Simple Ways Local Businesses Can Improve Online Visibility For local businesses in the information age, being found online can mean the difference between failure and success. Yet despite the importance of online visibility, most local businesses don’t have the resources to hire a professional to manage their online presence. At the same time, local business owners are often so consumed with the management of their business that they often don’t have the time to fully understand how to implement an online marketing campaign. If you’re a local business owner who wants to increase your online visibility but don’t know where to start, here are 3 simple ways you can get going. These methods are not necessarily easy – they do require time, consistency, and some serious thought – but if implemented correctly, the initial time investment will pay healthy dividends down the road. Start A Blog That Offers Valuable Content In Web 2.0, online visibility is about more than just having a company website. It’s also about more than simply having a blog – it’s about putting out high quality, valuable content that gets discussed, tweeted, and shared. While any business can start a blog, it takes significantly more to create a blog that offers unique value to potential customers. But by starting a blog that consistently puts out content that is helpful, fascinating, timely, controversial or a combination of all of the above, even smaller local businesses can generate a large audience over time. In addition to posting valuable, interesting, timely content – local businesses can increase the visibility of their blogs through basic keyword research using the Google Adwords Keyword tool. This tool allows anyone to identify popular search terms in their industry. It’s then a simple matter to dedicate 1-2 blog posts a week that provide content for the high volume search terms in your industry. Get Involved In The Discourse Every industry or niche has a community that functions as the online “pulse” of the industry. In a large industry, this can be a handful of high authority websites, online forums and the blogs of industry experts. This is where breaking news happens, new trends are identified, and the cutting edge of the industry is discussed. Getting involved in this discourse can increase your status as authority and broaden your online profile. One caveat is that these online hubs are usually filled with the most experienced, knowledgeable people in the industry. While being recognized in this circle has a trickle-down effect that can benefit your business and your brand, you must have something relevant and insightful to contribute, or you’ll be laughed out of the room. Here are some ways you can begin to get involved in the discourse of your industry. Follow recognized industry leaders on twitter, and tweet them regarding breaking news or controversial subjects. Post regular blog comments and share opinions on the leading blogs in your industry. Become an active member of the major industry forums. Pitch guest post ideas to the leading websites/blogs in your industry. Come up with valuable topic ideas that are fresh and unique. Draw on your own industry experience to share tips and information in a personal way. By drawing on your own experiences you can have something valuable to contribute, even if you’re not a leading expert in your field. It goes without saying that your thoughts and insights should be carefully considered and backed by facts or experience if you want to be taken seriously. But if you can consistently offer unique insights and valuable contributions on the major online media platforms in your industry, this can translate into superior search engine rankings, greater social media followings, and the benefits that follow. Don’t forget to include a link back to your blog when you’re commenting on other blogs, in your forum signature, and of course in your guest blog posts. Encourage Customers To Leave You Online Reviews Nowadays, savvy consumers use the web more and more to research their choices. Whether they’re purchasing services or products, customers use review sites to review potential choices before spending their hard earned dollars. They also use review sites to discover new choices they may have never heard of. Encourage your existing customers to leave you reviews on local business review websites like Yelp. This can not only help your reputation and encourage potential customers to choose your business over a competitor, but it can also help you get found in search engines, as websites like Yelp tend to show up frequently in local search results.