New York's second largest city gets a bit lost sometimes. I lived in Central and Western New York before moving to Manhattan. It's hard for the upstate cities to compete with all the noise my beloved NYC makes. However, these cities can teach us a lot about resiliency, tenacity, and grit.
I grew up in Pittsburgh during the deindustrialization of the US in 1970-80s. I have a special admiration for these industrial hubs that had to battle through some tough times and reinvent themselves. Buffalo survived, and its economy has made significant gain in the 2010s. It is testament to the hardworking people who stayed in the region to help it rebuild.
Western New York poses some unique marketing challenges. With the digital migration COVID has forced us to make, as region rebuilds, should businesses focus solely locally or expand beyond the region in light of their digital investment?
Digital marketing won't work with a great website. Your website is more than just a pretty page, it's an invitation for a new customer to get to know your business. In areas like Buffalo where you can't always rely on foot traffic to raise awareness of business, a great website in conjunction with strong digital marketing can more than make up for it.
When you ask users what they want, they will tell you. They want information fast. They care about finding information over 7 times more than the care about appearance.
Therefore, your design elements should focus on helping the user find pages on your site versus just creating visual impact. Otherwise, 60% of users leave a site if they can’t find what they need easily.
If a page takes over 3 seconds to load, mobile users bounce as the Pingdom chart below suggests.
SEMRush gauges page speed using a 1 second rule. I would argue they are closer. My personal experience suggests that the widow has continued to narrow.
The root cause of most speed issues is the content management system (CMS) that you choose for your website.
If your site is built on Wordpress or Wix, you are using a theme. Every theme carries a set of instructions (CSS), which tell the browser how to render the page. Every theme has customization options, drop-down menus, animations, and such.
When a page is rendered, the browser has to sort through all this code to see what your content requires. The unused features can stop the page from rendering, creating render-blocking resources or unused CSS.
A theme is user friendly. They are faster to build, easier to maintain, and simpler to update. You do not need to understand coding or even basic HTML or CSS commands to get great looking results. However, there is a big trade-off, and that is page speed.
According to Best Designs, original graphics are the most successful.
“Original graphics make up 40% of all successful visual content that accomplishes marketing goals, but 43% of marketers struggle with the consistent production of captivating visuals.”
Since we are communicating one message, the artwork that supports it must work very hard to support the message. This is where local market know-how can really help. Original photos and images of your business in Buffalo interacting with your neighborhood can add value.
It also helps with when your calls to action focus on local events in and around Buffalo or at your business location.
Every email, no matter how trivial, should have a call to action. This is where all the hard work above pays off. If we omit one, we just wasted resources that could have been spent more cost effectively.
We cover email list building in great detail in our post on small business email marketing. Again, we will just hit the highlights here as it pertains to Buffalo. Every neighborhood has summer fairs. While these were severely impacted by COVID, in our post COVID world they should roar back with a vengeance. It would be smart to see if you could piggy-back off one or more of them.
Incentives, deals, free trials, and samples are all great options when developing your calls to action. See if you can partner with your neighbors to create a shared promotion. This way one shopper in Buffalo has two or more places to visit while out in the neighborhood.
Many businesses make the investment to deliver goods and services digitally to comply with COVID restrictions. They now face the question of what to do with that part of the business as things return to "normal" as more and more people are vaccinated. For those who decide they want to invest in digital delivery, digital marketing is critical.
To have a navigation that is easy to follow requires that you understand how your user is likely to search for information. It is very important to remember that your user may search for information very differently from you, especially if you are an expert in the field and they are not.
To keep the communication focused, each page should be designed to answer a given set of questions around a core theme. Since we know the core theme, we can link these pages to keywords or key phrases.
The key reasons why it is worth the effort to map pages to key words are:
This is a key step in any design and development process.
People can be difficult to predict. Even with the best planning, sometimes the flow isn’t quite right. User flow on Google Analytics can really help. You can see how users are browsing the site.
If you find users are acting differently versus how you intended. It’s important to take note and make changes. Web design is never “a set it and forget it” activity. Monthly monitoring and testing are recommended.
A high-quality user experience is important on all devices. This is just the cost of entry these days.
Most themes and common website builders are responsive, which means it adapts the code (html and ccs) to suit the device.
There are several ways to achieve a responsive design. The main tradeoff between the options is page speed.
We recommend custom sites because they are designed as mobile first. They use only the code that you need, so they are fast. Lastly, the lost revenue from bounces and poor conversions generally more than offset the cost.
All themes will require “fixing”. Without some way to weeding out that excess code, page speed load times will likely cause you to perform poorly on mobile.
Data show page speed is a key indicator bounce rate. If your page takes over three seconds to load, bounce rates balloon. Any bounce is a lost opportunity to influence your user.
There are plugins and other solutions. But, again, there is a trade-off between cost and performance.
Your website is the most important communication tool in digital marketing. Therefore, you want it to be its best.
Users value finding information quickly. Finding the information quickly is seven times more important than fancy features.
To help users find the information they want quickly requires a simple navigation that is clear and easy to follow.
A high-quality user experience is important on all devices. Therefore, you want a design that can meet these demands without sacrificing quality or speed. Both affect your website metrics.
This can be challenging to attempt this on your own, and there are numerous digital marketing companies that can help.
If you're thinking about finding help in Buffalo for your small business, here are some things to keep in mind.
Aside from all the general tips above, here are some specific actions you can take based on the three key elements of local search algorithms:
All of this assumes that you have completed your keyword research and developed your keyword list. If you have not, this section will be more effective once you do. Please see our previous post on digital marketing in Buffalo and then come back.
Go through your keywords list and select those which are good descriptors of your business. If it were me, I would use something like “digital marketing agency”, “seo services”, for example. Then make a list of the neighborhoods you service, for example “seo services Niagara Falls”.
Now comes the harder part, that is frankly a bit tedious. For each combination, see if you can create a somewhat unique post that’s 500-1000 words for that keyword. For us, it is a post like this. I try to write a post that helps my potential clients learn something or do something they didn’t know they could.
Now, this is the good part. If you do write quality posts for these keywords, you will be raising your prominence. Google knows that all these locations are in or near Buffalo. So, for each good post you write, you help raise your prominence on a given topic in a given location.
Prominence is also helped by the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, such as being a part of local business groups. Please see the Buffalo Niagara Partnership or BBB of Buffalo for listings that might pertain to you. Any local listing helps.
This is why I like the blog technique because it hits all three key areas. If your keyword is a descriptor of what you do and the neighborhood is one you serve, it is highly likely that you will score points on relevance.
Finding the right SEO for your small business in a neighborhood like Buffalo can be a crucial way to get your company noticed online.
If you are interested in what more we do, check out Small Business Marketing in Buffalo.