The research and reporting giant Statista revealed that 19% of startups fail because they could not perform against their competitors, and at least 14% close their doors due to poor marketing. With the right visibility strategies, both of these common failure points are avoidable.
Local startups that are looking to experience rapid growth in the first year must clearly understand and appreciate the foundational importance of search engine optimization. It’s the core element of a strong content marketing strategy that helps brands increase their online presence and attract more local foot traffic from online searches.
Traditional search engine optimization differs significantly from local SEO and is specifically targeting a geographic area. For location-specific businesses and geographic lead generation, strategic and effective deployment of local SEO strategies should be at the core of all marketing efforts.
In a study conducted by HubSpot, it was revealed that 72% of consumers walk through the doors of a brick-and-mortar store within a 5-mile radius of their location after searching online.
So how do they do it? How do startups and local stores ensure the local community finds them online? How do they get what they have to offer in front of the right geographic audience? With a properly executed search engine optimization implementation plan.
This is one of the most powerful methods of increasing walk-ins as well as on-site sales. Of course, SEO is not a quick fix or overnight success strategy. But in the startup world, nothing really is.
Here are the top strategies for local SEO campaigns to set startups up for rapid growth in the first year and long-term success.
Check and Update All Local Listings
When was the last time a startup Googled their own company? What came up? What’s missing? What is outdated?
Update as much information as possible as soon as you find it. The more control a brand has over its online date, the more search engine result page rankings will improve. This also improves the accuracy for viewers and ensures they’re always getting the most recent information.
Google My Business AKA The Google “Snack Pack”
First things first. If a startup has not yet claimed and verified their businesses in Google My Business, that is the first order of business. Once that is done, it’s time to optimize the data therein.
It will show four potential store matches in a row with essential information listed:
- Review ranking or stars
- Business category
- Physical Address
- Phone number
- Hours and if the location is currently open or closed
- Link to the website
- Link to driving directions and maps
Often a listing will have a green square that says “ad” beside the star ranking. This indicates a paid promotion. While Google is able to collect all this data directly from your website, that’s not how these “local pack” listings are compiled.
This is what will appear as a snippet of information on search engine results pages when a relevant search is conducted. It will be a snapshot of the business that is immediately accessible to researchers and stacked among other potential matches.
This is also called the “Local Pack” and is a collection of the top four businesses that Google believes will suit the searcher’s intent. This “Local Pack” is served up by Google based on what the AI bots have determined is a match for their inquiry.
According to Google’s own data, its algorithm will organize and serve results By following these three categories:
- Relevance to the search
- Distance from the searcher
- Prominence and online credibility
For local searches, if Google’s crawlers determine that one store offers a better product match over a competitor who is geographically closer, that first store is more likely to rank higher, regardless of the distance.
This may work against startups before they’ve had a chance to fully implement their online SEO and content strategy. If the brand is closer to the searcher and yet the online prominence and credibility are much lower, this could mean lost business.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen! To fully optimize any brand’s Google My Business listing, focus on these updates and enhancements:
- Remove all incomplete or inaccurate information
- Verify the physical location
- Be transparent with review management
- Display the most popular products or services
- Only upload the best high-quality photos
This is the data the Google crawlers will pull directly from relevant GMB profiles To create the “Local Pack” listings. The startups want their brand to be on that list for relevant searches, it’s imperative to keep this data fresh and accurate.
In another report from Statista, it was reported that Google has dominated with no less than 85% of the search engine market share since 2010, and there were a few years when they overtook the share by over 91%.
Like it or not, we all have to play by Google’s rules. There’s no debate that it is by far the most popular search engine online today. That hasn’t changed for at least the past twelve years and it doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing.
Don’t Ignore The Other Search Engines
Now that we’ve made a case for the power of Google let’s talk about the competition. While no one else has quite the same search power, Google’s popularity may work against startup SEO strategies.
Because it is popular and powerful, that means it’s also crowded, competitive, and costly. While many startups should default to Google as an easy proving ground, it’s not wise to ignore the other platforms.
Using some of the same principles, find and optimize business listings on other search engines, including Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo. Always use original images and only upload a high-quality and clear version of the company logo.
They may not drive the same level of traffic as Google, but the priority should be on the consistency of data across multiple channels. Wherever potential customers may find the brand is where it’s important to make sure the information they find is correct. This is how to put the brand’s best digital foot forward.
