Last week I got a call from a local pet sitting company in Lansing. They were looking for some help on how to get more customers.
After the call, I realized that when it comes to marketing on the web, most local small business owners have no idea what they are doing.
The pet sitting company that called me had spent over $2,000 to have a website built, but they had no strategy for how the website would bring in more money. They were told they needed a website, so they had one built. But they had no idea how to use the website to bring more customers into their business.
I see this problem all the time. Companies build websites, start Twitter profiles and begin blogging because the world tells them they need to do it. They end up spending hours on these activities with no return on investment.
As a small business, you don’t have the luxury of wasting your time and money. All of your marketing efforts need to put money in your pocket.
So, I am going to share with you the exact strategy I created for the local pet sitting company, and how you can get more local customers.
How to Attract Local Customers
A lot of pet sitting companies rely on word-of-mouth. While I love referrals, customers are not always eager to send you more customers. I talked with the pet sitting company and told them about the advantages of online marketing, collecting emails, and being found through search engine sites like Google.
Here is the strategy that will allow the pet sitting company to boost their search results and get more customers:
Collect Google Reviews
I am amazed by the number of local business owners who do not ask for Google reviews. Companies that implement strong review systems find their search engine rankings increase.
But most companies passively collect reviews. They hope their customers will go online to write a review, but when was the last time you wrote a review without being asked? Happy customers are rarely incentivized to leave a positive review. Many people only leave reviews when they are highly dissatisfied.
Your business can collect more reviews by making it easy. I told the pet sitting company that they should try to collect reviews as quickly as possible.
- Collect the review after a visit. Take your iPad or tablet, load the review page and ask your customer to sign in to Google and leave you a review. If they prefer to write the review on their own tablet or computer, fine. Just try to get the review before you even leave.
- Follow up to collect reviews. Sometimes customers will say they are going to leave a review, they just don’t have the time right now. If that is the case, then follow up with them a few days later. Send them an email — you should be collecting emails — and say you had a great time watching their pet. Ask them to write a review with a link included. To make it really easy for your customer, include a templated review in your email.
That’s it. But you have to ask. A lot of people are willing to leave reviews once you ask, especially if they are happy with your services.
Produce Killer Content
The low barrier of entry makes the pet sitting industry susceptible to scammers. I hear a lot of stories about families that come home to malnourished or dead pets after hiring a pet sitter they thought was perfect.
The easiest way that pet sitters can separate themselves from the scammers and increase their search engine rankings is by producing killer content — i.e. blog posts. Your content should be something that your readers care about and would want to read.
For pet sitters, topics could include pet health care, having fun with your pet or training your pet. Writing two articles a month is usually sufficient for most pet sitters, but you may need to write more if you live in a competitive city like New York or D.C.
Specific and Local Citations
A citation is a mention of your company, even if there is no link to your site. Examples of citations include being listed in Yellow Pages or Manta. Businesses who have a higher number of citations — with all things being equal — will have a higher ranking.
Citations are highly important in non-competitive industries, like plumbers and electricians, where they often do not have a website. For the local pet sitting business that called me, they can build up 50 or so citations and begin getting better ranking results.
I told the pet sitting company they needed to find general citations like Yellow Pages, but also look for specific directories related to pet sitting such as Rover.
Every industry can find specific directories to build citations in. I recommend building about 5 to 10 of these per month. If you build too many directories too fast, you run the risk of Google seeing you as a spammer.
As I mentioned earlier, most business owners have no idea what they are doing. This strategy that I laid out for the local pet sitting company is typically good enough to have good success. You only need to hire an SEO marketer if you don’t have time or if you are in a really competitive market.
I don’t know who said this first, but I first heard it from Dan Kennedy, “the one-eyed man is ruler in the land of the blind.” Most business owners do not even know about these three strategies, so all it takes is having a basic knowledge of SEO to beat your competition.
How One Pet Sitting Company Doubled Their Business
Cane Bay Pet Sitting, a local pet sitting company based in Summerville, SC double the size of their business once they started implementing the above strategy.
In April of 2015, they began producing content and collecting Google reviews. It did not take long for them to start ranking for keywords related to pet sitting. They went from having zero keywords to being ranked for over 30.
But why did producing content and collecting reviews boost their income? Because Google loves to rank websites that have strong reviews and produce content. The top listing in Google receives over 33% of the search traffic — compared to 18% for the second ranked website.
Cane Bay Pet Sitting was able to get better rankings through a strong content and review strategy. This drove more traffic to their website and ultimately increased their sales. They are still improving their search rankings, but this simple strategy allowed them to grow their business.
Most businesses can succeed in implementing a strategy that is similar to Cane Bay Pet Sitting. It doesn’t matter the industry you are in. Most businesses can get more customers in their area by using this SEO strategy.
Back to Your Local Business
It doesn’t matter the industry that you are in. All local businesses can improve their search rankings by implementing this strategy. If you are in a competitive industry, you might have to collect more reviews or produce more blog posts.
In non-competitive industries, businesses can start to find their rankings increase after a few reviews and blog posts.
If your business is not collecting reviews, then you should start. If you are not creating content or building citations, then you should do that too.
But the reality is that balancing the work required to build your business and delivering on your promises are hard things to do. It is your job to be a marketer and run the daily operations.
You have to create an awesome service where customers are happy to leave five-star reviews. You have to write content that your prospects and customers want to read. You have to build citations in relevant directories.
These marketing and SEO hacks work, but ultimately it comes down to creating a valuable service or product that your customers want. In 2016, the businesses that value their customers and meet their needs will succeed.
To succeed, you will need to continue to invest in marketing. You can learn more about marketing by following Wordbucket Media. I regularly produce content to help local small business owners improve their marketing efforts.