Google: How Local Businesses Can Get The Edge Over National Companies Explained by Digital NRG
Many SME or local business owners are under the misconception that they simply cannot compete with the national companies online. However, many of Google’s routes to market are geared towards allowing local businesses to be found over the “big boys”. We outline the numerous ways that local companies, whether online, service-based or a “bricks and mortar” businesses can get the edge over National companies and win customers.
Customers Prefer Local
For over 5-years it has been well-known and well documented that people prefer local search results when looking to buy a product or service. At that time the ownership of ‘smartphones” was on the rise and Google noted that people preferred to search with a location in the search term e.g. Red shoes in location. The latest available information is that 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day (Google data May 2016) which highlights two important points for local companies, firstly people are using Google to find local businesses and secondly, being found online drives customers to the premises. This quashes another misconception many local business owners hold, that being found online is about selling online. It is not. Being found online is about gaining local customers – the key is being found ahead of your local competition.
In the last 2-years, there has been a phenomenon of people using “near me” in their search e.g. Red shoes near me, specifically trying to locate a business, product or service in their local area. Data from Google (June 2017) noted that over the last 2 years, searches for local places with the qualifier “near me” have grown 150%, faster than comparable searches that do not include “near me.”
The evidence is clear that people prefer local and this is the way that businesses, regardless of their size, can get the edge over National companies.
We explain the specific ways in that local businesses can utilise the routes to market:
Google Shopping for Local Businesses
Google shopping results are the images that are displayed at the top of the search results when a product-related search is entered. They have 4 key elements, an image of the product, price, company name and review score.
Although the general principles and best practices of utilising Google shopping are around winning sales based on “price”, local companies can still compete. 6 in 10 internet users check whether a product is available in a local store before visiting a store (Google March 2016) and being in the Google shopping results, as a well-known local company, will inspire potential customers to visit your store.
At the time of writing (October 2017), Google has developed and is testing, prioritising local companies products in the Google Shopping results. When Google recognises that a user is in a location, either by the user adding a location or utilising the location of the device they are using, Google will show local companies products ahead of the National Retailer.
How are the local Google shopping trials going? Early data show mixed results. Google can only look to show a local company and their products if local companies are actually advertising their wares on Google Shopping. As only a few local companies are taking advantage of this route to market, Google has a limited inventory they can display. This means that many searches with a “local” intent, still result in national companies being displayed.
This opens up an opportunity for local business owners. Google is happy to promote your products at the top of the search results and is keen to promote you as a local business, over the National Retailer. If Google shopping is not showing local companies in the search results, it is probable that your local competition is not using Google Shopping, and therein lies the opportunity. If your Google Shopping campaigns are created and managed correctly, you have an opportunity to not only get ahead of the National Retailers but your local competitors as well.
Digital NRG are Google Premier Partners and experts in Google Shopping campaign creation and management. We have local Account managers throughout the UK to provide a local service, although we are an established UK digital marketing agency. Always honest, upfront and try to do the right thing, with the local Google Shopping campaign we have a “caveat”. As Google are testing local shopping, they will show results with and without local results, in order to test the popularity with users. This means that as a digital marketing agency we cannot guarantee that your products will appear 100% of the time. We can be clear though, that even as a local business you can make sales through Google Shopping.
Google Adwords (PPC) for Local Businesses
If “local Google Shopping” is not (yet) the complete answer for local retailers or your business provides a service, rather than sell products then Google Adwords is definitely a route to gaining local custom and getting an edge over the national brands.
Google Adwords displays advertising in the area at the top of the search results. They usually take the first 3 or 4 positions. The advert for your company and services are displayed when the potential customers’ search matches the keywords you have added to your campaigns. You only pay when someone clicks on your advert and visits your information hence, Google Adwords is often called “Pay Per Click” or “PPC”.
Many local businesses think that they cannot compete in Google Adwords as large national brands have a budget they cannot match and they will be “outbid”. However, how much you “bid” for your advert to be shown is only one factor that Google uses to determine if your advert is shown and how much you would pay for the click. This means that if your PPC campaign is created and managed correctly, you can not only compete with the “big boys” you can outperform them and definitely get the edge over them.
