- The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated
- Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to create an anonymous digital entity while using a majority of efficient marketing strategies
- The problem arises when you already have your personal data published and want to delete it – it is neither easy nor possible (given all the variety of archiving tools that are publicly accessible these days)
- So how do you keep your life private while owning a successful online business?
- How do you navigate this conundrum as your private content may still become public at any moment?
The internet is both, a boon and a bane, depending on – how you use it, and how others use it to interact with you. A lot of new businesses and side hustles emerged post the pandemic, while brick and mortar businesses started digitizing themselves. This has raised well-being challenges around how business owners and senior executives can separate work from their personal pockets over the internet. How can they ensure their privacy and online safety are strong while building a digital business footprint?
Here are a few things you should know about safeguarding your online identity from the internet:
1. Making your site anonymous
Digitizing your business while remaining anonymous is difficult but doable. Here are all the steps you need to take to create an anonymous blog. In essence:
- You need to come up with an online pseudonym (a moniker as we used to call it back in the days when we were using forums and never used our real names around the web)
- Set up a new email address and create your new public social media profiles representing your business
- In addition, you will need to pay for domain privacy protection to prevent your phone, email, and address from being tied to your domain. Domain privacy protection replaces personal information with proxy info in the public WHOIS directory.
- Make sure you are using an SSL certificate (which you can do for free)
I know we have been talking about transparency and authenticity and building your personal brand too much, so creating a successful anonymous site without exposing yourself seems almost like an unpopular choice.
Well, I believe there’s still a place for anonymity in social media, and you can still succeed without the cost of compromising your personal details to the public. You just need to take careful steps when using all kinds of marketing tactics – like blogging and social media marketing – in order to keep your private life – well – private.
Of course, that means, not posting family pictures on Instagram, and not telling personal stories, but there is still a wealth of opportunities, from SEO to PPC ads. With more personal tactics, like blogger outreach, you will likely have to come up with an alternative identity as no one likes anonymous emails or emails coming from a business.
There’s one thing to note here: For both ecommerce and SaaS businesses creating an anonymous business entity is doable. Of course, some of your customers may be curious who is behind your brand but if you have working contact information, it is not a huge issue. It is, of course, more challenging for a freelancing business, as most freelance marketplaces require your real name in order to join.
Some may argue about the possibility of anonymity in the context of E-A-T but in reality, it isn’t common knowledge how exactly Google translates its E-A-T requirements into a ranking algorithm. So far, I’ve seen plenty of websites with no humanized ‘About’ pages ranking, and ranking high. Besides, you can tell the story of your business without telling the personal story of its founder.
The need to become a public persona in order to be a successful business owner is overrated. It is still a matter of choice. Technical SEO and high-quality backlinks, as well as the quality of content and properly performed keyword research – remain the three pillars of solid organic visibility. A well-done ‘About’ page can exist without personal branding as long as it conveys your business’ proposition, origin story, and conveys values that will resonate with your target consumers/audience.
2. Delete your public content from third-party platforms
Chances are, you have been contributing to several third-party platforms using your real name. It is only natural because there are a few powerful social media players (like Facebook and Quora) that have real-name policies in place preventing users from maintaining anonymity.
If at some point you decide that you don’t want that content to come up in search when anyone is searching for your name, what are your choices?
The hard truth is that removing your own content that you added to a third-party site is a challenge. Some platforms don’t even have tools for mass-deleting content from the platform. In the case of Quora, you will probably need to delete your own account in order to get rid of your content.
In some cases, like Reddit and Tumblr, even deleting your own account won’t help as your content will remain there assigned to a removed entity.
In case you are curious, here’s a break-through of major third-party content-based networks and how you can wipe your content off them in an easier way:
|Third-party content- driven platform||Any Way to Mass-Delete Content?||Will the content be gone once you delete your entire account?|
(except for questions which are mostly anonymous)
(You can also make your profile private)
(However, you can make them all private/protected)
|No (But you can make them all private/hidden)||Yes|
(but NOT re-pins other people make from your pins)
(Using the mass post editor)
(Your group blog contributions will be kept)
(But not instantly)
(You can mass-delete your comments and mass-hide your videos)
In summary, deleting your content from the web will take some work, and in some cases, it will not happen instantly. But it is better than saving future hours trying to block and delete spam communications targeted toward you and your business.
You can, of course, change your username on most of these networks to hide your real name but mind that your previous name will be still visible through the Wayback Machine and similar archiving tools, should anyone take the time to research.
3. Make your remaining accounts private
If you think going off the grid is an extreme sport and want to maintain some sort of social media presence to stay in touch with friends and family, simply make your accounts private. But remember that your name and profile picture may still be public and findable through Google, even when a profile is set to private.
Here’s an example of a private account on Instagram which still makes your name, username, description, profile picture, and website public, even for a non-logged-in viewer:
Generally, when a social media account is set to private, neither logged-in nor unregistered people cannot access your content or your friend list.
The culture of spontaneous sharing is going too strong: People publish and share private information without much consideration or without meaning any harm.
And let’s not forget about an always possible data breach risk that can land your personal information in the possession of hackers. From the past incidents, it is quite clear a social media platform is unlikely to even let their users know about the breach (they may do that but months after it happened, months after your private data may have ended up in the wrong hands).
That being said, deleting your accounts is probably a better – still not a perfect – option.
The truth is, once we start opening up our lives to the digital world, that private content gets wings of its own. It becomes very difficult to bring it under control and can easily spread without you even being aware.
If this is something of a concern to you, take at least some steps now: When starting a new business or digitizing your current one, keep your anonymity options in mind and make an informed decision as to what you want your customers to know about your personal life.
