Local SEO for SMBs in 2021

How to use Google to your advantage as a small or medium business.

Nino Knetemann Published on 06.12.2020

Chapter 1

Basic questions

SEO is not only important for large companies. The Internet is also a lucrative channel for small and medium-sized businesses, which will grow more and more in the future. Learn how your business can benefit from SEO in Chapter 1.

Chapter 2

Google My Business

Local SMBs miss out on a lot of potential customers without a well-maintained Google My Business profile. In chapter 2, I explain what you need to pay attention to in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Chapter 3

The Website

In the third chapter, I cover the heart of all online marketing efforts: the website. I help you understand the basics to make your online presence attractive to search engines.

Chapter 1

Basic questions

Introduction to SEO for SMBs

Search engine optimization (SEO) aims to be found on search engines such as Google or Bing and thus build up a flow of visitors, which generates more sales for the company.

Even though they all have a similar goal, there is a different approach for each industry and business. A trustee needs to build his site differently than an electrician. Both use the same tools, but apply them differently. Above all, SMEs differ greatly in their approach from start-ups or large companies.

Start-ups, SMBs and large companies

Companies come in three main forms: Start-up, SME and large enterprise. For each of these forms, the structures, work habits and even the marketing are different. SEO needs to grow and change with your business so that you can make the most of this online marketing tool.

A start-up starts with a handful of pages, while a large company has to maintain several thousands of pages (sometimes even millions). In the midfield, an SME takes care of up to 20 pages and possibly builds up a blog. The focus, as well as the effort, is different in each phase.

In this article I will give you the basic knowledge to make your SME more successful with SEO. Whether you want to do it yourself or look for an agency, these basics must be known to you in this day and age to reach customers online.

Does SEO pay off for SMBs?

I have been advising SMBs for over 12 years and can tell you: Search engine optimization always pays off in the long term. In the following table I have prepared a calculation example for you.

Possible turnover, depending on the position on the first page on Google for dentists with the keyword "zahnarzt zürich"
Position CTR Turnover/month
1 28.5% 30'780
2 15.7% 16'956
3 11.0% 11'880
4 8.0% 8'640
5 7.2% 7'776
6 5.1% 5'508
7 4.0% 4'320
8 3.2% 3'456
9 2.8% 3'024
10 2.5% 2'700

Calculation

An analysis by Sistrix has measured how high the CTR (how often a search result is clicked on) is on the first page on Google. This data serves as the basis for the calculation.

According to Google, "zahnarzt zürich" is searched for 5,400 times a month. If we now assume a closing rate of 2% and a turnover of CHF 1,000 per new customer, we achieve the results from the table thanks to the following formula.

CTR * Volume/Mt. * Conversion * Turnover

It is also worthwhile for your company

In the best case, a dentist in Zurich can generate CHF 30,000+ in sales per month with SEO. But what if your company makes less turnover per customer or the demand is lower?

Of course, the result is different for every industry. However, your SME already maintains a functioning customer base. In short, an SME is already functioning offline and thus SEO will also have a positive impact on your company's sales. After all, your customers are also online.

Any small or medium business can benefit from SEO.

Advantages

More sales is of course the ultimate benefit for any business. But well-done SEO brings you not only more sales, but also many other benefits.

  • Strengthen your brand
  • Simplified employee search
  • Inbound marketing (customers come to you)
  • Reduced advertising costs
  • Sustainable new customer acquisition
  • Customers give you more trust

There are really many reasons why an SME should include SEO in their marketing strategy, but one of the most important reasons is timing. Now, when not so many small and medium enterprises invest in SEO, it is easiest to achieve success.

Search engines have limited number of places on the first page (~10 places) and the sooner you grab a place, the better for the future of your business. SEO can also be combined very well with other actions. If you want fast results, check out our offer on online advertising.

Alone or with an agency?

Now you know what SEO means for SMEs and the benefits it can bring to your business. You may also realize that SEO is an elaborate task and wonder whether you should do it yourself or bring in external help. I will try to give you a neutral answer to this question.

These are your options

In principle, you can choose between three options: Create a new position internally (in-house), outsource the work to an agency or consultant (external), or a hybrid of these (mix).

Internal: You have the complete know-how in your company, but you need to create a new position that takes care of SEO. If the same person can take care of all online marketing activities, then this is a very good option. However, because online marketing is broad and diverse, this one person cannot take care of everything and will soon need additional help. This generates high costs very quickly, which is not feasible for a smaller company.

External: Experts usually achieve faster results because they have much more experience. So you get to the goal faster and with less costs. Unfortunately, there are many agencies whose employees do not have enough experience. External consultants, on the other hand, are competent and work with external teams to keep the general costs low while they work out the strategy, plan and perform quality control.

