Small businesses face several different challenges when it comes to reaching their desired audience. Whether that means growing a loyal customer base of people that align with your long-term offering, or promoting that initial footfall after opening your doors for the first time.
Finding ways to position your brand, product or storefront against competitors can prove to be difficult at times, but utilising the online sphere with a few simple steps can contribute to further engagement and a drive in performance. One of the best and simplest ways to do this is through search engine optimisation (SEO).
What is SEO and why is it essential for your online brand?
SEO can directly affect where your website ranks in search results to each individual user. This is determined through a number of signals including the following:
- Physical location of the business.
- The relevance of the website’s content to the search query.
- The presence of local-specific keywords in the website’s content and metadata.
This is where keywords come in. SEO keywords are words or phrases that search engines look for to match a local search with the best website results.
Many people will search for terms such as: “bakery near me” or “best bakery in <neighbourhood in London>”. If you are situated in a specific town, borough or neighbourhood, use this to your advantage to encourage search engines to rank your business for those looking in the area.
Similarly, you can utilise any niche features of your business or product offering that individuals might look for when searching online. For example, “best jazz café in Stoke Newington”. A mixture of broad search terms and more specific local terms will cover all bases and allow your business to be found by a variety of potential consumers.
Remember only to include these keywords if your business answers the needs of those searching, or your efforts might end up being counterproductive if visitors don’t find what they are looking for – and worse still, end up leaving a negative review.
This leads on to another crucial step when establishing your online presence and optimising local search: providing key information.
Establishing your online business through data
Search engines like Google frequently absorb all the data about a website and everywhere it is linked to ensure it is correctly positioned to audiences. The higher the positioning, the more likely your page will be seen and interacted with.
The best way to feed your official business information to search engines is through reputable platforms such as claiming a Google My Business listing. This gives you control over key data including:
- Business hours.
- Contact information or NAP (Name, address, phone number).
Adding these details contributes to the reputability of your business as well as providing more information that search engines can use to position you online.
This information can also be added throughout your site with short descriptions such as “Our café is located in <neighbourhood> and offers a wide selection of handmade sweet and savoury items to pick up on the go or a seasonal menu of dishes to order and enjoy in our seated garden area”.
If your store is open 24 hours, Google will recognise this and match you with the needs of those who might take to their phones looking for an artisanal loaf at 3am!
Remember to keep all information accurate, consistent and up to date wherever it is uploaded.
Additional information that will help you to rank is adding meta tags and image alt tags. Meta tags or meta descriptions are extra details that can be added to your webpage to provide more detail about the page and the content it includes. Image alt tags on the other hand give more detail about the images you upload to your webpage. Filling these both in with as much relevance as possible will provide search engines with even more SEO related content, ensuring that your website is being shown to the most relevant online users.
Finally, building your online presence through external links, giving your company a strong backlink profile is a crucial step that you shouldn’t skip. It can be done through relevant websites that will enable search engines to view your business as a trustworthy and authoritative source. For example, other local websites, news sites and directories. Think finding physical flyers inside local newspapers and on venue message boards.
Search engines will see your business linked elsewhere and understand you are worth pushing up the ranks to people who might be interested.
One of the best ways of doing this is registering a geo top-level domain (geoTLD) for your website. Simply put, this is a web extension that makes up part of your businesses web address (URL). It equips the search engine with geographical data that further contributes to SEO ranking. An example of a geoTLD is “.LONDON” for the city of London.
The importance of a geoTLD in business performance.
Registering a geoTLD is an excellent way to position your local business in the area it is situated, and is particularly useful for small business owners, helping you to gain exposure to people searching in the area.
.LONDON offers business owners a domain that virtually positions their company right in the heart of the city to target audiences searching for something in the same location.
Google has confirmed that geoTLDs are used when ranking websites on their search engine. Senior Search Analyst at Google, John Mueller, commented: “Geo-targeting information can be provided through a variety of means, such as IP addresses, TLDs, and Webmaster Tools settings. With regards to TLDs, they do give us some indication of the geographical location of the content on that domain.”
Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google also noted that geoTLDs are “strong signals” of the intended geographical location of a website. Statingthat “geoTLDs are usually a good indicator of the location target for a website.”
For example, a website with the domain name “www.bestcafe.london” would indicate to search engines that the website is based in London and has something to do with cafés, matching the site with those looking for cafés in the area.
Some other important SEO tactics.
- Create high-quality content: posting relevant content to your website on a regular basis will show search engines that you are actively discussing the latest trends and topics that users are searching for, pushing you up the ranks.
- Encourage customer reviews: there is nothing more valuable to potential customers than reading good honest reviews of a business; encouraging visitors to leave a genuine review will allow both search engines and online users to find out more about what you offer and why they should visit you.
- Optimise for mobile: the majority of online users view websites from a mobile device; making sure that your website is user friendly for all devices is very important, and a good user experience is vital when it comes to making users want to engage with your business.
How will this impact my business?
Local SEO is imperative for businesses that are looking to benefit from online search and increase their engagement with the communities in which they are based. Adopting a well-rounded SEO strategy using a mixture of the techniques discussed will increase visibility which in turn can drive a higher quantity and quality of traffic to your website. If you add the correct information to your website, the most relevant visitors will be able to discover your business, resulting in an increase in engagement or trade.
Start optimising your online business and check if the .LONDON domain you are looking for is available.