2014 could be the year of small businesses. This is the year that they can feel bullish about their future than ever before.  The economy is recovering and access to finance is getting easier. In addition, more and more consumers prefer doing business with local product and service providers, so the chances of small businesses attracting the attention of local consumers is increasing. People are generally more comfortable doing business with somebody who offers localised operations; because it is easier to interact at a personal level.

But of all the reasons that indicate 2014 is tailor-made for small businesses for enhancing brand footprint, improving customer relationships and encouraging customer engagement, the one reason that stands out from the crowd is local SEO. Why local SEO? The answer lies in the way small businesses can use local SEO in 2014 to improve their visibility amongst their local audience.

According to an ongoing consumer tracking study by BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, 97 percent of consumers use online media while researching for products and services available in their local area. This figure alones illustrates the importance of local SEO in the small business scheme of things.

If you’ve not embraced Local SEO yet, here are a few reasons why you should in 2014:

  • Your business ranks in Google’s local search results page, giving it greater visibility.
  • Local listing in Google+ and Facebook pages adds credibility to your web presence, with people giving more importance to social proof rather than organic rankings.
  • Local SEO also helps improve your business’s visibility on the mobile devices of your target consumers; it helps you become a part of the mobile ecosystem.
  • The chances of your conversions growing up improve with local SEO as there is more chance that a searcher will click on your business link.
  • Local SEO is the proverbial low hanging fruit that helps small businesses take charge of their local marketing and own it; it helps them carve a niche in their region without substantial investments.

So how can small businesses make the most of local SEO in 2014 to improve brand awareness, customer engagement and business profitability? Let’s take a look:

Real Reviews, Real Customers

Reviews are of tremendous significance in Local SEO, and the more reviews your business gets the better it is for your revenue generation goals. But, “enterprising” local SEOs have been trying to cut corners by publishing fake reviews on Google, Yelp and other sites. In 2014, expect a crackdown on such reviews as companies start culling fake reviews by putting in place a more rigorous mechanism for identifying such reviews. A good idea this year will be to focus on getting real reviews from real customers, so that you are not at the receiving end of the action taken against fake reviews.

Good reviews and recommendations are an outcome of great products and services, so focus on the quality of your product and service offerings. It all begins from there.

Leverage Social Media as Much as You Can

One of the ways you can create brand loyalty and positive reviews and ratings is by building relationships with your customers on social media. This is the reason why social will further embed itself in a small business’s local SEO strategy. You need to start developing a local SEO social strategy wherein you start sharing localized content to fans and followers who belong to the specific local neighborhood that you wish to target.

Another important focus area for local SEOs in 2014 should be Google+. Consumers are looking for Google+ local pages and if your business profile on Google+ hasn’t been optimized for local consumption, you are missing a trick. Make sure your business profile has all information that will help target audiences know more about your business.

Google+ is good but do not forget Facebook in 2014. With just over a billion people accessing Facebook, this represents an enormous opportunity for expanding your customer base. Whether you want to utilize Facebook paid advertising or use your Facebook business page to target consumers, make sure you leverage the immense potential of this platform.

Get the Fundamentals Right

Whether it’s 2014, 2015 or beyond, you need to get the fundamentals of local SEO right. Identify the right search terms that will get your local customers to your business website/listing. Focus on long tailed keywords and make smart keyword choices. Making sure your web content is optimized for the right local keywords is the foundation of your local SEO efforts.

Also do not forget to fill up your Google+ Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Places local business directory listings completely. There are others local directories out there but these are the top three and you need to get these right. When you are setting up profiles, make sure they’ve been optimized correctly and leave no section out while filling in the information. Use videos, the right images, fill up the business description and do not forget to verify the listings.

Rock solid SEO is also defined by the accuracy of your citations and business directory listings. Make sure that you choose only the best directories and ensure you use the same format across all listings.

The key to achieving success in local SEO is paying attention to the details.

More of the Same – But, Experiment

There isn’t a marked difference in how you will go about doing SEO in 2014, but you can definitely experiment with your existing strategy. Whether it’s the kind of content format you choose or the way you start building social media influence, there are plenty of ways you can add a dash of uniqueness to your local SEO strategy. This will allow you to differentiate your brand from its competitors and if you’re really good, it will help your business stay ahead of your competitors.

Charlie

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