Some people get so focused on rankings that they forget what great SEO is all about: marketing. Through applying the principles of guerrilla marketing, columnist Marcus Miller shows how great marketing makes for great local SEO.
When it really comes down to it, SEO and local SEO are just forms of marketing. Much like a Yellow Pages listing, they represent a way to get your business in front of interested consumers.
With Yellow Page listings, as in most forms of advertising media, you can simply pay to appear. You choose your slot, pay the piper and you are in — so the marketer’s focus tends to be more on traditional marketing elements, such as the creative and the messaging.
SEO is a little different. You can’t just pay to appear in the local results (yet). There is a whole technical, black-box process to follow in an effort to improve your visibility and to appear in the local or organic search results for your business. This shifts the focus away from the traditional advertising and marketing mindset and more toward unlocking the mystery of strong local rankings.
The purpose of this article is to help local businesses address this mindset switch. The goal is still to achieve local visibility, but more importantly, it’s to put the marketing back into their marketing.
Too Much SEO And Too Little Marketing
If we can all agree that SEO is just a form of marketing, then we can likely agree that endlessly hammering out citations or buying some spammy links is not marketing. Making sure your business really looks the part on those citations (especially those that rank on the first page of results for your key terms) and ensuring that these citations may actually drive business — now that is marketing.
Marketing is every bit of communication you have with the outside world. Marketing is the name of your business, the products and services you sell, your location, branding, website, email signatures and how you answer the phone. Marketing is your page titles, meta descriptions and search engine listings. Marketing is every touch point you have with a customer.
In other words, your brand, website, social profiles, Google My Business, citations and reviews are all part of your marketing — not simply mechanical processes to aid in ranking your website more highly.
A well-placed advertisement will still fail to drive business if the marketing basics are not in place. Likewise, a well-positioned website without a focus on core marketing principles will also fail to generate business. Take the example of meta descriptions. Meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings, right? True, but they surely can influence how your search listing looks to a potential site visitor, which may determine whether it’s clicked or ignored.
Every single interaction a user has with your business will affect his or her perception of your business, so as marketers (SEO or otherwise), we must learn to pay attention to even the smallest of details.
In practice, better marketing leads to better visibility. Improve your focus on doing the right thing by your customers and lessen your focus on some of the minutiae of the SEO process. Get the big things right first.
Where Are The Guerrillas?
If I were asked to recommend one marketing book out of the millions available to entrepreneurs, small business owners and marketing managers, it would be Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Hands down. I would not even have to think about it.
Levinson’s book is jam-packed with take-no-prisoners marketing ideas that you can use and put to work for your small or local business. The ideas are targeted more to small businesses than to the titans, but the concepts work so well at a local level that even large multi-location businesses can put these strategies to work at a local level. From targeting prospects to generating referral business, Guerrilla Marketing has you covered.
“Guerrilla marketing” is about more than just your website or online presence. The best local SEO strategies need to merge online, offline and every touch point with your customers and prospects. The front of your brick-and-mortar shop needs to have your Web address, and your website needs to have your physical address. It is in the merging of these two worlds where success lies, and the guerrilla mindset will help get you there.
All of your marketing must pull in the same direction — local SEO, PPC and social, as well as any marketing done in the physical world. This is a strategic, long-term effort, and the synergy created here ensures that every channel contributes and punches above its weight. The goal is to have one strategically aligned marketing strategy across the digital and physical landscapes.
The 16 Monumental Secrets Of Guerrilla Local SEO
Guerrilla marketing is based on 16 core concepts (or “secrets,” if you want to spice it up) that should form the foundation of all marketing activities. Make these concepts part of your marketing mantra, weaving them into your SEO and all other marketing activities, and you will be on the fast track to marketing and SEO success.
The 16 concepts can be summarized as follows:
- You must have commitment to your marketing program.
- You must see your marketing program as an investment.
- Your marketing program must be consistent.
- Your prospects must feel confident in your offering.
- Marketing (and local SEO) requires patience.
