September 30, 2023
Online visibility plays a crucial role in the success of businesses all over the globe, no matter your business model or industry. From showing up on Google Maps, Searches, and Social Media. Being found is the difference between customers knowing you exist versus them maybe stumbling upon your business.
Here in Missoula, we've been experiencing a large amount of growth over the last few years. Not only because of covid, but because it's an all around great place to live, just check out what Livability has to say about our vibrant city.
While this growth has been both gladly and grudgingly received, it has brought two things with the wave of people moving in. Just like any influx of people, they bring both potential customers and competitors.
Graph showing the percentage growth of the ecommerce space over the last four years. Data pulled from Insider Intelligence.
72% of U.S. retail will still happen in a brick and mortar store in 2024
Does that mean that brick and mortar stores are going to die out? Hardly, Forrester recently published a paper saying that 72% of U.S. retail will still happen in a brick and mortar store in 2024. Citing the biggest reasons for this to continue to be a predominant trend, is because people just prefer the experience of going into a real store. Being able to walk away with an item once you've purchased it, to having a very easy return process, and an actual human being to talk too all are things that ecommerce stores struggle with.
However it's important to note, that the same paper noted these same brick and mortar stores as having adopted ecommerce & customer insights into their workflow. The stores that are succeeding are the ones that have adapted to this new digital frontier.
Just within the last few years we've seen tremendous growth in the ecommerce space. Insider Intelligence released a small post showing statistics based off of treasury reports. Based on these estimates, ecommerce has nearly doubled from 2019-2023. Accounting for around 19% of total retail sales.
With the vibrant and growing community of Missoula, it's essential for local businesses to understand the significance of search engine optimization (SEO) in reaching their target audiences, before their competition does. Especially as more and more people go online to figure out where to shop next. In this article, we will explore why SEO matters for Missoula businesses and how it can enhance their online presence.
So how do you as a business owner take advantage of the growth that's happening in both Missoula and the Online Space? Well the best way to do that is to take advantage of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is the practice of optimizing websites to rank higher in search engine results. Search engines like Google use complex algorithms to analyze and rank web pages based on how relevant your website is to a searched topic and your website's authority. The simple version of authority is that it is a combination of your website's age and how well it ranks over all for it's search terms.
But why does any of that matter? Well here are some of the benefits of SEO for Missoula Businesses:
1. Increased Online Visibility:
Appearing on the first page of search engine results is crucial for businesses. Research studies like that done by Chitika in 2022, showed that 94.75% of traffic doesn't get past the first page. Showing that most users rarely go beyond the first page, so ranking high can significantly increase website traffic and exposure. By optimizing your website for relevant keywords, you can improve your visibility and attract more potential customers. And if you can rank for the #1 result in Google, you can get up to 34% of the organic traffic.
2. Targeting Local Customers:
For small businesses, targeting local customers is key, especially in Missoula. The city has a thriving "Shop Local" atmosphere that customers rally behind in both farmers markets and shopping events for local businesses. The movement is promoted by the local businesses and the Missoula Chamber of Commerce.
By patronizing a local business, you actively contribute to the well-being of your friends, family, and neighbors. These business owners are the very individuals you encounter with a smile while shopping for groceries, participate alongside in local community sports events, and exchange waves with when picking up the mail. Supporting these local businesses not only sustains their livelihood within the community but also enhances your own quality of life by providing you with the high-quality products and services you value.
You can see signs to "Shop Local" in shop windows, on bumper stickers, and more. Coming up in local search results will help your business rank higher in location-based searches. For example "bakeries near me" or "Missoula real estate agents". Which will help you tap into the local community.
3. Cost-Effective Marketing Strategy:
Compared to other marketing channels, SEO offers a cost-effective long-term strategy. While initial efforts are required, once you establish a solid SEO foundation, organic search traffic can generate ongoing leads and conversions without continuous advertising expenses. Some of the clients we've worked with can spend anywhere from $4k a month to $10k for an effective ad campaign. Maintaining an SEO campaign is the fraction of the cost and can provide a higher return on investment (ROI) in the long run.