Mix: A mix combines the positives of both options. You have one person who is responsible for online marketing internally and bring in an external agency or consultant. This way, you keep the know-how within the company and can outsource the work externally, while still keeping the costs low.

This is how you decide

You get the best price/performance ratio with the external solution. But the mix gives your company the best long-term results to grow your business. The larger the company becomes, the more SEO shifts internally with selective support from experts.

You are at the beginning and have no competence internally? Start with an outside consultant or a smaller agency with little overhead. A good consultant will also help you select internal support in the future.

Do you have a person responsible for online marketing? Support this person with outside help for the best results.

You already have a whole team? Was machen Sie denn hier? Spass bei Seite, wenn Sie bereits ein Team haben, können Sie einen Berater oder eine Agentur hinzuziehen, um frische Ideen zu bringen und komplexe Aufgaben umzusetzen.

Here you can learn more about the advantages of an agency.

What does SEO actually cost?

Let's distinguish between an employee and an external expert (agency / consultant).

Employee: Wenn Sie eine neue Stelle schaffen und jemanden nur für SEO anstellen, dann müssen Sie mit einem durchschnittlichen Jahreslohn von CHF 100'538.46 rechnen. Ein KMU braucht aber selten eine 100%-Stelle nur für SEO. Ein Onlinemarketingexperte kostet ungefähr gleich viel, gibt Ihnen aber mehr Mehrwert in Kombination mit einem hinzugezogenen Experten.

Agency/Consultant: The cost for agencies and consultants is between CHF 500.- and 3'000.- per month for an SME. Depending on strategy, effort and size of course.

Chapter 2

Google My Business

What is Google My Business

With a profile on Google My Business (GMB), your business will be displayed on Google Maps. Additionally, you have the chance to show up in the map pack when someone searches for your products or services.

In order to be found in the Map Pack and Google Maps, you have to deal with your GMB profile. And more than just once.

The profile

A completed Google My Business profile increases the chance of being assigned to a search query. A complete profile can therefore increase the relevance.

Fill in catchment area, phone number, company images (logo, employees, premises, etc.), opening hours and anything else that applies to your business.

Anyone can suggest changes, so it is important to fill everything out correctly as soon as possible and keep it up to date.

NAP

Let's talk a bit more about correct data. NAP is short for Name, Address, and Phone. Remember NAP as a mnemonic that you always keep these three information points exactly the same online, everywhere.

For example, if your name is "Pizzeria Sugo", then the name "Pizzeria Sugo" must be everywhere in this form. The name must not be "Pizzeria Sugo" on Google My Business, "Pizzeria Italia Sugo" in an entry on local.ch and "Pizzeria Sugo AG" on your website. Google tries to make links and the more links can be made with your business, the more trustworthy you will be ranked. If the data does not match 1:1, the Google robots may not register the link as such and thus not rank your business as high as it could.

Consistent maintenance of NAP increases the relevance and awareness of your company, so do not neglect this point.

Reviews

Reviews or reviews help your ranking on Google. The more reviews and positive ratings your business receives on your Google My Business, the better it will rank.

Review management is time well spent. Motivate satisfied customers to leave a review and try to mitigate bad reviews. Important: Google clearly states that reviews should arise naturally. This means that you can ask and remind, but not reward (free product, discount, etc.).

You can get more reviews in several ways. The following tips have helped our customers:

  • Approach in person and ask about it.
  • Add a link on the website so that returning customers can submit a review very easily.
  • Indicate in the newsletter that a review would help you.
  • Include QR code on a business card when you contact your customers through the mail.

Bonus Tipp: Respond to every recession, whether it's positive or negative. Respond to your customers and build trust in your business.

Posts on GMB

With the help of text, image and video you can get in touch with potential customers in your profile, Google search and Google map. Posts are categorized by general information, events, offers, products and current opening hours.

The posts are not a confirmed ranking factor, but helps to convince interested customers about your company. This direct communication helps to inform about news, point out discounts, promotions and events and interact with your customers via video or photo.

If you do not specify a start and end date, your posts will be deleted after 7 days. Generally good, because the posts should be generally up to date and Google values current information highly. Well planned and compelling posts can give your business a boost.

Chapter 3

The Website

Do I need a website?

Short answer: No. But you want one.

Long answer: Basically, you can already achieve success with only a Google My Business profile. But on a website you can provide much more information. And because your customers want to know more about you a website will increase the closing rate by a lot.

A website also gives you many more opportunities to be found. Simple example: A floor layer can be found with GMB if someone searches for "Bodenleger in Zürich". But only with a website he can also be found when someone searches for "hole in the parquet". This gives the floor layer a variety of additional possibilities to find new customers.

In addition, a well-designed website that displays high on Google helps to display their GMB profile more prominently.

