This sample from Pepper Content’s Digital Marketing writing service is a concise, engaging guide on online growth strategies for virtual businesses. It has been authored by a writer having vast experience in the domain with brands like BigBangSocial and DigitalGurus under his kitty.
Several businesses have sprung up during the coronavirus pandemic to serve customers virtually or from the comfort of their homes. Now the point is, without a thoughtful and effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy, no business can possibly succeed.
For many of these businesses, their physical addresses (or a lack of them) can prove to be a major roadblock to implementing an efficient SEO strategy. For businesses with storefronts, offices or any other kinds of physical location, there are usually no bottlenecks.
But, what happens if you are an online provider or your business operates solely from your home?
Identify your business model
Before going for localised or local SEO, the first step for a non-brick-and-mortar brand is to identify its business model:
- Service area business (SAB): Home services such as plumbing and housekeeping are a few SAB examples. There may not be physical addresses, but the defining feature for such businesses is that they serve customers face-to-face at their locations.
- Home-based business: The physical address, in this case, is your home location. You might serve nearby customers at your location or go to their locations to serve them or opt for a combination of both.
- Virtual business: All business operations and transactions are conducted via mobile, desktop or other remote means, such as eCommerce.
- Hybrid business: This is a combination of all the models mentioned above.
Local SEO for service area businesses
Google’s requirements for local marketing of SABs:
- In-person contact required
- Hiding your address required
- Setting a service area allowed
- More than one listing allowed for some models
- Organic marketing: SABs with multiple physical offices can create a unique location landing page for each of their physical stores. These pages serve a specific local audience with content that is designed for their particular needs. Such pages rank well organically and can be used as landing page URLs for multi-location model’s Google My Business or GMB listings.
- Paid local marketing: Through Google’s Local Services Ads programme, you can run your ads for the kind of jobs you want to undertake in the desired service areas. The only catch is that your business should be in a qualifying industry and geography.
Local SEO for home-based businesses
- In-person serving at home and address is public
In such cases, businesses can consider putting up visibility elements on streets and should try to market themselves as traditional, physical businesses.
- In-person serving at home and address is private
It is mandatory for such businesses to not put their addresses in the information section of their dashboard; they can instead add information about the areas they cater to. You may also list your business in other directories where you do not need to mention your address.
- Working from home and customer serving at their locations
Such businesses are similar to SABs, which do not share their addresses and only mention details of the areas they serve. One cannot list these businesses on Google Maps, but can definitely include them in GMB once they have cleared the addresses.
- Working from home and no in-person customer serving
The pandemic has led to a change in Google’s stance for such businesses. If a business earlier served customers in person and plans to resume it once the situation is normalised, then their GMB listing eligibility is unaffected. However, if a business never entertained in-person appointments, it will be counted as a virtual business.
Local SEO for virtual businesses
In this case, let’s look at the dos and don’ts for virtual brands:
Virtual businesses such as eCommerce projects should take the following steps:
- Improve your website’s on-page SEO
- Build backlinks/mentions/local citations
- Get online reviews or feedback from your customers
- Tweak the website content as per your local audience
- Seek help from local influencers
Totally virtual businesses with no physical addresses should not list themselves on GMB since they are not eligible. Such businesses should either try out other directories or focus on branding and national SEO strategies.
In 2021, more brick-and-mortar brands will adopt the digital selling module to meet the demand for contactless fulfilment. On the other hand, digital-only brands will transition from full online selling to physical stores. Google would have to absorb all these changes and keep on updating its guidelines to stay relevant. Brands and marketers should identify organic wins based on their business models and supplement them with paid marketing.