SEO & SEM: Benefits for Local Businesses

Ashley Taylor Anderson
SEO tips and SEM tips for small businesses and local businesses

If you’re looking for somewhere to get your nails done, how do you select a salon?

Most likely, you’re searching online or on your mobile device for a place nearby that offers the type of manicure you’re looking for—not for a specific salon by name.

Consumers find other local businesses in exactly the same way—by searching generally for the products or services they want in their area. Being a part of these search results is crucial to getting your business discovered, and if your website comes up closer to the top of a user’s search results, they’ll be more likely to click on your listing than if you appear toward the end of the list. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are two tactics you can use to ensure that your business’s website gets in front of prospective clients as high up in search results as possible.

You may be skeptical that search marketing will really work for your business. Shailen Lodhia a search engine marketing expert with Expreseo, has worked with many clients who’ve said the same thing. 

“Internet marketing can be scary for businesses who’ve never done it before. But once you try search marketing, you’ll be amazed at how great it works,” he says.

Still skeptical? Let’s dig into the costs and benefits of SEO and SEM.

Why SEO Matters for Your Business

Having a website and having a website that’s optimized for search engines and people are not the same thing. There are specific ways to build your site, display elements on a page, and develop content that contribute to the complex algorithm search engines use to serve users results. All of these ingredients are part of the secret sauce we call search engine optimization (SEO).

Because search is the primary method local consumers use to discover new businesses, it’s important that your website put its best foot forward by having a structure and content that’s easy for both crawlers and readers to make sense of.

It’s also important to make sure that your website adheres to the latest SEO standards so that you continue to rank high in organic search.

However, keeping up with the ever-changing search engine landscape can be a challenge, especially for entrepreneurs who already have a full-time job running and promoting their business. Many companies bring in outside help from SEO consultants or friends who work in the search marketing space. If you’re interested in optimizing your site on your own, this checklist can help you get started.

SEM—A Powerful Marketing Tool

Most businesses have tried some form of advertising at one point or another. Search engine marketing (SEM) is highly effective because it plays into current consumer behaviors (searching for products and services online) and intent (a searcher’s intrinsic interest in what you have to offer inferred from their search query). 

SEM is based on keywords. A business bids on and writes ad copy around keywords they think consumers are searching for when trying to find businesses like theirs. These ads are then served in the list of results that come up when a user type a search into their engine of choice (usually Google, Bing, or Yahoo).

One of the benefits of SEM is that, even if your website doesn’t rank high in organic search results, you can gain visibility with ads that appear at the top or right side of the first page. And if your site already ranks high organically, you can reinforce your business’s credibility and dominance in the space with two listings (one paid, one organic).

Aside from boosting your business’s visibility, SEM is a powerful competitive tool. “If your business isn’t present in search, your competition can use that against you and even target your customers searching for your business by name,” says Shailen. Conversely, if you’re running a paid search program and other businesses in your area aren’t, you’ll be more likely to snag potential clients for yourself. 

The Bottom Line

SEO and SEM both involve an investment of time, effort, and money. What’s great about them is that you can very clearly see the impact of your investment. Whether you’re spending time optimizing your content for search, paying a consultant to revamp your site architecture, or running a paid search campaign, you can view metrics that will tell you whether your efforts are working or not. That’s more than can be said for print ads or flyers!


About the Author

Ashley Taylor Anderson

Ashley Taylor Anderson is a content developer and marketer who's spent her career knee-deep in the B2B technology space. In previous professional lives, she worked as a science textbook editor, media producer, and pastry chef.

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