“Everywhere!” will be the exuberant byword for kicking off a new year of local search marketing with vigor. Local businesses have the opportunity to be everywhere customers are looking in 2022, at a time when they are particularly open to change, whether that’s exploring new companies, testing new brands, or experimenting with new modes of communication.
The state of public health, as well as its direct impact on local businesses, will remain unpredictable. However, if the companies you market can be found and liked by customers, you can significantly increase the number of neighbors you get to serve with care, compassion, and a commitment to making this a very good year for brick-and-mortar shops and SABs.
Let’s get you started with seven local SEO principles for the coming year, some expert commentary, and plenty of signs of good things to come!
1. Converse with customers everywhere, with extra kindness
Spend a minute listening to Ms. Warwick’s classic at your next meeting where you are training staff who will directly interact with your customers and clients to get rooted in your deepest humanity and make a pact to bring these powerful feelings into every communication you have with the people you serve. We’re all going through a lot these days, and even a few extra words of kindness can leave the best impression on a customer who may be in desperate need of being treated with respect and consideration.
The good news is that 2022 will provide a plethora of opportunities for meaningful connections for the local brands you market. To get things started, consider establishing all of the following mediums that make sense for the company and its customers:
- Curbside messaging
- Home delivery messaging
- Text messaging
- Direct Messaging, including Google Messaging
- Live Chat
- Review responses
- Review requests
- On-hold phone messaging
- Website forms
- Social media exchanges
- Post-transactional landing page messaging
- Call-to-action text
All of this can be handled with respectful language that expresses your gratitude to your customers.
Don’t forget that plain-old copy on websites is also intended to be the start of a conversation. One of the best local search marketing agency tips I heard in 2021 came from Near Media co-founder Mike Blumenthal, who recommended checking out Riverside.FM because it solves the age-old problem of having clients who are great at talking about their industry expertise but struggle to write about it. You can efficiently record this type of client using this remarkable video recording service and then use the results to create both video and text content. Brilliant!
“If you want to sell everywhere, you must converse everywhere,” Leadferno CEO Aaron Weiche says, and I can’t think of a better way, to sum up, how important it will be to communicate effectively with your local community in 2022.
2. Look everywhere for supply chain gaps
I was encouraged when 2021 began with half a million new businesses, but I was also concerned about the system that underpins retail: the global and consolidated national supply chain.
Did it ever happen to you that when you couldn’t find name-brand hand sanitizer in 2020, a local distillery filled the void? Did you ever find a local flour mill to make bread for you, or someone on Etsy to make you a cloth mask?
The pandemic reveals the consequences of race-to-the-bottom economics that began around the time I was born when large US corporations decided to outsource manufacturing to whichever region offered the cheapest labor. After witnessing Amazon struggle to deliver goods to customers due to global supply chain chaos, some American economists are urging the country to restore manufacturing.
There has never been a time in my life when there has been so much opportunity for any entrepreneur who can step up locally, regionally, or nationally to fill supply chain gaps and provide reliable production of essential goods. In keeping with the emerging philosophy of buying less/using longer, that local Etsy sewist can make t-shirts that don’t rip apart after a year of wear. When your imported dishes break, that potter down the street can replace them. That olive oil, pasta, masa harina, peanut butter, and soy milk can also be grown and produced entirely in the United States, rather than being imported at an exorbitant carbon cost.
Entrepreneurs who know how to produce essential goods or organize others with these skills can retool pre-pandemic business models, and your marketing savvy may be best employed in building yourself a niche in the local supply chain right now when it is so clearly needed.
3. Build back green everywhere you can
As much as I support the concept of reshoring, I have serious reservations about it because it conjures up images of rising smokestacks at a time when we desperately need new, sustainable production methods.
If 2021 was the year that heatwaves, wildfires, and floods completely disrupted your, your employees, and your customers’ lives, businesses, and norms, you know in your bones that we’ve reached the end of the fossil fuel road. It is simply not sustainable to build a new national or local supply chain using the same old energy sources that caused Climate Change, nor can we continue in good conscience to use poorer nations or the poorest parts of our own countries as toxic dumping grounds for the industry.
I frequently encounter the attitude that individuals can’t do anything to affect climate change, and I’ve personally experienced this gloom, but local businesses can collectively meet the 71 percent increase in searches for sustainable goods with a nearby supply chain, significantly reducing the 1 billion+ tons of carbon emitted by long-distance shipping. The closer we grow, manufacture, and sell goods, the better. Meanwhile, nearly all local businesses have access to a variety of other green practices, and there is no shortage of ideas for greener startups.
Make 2022 the year your local business develops a climate action policy and publicizes it on your website, Google Business Profile via posts and descriptions, social feeds, video media, and local news. 92 percent of customers say they have more trust in businesses that are environmentally and socially conscious; making your company that type of business is a win-win for everyone.
4. Make your website key to customers shopping everywhere
Google aspires to be the “transaction layer of the Internet,” and for the time being, it is free for the local businesses you market to facilitate virtual window shopping by adding products to your Google Business Profile and, in the United States, to get your products featured in Google Shopping via the Merchant Center.
The problem with Google is that everything they offer you for free is something they can charge you for at any time, and renting your customers back from Google for any purchase is never going to put a company in as strong a position as owning those sales outright.
