Posted by Scott Maxworthy in Twitter, SOHO, small business, SEO, quora, online social media, online retailing, myob, Marketing, internet strategy, internet marketing, hyperlocal, Google, Facebook, digital marketing, Competitve Advantage, coffee, Business Development, business
This is a Digital Media Strategy Beginners Article.
Local Search Results
One of the biggest failures of the web to date has been the generally poor results you get from a local search - particularly here in Australia where only around 30% of small businesses have a website. The poor performance is understandable when it's only logical that if your business doesn't have a website, then it's hard for Google to know you exist and for people to link to your site.
There have been many attempts over the years to address this gap, from the old, once dominant, Yellow Pages type paper advertising directories (which have finally migrated to online directories); Government and commercial initiatives like Google and MYOB (leading Australian Small Business accounting software); consumer comparison and ranking website portals; through to customer generated content - forums, bloggers; Facebook Places; Fourquare; Twitter; new Google+ and my new favourite service www.quora.com (founded last year by the ex CTO of Facebook).
From a business owners perspective it's a Catch 22 situation - if your immediate sales are not generated from the web then why as business do you need to invest the time, energy and money to develop new skills; keep information up to date; maintain the website; and also communicate through these online channels - "I sell coffee I'm not some computer nerd!" they cry.
The answer to that question is very simple - depending on what report you're reading then 50-90% of new customers will search online before purchasing - Online Retailing's SOBO "Search Online Buy Offline".
If you're not actively marketing and communicating online then there's a very high probability your competitors are or will be.
Opportunity and Competition Drives Innovation
Ten months ago, I wrote about a new coffee shop which opened in the local neighbourhood "Foodies Deli Cafe" which brought a refreshing new competitor to the local coffee drinking marketplace - back then as a test I asked how long would it be before they commented on my blog post.
Today, that moment arrived, Matt - one of the owners told me they'd launched a website a couple of months ago; that it wasn't ranking in Google and if I could take a quick look (contra coffee).
Sensing a potential mutual win relationship (and also content for my blog) once back in the office the first thing I did was a test search in Google -
www.smh.com.au/entertainment/.../foodies-deli-cafe-20110401-1cnou.html2 Apr 2011 – Rate Foodies Deli Cafe with 0.5 a star Rate Foodies Deli Cafe with 1 star Rate Foodies Deli Cafe with 1.5 stars Rate Foodies Deli Cafe with ...
www.smh.com.au/entertainment/.../foodies-deli-cafe-20110401-1cnot.html2 Apr 2011 – Rate Foodies Deli Cafe with 0.5 a star Rate Foodies Deli Cafe ...
eatmyshots.com/?p=204 - Cached4 Nov 2010 – Foodies Deli, Cafe, Dolls Point
As Matt said the website http://www.foodiesdelicafe.com.au/ doesn't rank at all, so we take a look at source code. If you right-click on your website from your browser there is usually a "source code" option - it's gobbly gook stuff Google sees. Without going into finer details the website is not search engine optimised (SEO) and in its current form I doubt it will never rank in the top three search results. Yes, the web developers didn't mention that!
As mentioned there are many elements which influence search engine ranking but the most important is the "Search Engine Term" your potential customers will use.
The key point to note is that most people will NOT search for the name of the coffee shop, they will search for "coffee shop Dolls Point" or "coffee shop Sans Souci" or maybe "best coffee shop in St George area". The most important element to SEO is the title of any external websites inbound link to your site.
The higher the Pagerank of the external website "referring" the more influence that will have on your page ranking and your subsequent search results listing. For example, A Sydney Morning Herald food guide review will have a greater link importance than my website blog (except when it is published in my Istrategy blog post).
Example - The top three results "Best Coffee Shop Sydney City" includes one of my favourites Vivo Cafe - Vivo has a SEO website plus Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare accounts - all roads lead to a destination.
Social Media is the New Search
We are increasingly using social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Youtube etc and applications like Trip Advisor to ask friends or other web users for their feedback. On top of the social media layer, services like Google+; Linkedin Q&A (think corporate Facebook) and the previously mentioned http://www.quora.com/ are facilitating question and answer and developing expert status.
Google is already indexing this high quality content (except where it has very recently been precluded - ie Twitter real time results and public Facebook Status) and you are beginning to see this data influence rankings.
Social Media Pureplay
Another local coffee shop I must mention is social media marketing pure play Montgomery St Cafe, headed up by the highly talented Internet Chef and Electrolux brand ambassador Bridget Davis and Twitterati Iconic88. They did an exceptional job at building awareness prior to opening through Facebook status updates, #mostreet and regular Youtube videos.
Last week another new local coffee shop opened - "Kiss the Barista" at Georges River 16ft Sailing Club; and another around the corner couple of weeks.
There are now three new coffee shops that have opened within a short (less than 500m) distance within the last 10 months making a total six.
As you can see even at the local coffee shop level it's a highly competitive online marketing but you know the most important thing? The customer experience they then share.
How do you rank on Google and what are your customers saying about you on social media?