- Marketing utilizes an assortment of weapons.
- Profits will generally come subsequent to the initial sale.
- You must make it convenient for your customers to use your company.
- Great marketing has an element of amazement.
- Use measurement to determine success of your marketing weapons.
- Demonstrate your involvement with your customers with regular follow-ups.
- Learn to utilize and become dependent on other businesses.
- Become skilled with the armament of guerrillas (technology).
- Marketing should be used to gain consent from prospects.
- Promote the content of your offering — the steak and the sizzle!
- Work to augment your marketing program and never, ever sit still.
Every single one of these elements will enrich your marketing process and add untold value to your local SEO. Consistently implement them, and your marketing (and business) will move to the next level with relative ease.
The remainder of this post will look at each one of these concepts and how they fit into your local SEO and overall marketing strategy.
Are you married? Have you ever run a marathon? Things that are worth doing require commitment, and your marketing is no different.
Is your local SEO not delivering bucketloads of hot leads after just a couple of months? No surprise there — yet, while business owners often get excited about what local SEO can offer, many give up before they even get off the blocks. Remember, local SEO can be a slow process.
Although it saddens me to say it, mediocre marketing with a strong commitment works far better than seemingly magical marketing without commitment. Marketing works when you have a solid plan and are committed to seeing it through over the long haul. Local SEO is no different.
You must be committed to ensuring your site is perfectly optimized. You must be committed to generating good local exposure and links. You must be committed to building your online reputation. You must be committed to revising and refining your strategy, rain or shine.
The following is a famous overview of the effects of advertising from Thomas Smith’s guide, Successful Advertising:
- The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
- The second time, they don’t notice it.
- The third time, they are aware that it is there.
- The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
- The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
- The sixth time, they thumb their nose at it.
- The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
- The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
- The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
- The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
- The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
- The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
- The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
- The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this.
- The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
- The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
- The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
- The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
- The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
- The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what it is offering.
If that seems relevant, then stop for second to consider that it was written in 1885.
Although many things have changed since then, search engine users of today are not so different from the prospects of 1885.
There is a reason commitment is first on this list, as nothing is more important. Design your plan, refine it, tweak it, but most of all commit to it, and local search and marketing success will follow suit. Maybe not today, maybe not even in three months’ time, but give a solid plan 12 months and watch your local SEO efforts bear fruit.
Is your local SEO and marketing campaign an expense — something to budget for? Or is it an investment — something that you are spending on now for the betterment of your business over the long haul?
Marketing and advertising are an investment. They are not a silver bullet, and they will not deliver instant results. At best, SEO, local SEO and marketing in general should deliver slow, steady and often incremental results, but it only will when we commit and invest in our marketing program. With local SEO, you are investing in the visibility of your business. Being highly visible, well presented and having strong reputation signals has certainly never hurt a business!
Most importantly of all, try to change your mindset and consider your marketing an investment in a brighter future, rather than just another expense on your balance sheet.
Consistency is the third key pillar for your marketing. Become visible in local search. Stay visible. Be consistent in building reviews. Be consistent in the other marketing you are putting out there. Be consistent in your branding and messaging. Don’t change your logo or business name. Try not to change your address or phone number. These key factors that underlie local SEO success are the same factors that allow you to connect with a real human prospect — who would have guessed?
If you send out email marketing, be consistent. If you send out flyers to drive store visits, be consistent. Radio commercials, TV, press, PR — whatever activities you undertake that are working, be consistent.
Consistency breeds familiarity and confidence with your target audience.
I am a huge believer in the importance of online credibility as a part of any online marketing campaign. Heck, credibility in general is absolutely critical. Any given search may generate ten paid links, ten organic links and several local links, so how do you stand out from the crowd beyond trying to rank ever more highly (which has diminishing returns)? The answer is really very simple: You make your customers confident in what you have to offer.
Commitment, investment and consistency are all important tools in building confidence. These are supplemented by the local SEO stalwarts of reviews, case studies and testimonials.
