Discover how to effectively connect your local business with consumers online in 2024. Learn the importance of local SEO, optimizing your digital presence, and building consumer trust with expert insights.

So you own your own business, or perhaps you are just starting one. 

On the one hand, you have your business, and on the other, there is this thing called the Internet. 

But where do they merge, and more importantly, why?

As a local business owner navigating the digital landscape, understanding the relationship between your business and the Internet is pivotal to your success in 2024 and beyond.

Wrong Approach vs Right Approach

The current thought is that on the one hand, I have my business, and on the other, is the Internet.

My business is here, and it may or may not be doing well. Over there is the Internet, and if I do this Internet thing, I am going to get more leads, calls, emails, inquiries, sales, and customers. I’ll grow, expand, scale, dominate, and win.

or

If I don’t do this, then my competitors will, and I’ll lose out.

There are so many agencies, freelancers, consultants, and funnel-hacking marketing “gurus” out there shoving this message down your throat and pitching themselves as your only solution.

But what is the focus of all of that? What is missing in that picture?

Your Customers. Your Clients. The real people who need help in the communities we all live in and love.

The current focus is entirely on the wrong thing.

It is on the outcomes of the right approach. If your focus is on a potential outcome, then it cannot be on your customers.

When you follow the wrong approach, pretty much every effort becomes wasted, daunting, draining, and tedious, and you would just rather not deal with it.

You become frustrated and irritated, even more so because some people seem to be having great success with the Internet.

So you wonder, did I just miss the boat? Is it too late for me? I guess I’ll just stay over here, and the Internet will be over there, and well, whatever.

And if you’re at this point, ready to give up on the Internet, know that you are not alone.

This brings me to my first point: The Internet does not exist to bring you business; it doesn’t exist to bring you leads, customers, or clients or improve your profits.

So, what happens when you follow the right approach to marketing your business online? What happens when you understand the intersection of your business and the Internet?

All of a sudden, everything you do becomes super clear, focused, and done with purpose and passion, like when you first started your business. All of a sudden, your online presence is resilient, agile, and ready for anything that comes its way. It is solid, bulletproof, and adaptable. All of a sudden, new advancements in web technology become an amazing thing and not some other crap you don’t understand and can’t utilize. All of a sudden, it all makes sense.

The Internet as a Bridge to Consumer Solutions

So, your business is not on one hand and the Internet on the other.

On the one hand is point A. On the other hand, is point B.

And in the middle is a bridge.

On one hand, you (people) have problems, wants, and needs. On the other hand, there are solutions, ideas, and things.

In the middle is this bridge that connects the two.

The Role of Search Engines: Gatekeepers of Online Visibility

Now imagine you are standing in front of this perfect bridge of the internet, but there is a huge locked gate stopping you from crossing it. You know what you want is somewhere on the other side, but there is just no way you are getting through that gate, let alone where you would look once you cross the bridge.

It doesn’t make sense, right? Why is there a gate blocking my perfect bridge called the Internet, and why can’t I get what I want when I know it is just somewhere on the other side of it?

This is where the search engines like Google, Yahoo, & Bing come into play.

They walk over to you, and as they unlock the gate, they ask you what you need, actually listening—what do you want? Then they take your hand and walk you across this bridge to the exact location of what will help you get one step closer to solving that problem.

As consumers, it all just seems to work.

We hop on our phones, type a few words into a search bar, and boom, we are one step closer to getting what we want.

In order for them (the search engines) to walk over to you, unlock the gate, ask what you need, and then walk you across, getting you one step closer, in order for them to do that, they have to spend a lot of time on the other side of that bridge figuring out what is over there and then remembering how to get there.

Which is actually much easier said than done.

So, this alone makes everything your business does online for one of two groups.

The search engines and the consumer.

Yes, it’s all for the consumers, your current and potential customers, but the search engines are the gatekeepers between you and them.

So, on one hand, you have the consumers, and on the other, you have what they want. The Internet connects them in the middle, with the search engines being their guides across it.

How the Search Engines are used to find a local business

So when a person pulls out their phone and “walks” up to this bridge of the Internet and starts talking to the gatekeeper(the search engines), there are really only two types of searches they make. 

