- Posted by Sam Hill
- On April 5, 2019
The Internet is sometimes seen as a democratizing force. All you need is an Internet connection and a URL, and you can access almost any website or webpage without issue. Because of its equalizing nature, the Internet has also been a boon for small businesses.
Before the rise of the web, small businesses looking to grow had to jostle with large corporations yielding unlimited funds to purchase limited commercial time or print advertising space. Otherwise, they were forced to rely on word-of-mouth or storefront marketing that hoped to hook new customers.
With the information superhighway at their beck and call, small businesses were placed on equal footing with the big guys. No more airing an ad at 3 AM on a local affiliate station, now your website is up and ready 24/7.
However, with the rise of the Internet came the tidal wave of Google. Google search, in many ways, has grown sophisticated enough in both its algorithm and its content to become the new homepage for small businesses. Its search page is designed to keep people on Google, and off of your website, by providing relevant contextual information. The online marketing game has changed yet again, but potentially to your business’ advantage.
How Google Has Changed the Marketing Game
Google first changed the marketing game when it launched as an online search tool. Even though access to any website was possible with the right URL, if the consumer didn’t have the URL or if they were unaware of your business, getting them to your site was a difficult task. But with search, any consumer anywhere could plug in a few keywords and find themselves inundated with relevant websites. With some basic yet pioneering search engine optimization, you could see your site on Google’s first page of search results rubbing shoulders with the behemoths of your industry.
The introduction of AdWords was another significant change that Google deployed. With AdWords, you could place your company’s website at the top of the results for any and every relevant search. You could buy prime search result real estate for a price set by the market. If your competition was unaware, you could easily find undervalued keywords that put your website in front of as many people as possible, all with an extremely cost-effective price. Many online companies’ growth snowballed without needing to spend extraordinary amounts on a traditional marketing campaign.
With the early success of those companies search engine optimization and marketing strategies, though, came more competition. Soon, the price for appearing at the top of a search results page increased dramatically as competitors began to bid on these terms, too. Some antagonistic companies may have bid on search terms that included your company’s name, allowing an ad for their website to appear above your company’s website, even if a customer was searching for your business’ specific name.
Now Google Is a Competitor Too
What many companies don’t realize is that Google is also a competitor for their customer’s time and attention. Google, like all companies, wants to keep Internet users in the Google ecosystem for as long as possible. Yes, Google does want its users to click on the ads your company pays for (if only to continue to demonstrate the efficacy of those ads), but it also wants its users to include Google in almost every aspect of their life, from email to calendars to documents to photos to apps to books to news to videos to music. Google can do this by increasing the level of information its search page can give customers about your business. Instead of clicking through to your website, a potential customer only has to click on your business’ location on a map to find your hours of operation, contact information, even customer reviews.
Go ahead and try it. Open a new tab and plug in your industry and location of your business. The first thing you’ll see on the page is a map with three local options for that industry. Below that map, you’ll find more details about each business, including its distance, address, average customer rating on a five-star scale, and hours of operation. If you click on any of those three options, you’re transported to a Google map page that provides more information. You’ll be able to click a link to read every review left for the business, a question and answer guide, recent news articles about the company, and even estimated wait times for service.
A consumer gets all of this information about your business without ever once going near your company’s website. In fact, if you want to see the website results for your search terms, you’d now have to click the back button on your browser and scroll past the map, the triple listing of businesses with their photos, and a link to “More places” before you see what you were previously accustomed to links to other, non-Google websites. When you view search this way, it’s easy to see what was stated near the beginning of this post: Google Search is the new homepage for local businesses.
How to Leverage Google
It’s easy to view the de-emphasization of the homepage as a frustrating turn of events for local businesses. However, with awareness of the change comes the opportunity to improve. Engaging in local listing management SEO can ensure your business is contained within those first three local listings in Google search. Even if a potential customer doesn’t click through to your website, providing relevant information to them where they look for it, in essence, meeting the customer where they’re at, can ensure your business isn’t buried in the search results.
Additionally, it’s now essential to claim your business on Google to ensure the provided information is accurate and appropriately reflects your brand. Adding professional photos of your business’ interiors or products can help ensure that those beautiful images, instead of potentially grainy or out-of-focus pictures that a customer (or competitor) uploads, are the first thing a potential customer sees when they search your company or industry.
By taking control of your company through Google’s search results, you are, in a way, able to help drive your destiny. You’ll be able to demonstrate your customer service in your response to negative reviews, frame a captivating image in a potential customers head, and provide valuable information to customers searching for your business.
Working With V Digital Gives You The Edge
If you need help with your online marketing and need a multi-location SEO solution, V Digital Services is here to get the word out about your business. Our data-driven strategies pinpoint the precise tactics necessary to improve your company’s results on Google’s search page. We provide the necessary reporting to demonstrate where your company is already experiencing success online and where (and how) we can help areas that need improvement. Contact V Digital Services today for a consultation and free review of your current local MAPS footprint.