Starting a local business used to be simpler. You’d decide on an offering, come up with a cool name, and check it with the name registry when you filed for a dba, LLC, or a corporation.

Then in the late 90s, the dotcom era changed things. Then, if you didn’t check availability for a domain name for your new business before filing your paperwork, you might be very sorry.

Now, it’s even more complicated. Good quality, top-level domain names are harder to find than ever, of course.

But more than that, there are so many nuances to being a business online -whether you’re a digital business or just a business trying to get seen digitally- that you’ve got to start your business with the web in mind.

The most obvious example is what is known as an exact match domain.

These domains contain the specific key phrase that you’re most concerned with ranking for in search.

Let’s say that you wanted to rank for pet bathing services. Most everyone knows to rank for “pet bathing services” you need to talk about pet bathing services on your website and get links from other pet related websites.

However, the tactic of using exact match domains, or domains which exactly match the search query, is less well known.

To rank more easily for the search query “pet bathing services” you could use an exact match domain like petbathingservices.com or localpetbathingservices.com.

There is a potential catch, of course. Google says that it is cracking down on EMDs (exact match domains). A recent leak of documentation about the Google algorithm revealed that Google is looking at EMDs and it’s most likely a negative ranking factor in some sense.

Still…exact match domains continue to rank effectively so far, so it does make sense to employ them in the right circumstances. It seems to be particularly effective for small, local businesses.

Exact Match Brand Names

It only makes sense to use a domain name for your business that’s as close to your business name as possible. So if you want to get the extra keyword value of using an exact match domain, Google’s going to have a hard time penalizing you if your legal business name contains the phrase you’re targeting.

“Susy’s Pet Bathing Services, LLC” or “Dallas Pet Bathing Services”, for example.

The use of a DBA (a ”doing business as” name) is a bit of a clever hack because your actual business name could be “So Fresh And So Clean”, or anything else, and you’ll still have legal cover to use the exact phrase in your business name.

When I say legal cover, what I really means is that your business name is legally the exact phrase you want to rank for and therefore you can build all your citations (directly listings, etc) with that name.

In the eyes of the world (and more importantly, of Google) this is your business name and NOT manipulation.

After all, what else would you get for your domain other than your business name?

The problem is that almost no one has the forethought to do this first when they get excited about a business idea. Instead they rush to come up with a name and start filing paperwork and buying domains.

However, if you do have the opportunity to consider your keyword strategy before you decide on a name for your business, exact-match domains can have an outsized impact and help you rank more quickly as well.

Optimizing your brand name and domain for search before you’ve even formed a company is a crazy, and clever, idea. But that’s just 1 of 5 marketing tactics that I’m going to cover in this article that you should do BEFORE starting a new local service business.

And this first tactic sets us up for our next local marketing tactic: setting up your Google Business Profile with your exact match phrase, before launching your new brand.

Set Up Google Business Profile Before Forming Your Business

Now, to be clear, you should definitely do a name search to verify that your business name has not already been taken / is eligible where you live, etc. before buying any domains or claiming Google Business Profiles or anything else. Do that first.

But it takes some time for Google to recognize you’ve claimed a profile and some more time to get through the verification process and you can be doing this while you’re getting your paperwork together. There’s no reason to wait.

You want to be able to rank in the map pack as quickly as possible and new domains are typically sandboxed, or kept out of the search results, for a couple months before being fully indexed. All of this will make it difficult to rank in the local results as well during this initial period.

Do your keyword research to find a valuable phrase you can use in your business name and then use the name search feature at the website of your state’s Secretary of State website or a free business name search online to make sure it’s available.

Grab the .com or .net domain and claim a Google Business Profile at your business (or home, if that’s where you work from) address using the name you registered.

This skirts a potential issue with using keywords in Google Business Profile.

It’s against Google’s policies to use anything in the name field that is not your legal business name.

Still, SEOs will always try to get away with a little extra manipulation and this has lead Google to crack down on this practice with penalties.

To avoid any confusion, it’s probably worth showing your business filing documents with your legal business name during your verification video, if one is required.

Determine Your Service Area Strategy

One of the most critical and complex areas of local SEO strategy is the concept of service pages.

Service pages refer to the pages on your website which exist primarily to let Google know that you do business in certain locations -particularly the locations you serve beyond the city where your physical place of business (or home) is located.

Creating service, linking together internally, and then creating external links to service pages correctly is very important if you want to appear in local results for even close neighboring cities.

Service pages are how your website “tells” Google where your business operates.

If you’re going to run Google Ads targeting different cities in your service area you’ll want to include those terms on your landing pages -or perhaps dedicate landing pages to each location, depending on the situation.

And keep in mind, if you choose to use the name of a city in your business name, such as “Dallas Pet Bathing Services”, or similar, it’s going to be easier to rank in that city than the adjacent ones.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend using the root key phrase in your local business name (in this case “pet bathing services”) but not the location modifier (”Dallas”) because you can always handle this with service pages and text mentioning the brand name “in” the location (”Susy’s Pet Bathing Services in Dallas, TX”).

The idea of service area also extends to your Google My Business profile. However Google Business Profile makes you choose between being a place of business with a physical location (which is “stronger”, i.e. more visible in search) or a service-area business that visits customers at their home or place of business instead.

This needs to mirror how you represent yourself as a company on your website.

Service area businesses can claim locations up to 2 hours away and businesses with physical locations are relegated to the city it resides within.

Again, the physical locations tend to receive more search visibility, all things being equal, so they have a “home court advantage”, in a sense.