Responsive / Mobile Friendly

Okay, this is certainly nothing new. It should be clear to everyone by now that most people search the Internet via their smartphone. But what you may not know yet: Google is now only interested in the mobile version of your website.

In other words, anything that can be found on the desktop version but not on the mobile version of your website will be completely ignored by Google. The beautiful and helpful image you are so proud of, but had no place on the mobile version, will not be found on Google.

If you are one of those companies whose website visitors mostly use a computer (B2B is such a case), then you need to think carefully about how you want your website to look on different devices.

After all, you want Google to pick you up and find you well. On the other hand, you also want to give your visitors the best experience on the website.

URL, title and header

The URL, the title and the supertitles must be optimized on every page. Google and Co. use these as signals to find out what your page is actually about. So if you write "Welcome to our site" in the title, it's certainly a nice gesture, but the search engines can't do much with it.

The URL and how to optimize it for SEO

By a URL, we mean something like this: https://knetemann.ch/seo-specialist. Let's quickly dive into the basics:

  • https is the protocol (there is also http)
  • knetemann.ch is the domain
  • /seo-specialist is the called page (the path to it)

When is a URL optimized for SEO? Basic rule number one: When you read a URL, do you understand what to expect when you click on it? If yes, the URL is optimized for SEO. So it must be easy to understand and short. No special characters and no terms that no one understands.

Basic rule number two: the path should contain the main keyword of this page. If you write a post about growing tomatoes, then the words "growing" and "tomatoes" must also appear in the path. If this is not the case, you may not give the search engines enough accurate information and will not be found as a result.

Another important point is to make sure that the communication between the visitor and the website is secured (more on this below). Only websites with https as protocol provide secure communication.

Follow these rules and you will see improvements.

Title

By title I mean the text you click on in the search results.

The title must contain at least their main keyword. As a local business, the city name should also be found. For example, the title of the home page of a shoe store named "Sohlenstolz" could be "Shoes in Zurich: Sohlenstolz has the most beautiful shoes".

You may have heard that the title must not be longer than 60 characters. If the title is longer than about 60 characters, Google will abbreviate it at the end with "...".

But what many don't know, Google also abbreviates the title beforehand if you split it. By split I mean this:

Shoes Zurich | Sohlenstolz: the best shoes | Now 50% discount (65 character)

On Google, this title is displayed like this:

Shoes Zurich | Sohlenstolz: the best shoes ... (50 character).

So in this example we lose 15 characters instead of only 5 because the last part after the "|" is truncated. So the searcher doesn't even know that there is 50% discount. This has a bad effect on the click-through rate.

Therefore, put some thought into the title to make sure it works from the start.

Supertitle

By supertitles I mean the titles in the body text that you see and read on every web page. The hierarchy of these titles is very important. We distinguish between H1, H2, H3 and H4. These titles can go much further, but you usually don't need more than H4.

These titles are used to structure the content on a page. Each of these titles must therefore have a clearly identifiable formatting.

Important: The H1 title must be the most prominent, should be used only once and contain the main keyword.

Location pages

This point has more to do with Content Marketing, but it is so important that I want to mention it separately here. A separate page is needed for each site.

Each of these location pages should ideally also have unique content. Preferably content that mentions the local area, such as sponsorship from local club, mention in local newspaper, activities in the area, etc.

These location pages are then linked to each individual GMB profile. Thus, the website and its My Business profile benefits.

Services and products

Every service and product needs its own page on your website. These pages convince potential customers to buy and therefore need undivided attention.

FAQ

A dedicated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page not only makes sense for SEO, but also helps build trust with visitors to your website. Additionally, it can save you time by not always having to answer questions via email or phone.

I even recommend adding a FAQ section on each page if it makes sense and is specific to that page. You can then collect the general FAQs on a separate page.

SSL

Above we discussed the URL, protocol and how to secure the communication. An SSL certificate encrypts the communication between the visitor and the website, which makes your website safer to use. Search engines always want to provide the best answers to their customers and offer the best experience. This includes security. Therefore, make sure that you have such SSL certificate installed. You can control this by writing a https:// in front of your domain: https://knetemann.ch.

Attention: If you're not sure exactly what an SSL certificate does and don't know a trusted person to help you with it, get the certificate from your hoster.

Loading times

You want your website to load quickly. Period. Not only because of SEO, but also because of your customers. The longer the load time, the higher the bounce rate of those customers. The higher the bounce rate, the smaller the completion rate. The smaller the completion rate, the smaller the sales.

More about web page load times

Conclusion

Now you know how the SEO rabbit runs and how to use this knowledge. With SEO you can give your business a boost. But don't put all your eggs in one basket, try to build up different strategies how to get new customers with your business.

If you have a question about this topic, please feel free to contact me. I have been advising small and medium-sized businesses on online marketing since 2013 and will also be able to help you succeed online.