With the pandemic’s acceleration of e-commerce (a 39 percent increase happened this time last year) and local delivery (here to stay), building shopping carts into local business websites is now a basic business investment. Choose a strong product, such as Shopify, that will distribute your inventory feeds to multiple channels for customers who are now shopping everywhere, including social sites like Instagram and Meta/Facebook, if possible.
However, as you welcome customers with multi-platform shopping options, my advice is to make your website the central hub of all this activity as much as possible, especially for repeat transactions. Allow no third party to provide a better shopping experience, better support, or more information than your website. Make the user experience so good that one-time customers who discovered you elsewhere return to your site for a second purchase.
5. Look for good organic SEO teachers everywhere to strengthen your website
With links and on-page SEO consistently accounting for roughly one-third of the perceived factors that drive local pack rankings, 2022 should be the year when local business owners and marketers prioritize the acquisition of organic SEO education. You most likely already have a solid understanding of local SEO, but to provide the kind of discoverable, usable experience that will bring people to your site and keep them coming back, organic SEO has become a must-have. It helps your local rankings as well as the various stages of your customer’s journeys.
The organic SEO industry, like our own local SEO industry, is tainted with information that is neither accurate nor helpful. You require resources that can serve as good teachers.
6. Look at reviews everywhere for business intelligence more than rankings
For as long as there have been online local business reviews, the majority of industry discussion has centered on how the ratings, number, and content of reviews may impact local search engine rankings. It’s an important topic, but obsessing over it can lead to:
- Forget that reviews, like SMS or email, are a primary channel for responsive customer service.
- Contribute to business owners being the primary drivers of review fraud, buying fake positive reviews for their own brands, and creating a reality in which nearly 11% of Google’s review base is fake, according to Greg Sterling’s landmark 2021 report.
- As in this important Near Media/GatherUp study demonstrating how inventory issues at Walmart correlated with an increase in consumer complaints being published as online reviews, reviews are a free ongoing source of direct consumer feedback that depicts the health of a local business and its major quality control issues.
Make 2022 the year your reputation and reviews strategy focuses on auditing and analyzing sentiment within the overall review corpus rather than a sheer number or rating of reviews. Moz Local customers will benefit from a dashboard that collects reviews from multiple sources for basic sentiment analysis, highlighting trends in what customers are praising or blaming as the new year progresses. Repeat mentions of topics such as employee rudeness, long wait times, product disappointment, incorrect citation information, communication barriers, or accessibility issues indicate the need for structural fixes that could directly impact profitability, with consumer candor removing all ambiguity.
Needless to say, 2022 should be the year in which any serious company prohibits the purchase of false reviews. Singing its praises will teach a company nothing useful about its performance.
7. Look for silver linings everywhere and share them with your community
It can be a brave act to face difficulties head-on while choosing hope in difficult times. If you make this decision in 2022, your open and optimistic communications will be of great benefit to your community. Here are three silver linings that could appear in the coming year:
New treatments for COVID-19 could come to the local rescue
While the pandemic had no effect on some groups’ behavior, and other groups have been experimenting with their comfort zones by returning to activities outside the home, McKinsey has done a good job of tracking the continued caution exercised by roughly half of Americans. If the rumored promise of a medication like Monulpiravir or Paxlovid is realized in 2022, it will be the single most significant difference between the new year and the previous two. Due to their age and medical conditions, Kaiser estimated that approximately one-third of US adults faced serious consequences if infected at the start of the pandemic. I can’t think of a more hopeful image than vaccinations and new COVID-19 treatments potentially allowing 90 million people to face the world with greater confidence.
Monopoly losses could be local business gains
Have you noticed that antitrust has become daily news and that even a shortlist of recent monopoly investigations indicates a shift in regulatory activity? There are two potential sources of good in this for small businesses. One, if governing bodies are willing to directly challenge monopolies such as Amazon and Walmart, it may result in a more equitable marketplace for local businesses. Two, and this is the most interesting aspect for me, local businesses have the opportunity to ride the customer wave of anti-bigness that appears to be gaining traction.
In this changing environment, being proud of one’s small size can speak to the aspirations of shoppers who, according to surveys, will be more committed to shopping locally as a result of the pandemic once it subsides (82 percent), do so because they want to keep their money in the community (57 percent), and choose to shop nearby because of the unique product selection (61 percent ). This will not be an easy road, especially in the United States, but I see hope in a shopping public that prefers small-batch over mass-produced, is becoming educated about the harm monopolies do to local economies, and has a built-in loyalty to small businesses.
Regulated tech can support small businesses instead of undermining them
Check out Squarespace’s “everything to sell anything” suite and register for this year’s American Independent Business Alliance virtual event. Then take a moment to marvel at how simple it is for any entrepreneur with a great local business idea to market their offering with incredible sophistication while finding nearby support in a Buy Local association.
It’s never been easier to create a good, optimized website, shoot amazing photos and videos, create a shopping cart as simple as the big brands, huddle with business peers for support, and take all the other marketing steps that lead up to finally getting to talk 1:1 with a customer. That is something I hope we never lose sight of in local search marketing: everything we do is intended to connect people and improve the quality of life in local communities. If governments protect economic and human diversity, we can do our part to make our towns and cities nice places to live, with accessible goods and services for everyone.
Learn more from SEO and read Best Hospitality SEO Practices for 2022 and Beyond.