4. Building Trust and Credibility:
Ranking high in search results not only increases visibility but also builds trust and credibility among potential customers. Users often associate top-ranking websites with authority and reliability.
Despite referrals still being a great way to gain new customers, more people are starting to turn to the internet to "double check" referrals. What used to be the ultimate form of growth is now being checked and weighed.
By providing a positive online presence and User Experience, Mobile Optimization, and Valuable Content, you can enhance your credibility and establish a strong online presence.
Now to the meat of it. What are some actual strategies that you as a business owner can implement to start seeing results?
1. Keyword Research:
Conduct thorough keyword research to identify relevant search terms for your business. Focus on local keywords that align with your products or services and the Missoula community. Utilize tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush to discover high-ranking keywords and monitor search volume.
Or an even easier method is to just jump onto Google and start typing what you think your customers might look for to find your services and products. As you type, Google will make suggestions on what you're typing, these are commonly searched terms and will help you understand what people are looking for.
2. On-Page Optimization:
Optimization is a fancy word for ensuring that your website is easily crawlable by search engines and offers a seamless user experience. You can do this by making sure that various on-page elements such as meta tags, headings, URLs, and content to align with your target keywords. Also craft informative and engaging content while incorporating keywords naturally.
Not sure what content to create? Think about your customer and the journey that they have to take before they purchase your service. Topher Morrison an expert on sales, put it in a way that made it really easy for me to understand.
Think about what they need to know or feel before they can purchase from you.
You need to picture what questions need to be answered for your customers. By using the keyword research above and your own experience talking with customers, start giving answers to those questions. Especially the ones that you hear all the time.
3. Local SEO Tactics:
a. Consistency is key when it comes to local SEO. Ensure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information is accurate and consistent across your website, Google My Business listing, and local directories (Such as yellowpages). Having consistent information will lower the chances of someone getting frustrated when trying to find or contact your business.
b. Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive online reviews, which can boost your local search rankings. Optimizing your website and Google My Business listing for Missoula-related keywords and providing accurate NAP information can help you connect with local customers actively seeking your products or services.
4. Link Building and Off-Page SEO:
First off, what's a backlink? A backlink is a link from someone's website to yours. The more authority the website has that is linking to you, the more authority your website gains. By building a strong network of high-quality backlinks from reputable sources you'll be able to rank higher in search results.
Seek opportunities for collaborations, guest blogging, and participation in industry-related events to acquire valuable backlinks. Building a diverse and authoritative backlink profile can improve your website's credibility and search engine rankings.
A great strategy for new businesses in Missoula is to sign up for your local Chamber of Commerce. Once a member, your website will be listed on their business directory. This will not only help build legitimacy and ranking quicker. But you'll also be listed on a directory with over 4k+ visits per month! Some businesses are generating over 400+ leads per year, like the one below.
An example of how many referrals a business received over twelve months from the Missoula Chamber. 446 of these website visitors became leads. Data provided by Missoula Chamber of Commerce.
This step is so often missed by Business owners, but it can be the most rewarding. There's nothing like sitting down after all the hard work is done and seeing your visitor count increase. But it serves a more integral part than just seeing the rewards of your labors.
When you regularly monitor your SEO efforts using analytics tools like Google Analytics. You're tracking important metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, bounce rates, and conversions. You can use these numbers to gain insights into what's working and make informed decisions on what content to work on next or what needs to be improved.
These types of questions will help you start tracing the patterns of user behavior and figure out what matters to your customers and what doesn't.
Are you interested in what's working in the Missoula area and what's not? Then check out my blog post Top Web Design Trends in Missoula, MT, when it comes out.
For Missoula businesses, investing in SEO is no longer optional—it's a necessity. While Missoula is certainly growing year over year, your business needs to be implementing online methods to help tap into this growth. By implementing effective strategies, you can improve your online visibility, connect with local customers, and stay competitive in the digital landscape. Embrace the power of SEO and unlock new opportunities for growth and success in the vibrant community of Missoula.