At this year’s Social Fresh East (good recap here), Jay Baer presented the concept of the Shotgun Approach to social media marketing: As reliable organic reach goes down, brands need to spray their message broadly across many different social channels to give themselves the best opportunity to have their audience see their message somewhere.

While I’m not sure I agree with this premise 100% for social media, it is, more than ever, exactly the approach that local businesses need to take to be discovered in search.

Marketers have traditionally called this Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and the search engines are still where a lot of the action is happening as far as brand discovery. But it’s bigger than that now. Bigger and broader.

Discovery can happen anywhere

Increasingly, that initial brand discovery is happening from friends’ recommendations through social media, on ratings and reviews sites, in mobile apps and more. For businesses looking to get in front of more potential customers, it’s not sufficient to focus only on SEO. Instead, you need to be thinking about broadening your overall digital presence across all of these channels — your Total Online Presence.

Yes, in most cases, your website still should be the hub of your online presence. You should be doing everything you can to make it as valuable an asset as possible for your business — optimize for search, optimize for mobile, optimize for sharing, optimize for conversions.

But try as you might, your website isn’t always where people are going to find your business. In fact, it’s far more likely that they’ll discover you somewhere else first, then (ideally) click through to your website for more information.

SEO goes beyond the SEs

So if we know this, then it just makes sense to make sure that your business message is easy to discover in as many of those other channels as possible. Take the shotgun approach to brand discovery — social media sites, multimedia sites, mobile apps, local business directories, through an email referral, whatever makes sense … and maybe even a few places that might not be so obvious. Think discussion forums, networking groups, podcasts, blog comments, etc.

But isn’t this a lot more work?

Maybe. But it doesn’t have to be. And I can just about guarantee that you have very little chance of being discovered on Yelp if you don’t have a presence there. Or Instagram. Or InsiderPages. Or your local Chamber’s directory. Or in a LinkedIn Group. Or the App Store. Or … you get my point.

The problem with this approach is that it can seem overwhelming to maintain a presence in all of these places. Lucky for you, there are plenty of tools and tips to help you and your marketing team save time and work more efficiently along the way. Here are five ideas to get you started:

1. Look to search first.

What are the sites that show up first for the terms that your customers are most likely to search? Does it make sense for you to have a presence on those sites? What content can you create that directly addresses your customers’ most common questions, in the language they’re most likely to use. Be as specific as possible — your goal here is to try to develop as many different ways as possible for your potential customers to find you through a search.

When you’re testing terms in the search engine, look at the terms that pop up in the “auto-complete” area. Then at the bottom of the page, look at the “related searches” that Google identifies. These are the other terms that people are regularly searching for that are most closely related to your main keyword phrase. Pick off the ones that are most relevant, and try creating content focused on those topics, too. Remember, shotgun approach.

Auto-Complete Results for "Studio Apartments"

Auto-Complete Results

Related Searches for Studio Apartments

Related Searches

2. Listen for the opportunities.

It’s hard to know all of the places where customers could potentially discover you. Try setting up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for your business name, your competitors and some of the same keyword phrases that you might be targeted as search terms.

On Twitter, try tweaking them a bit to account for the informal tone and abbreviations that people use in conversation. Target those searches to a specified location around your business using Twitter’s advanced search options.

Then once you find these potential customers, have some fun. Strike up a conversation. Wish them luck in their search for whatever it is they need. If they respond, that’s your opportunity to strike. Provide a helpful link (maybe one you built in step 1), and see what you can do to help them. Most likely, you’ll be the only one actually listening and responding, right at the moment when they’re thinking about your product or service. We have several clients who use this approach regularly to find new customers.

As it relates to your presence in search, look for the sites your customers visit most often (well, besides Facebook and Buzzfeed). Look for the opportunities that might stand out as local sites where you may want to promote your business or develop some kind of partnership to increase your brand awareness and your chance of being discovered.

3. Claim your local listings.

Claim local listings, manage reviews with Top Line Local
Google may own “traditional” search, but that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t searching in a lot of other places for your products or services. Whether it’s Yelp, or Mapquest, or, having accurate local business listings (called citations) across the Web is a critical way to build a broad online presence, while also ensuring that your business information is accurate and consistent. (Just this week, an algorithm update boosted the rankings of many of these local directory sites in Google search results.) You can claim a number of these sites on your own, or you can use a service like our own Top Line Local to help you claim and manage profiles on dozens of sites from a single dashboard.

Not sure how your business appears on local listings today? Try our free business listing scan to get a sense of any discrepancies that might be out there.

4. Use scheduling tools to extend your reach

Why? Because social media can be a huge channel for you. Scheduling tools help by letting you “batch your time” spent on social.

Ideally, you’re providing a product or level of service that makes your customers want to spread the word for you. But you still want to maintain your own social presence with fresh content from your brand, too. These social pages tend to perform well in brand-specific searches, so you’ll want to make sure your profiles are filled out completely.

Share to social media with Buffer
Once you have your social media profiles set up, try using a tool like Buffer to make sharing content to multiple social accounts easy. Ten minutes a day is all you need to schedule all the content you want to share throughout the day. Use photos, articles your team finds, suggested content from Buffer, or content you discover using tools like Feedly or Flipboard. Then you can spend the rest of your time on social focused on responding to customers, providing service, and actually being social with people.

5. Get the email address.

Maybe this one is cheating a bit, but I think it’s that important. Part of any good online marketing strategy is knowing how to stay in front of your best customers once they’ve discovered you. Dollar for dollar, the best way to do this for most marketers is through a smart email marketing strategy. And smart emails still give you the opportunity to be discovered through the “Forward” button.

Sample email subscription form
Once someone has discovered you through search, social or on your website, do whatever you can to provide a compelling offer to get the visitor to subscribe to your email list. That’s your permission to stay in front of them and get “rediscovered” time and time again in the customer’s inbox.

These are just few ideas to get you started. Hopefully, you can see how applying Jay’s “Shotgun Approach” to search can benefit your business by giving you more opportunities to be discovered. There are dozens of other things you can be doing, and you should try them … you never know where customers might be looking when they find your brand. Take a broader approach to “search” and discovery, and you’ll be a lot less concerned about reliable organic reach on any given channel.