I had a call from a local business which doesn’t currently have a website. We’re told that 40% of small businesses don’t have websites, and this business owner realized that without a site to send people to, he was wasting the money he spent on advertising. A good website not only lets you reach more potential customers, but also improves the ROI of your other advertising by giving you another chance to talk to people who aren’t ready to call yet.
This business owner had a clear goal. He has a service, and he knows that people deciding whom to call for this service will just go to the first good, economical option they find. His goal, therefore, is to show up first when people search for the service he provides.
What are his chances of getting to #1 for local search? And — more importantly for you, dear reader, how can you tell what your chances are for reaching the same goal?
How’s the competitive landscape?
Search for your chosen keyword, preferably signed out and on a computer you haven’t used for such a search before. Search engines personalize results for you, so any computer where you’re signed in to Google or have made similar searches will give you places you’ve been before, places your friends like, etc. Get the cleanest experience you can, and see what comes up first for that search.
In the case of the business owner who called me, the first spots weren’t even local companies. They were national service listings. That means that there are no local companies providing this service whose websites are good enough to get top listing. Our caller is in luck. When we build him a great website, search engines will be happy to have someone to list at the top of the page.
How are your competitors’ sites?
If the page had been filled with local listings, our caller might still be able to get top placement. It depends on the quality of the other sites.
As it happens, there is someone in town providing the same service as our caller, and they do have a website — down at the bottom of page one below some companies in neighboring states.
They have a homemade website, with typos and fuzzy pictures, but it’s not a terrible website. It has a good amount of content and clear calls to action. We can build our caller a better website, but this is not an unimportant competitor. If they get it together someday to have their site updated and do some linkbuilding, they would have the advantage of an older domain, and they could be a threat.
If your competitors have very good websites, then yours has to be even better. A great blog, strong social media integration, and careful attention to the technical aspects of the site can give you some advantage, but you also have to be realistic. You might need to shoot for #2.
What does your company deserve?
If your company is brand new and there are competitors in your space who have been in business locally for decades, you should hope they have poor quality websites. If you deserve top rankings because of the stature of your company, then you can compete better.
This may sound obvious, but not everyone realizes it — and not all business owners are realistic about the stature of their businesses. All things being equal, the more important company will get the top ranking. If your company isn’t that important (yet), a much better website can do wonders for you — but it might not get you to #1.
How about #2?
For our caller, getting top placement in local search is a realistic goal. What if you check the points above and determine that you’re not likely to get #1 right away?
- Get your website online immediately. You can’t compete if you’re not in the game, and nowadays a business with no website is simply not in the game. It’ll take time to improve your rankings, so start working on that as soon as possible.
- Make sure your website is better than your competitors’ sites — or as good as your resources will allow.
- Work on your off-site SEO. Linkbuilding, social media, and additional content will make your company more competitive.