I've been doing some "online shopping," lately, but not with the intention of buying online. I've been shopping local businesses - those businesses within about 10 miles of my home. We've had a construction boom in this area recently, and I'm finding that a lot of the services I used to drive into Tulsa to buy are now available in my home town - Broken Arrow.
Rather than driving all over town, exploring nearly-completed strip malls, I've made a new habit of checking online (usually on my mobile) to see if I can get what I'm looking for is open yet. I've been pleasantly surprised at what I'm finding. So, let's talk about some of the things I've been looking for online - and what your local potential customers may be looking for they're trying to find your product or service online.
1) A website. I'm still amazed at how many businesses are only available in online directories and unreliable referral services - without their own web page. Remember, customers tend to be motivated to go online and "review" a business when they're angry, so if your entire online presence consists of a listing Google's crawlers pulled from the yellow pages and a Yelp listing - you're putting your business' online reputation in the hands of a software program and your angriest customers. Don't do that. You really need to take charge of your own online reputation by setting up your own web presence (web page, social networking sites, etc..) and making sure that your customers can easily find your business in a search engine - both by the name of your business, and by searching for your product in your city (e.g. "steak, broken arrow").
2) Mobile. Increasingly, people are searching for local business information on-the-go. They may get a hankering for sushi while they're out shopping, or for fish tacos while they're watching a movie. They might be at the auto-repair shop, and realize they have an extra hour to kill, and start looking for one of those nice pedicure shops that has the massage chairs within walking distance. Make sure your customers can find you on their mobile devices. Even if your full website is not mobile friendly, they should be able to access a listing of your basic services, a map to your front door, and access to any specials you might be running, and a phone number they can call to ask you if you have what they need in stock.
3) Tags. Actually, most of your customers don't know they're looking for your tags, but they're important. Your customers simply enter what they're searching for (i.e. "keywords," or "search words") into their search engine, such as "day spa Bixby," or "wine tasting Edmond, OK," into their search bar. If they have a coupon or they've heard about or read about a special deal offered by your establishment, they may also search by the name of your business and the name of your town. Make sure you have your posts, articles, and entries properly categorized, tagged, and titled. If you have your menu posted as an image, make sure you also tag that image with the most popular items on that menu (the search engines can't crawl text in an image, so they won't know if your menu has steak or burritos or both). If you offer delivery or curbside pickup, or some other popular service or item, make sure this is tagged prominently on your site.
What else do you look for when you're shopping local businesses online, and do you have suggestions for incorporating these features into a website?