  1. Referral Based Search
  2. Problem/Solution Based Search

Referral-Based Search

A referral-based search happens when someone searches for a business by name or a half-remembered version of it. This search usually starts with some problem, want, or need and then asks friends and family for a recommendation on who they should hire.

More often than not, the next step for that person is to hop on their computer or phone and look up that referred business—usually to verify legitimacy, find the contact information, and start a conversation. 

Problem/Solution Based Search

A problem- or solution-based search happens when a person doesn’t have a company referral to start from, or the company they were referred to drops the ball. So they search for something like “best XYZ company near me” or perform a search to gain further information about their problem and possible solutions and start their research for who to hire from there.

The Outcome

The truth is, most people don’t know how to perform this research, nor do they have the time or energy. They would rather let someone or something handle the research and decide for them; people would rather start with a referral-based search because they are more likely to find success with the company of choice that way.

The interesting thing is that even when they start with a problem/solution-based search, studies show people still prefer to click through to a website that lists the top businesses in their area for that service.

People will always prefer to start with a referral-based search. Because our chances of finding success with our company of choice are much greater that way.

So, we know that everything we do is for the consumer and the search engines because they are the gatekeepers. Given that we all prefer to start with a referral-based search, where should your efforts online first be focused?

As a local business owner, your digital marketing efforts should first be focused on ensuring that when someone types your business name into a search bar, they can not only find you but also like what they find about you.

The gatekeepers will have shown them what needs to be shown so they can reach out and hire you.

But how does a Search Engine get that information about your business?

Search Engine Information Sources

So, the Internet is this awesome bridge, and the Search Engines deliver us across it, but how do they know who and where to deliver us? Another way to ask this question is to ask how search engines get “low-down” information about your business.

How do they get the information that gets plugged into the over 200 ranking factors they have.

Three ways, actually.

  1. From other websites
  2. From the business itself
  3. From the consumer

It is important to remember that Search Engines have customers, too. The people using their service are us, consumers, the people with problems, wants, and needs. So, they actually have a pretty big responsibility. If they do not show quality results, then people will not use their service, and their business will fail. 

From Other Websites

Essentially, the Search Engines send out web crawlers that follow links around a website and onto other websites. They keep track of what is on these sites and categorize them accordingly which helps them decide what web queries(keywords) that website should be shown for, with the first and foremost being the business name. 

So when the Search Engine crawls a website and gathers information like a business’s name, address, and phone number, it stores that information. When it crawls another website and sees the same information, it puts both into a folder for that business. But what happens when it sees the same name but a missing address and a different phone number? It puts it into a different folder. Confusion happens.

Search engines need to be sure of what they are showing people.

From The Business Itself

The best way for a Search Engine to be sure and receive information about your business is from the business directly. Search Engines are now opening up their databases in a way that allows for verified business input. So once you verify you own a business, which isn’t really a business verification but a local address verification, you can control a free business listing on their search engine.

In addition to verified business listings, one of the greatest ways we can also control the primary information search engines have about a business is through their website. You see when these web crawlers land on your website, they not only read through all the text, but they look at the code, too. Every line of text, image, video, and color is wrapped in code. There are very specific things we can do to ensure that the search engines know for a fact that a website they are on belongs to a certain local business.

Furthermore, they allow a business owner to connect their website to the back end of their systems, submit things like sitemaps, and view technical errors that would prevent that Search Engine from showing their website for the right search queries. 

Remember, the search engines want to provide the best results to their customers—the searcher—so they want the most accurate information straight from the horse’s mouth if possible. If they don’t get it, they will try their best to piece together the information about a business online from other websites like I just described previously.

From The Consumer

Just because they accept information from a business directly doesn’t mean they still don’t want to verify it and learn more about that business. 

Have you ever been searching on Google or looking at a business page on Facebook or many other sites and see a little pencil next to each area of information? Look for it next time because, as a consumer, Google and other sites want your opinion on whether or not a business is, in fact, listing accurate information about themselves online.

Not only that, but they also care about providing the best user experience possible to their customers, who are the searchers. So often, Google might ask you a question about a business related to things we regard as irrelevant, such as wheelchair accessibility, to confirm business hours, or even about parking, but it’s all to improve their customer experience.

