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SEO Tips for Local Businesses

Here’s a story, about an entrepreneur named Holly.

Holly owns one of the best-known flower shops in Halifax, Dean’s Flowers. Her flower shop is so well known and so popular she, unfortunately, has attracted some unwanted attention from a big online flower shop chain. This big online corporate entity is spending a lot of money to trick people into thinking their link is the one for local independent flower shop, Dean’s Flowers.

I first heard about this situation when Holly took her frustrations to the media. Customers were buying from the online chain, thinking they were buying from her, and then calling her to complain when things didn’t work out. She felt bad. They felt bad. It was bad. But what could she do? The little flower shop that could went viral (if viral is something that surpasses all expectations of reach). She made the front pages of Reddit. There were media interviews. Forum discussions popped up all about her woes as a small, independent business owner trying to be out-found on Google.

I approached some SEO and Google AdWords experts to collect their suggestions for Holly. Here are the tactics they would employ to ensure customers are finding the official Dean’s Flowers website. These SEO tips for local businesses apply to anyone working to be found on Google! (Note: Holly was already employing some of these suggestions, but I’ve included them here for everyone else.)

Google My Business

Ensure you have set up a Google My Business profile so you will show up on maps and get that right-hand real estate when someone searches for you. Donna Duncan, Be Seen on Top, points out that having a good number of reviews on your business page, which show on the Knowledge Panel on the right hand of a Google search, really catches a customer’s eye and can indicate they are dealing with a great business.

Take Advantage of Team Local

No, this is not another new website for which you need to register.  David Leonhardt, writing at Socialnomics.net, says “You are not alone.  There are hundreds of local businesses just like yours (well, not just like yours) seeking customers online.  Why not work together ?  Team local!”

Some would say this is the very basis of social media…the part where we’re being social and sharing the word about other businesses. This can have great, positive effects on your own business’s reach. This is the part where I tell my students they need to be talking to other businesses on Twitter, sharing their content, networking and building relationships…not just advertising.

Include Halifax in On-Page Text

Many small businesses don’t get their on-page SEO right…if they’re thinking about it at all! They focus on keywords that are too big and broad. Of course Holly should focus on keywords like florist, floral, flowers, bouquets, etc. SEO expert Bryan Jaeger, says what would be even more powerful is for her to use location-based keyword phrases like “Halifax flowers”, “Halifax bouquet delivery” (I did no keyword research on that, I’m only guessing.) By adding the geographic location she serves, right in her text, subheadings and titles, her business is more likely to be surfaced in results than the big corporate entity (we hope).

Claim Your Trademark

Another avenue to try is to prove to Google that you own the trademark, in this case Dean’s Flowers, which then gives them the authority to prevent others from using your trademarked keywords to advertise, says Tom Shivers. In this particular case the offending company has been very careful to use similar, but different keywords in their ads, but this is definitely good information for others facing similar situations.

Start a Blog

My advice to Holly was to become more active on social media (she was already somewhat active), and to start a blog. She’s a wonderful gardener and I’m sure would have no shortage of tips and photos to share from her garden. Blogging is still a great strategy for improving your SEO, plus it provides your customers with unique and useful content they won’t find anywhere else! For great resources and start-up blogging guides, including downloads, check out First Site Guide.

Buy a Google Ad

In the end Holly ended up buying a Google ad for a minimal amount on a monthly basis. She now appears as the first link on the page when you search for Dean’s Flowers. While much research tells us that people tend to skip over the ad section and go to the organic search results, this was not Holly’s experience. She indicated to me that since she bought the Google Ad the number of complaints she’s receiving that are directly related to the online chain have pretty much stopped. SEO Tips for local businesses | Dean's Flowers

What resonates with me about this case is that SEO tips in the world probably aren’t going to resolve this situation. This isn’t an SEO issue, it’s a Google Adwords issue. Likely the only recourse she had is to buy the competing ad, with higher bidding because they were competing with her. I was also shocked to hear just how many people were unable to distinguish the real search result from the fake one and were tricked into buying from the wrong company.

Is there something we’ve missed? Do you have another tip that might help Holly or other small, independent business owners combat grey hat tactics like we’re seeing here? Let me know in the comments.

Here are some additional tips from SEO Reseller, for those who are already doing everything listed above!

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