You run a local business, not an international conglomerate. You’re not managing a massive e-commerce company like Amazon — in fact, the biggest companies on the internet might be the ones putting the greatest stress on your industry and your local business. In many ways, the global internet can seem more like a problem than an opportunity for your business.
But there’s something else happening on the internet, too — something that is local in its heart and incredibly important to your business.
The information superhighway
The internet is a big and global thing, of course. From the beginning, the media coverage and its big headlines have focused on the breadth and the size of the whole thing. Internet cables run beneath the Atlantic Ocean and satellites and cell towers connect devices remotely and from spectacularly remote locations.
And early on, there was something global about the way we all used the internet. The fascination was very much with communicating across massive distances: We’d talk with foreign strangers in internet chat rooms, watch videos recorded in far-flung locations, and revel in how the internet made the world feel smaller.
How the internet went local
Over the years, something else has happened: The internet has gotten more and more local.
These days, we use social networks not just (and not even primarily) to chat with strangers around the globe, but to connect with friends and family, often over much shorter distances. We follow our favorite musicians on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but we also follow our local garden center or movie theater. We get our local news online, too. When we look at a map of Facebook connections, we can see the shapes of our communities: Cities and state lines are clearly visible.
And when we search for things on huge search engines like Google, we no longer get the same results as people on the other side of the country do. On all devices and especially on mobile devices (as well as for particular searches that it deems inherently local), Google focuses on delivering results that are tailored to our area.
All business is local — and online
That has huge implications for your business. Like politics, business is a local thing. Even the largest operations rely on the individual purchasing decisions of their customers. Your local business is particularly reliant on the people who surround you in your city, town, or county, so you need to make sure that your business is on the “local” internet — you need your company to be near the center of the web of Facebook connections that local people and businesses have. You need to be available to answer customer questions and respond to reviews on review websites. And, crucially, you need your brand name to pop up in local Google searches.
If social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing, search engine real estate is the new “location, location, location.” Without a prime spot near the top of the search engine results page, your company will be lost in the shuffle and customers will drive right by you as their GPS directs them to a competitor with a more search-engine-friendly online presence.
That’s why your local business should contact another one: a local SEO company. “SEO” stands for search engine optimization, and it’s the dimension of digital marketing that deals with your rank for relevant queries on Google and Bing.
And don’t stop there. Get help managing your presence on Facebook and other social media sites. Respond to customer queries and reviews. Advertise online. The internet is local, and so is your business. So make sure that on the information superhighway, an off-ramp leads to you.