The lot of a small business owner has rarely been more complicated than it is right now. For generations, small businesses have virtually always been local businesses with local concerns. In many positive ways, that’s still true.
Great local businesses still know how to differentiate themselves from the corporate behemoths and cater to local concerns properly. In some other ways, though, local businesses have been forced to look at a bigger—and more competitive—picture.
That’s thanks in large part to the Internet, which has not only introduced dangerous and oversized competitors like Amazon (which are terrible for small local businesses) but has also opened a new front in marketing.
Digital Marketing Matters
“Digital marketing” is essentially a catchall term for the things that businesses do to market themselves online, from buying advertising space on web pages to fine-tuning their own business web pages in order to move up to the top of the search engine results page for relevant queries on top search engines like Google.
It was once the case that digital marketing was much more important for large, national businesses and for businesses that were native to the Internet. It made perfect sense that Pets.com would need to care more about digital marketing than the typical mom-and-pop shop in a small town.
But it’s a small World Wide Web after all. What was once a concern only for national chains and e-commerce pioneers has become essential for every sort of business—including small and local ones.
How The Internet Went Local
There are a few reasons why it is now essential to invest in digital marketing.
For one, search engines don’t work in quite the same way as they did back in the year 2000. Some things have stayed the same—search engines still use “spiders,” or web-crawling programs, to follow links and map the Internet—but other things have changed drastically, such as the ways in which Google and its competitors serve up local search results.
Google pioneered improved local search algorithms and has since all but perfected them. Searching for “pet food” on Google might have given you nothing but big sites like Pets.com back in the day, but now searchers are just as likely to see local pet shops pop up.
That’s even truer on mobile devices, which get highly localized results. And given the fact that more and more search queries are originating on mobile devices, this makes it extremely important for local businesses to improve their search engine optimization—a phrase which means optimizing a web presence for Google and which is a part of (you guessed it) digital marketing.
Then there’s the increasing importance of the business listings that exist within the apps and websites that are dedicated to maps, customer reviews, and more. A failure to keep information current with Google Maps or Yelp can be disastrous for a local business. Local searches in these sorts of apps are the new foot traffic, and online recommendations and reviews are the new word of mouth. In the modern world, “local” lives online.
And other businesses know it. Just as local businesses have long competed in local marketing, so much they compete in local digital marketing. Small and local business competitors are going to be just as interested as you are in things like prime spots at the top of search engine results pages, a great Google Maps profile (and the increasingly popular location-based ads), and positive reviews on Yelp. Ignore these things, and you’ll allow the competition to get ahead.
Mastering Digital Marketing
So how can you improve your digital marketing? Relax: You don’t have to learn how to manage every detail of your company’s web presence, SEO, digital advertising, and email mailing lists. What you should do instead is hire experts who specialize in these things.
Don’t forget, though: Your business is local. That matters when choosing a digital marketing firm, explain the digital marketing pros at one highly respected Kansas City-based Digital Marketing Company. A company that understands the local area will give you better results, because they’re going to have all kinds of advantages, from knowing the local slang (which may make a difference in which search queries are most important) to have the right connections with local digital marketing subcontractors, social media experts, and more.
With the right team in your corner, your business will be better off—and you will be able to go back to focusing on serving your local customers.