If you are consistently visible in paid, organic and local search results, you will build confidence with your target audience.
Commitment, investment and consistency breed confidence, yet these are built upon a foundation of patience. Know that it may take six months or more to generate good local visibility in some cases. Know that it takes time to build up a bedrock of honest reviews. Know that it takes time for users to recognize your brand and build up familiarity from knowing that you are always there.
Understand that it takes patience to wait while a user has perhaps twenty or so interactions with your business — over adverts, local listings, physical adverts, driving past your store and recognizing you, reading a blog post — before finally deciding to do business with you.
Without patience, you will give up before you see the cumulative results from your efforts.
SEO is not a marketing panacea. Certainly, SEO should form part of a successful guerrilla marketing plan for most local businesses, but it is just one regiment in a larger army. A successful marketing campaign may use some geotargeted paid search ads, remarketing, blogging and content marketing, social media, email marketing, follow-up email campaigns and a whole host of offline strategies.
This does not have to be complicated, but there are many, many potential ways to interact with your prospects, and joining the dots with one cohesive physical and digital strategy with an assortment of weapons will only help drive familiarity and confidence.
The old saying is that it costs six times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing one. It naturally follows, then, that a great part of our efforts should involve selling to existing customers. This is where we move beyond a simple seek-and-retrieve local SEO model to utilize additional weapons, with email and other forms of direct marketing leading the charge.
You have been patient and committed, you’ve built a relationship with this customer, and it is in the subsequent sales that the long-term value of the customer is unlocked.
Convenience is critical. I need my car cleaned, and it is way cheaper to take it to the car wash, but I have no spare time. What is convenient for me is the mobile valet who comes and does the whole job for me whilst my car is in the car park at my office.
Convenience should stretch to all levels of your marketing and service — be easy to find, easy to contact, and have all the information a client may need, such as business hours, flexible payment options, directions and a map. Customize this to your business and prospects. Make it more convenient for your customers to do business with you than with the competition.
Note the similarity in aspects of convenience and the local SEO basics: What is good for your customer is good for your local SEO efforts.
Every business has the potential to be amazing. Be it via price (not one I am keen on), service, quality, skills or something else, you must look to amaze your target audience. Be different. Stand out. Have a USP that is actually unique. Awe your audience and inspire confidence and amazement.
In the words of Jay Conrad Levinson, “Marketing is the truth made fascinating.” I think that just about frames what we are trying to do here.
Another old marketing saying is that 50% of your marketing is working — the problem is that you don’t know which 50%. Well, in the digital age, it is easier than ever to measure, qualify and quantify the success of your marketing efforts.
Analytics may be a little boring to most, but insights are never boring. Drop the 50% of your marketing that is not working and double down on the 50% that is, and you have just doubled your profits. There is nothing boring about that!
Can you involve your customers in what you do as a business? Maybe special offers that are only for existing customers? Personalised communications to make sure they are happy and to see if there is anything else you can do. Good old-fashioned customer service that demonstrates that you are willing to go the extra mile will all make your customer feel involved in your business.
But as marketing guerrillas in 2015, we have oh-so-much more at our disposal. We can utilise social media and forum software to build communities and automated emails to keep our customers up-to-date with special offers that only they can see.
This all builds on the subsequent element, and the payoff from this involvement will often be happy customers who will come back time and time again. These happy customers can also be recruited to leave reviews, provide testimonials and generally help us build up the content that will build confidence and credibility.
As a small business owner, you likely see yourself as something of a lone gun. A solitary figure duking it out in your marketplace. Yet true success is always built upon dependencies and teamwork. Everyone from your Web developer to your SEO company, your networking group and involved customers all form part of the dependencies that allow you to do more than you could ever do alone.
Embrace technology and dependencies, and ensure you nurture them as an integral and critical element of your Guerrilla local SEO marketing plan.
Your armament is the technological tools you use to win the marketing battle, and you have more tools than ever at your disposal. At the very least, you should have a well-optimised website, some local-facing PPC adverts, local SEO, remarketing and an array of offline activities.
