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So, you’ve Started a Business. Now What? Local SEO Must-Haves

Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship! If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve taken the plunge into starting your own business in Bismarck – high five! Now, let’s talk about getting your brand noticed right where it matters most: in your local community.

Cool – What’s SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is what it sounds like – optimization for search engines like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. Yes, DuckDuckGo is a real search engine, and a pretty good one at that! 

At the base level, there are two types of SEO: On-Page and Off-Page. 

On-Page is what you see – think keywords. 
Off-Page covers mainly backlinks from other sites and social media exposure/linking. 

Actually, just kidding. Not to make it more complicated already, but there’s also Technical SEO. That has to do with things like page speed, user experience, and other things that aren’t necessarily related to keywords or links.

What is Local SEO?

Think of Local SEO as the digital word-of-mouth you need to be the talk of the town (in a good way, of course). It’s all about becoming the big fish in the gorgeous Bismarck pond.

Why Local SEO Rocks for Small Businesses

Local SEO puts you on the map, literally. It’s how your business pops up when someone is desperately looking for what you offer. It’s like telling Google, “Hey, I’m here, I’m awesome, and here’s why people love me.”

Every Brick & Mortar Needs a Google Business Profile

EAT Thai Cafe is probably my favorite restaurant in town – their Google Business Profile looks as good as their food!

It’s important to make sure your Google Business Profile storefront is as welcoming as your real one. Let’s look at the first steps:

Setting Up Shop

Start by claiming your business and filling in every detail. Got a cool photo of your storefront? Post it! A special offer? Share it! Think of your Google Business Profile like a Facebook page, except it’s for the entire internet. The sooner you can get your profile live, the better. 

Revving Up Reviews

For local SEO specifically, Google reviews show google that your store is popular, so it deserves a higher ranking on Google. If you have a lot of good (positive) reviews, that effect gets stacked with the fact that not only are people going to your business, but they’re also having a great time there. 

ProTip: While it’s fine to ask for reviews, it is against Google’s policy to offer incentives like discounts or free items in exchange for a review.

Keep the Conversation Going

Respond to reviews like you’re talking to your customers in person, because in a way, you are. Every “Thank you!” and “Hope to see you again!” counts. Remember to respond using your brand voice to maintain brand consistency too.

When it comes to negative reviews (it’s an unfortunate reality), I recommend responding with grace and a dash of humility. If someone gives you one star and says “your food sucks”, the ideal response could sound like:

1. “Thank you for your honest feedback; We’ll re-evaluate our menu and hope you’ll give us a second chance to serve you something delicious in the future”.

2. “We’re sorry you had a bad experience and would like to learn more about what happened. Please call our store at (701)-555-5555 and we’ll do our best to make it right”.

Avoid a response like:

1. “We’re sorry you didn’t like our food, maybe you should eat somewhere else”

2. “Our food is very good, we don’t know why you didn’t like it”

If you want more Google review response tips, check out Google’s article here.

Websites: On-Page SEO Essentials

On-page SEO is like the sign above your shop door; it tells people what you’re all about.

You can use your website to highlight projects you’ve done, new menu items, restocks and other updates. If it makes sense for your business, you can also utilize your website for things like booking appointments, requesting information, or signing up for events. 

Making a Good First Impression

A basic step anyone can take is sprinkling local keywords like “Best coffee in Bismarck” across your website’s titles and headers naturally, without overdoing it. Remember, consistency is key. 

Sticking with the coffee shop example, you could have a page dedicated to what brand of coffee you carry and why you love it, or have a menu page that shows your current brew and biscotti options. The more ways you can naturally insert keywords into your website, the better. 

Content That Celebrates Bismarck

Your content should shout from the rooftops how much you love your city and community. Remember how I mentioned naturally inserting keywords? It might be hard to insert Bismarck into a menu page, but if you’re part of Bismarck-Mandan’s Coffee Crawl, make an event page that highlights your involvement. 

Earning Trust with Local Backlinks

Backlinks are basically digital high-fives from other local businesses and organizations. While there are different types like “follow” and “no-follow”, we’re not diving that deep in this article. The main takeaway is that any exposure your site can get on another site your customers might be checking out is valuable for your website.

Building Bridges in the Community

Partner with local events or charities, and they might just feature your website on theirs. That’s a quality backlink! For merchants and service providers, Seize The Deal is a great way to advertise and get a good backlink. 

Guest Blogging and Collaborative Events

Say you’re an interior designer, and you know one heck of a painter. Your paint pro writes an article with some DIY wall painting tips, and in exchange you write an article about how paint colors can influence mood. Now you’ve got people who are looking at repainting their kitchen looking at your expert design tips, and your painter gets eyes on his business when people are looking to take on a new hue. 

Not only do you each benefit from exposure on each other’s sites, but you also each earn some sweet, sweet backlink juice. Now that’s teamwork! 

Quick On-Page SEO Case Study: 12 Stones Coffee Co

Since we talked about coffee shops so much in this article, I decided to do a quick google to see who ranks highest for “coffee shop bismarck”. Here’s what I saw:

How’d they do It?

With several coffee shops existing long before 12 Stones Coffee Co opened their doors in 2020, they must be doing something right in order to earn the #1 spot on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for our keyword “bismarck coffee shop”. 

Take a look at their homepage – see the keyword magic brewing? 

Their header that reads “Fostering faith, inspiring hope and creating community over coffee and conversations” ties in really well with the text below, which reads “Our mission is to combine excellence in coffee with an environment focused on strengthening community. If hope and inspiration can be found over good coffee and good conversation, and we believe they can, that’s what you’ll find at 12 Stones Coffee Co.”

Coffee, coffee, coffee – It’s easy for Google to see that this website has something to do with coffee – but how does it know where the coffee is? Let’s click the “Read our Story” button. 

If the text is hard to read, basically the company story highlights all of its ties to North Dakota and the decision to open the store in Bismarck! This is an excellent natural use of keywords, but they did something even more substantial to land their #1 spot on the SERPs. If we scroll a little further down..

Ta-Daaa! Their location description and Google Maps embed *perfectly* communicates that they are, in fact, in Bismarck. 

Now, there could be other things at play here that helped them rank. We know their on-page SEO is great, but they might also have a killer backlink profile or social media presence that gives them an even bigger boost. Or maybe their Google Business Profile is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Either way, their website appears to be an excellent resource for local Bismarck business owners (like you!) to learn a thing or two about keyword placement. 

Wrapping Up

Starting your Local SEO journey is laying down the roots for your business to grow and thrive. Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint – but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see your business blossom.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t! We at DeuBetter are here to help you every step of the way. We love seeing local businesses like yours succeed, and we’re always here for a chat, some advice, or to take over the SEO reins so you can focus on what you do best.

Ready to boost your Bismarck business with Local SEO? Let’s talk! Drop us a comment, or hit us up – we’re all about making your business DeuBetter.

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DeuBetter Branding & Media specializes in empowering small businesses with the digital marketing tools and knowledge they need to thrive. We’re your friendly guide through the world of marketing online, committed to making your business better.

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