For small businesses whose customers primarily search for services online being found on the major search engines is all important. Google has by far the highest market share but how can a small local business dominate page 1?
Type in any location based search term for a service based company (e.g. emergency plumber Luton or financial adviser nottingham) into Google and you will find page 1 of the search results includes:
- Paid advertisements
- The Google Maps 3 pack
- Major directory listings such as Yell
- Industry specific lead generator sites such as Checkatrade and VouchedFor
- Perhaps one or two service provider websites
- Occasionally job listing sites or the Google jobs panel
For a small business to compete nationally for a strong position on Page 1 is almost impossible but at a local level it is more practical. It does require some financial commitment and some time and effort but it is possible. So where should a small or micro business owner allocate their resources? Let’s look at each in turn.
Pay Per Click (Adwords)
The first step is to be very clear about your offer. If you cannot define what you offer and why a prospect should buy from you in just a few lines of text we suggest you do not waste your money. Adwords is not suited to general and wooly offers it has to be specific.
Next define the keywords or phrases a prospect could use to search for your product or service. Type those phrases into the Google search bar and take a look at the paid advertising at the top and bottom of the page. If the competition is mostly larger organisations with strong marketing you will probably find it difficult to compete.
Be aware paid advertising takes time to learn and you will burn cash until you gain experience. Or you could employ someone to take on the task but finding a specialist and not someone who will learn (or not!) while they burn your budget can be tricky.
Google My Business
This should be the first priority. It is a free service and it delivers a high profile for your business so why delay? It does take effort and there is no guarantee of success (you are at the mercy of a Google algorithm) but it is at the very least worth a real go.
We recommend you have a listing in the major directories such as Yell. Keep an eye on the analytics (if they are available) and take a view on the competition before deciding if it is worth upgrading a listing to the paid version.
It is important to check which directories are listed on page 1 of Google for the keyword phrases your prospects are most likely to use. There are a huge number of directories so to minimise the effort involved it is probably best to restrict your efforts to the sites you see most often. It is important your information across any directories you do choose is consistent.
Industry Specific Sites
It seems every industry sector now has its own set of Directories/Lead generator sites. For professional services there is Unbiassed and VouchedFor. For trades there is Checkatrade and RatedPeople.
A listing gives your business a level of credibility and another chance to be found in search. However, listings tend to come at a cost so it is important to estimate the ROI. What are the competition doing? How much competition is there? If you use the lead generator options what is the quality of leads? Are all important questions to ask.
Your Own Website
To rank your own website on page1 Google will cost both in the time you invest and cash out of the business. It may be best to not invest in a website at all. Perhaps a small brochure style website will be enough? The issues surrounding this decision are complex and are covered elsewhere on this Blog.
If you do have a website and you do want it to rank well then you will need to invest in Search Engine Optimisation. Again, this can be financially draining and/or take a significant amount of your time. We recommend you read our post on search engine optimisation before deciding if it is for you.
For some businesses a high profile position on page 1 Google may be completely irrelevant. Their marketing efforts may be best allocated elsewhere. For other businesses it is crucial to their success. It is possible to dominate page 1 but only at a cost. It is important to carefully consider what tactics have the best chance of delivering an ROI.