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Without online visibility, local businesses will likely fail in today’s competitive environment.

The Ins and Outs of Online Visibility for Local Businesses

The days of competing with local businesses via storefront window displays and newspaper ads are long gone. Sure, traditional methods of advertising still hold value, but it’s pretty much impossible for any business to survive without online visibility – particularly a local business. It’s just the way of the world nowadays.

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Without an optimized presence online, local businesses will struggle to stay relevant and appeal to local customers. In fact, a company’s online visibility (and presence on search engines) can make or break it. Here’s why.

Online Visibility Draws in Potential Customers and Profit

Shockingly, about a third (36 percent) of small businesses still don’t even have a website. This makes it incredibly difficult for customers to find the business through anything other than word of mouth or traditional advertising. Considering that most customers expect local businesses to have some sort of website, this is a risky move that can decrease a business’ appeal to future clients.

Additionally, according to Bazaarvoice, 82 percent of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store. If a local company doesn’t have a website, or a presence with review sites like Yelp, Google or Bing, where will people find them?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many local businesses fail within their first year (20 percent). Another 50 percent will go under within five years, and roughly 80 percent fail within the first decade. It’s not easy for small companies to survive in today’s world, and finding new customers is a big part of that battle. Why not make it easier for people to find the business online? People don’t just rely on family and friends’ recommendations anymore; they do research and make decisions based on what they find online.

Getting a business listed in the most popular directories and data sources is the place to start. This list of the best directories can help with that. Companies like ours can help, too! Request a demo to see how local businesses benefit from our services.

Without Online Visibility, Where’s the Business’ Credibility?

Fake news and online scammers have left many consumers hesitant to trust businesses, even if they’re run by their next door neighbors. Local companies must first earn their customers’ trust before they can expect to turn a profit or be referred to future clients. How? They need to prove that the business is real, authentic and reliable.

Everyone researches companies before making a decision. When people research local businesses, they need to see that the companies are transparent and professional. Consumers should be able to find records of healthy interactions with customers and reviews from happy clients. It’s also positive if the local business has a visible relationship with the community. People love to see that small companies donate to charities, help out with events, or simply acknowledge local happenings and holidays.

Another source of credibility is original content. Blogs, interviews, videos, infographics and email newsletters can all help local businesses establish their place as an expert in their respective field. This boosts their authority and online presence while also gaining potential customers’ trust, all while improving the business’ place in search results.

Interacting With Customers Online Is Vital

One of the big reasons people love working with local businesses is that they’re more personable than big corporations. Instead of interacting with a chatbot or outsourced customer service representative, consumers can hear from the actual business and its employees. The company’s online presence can highlight this and win more customers who appreciate the personal aspect of business.

Obviously, social media facilitates a great deal of consumer-company interactions. That’s a smart start for local businesses, but don’t stop there. Reviews (and the local business’ reactions to them) can be extremely defining in the eyes of future customers. According to BrightLocal, at least 93 percent of consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad. Furthermore, 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews.

If a local business lacks an online presence, how will potential customers conduct research? Where will they find reviews that tell them whether or not to trust the company? In all honesty, we wouldn’t trust a company that’s invisible online. Would you?

The Risks That Come With Online Activity – And How to Handle Them

Many local businesses fear exposing themselves to the internet. They see how powerful a negative review or social media disaster can be, and they figure they’re safer sticking to their old methods of customer interaction and advertising. Unfortunately, that train of thought will lead a small company to disaster in most cases.

In fact, most businesses are visible, whether they realize it or not. Their data is listed in government databases and these databases are accessed by other data sources such as directories. The sources list the business’ data on their websites, so whether the business is paying attention or sticking their head in the ground, they are most likely listed and simply not managing their data or reviews. Run our free online visibility report and find out about a business for yourself today.

It’s important to keep in mind that negative reviews offer businesses the chance to respond in a positive manner. Even if the review was unfair, people will appreciate an apology and a gesture of professionalism on the part of the business. Similarly, negative press via social media can be handled in a manner that actually improves customers’ view of the business. Customer service is extremely important to consumers, so don’t be afraid to showcase how the business handles problems in a public manner.

Another risk is the threat of online hackers and spammers. The local business should protect their website so that customers feel safe sharing private information or making purchases. Secure the website and indicate to users that it’s safe. Consider adding a third-party trustmark that indicates the website poses no threats. Roughly 84 percent of consumers have greater confidence in trustmarks they know and recognize.

How Advice Local Can Help With Online Visibility

Consumers need to be able to find local businesses online in an instant. Without a strong online presence, a local company might as well be handing out paper flyers to an audience with their faces stuck in their phones and headphones in their ears. Very few people will find or trust the business, no matter how authentic it may be.

At Advice Local, we recognize the importance of establishing a credible online presence from the get-go, especially when it comes to small companies. That’s why we offer a free online visibility report! Local businesses can see just how easily potential customers can find them. Contact us today to schedule a demo.