For most women, the internet is a familiar beast. Reports have suggested that as many as 40 million more women than men log into Twitter each day. Similarly, the majority of shared content on social sites is attributed to women, and photo site Pinterest asserts that around 70% of its user base is female. With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that as business owners, many women understand the importance of a strong digital strategy when it comes to the promotion of their brand.
However, social media isn’t the only facet of a broad online marketing strategy. SEO, or search engine optimisation, has been around for years and has – in professional hands – changed shape and remoulded itself to match the growing, diversifying needs of the average internet user.
Businesses now realise the benefits of SEO – particularly when they want to prioritise reaching more local customers or, in the case of firms operating multiple locations, they want to increase trade with a store lagging behind other branches.
To understand this, it’s essential first to know the fundamentals of SEO.
SEO and why search engines rule the web
It’s an undisputed fact that the majority of internet users find the sites they’re looking for using search engines. Obviously, social media has a lot to do with it, but when someone is looking for a specific website, or just the best provider of a product or service, they’re going to use Google Search to filter through the best options.
It goes without saying that a website should be search engine friendly to avoid shutting itself off to a potential sea of web traffic.
Search engine optimisation goes beyond simply ensuring a site has keywords covering the topics for which it wants to rank – although this is an important factor.
It’s about conversion analysis and article submissions, quality links and engaging blog content – all with a view to increasing the visibility of a business’s website in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
SEO with a geographical spin
In the past, when businesses wanted to reach the local market, they’d put up posters or hand out flyers near their business premises. When they wanted to reach a market further away, things became a little more difficult, as printed material had to be shipped and distribution arranged.
Similar difficulties arose when a brand operated more than one store, or when a single shop wanted to reach customers in multiple locations. Advertising material would have to be distributed in individual areas.
Of course, the digital revolution has virtually annihilated geographical limitations, but a smart SEO strategy is still required if a business is to make the most of multiple customer bases.
In a search engine optimisation strategy, geographic keywords can be used to associate a business, in the eyes of the search engines, with specific locations.
This has become increasingly essential, as Google – in a bid to improve its services by offering customers more suitable results when they search for a product or service – now considers locations when putting together the results of a search. Both the location in which a search is made (by the user) and the location of a business (in relation to a user) are often taken into account.
For many businesses, focusing on drawing in trade from the immediate city or county is the more profitable option – not everyone has expansion plans on a national or global scale.
When this is the case, it becomes essential to ensure that content on the site targets and caters for the correct local audience.
Making things easier for the user
When someone searches for a business’s product or services and wants to check if they’re available near to where they live, it’s important to make it easy for that customer to find details regarding the business’s nearest branch. If someone has to trawl through a single website to fish out opening times and store details, there’s a strong chance they’ll end up exasperated, and may direct their search elsewhere.
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, has previously advised businesses to have individual web pages set up for each of their store locations. In a blog post, he wrote:
If your company has a bunch of store locations, please don’t hide that information behind a search form or a POST. If you want your store pages to be found, it’s best to have a unique, easily crawlable URL for each store. If you have a lot of stores, you could have a web page for each (say) state that links to all stores in that state.
For businesses with premises in more than one location – whether that’s within the same city or across different parts of the country – it is possible to utilise a strong SEO strategy to bring a flagging store, or even a branch that’s simply being outperformed by the others, up to speed.
Similarly, your customers might not have realised that one of your stores is closer or easier for them to access.
Making use of social media sites
Internet marketing specialists will often set up a different social media page for each store location. This makes it much easier for customers to interact directly with a specific store, or take advantage of deals and offers unique to their nearest branch.
While maintaining a page for each store location, businesses will often still have a main social media page that acts as the central channel for more general company news and updates.
Staying visible on all fronts
It all comes down to visibility – using search engine optimisation to make sure that all of your business locations are visible on the SERPs and that they’re using the various elements of a digital strategy to tap into the local market.
Just as the digital revolution has felled many of the geographical limitations that businesses faced in the past, so too has it made it easier for businesses to optimise their trade for a local consumer base.