Use Targeted Local Keywords For Rapid First Year Growth
Keywords are the very first step in creating an online content strategy. If one was building a home, this would be the floor plan. These keywords and phrases should represent what the target market is searching for,
This data will be based on questions they have, products and services they need, or problems they’re trying to solve. Injecting these keywords into website and blog content will boost business rankings on SERPs.
The primary difference with a local SEO strategy is that startups also need a geographic element in their target keywords. For example, if the brand is a boutique clothing shop, give the storefront a local focus by incorporating the city, state, region, or county in search terms.
If one shoots for basic terms such as “clothing store” in their search, this will serve large corporations that will muddy the results, including stores such as Target, Old Navy, and Shein. However, “clothing stores in San Diego” will serve completely different brands that will be far more relevant to someone in the local area.
Local startups should do everything possible to ensure they fit the latter category and are visible to shoppers in the local community. Of course, no one is suggesting that those major shops aren’t a competition because, at some level, they are. But by showing up consistently in search engine results for the local area, startups will begin to increase credibility.
Take the time to conduct detailed keyword research and understand how the target audience interacts with topics related to the brand. Look for focused keywords and long tail key phrases that are well known in the marketplace and connect them to the desired local area.
Keywords and Offers
Marketing to the local community, a strong keyword strategy is what we’ll get desired products and services in front of the right prospects. When this strategy is combined with an effective offer, this is what will drive consumers through the doors of the physical location and turn them into paying customers.
Develop an offer that is specifically for local buyers. Show foot traffic consumers that the brand is invested in the community and wants to serve those who live there.
Understanding Citations and “NAPW” Data
A local citation is data that exists anywhere online related to the brand in question. The “NAPW” stands for basic contact information:
- Phone Number
- Website URL
These business details are what feed online directories and serve as an objective source to verify the business is legitimate. This also sends a signal to search engines that this data is safe to display.
The credibility of the website where this information is listed is also important. Avoid posting on spammy websites as this will only hurt the overall online reputation and can negatively affect rankings. Aim for high-credibility and high-traffic platforms and websites that complement and enhance rather than detract.
It’s best to have a mix of unstructured listings as well as structured ones. The difference is structured listings are forms the brand has filled out on sites such as Yelp and local business directories. Unstructured listings come from off-page SEO strategies such as digital PR, media exposure, social media, and backlinks.
Double check the category of the business and ensure all photos are high quality and clear. Create a concise and strategic website description and connect all social media profiles. Each of these small steps adds to the startup’s online credibility meter and can increase rankings.
Remember To Leverage Secondary Citation Sources
In our app-forward world, there’s a platform for everything. Know what’s relevant to the target market and ensure the brand always shows up where they spend their time:
- Facebook and Instagram
- Trip Advisor
- YellowPages (No, it’s not dead!)
- Apple Maps
These platforms are all powerful tools that can help a start-up boost its online presence and local authority.
Optimize These SEO Elements
Any marketer worth their salt will say there are three basic elements of SEO when it comes to optimizing for local website traffic: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. These make up the framework of all SEO strategies.
Review these components and conduct an audit of the website!
On-page SEO refers to the content and language-driven presentation of the website. In short, it’s the words on the page.
All page titles, content headings, and URL tags should be enhanced with keywords related to the topic contained therein. Meta titles and descriptions should include strategic keywords as well as location information.
Create a location page for every city where services are provided. The site map is laid out logically and includes as much information as possible to help the AI bots understand what’s there.
Off-Page SEO Optimization
Off-page SEO is validation from outside sources that will enhance the website’s credibility and authority online.
This includes social media profiles that should be connected to the website and Industry partner collaborations on content or offers that will help to establish a backlink strategy.
Seek out media coverage, it’s not as difficult to land as one might think. Once that’s in place, now it can be promoted on all the existing channels already available.
Get comfortable with a microphone and try the podcast circuit. This is another asset that can be promoted and shared across all channels.
Look for local influencers who may be interested in working together to promote the brand. For this to work for SEO, there must be a digital trail from the source to the website.
The technical element of SEO refers to the coded elements of a website that make it work smoothly and communicate more easily with search engine Crawlers.
Elements that fall into the technical categories include page load speed, navigation, security settings, content framing, mobile friendliness, and an organized site map.
Get Rapid First Year Growth With Local SEO
It’s much easier to start optimizing and enhancing as a start-up than it will be to work backward later. Optimize and grow!
Author Bio Below
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.