Whichever you decide, and you can change your mind later, it’s best practice to include the map of your location and/or service area on your website prominently.

Find A Local SEO Competitive Edge

As with most things in business, research should precede taking action. And one of the most important types of market research a new business can perform is an analysis of their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

This is especially true online and, most true of all, in the search engine results, where the top 3 positions share the vast majority of search traffic.

If you have fierce competition on all the terms where your business might want to show up, you are going to have a hard time getting traffic to your site and prospects to become customers.

In many cases the most obvious search queries will be dominated by major competitors or the order gatherer sites like Clutch or HomeAdvisor or Yelp, and so on.

In other cases you can find search terms that still have moderate traffic but aren’t as competitive. You’ll have more luck focusing your organic strategy around these terms at first.

So, instead of trying to rank for terms like “Dallas pet services” or “Dallas pet care”, it’s probably much more likely that I could rank for the more long-tail (niche) term “Dallas pet bathing services”, for example.

Next you can look at the service areas that your competition are focused on -to see if there are suburbs where the competition is not as strong. You might decide to focus your efforts related to service pages on those areas your competitors have ignored.

And more fundamentally, you can use tools like SEMRush, Spyfu, ahrefs, or simply ChatGPT, if you’ve fed it the right data and prompted it correctly, to identify “thin” content (that is not very detailed or complete) on your competitors’ sites.

When it comes to SEO content the game is to create better content than the next guy. So if you can find thin content ranking in search, try to make a better version to out rank it.

Simply writing content isn’t going to increase your rank by itself.

It’s only half of the equation.

The other half is acquiring links from relevant and authoritative websites or major sites with broad topical authority (sites that cover a lot of topics, like Forbes).

Search all the relevant terms you can think of and review Google’s suggestions in the “People Also Search For” section at the bottom of the first page of search results. Also look at what appears in the search bar when you start typing your keywords, to find even more keywords that Google relates to your search.

Analyze the competition in the search results, what’s good and bad about their content and what keywords they seem to be focused on (those tools I mentioned simplify this step considerably).

It’s difficult to say exactly what you’re looking for when you do this but, generally speaking, you’re looking for an edge -a gap in the search engine ranks that your competitors have ignored.

And it doesn’t even have to be totally ignored -just neglected enough that you can still improve on the content and eventually get more links.

If you focus on that niche while your competitors aren’t paying attention, you’ll be able to establish a foothold that drives revenue and allows you to continue to afford investing into SEO until you’re formidable enough to rank for more lucrative terms.

Launch A Landing Page With Your NAP & Service Area

Finally, the last recommendation that I’ll make in this article is a fairly simple one but it works in tandem with several of my other recommendations.

You’re going to want to launch a website as soon as possible because having a Google Business Profile without a website just isn’t really going to do very much good. You need to mirror as much as possible the content on your GBP on a website that is linked to your Google profile.

But building a site takes a little time and there’s a lot more keyword research and other preparations that should be addressed before beginning such a project -or you’ll just waste a lot of money reworking things later.

To expedite claiming and verifying the GBP and benefit from it fully you can simply launch a “landing page” that has all of the essential information about your business listed but is very simple compared to a full website.

This single page should include your business name and details about your products or services, etc., your NAP (name, address, and phone number) exactly as it appears in GBP, and a short bio about you, the owner, with a photo and as many accolades, certifications, licenses, etc. as you can share.

Then you can set up and verify Google Search Console and submit your one-page website for indexing.

The idea is to provide Google with the relevant entity data about your brand so that it starts to recognize when it finds mentions of you on other sites.

These mentions (without links) are called citations and are an important part of establishing authority in local searches.

Setting up Google Business Profile and mirroring that information on a simple one-page site while you build out the rest of your website over the following weeks is a great way to ensure Google is paying attention when you launch the rest of your site.

Countdown To Launch

I know that feeling of excitement that comes with launching a new company well. It’s intoxicating and all that enthusiasm can easily distract your focus away from the often boring fundamentals.

But the time before you actually form a company, and especially before telling the world about your new endeavor, is very important to your early development.

Investing into your ability to grow quickly will generate the most significant improvements to your business in its first few years.

And you can hit the ground running by implementing the five tactics I’ve shared in this article ahead of filing your for your business license.

Otherwise you’ll end up filing your paperwork and then sitting and waiting for the opportunity to grow because you need a website, a verified Google Business Profile, and so on, which take weeks or months sometimes to produce.

Instead, when you finish your preparations ahead of time, you can start taking calls and closing business as soon as your business is legally registered. And, in addition, you can shave precious days or weeks off your Google Search sandbox period as well.

So if you’re ready to pull the trigger on a new local business venture, take just a little bit more time to put these five tactics into action and your results will come faster and they’ll be more meaningful to your bottom line.

Success with marketing, especially at speed, is all about getting the technical aspects dialed in and then turning up the volume to generate scale in your business.

Thinking ahead, and taking advantage of the tactics I covered in this article, will help you overcome the inertia of being new and unrecognized by the digital platforms that will eventually deliver traffic to your website.

And that, in turn, helps you generate revenue faster, turn a profit faster, and grow your business -you guessed it- faster.

About the Author

Nathan Binford

Creator & Digital Marketer

“The Mindful Marketer” 🧘‍♂️ I help people achieve freedom through marketing and mindfulness. | Develop the skills and mindset for success. Join for free at NathanBinford.com/subscribe.

View All Articles