Two of those factors are relevance and performance.
Relevance: If the website that the advert clicks through to, and the advert itself, are more relevant to the search than a competing advert your advert will likely be shown. The more relevant your advert (and other factors) means that your advert will be shown, even if your “bid” is less than a competitor (and you pay less for the click as well!). Being a local company with a website scattered with local references (such as your address, copy that mentions the location etc.) coupled with adverts aimed at the local market and the correct keywords targeted, means you can have a highly relevant advert, that outperforms national brands and marketing budgets. At Digital NRG we use tactics to make adverts even more relevant to the local market. Although these highly effective techniques are available to all advertisers on Google, the vast majority of digital marketing agencies and companies do not use them – a further way that you can compete ahead of your competition.
Results: Google rewards adverts that achieve good results. If your highly-relevant advert acquires clicks through to your website, then Google will begin to understand that your advert is the one that people like. The more clicks through to your website, the more you will pay Google, so it makes sense that the adverts that get clicked on the most are the ones that Google will display, above those that don’t enjoy as many clicks. If your PPC campaigns are managed correctly, this can be accelerated by analysing and allocating budget to the most successful adverts. This way, you can increase visitors to your website and services within a sensible marketing budget.
Digital NRG are experts at Google Adwords. We are “Google Premier Partners” and have qualified Google Account Managers throughout the UK. We focus on delivering leads for businesses with a proven ROI.
SEO for Local Businesses
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the ongoing process of working on your website so that it is found for relevant searches in search engines, like Google.
Another common misunderstanding amongst small or local business owners is that they cannot outrank the national companies.
There are actually two audiences for search results: local audiences and national audiences. The current versions of major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use the users’ location when returning search results. This means if your customers are searching for something like “shoe sales,” they’re as likely to get results from local shops (assuming those shops have an optimised website) as they are to get results from national brands.
Search engines, like Google, know that people aren’t always looking to shop online, or to shop for national brands online, so they’ve provided lots of opportunities for local brands to do well in search results when users search for local keywords like “shoe sales near me.” They’ve also accounted for location in search results, meaning that users get served more and more results relevant to their immediate proximity. This also means that depending on who you are trying to sell to, local audiences, national audiences, or some combination, you need to think differently about the way you deliver content on your website.
What to Focus on to Improve Your Ranking Locally and Nationally
Ideally, you want to appeal to both local and national audiences, because the ranking factors are largely the same for both. However, frequent changes to the algorithms that search engines like Google use make national SEO very hard for small businesses.
As national SEO has become so competitive, this also means that you should ensure you’re making local SEO a priority. You might be able to rank well for local searches even if you’re ranking poorly for national searches. Ranking well and being the natural choice locally, ahead of your competition, can stimulate enough business, revenue and profit that ranking nationally becomes irrelevant.
What do we mean by local SEO and National SEO?
This is not as silly a question as you may first think.
For a business located in one town then local SEO to dominate the search results in that one location is the best description.
For a business located in one or two towns or a business that serves customers over a wide area could require a service better described as “regional SEO” or is it “local SEO” aimed at more than one location?
For a business located in one location selling products or services across the UK the best description of the service required is “National SEO”, however, if the company has multiple depots, shops or offices across the UK then a “local SEO” approach for each location could be best.
An example of this can be shown by searching in Google for “Shoe Shops”. The first thing you will notice is that Google offers in “Autocomplete” (the suggestions that appear underneath as you start to type your search) “near me” as a suggestion – encouraging a search for a local company. In the results, you will see a mixture of local stores, and national retailer brands that are using their local store address to rank, both benefiting from “local SEO”.
Another example of this is our own company, Digital NRG. We provide our services to small, regional and national companies across the UK, USA, Europe and the Middle East. In the UK we have 10 Account Managers based at strategic geographic locations to enable us to provide a local and personal service. Our SEO strategy encompasses both National SEO, and local SEO in each location where we have offices and Account Managers based. Our priority is “local SEO” as this is more aligned to how people search for our services and how they would like to work with us.
If you are a local retailer, company or business looking to get the edge over your local competition and national brands then Digital NRG can help. Call today and a arrange an appointment with a local, expert Account Manager.