If you own a brick-and-mortar business and you haven’t been marketing online, you’re way behind the curve. Between the various online mapping and direction tools, local search results, and social media pages, there is a huge opportunity for you to use the internet to bring more customers through your door. However, it’s not always easy to know the best way to use the web to bring in more business. This post will give you a general intro into local SEO and answer some of the most common beginner questions about internet marketing for local businesses. When you’re done reading, you’ll have the confidence to develop a plan of action for your online endeavors.
If I’m a local business that doesn’t sell products online, do I really need a website?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Definitely.
Regardless of how effective you think a website will be, or how much or little you intend to use it, you need to get a site on the web with a branded domain. There’s no excuse to have not even a basic WordPress site set up for your business. Even if you don’t intend to actively use it, it gives your business a hub on the internet. This can be useful for many reasons:
It provides static information for potential customers
Even if you never edit your website after launch, the information is there and accessible for anyone who comes along in the future. Set it, and forget it. It’s impossible to know how many individuals know of your business, but not enough about it to feel comfortable visiting or getting in touch. Providing web pages about your services, products, mission, etc. will lay the informational groundwork for you, so that you don’t have to spend as much time answering questions when a new customer comes through the door.
It keeps your business relevant
The internet is so ubiquitous that it can seem a little odd to not have any online presence. Having an active site and social profiles is a very simple way to bolster the legitimacy of your business in the eyes of your target audience. It shows that you are modern and forward-thinking with your business, rather than a relic of the past.
It prevents your competitors from controlling the online conversation around your business
If you don’t buy the branded domain name for your business, what’s to stop your competitors from doing so? While legal action would allow you to take down a site that a competitor has set up using your trademark, there is not much to stop competitors from showing ads to potential customers when they search for your business on Google and Facebook. What if a potential customer searches for your business name, and the first thing that pops up is an ad for a competitor talking about their superior product or service? Well, if you haven’t provided any information to the contrary, chances are, that’s a customer you’ve lost.
Even if you never plan on touching it again afterwards, at least get a website up and running. Your new customers and your bottom line will thank you in the long run. However, restaurant websites and sites for other specific business types are becoming more common and are useful tools for building your local customer base.
Now that you know you want a website for your business, the next thing you should consider is how to set it up.
Local SEO is its own monster, and while it shares many of the same principles of general SEO, there are several other things to also take into account. One of the most common questions for business with multiple locations is related to site structure.
Is it better for a local business to have multiple websites for each location, or keep all the location info on the same website?
Before we move further, let’s clarify the difference between a website and a domain name. A website is the collection of files that make up the content you see when you type a domain name (like watermelonwebworks.com) into your internet browser.
In the vast majority of cases, you are going to be better off keeping all of your location information on the same domain. The reason is that much of the factors affecting the way that Google ranks sites is tied to the domain. Another way to say this is that the exact same page on two different sites (Site A – a brand new site with no Google rankings, and Site B – a 10 year old site with 5,000 indexed pages that receives 50,000 organic visitors from Google per month) will not rank equally. Site B’s page will rank much faster and higher because of the power behind Site B’s domain.
Considering this, it becomes obvious that creating individual websites for each location will actually hurt you in the long run. Not only are you attempting to build up multiple sites in Google, but you’re splitting your time and effort across multiple sites rather than focusing it all on one.
When you create individual pages on the same site for each of your physical locations, you are allowing all of them to share and build off of the power of the core domain. As your site grows, you will find that ranking new pages for new locations will become easier.
On the contrary, if you build individual sites for each location, you are starting from ground zero every time you add a new location. The fresh domain name has never been seen before and Google will need some time to assess its value – don’t expect it to rank well during this time. Additionally, your new site isn’t able to benefit from the age, links, and social shares to other pages on the site, since there ARE no other pages on the site yet. Not to mention you are doubling down on domain registration costs, and in some cases, hosting fees.
One fantastic middle ground between these two systems is to create unique local subdomains for each location. A subdomain is a standalone site that is linked to a main site. The most common subdomain most people see is www.domain.com, but that is definitely not the limit. You could create this.domain.com or that.domain.com, or whatever.domain.com you.domain.com want.domain.com.
This wraps up our general intro into planning the site structure for your local business. You now know why it’s important to at least get a website up, and you know that one domain is better than multiple, as it will build over time and bring all of your location pages up with it as it rises.
Keep an eye out for part two of our local SEO planning guide, coming soon!