The one thing you cannot get wrong when it comes to your efforts online

The accuracy of information about your business online. It is the core of your online presence. It all starts and ends here.

No matter the reason behind a company’s lack of accuracy online, it will suffer in both problem/solution-related searches and referral-based searches.

However, the type of information about a business online doesn’t just stop at name, address, and phone number. There are categories, products, services, year established, pictures, videos, social accounts, the who, what, when, where, why, and how, etc., and it all pretty much makes up your business’s messaging and presence online in the digital world of the Internet. 

And they all must match and complement each other.

Be heard once found

So now we know a few things: 

  • The Internet is a bridge that connects people to a solution
    • We have a problem and need an answer
  • Search engines are a guide across this bridge
  • Which makes everything you do online is for one of two groups: SE & Consumers
    • Yes, all for consumers, but SE are the gatekeepers
  • We know people prefer to start with a referral-based search
    • So we should make sure people can find us and that they like what they find about us online
  • We also know how the SE gets the info about your business
    • That we can control this information
    • And the number one thing you cannot get wrong
      1. The accuracy and consistency of this information

So, as a local business owner, what is your role online? 

What is the intersection of small and local business and the Internet?

It is none other than what you’re already doing in person…

To serve and to help. 

To meet your current and potential customers’ needs – online.

We are here to serve and help, and we are not here to exploit and sell.

In order to be a successful business owner and then adapt to the internet with success, you must actually care about helping the people you already have as customers or intend to have as customers.

The intersection of your local business and the internet is customer service.

More specifically, a business owner should first focus on ensuring that when someone types their business name into a search engine, they can not only find you but also like what they find about you. 

You must serve and help the search engines so you can serve and help the people.

I call this optimizing to be heard once found online – no matter if you’re found through search, social, or referral. 

The best place to start is with the fundamentals of serving and attracting customers online, which can be boiled down to having the right info in the right places and in the correct format.

From there, yes, you can absolutely expand this into much more advanced and specific campaigns to reach your precise customer at the precise right time, where you will be able to help them the most. And yes, the happy result of consistently following the right approach over time can surely be more calls, emails, leads, sales, and growth.

However, serving your customers in the best possible way must always be your focus, not more sales or money. When it is, I guarantee that you will watch your online presence grow alongside your business.

As you consider how to navigate these digital waters effectively, remember: Local Business Owners, the Internet does not exist to simply bring you leads—it exists to help real people solve their problems, and when you approach the Internet and Digital Marketing from this perspective, you just might find yourself as a potential solution to their problems.

Digital Marketing 101 guide cover featuring a blend of traditional business and modern internet technology symbols, including global networks, digital devices, social media icons, and a storefront.

Do You Need Help With Your Website and Online Presence?

Is your local business ready to start making meaningful connections and driving growth through your online presence? As a starting point for all local business clients, Gary offers a comprehensive audit designed to align your digital strategy with consumer needs and search engine requirements. Invest in understanding and implementing the right approach to digital marketing for sustained growth. 

Fill out the form below, and Gary will contact you to confirm you are a good fit for this service and then begin helping you understand and implement the right solutions for your business.

Audit FAQ

What does it cost?

The audit and strategy session cost $500. Most business owners can expect to incur some additional costs for implementing the strategy, whether they choose to do it themselves or partner with Gary further. The range of these additional costs varies, but technically, it could be zero if implemented on their own.

The goal of this strategy session is your education and empowerment, not just to sell you additional services. Gary believes that the best person to market a business is the business owner themselves. Second to that is a partner who is not there to sell them things but to help them make the right decisions for them and then implement them efficiently, much like an internal team member would. That partner is Gary.

Why does this audit cost $500 when there are free and cheap tools that will perform it for me?

From Gary’s experience, it’s not just about gathering information—it’s about interpreting it in the context of your specific business. By combining sophisticated tools with hands-on research and expertise, Gary ensures your audit goes beyond surface-level data. The majority of the fee goes into helping you understand and develop a tailored plan that meets your customers’ needs online, ensuring your digital marketing efforts are successful from the start.

Don’t settle for superficial solutions. Invest in a strategy that empowers your business to thrive in the digital age.

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