From a purely local SEO perspective, we want well-optimised and consistent citations, a well-built site with all the local SEO bells and whistles, good general purpose authority, location-specific landing pages, local links, local content and plenty of reviews in all the right places.
Modern marketing is all about consent. We don’t simply move a prospect from a search to search engine listing to landing page to sale. It has never really worked like that, yet that is what many expect.
In fact, the first stage of your marketing for new prospects should be to gain consent to continue marketing to them. Be that via a social follow, an email newsletter on the back of a high-value and free download, remarketed adverts after reading a blog post or some other means, you are looking to “build the list.” As the old saying goes, “The money is in the list!”
Consent allows us to deliver more high-value content and to build familiarity, build trust and ultimately push confidence in our offering over multiple touch points. You look to gain consent and then gradually widen that consent until it leads to a desirable action.
In true Guerrilla Marketing tradition, content relates to the meat of your offer. Remove the sizzle and the marketing spiel and what it is that you really, truly offer your prospects.
Firstly, you need a quality product or service. If you don’t have a high-quality product or service, then good marketing will only hasten your demise.
Secondly, content is one of the primary tools at your disposal to add value to your marketing and put yourself in front of prospects in a non-commercial way. Tie content to consent, and you have the top end of your marketing funnel. Promote this via your website, local search, paid search and paid social (and every other tool in your guerrilla arsenal — think email signatures, t-shirts and more), and then you have a powerful guerrilla weapon at your disposal.
Our final strategy is to keep evaluating and augmenting our marketing plan. Don’t sit still. New opportunities are popping up every day.
I see more chatter regarding paid local listings for service providers, which may be a total game changer. AdWords just added reviews from Google My Business listings via location extensions.
Your competitors are getting smarter every day, and whilst a Guerrilla approach to local SEO will take you beyond the short-sighted, uncommitted and uninspired efforts of most local marketers, you can’t stand still.
Developing Your Guerrilla Marketing Plan
If you can implement these 16 strategies into your marketing and local SEO, you will be positioned for success. It will not be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. There will be doubters, and there will be challenges. You will need commitment, investment and patience, but your strategy is built on these concepts, so you will prevail.
You will need to develop a structured marketing plan that considers every single channel and marketing strategy. This plan will be the backbone of your approach, so give it the respect and investment it deserves. Don’t sign off on your plan until you are ready and truly believe it represents the best possible avenue of attack. Your plan will evolve as you start to implement the strategies and measure the results, but you still must have a solid strategic overview that ties together your non-digital and digital marketing efforts into one cohesive whole.
Don’t implement the plan until you are ready to commit to it and invest the time, effort and money required to see it to fruition. Don’t be that business that pulls the plug after two months, before the plan has had time to bear fruit. Stick with it.
Guerrilla Marketing provides a mantra born out of these concepts, and we can do the same:
Your goal is to make your customers confident in your offering. You will show utmost commitment to your marketing plan, along with the patience to see results. You will look at an assortment of strategies and armaments to drive results, and you will be completely consistent in the implementation of these. You understand your dependence on key partners to strengthen your offering. You will provide adequate investment in your plan and always follow up subsequent to the sale. You will provide a service that is convenient, amazes and always involves your customers. You will utilise content to gain consent from your customers. You will doggedly measure your efforts to fine-tune your approach. Finally, you will augment your plan over time to stay several steps ahead of the competition.
SEO Is Marketing
Great local SEO is about great marketing. There is more to this picture than just citations and finely tuned on-page SEO. This is not to say these things are not important, as they are, but they should be details, rather than the backbone of your marketing strategy.
The 16 secrets of guerrilla marketing still to this day provide a framework for thinking about your marketing strategy that can take away some of the chaos when chasing the whim of a highly changeable search engine.
Think like a marketer. Better still, think like a guerrilla marketer, weave these concepts into the tapestry of your marketing, and you will soon outgun your opposition every step of the way.