consumers, even Google has gotten into the act lately.

Effective local SEO is not simply adding or claiming your local business listings, but making sure is done properly. A minor mistake such as a variation of a business address such as “Drive” instead of “Dr.” in business listings can cause search engines to view each listing as two different businesses.  Local SEO is still in its infancy, but it is becoming more and more increasingly important for local businesses. Local SEO may follow the trend of social media, which has grown rapidly in a short time span.

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Social Media Presence is Essential to the Success of Small Businesses 0

One of the biggest hurdles for small business owners to overcome, is that need to accept and engage in social media presence. Most do not see the value and significance to their business success. In some respect, you can’t blame them.  Social media sites are seeing by the public eye as an entertainment outlet for voicing your opinion, or to “catch up” with old high school friends. Often you hear of celebrities posting their thoughts or mundane daily activities, most people don’t care to know.  Most owners are busy running their small business that they don’t have time to post or tweet something on a regular basis.  

The reality though is that social media presence is here to stay and business owners need to embrace it or their will be having a difficult time attracting new customers and staying competitive.  Social media marketing helps small businesses stay relevant with potential customers. Your social circle might not be interested in your services at this time, but if you keep engaging and staying relevant, in the future they might. Their social circles indirectly see your posting and several of them might need your services and contact you, simply because their “friend” likes your page or website.

This untapped sales funnel is causing social sites to now offer business advertising on their sites. Social networks have evolved so much that search engine such as Google are now including social activity as part of the search results algorithms. Now search engine results can be influenced by who “likes” or “tweets” about your business or services.

In the near future all search engine results will be filtered first by preferences of social media circles. So if I am looking for service or product, businesses my friends have used or like will be displayed above those who do not. Running a successful business is very difficult as is. If as a business owner you resist to adapt to these social media changes, it will be hard to stay in business.

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SEO takes courage and patience 0

Online marketing has become such a fierce battleground, that some SEO firms use deceptive black hat techniques to get their clients results which are not natural or legal, according to search engines.  Recently these practices became news recently, when a nationwide retailer allegely got busted for juicking its Google search results. While most SEO firms are ethical there are some bad apples in the tree. These does not mean the SEO tree is bad.

Some SEO firms promised unrealistic results to clients in order to get a contract or please the client. The problem with most SEO firms is they don’t do a good job of educating their clients on the SEO practices both legal (white hat) and illegal (black hat).

In general black hat techniques are illegal practices used to obtain higher rankings on search engines. These shady practices try to “trick” or “gamed” search engines by making a website ranked higher than it actually should. While you may trick search engines in the short term, search engine eventually find out of these shady practices and penalized you or worse banned you from their rankings.

White hat techniques take longer to get the desired results, but are legal and will not artificially promote your website.

Explaining this to clients can take courage and patience. Some clients simply want quick results, no matter how you get them. While we all want to get paid, ethical and principles should come to play. Before I go on, I can already hear the shouts of some SEO consultants screaming there is no such thing as ethical SEO. The way I look at it, I can sleep at night without feeling remorse about something I did at work.

As SEO consultants, we need to have the courage to tell the client “no, we cannot do that”. Most of the time this can be done educating on the do and don’t of SEO. If the client still insist of implementing a shady practice, then it’s probably best to walk away at that point.

SEO is a very difficult and unappreciated work. Most SEO firms work really hard and companies get their money’s worth. Next time your SEO firm tells you to be patience to get the results you want, there is a reason for that.

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Why should a small business have a website 0

In today’s competitive market it’s essential for businesses to have a website. This is especially critical for small local businesses competing against big retail stores.   Potential customers use the internet to look for services and products. It’s easier to visit a search engine like Google, type in a couple of keywords and find businesses they need, than digging up for that yellow pages book they store away somewhere and calling.

Many small businesses know they need to generate new business leads, how they decide to obtaining those leads is a different story.  Some business owners advertise in local newspapers or yellow pages hoping to attract local customers, yet how many people read newspapers or yellow pages books compare to going online these days? Some use signage on their vehicles, yet how many are able to view the sign long enough to get the contact info. Others use old-fashion “word of mouth” approach, yet in today’s competitive market, it’s hard to stay in business using only this approach.

All of the above practices can help generate some new business, but can you really target specific groups?  You know the people that are “ready” to buy your services.  Is you return on investment justify by new customers? No matter how much or little you spend, you should have an idea how many new customers came through that campaign.

Some business owners realize a website is essential for their business, but they decide to create their own website. There are many tools these days that help anyone create functional websites, but these tools cannot give you the experience and expertise of a professional web design company. Professional web designers know the latest web design practices and rules and can customize your website for your target audience and your specific needs. You don’t do your own business tax returns, you hire an accountant. An inadequate web design with no target audience in mind can hurt your business reputation more than not having a website at all.

Websites act like a virtual business card. You have a few seconds to engage visitors, if you don’t have a good design and relevant content, they will move on to your competitors’ websites.