7 Ways To Improve Local SEO & Attract New Business
Not only is searcher intent likely different, the algorithms Google uses to show the map pack differs from the main organic algorithms.
In this article, I’ll be taking you through the ways you can win new customers and improve your visibility through local SEO.
Top Ways To Improve Your Local SEO
1. Keep An Eye On Your Competitors’ Google Business Profile Q&As
Google Business Profile (GBP) has a great function that can do wonders for growing new business – the questions and answers feature.
If you use it well for your own organization, it can help convert customers who are otherwise on the fence.
But don’t stop there. Spend time researching your competitors’ Q&As, too. See what your potential customers are asking others in your industry.
How GBP Q&A Works
On your Google Business Profile, you may notice an “Ask a Question” button. Once clicked, users are taken through to a screen that allows them to submit a question.
This next bit is key. The question does not get submitted to the owner of the profile. It gets submitted to the profile. That means it is visible to anyone who sees a Google Business Profile listing.
Once a question has been posted to your competitors’ Google Business Profile listing, you will be able to see it.
And once the question is answered, that information – and the engagement – is there for all in the future to see.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
These questions are a great way to encourage new business from local searchers. Questions are likely to be asked by people who have never visited that business before but are in your target market.
They are already engaging with the brand but need a bit more information before they commit to a visit.
For Your Own Listing
On your own GBP, you can use this opportunity to converse with a potential local consumer who is far down the conversion funnel.
If they are at the stage where they have found you and are considering you enough to ask some questions, a thoughtful response may be all it takes to see them walk through your doors.
On A Competitor’s Listing
Look at what questions your competitors’ customers and potential customers are asking. Use this to better fill out the information on your own profile and website.
If you are noticing a lot of questions being asked about the availability of gluten-free pizza from other pizza restaurants in your area, for example, you want to make sure you highlight your gluten-free products on your site and listing.
This type of research can keep you one step ahead of local competitors, especially if the questions they have been asked are slightly negative in tone.
Consider this question: “Do you still play loud music?”
If a potential restaurant-goer sees that question asked of another business, it immediately makes them consider the environment they will be eating their meal in.
It may make them wonder if they will really be able to enjoy the catch-up with their friends over a meal as they have planned.
Answer the questions being asked of your competitors on your own website and GBP before anyone asks. State in your description that customers will enjoy a meal accompanied by relaxing, ambient music.
This can put you at a significant advantage over your competitors for winning new business in your geography.
When you proactively answer a potential customer’s question before they even have to ask it, you demonstrate that you understand their needs and wants.
2. Tweak A Google Product Listing To Get More Exposure
Google allows businesses with GBP to upload details of the products they offer. This can be viewed by potential customers on both mobile and desktop search results.
The listings appear in the GBP in a carousel format on Maps and in both a carousel and under the Products tab in Search.
Both formats allow users to click on the product cards for more detail, to call, or visit the website.
How GBP Product Listings Work
Uploading your products to a Google Business Profile has gotten simpler. Google has released a new way of doing this called “Pointy.” Pointy is a device that is plugged in between the barcode scanner and the point-of-sale device. As products are scanned in, Pointy adds them to Google.
This is a quick way of uploading your product inventory to your Google Business Profile. There are restrictions around this, however, as Pointy is only available in some countries and also isn’t suitable for products without barcodes (bunches of flowers, for instance).
It is still possible to upload products manually. Simply sign in to your profile and click Edit Profile > Products > Add Product.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
You may be looking to showcase some products over others for a variety of reasons. You may have a surplus of stock in one of your locations, for example.
Bringing that stock to the forefront of that location’s GBP listing will help alert local customers to it. It will allow you to target specific products more to relevant audiences, dependent on their location.
For instance, seasonal products may be better served first. Perhaps the geographic location of your car repair shop is set for an unseasonal snow flurry. Edit your snow tire listings to bring them to the beginning of the carousel.
This could enhance the visibility of your product at just the right time for a new customer in your target location to see them.
3. Use Google’s Business Messages While You Can
Google Business Profile can include functionality that allows businesses to correspond with customers straight from the SERPs.
When activated, GBP will display a Message button that users can click on to start direct messaging with the business.
How GBP Business Messages Work
This functionality has existed since 2017 in Google Business Profile and since 2018 in Google Maps. It has only recently made it onto the desktop, however.
If you are an owner of a GBP, you should see the option in your desktop dashboard to Turn on messaging under the Messages tab.
You can then set items like an initial auto-responder to be sent out when a visitor first messages you are using this service.
To make sure the service is a timely one, Google recommends you reply to all messages within 24 hours.
If you don’t, Google may deactivate the messaging service on your account. Your response times can also show in Google Search and Maps.
Google may display ‘Usually responds in a few minutes,’ ‘Usually responds in a few hours,’ ‘Usually responds in a day,’ or ‘Usually responds in a few days,’ depending on your average reply time.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
Not everyone has the time (or inclination) to call up a business they have yet to engage with. Allowing potential local customers to message you straight from your GBP is an excellent way of streamlining conversations with them.
If you respond quickly, your chances of that potential customer converting are greatly increased.
This is of particular use to local businesses that perhaps don’t use centralized call centers or messaging. It can be another touch point that shows the personalization of the business based on the location that the consumer is in.
Consider the offers, services, and tone of voice that might be most appropriate to your customers in that particular geography. This is your opportunity to highlight again how well you know your customers.
Make use of the local name for the area your business is in. Talk about the specific events and charities you support in the area.
Any additional indication that your business serves the local population specifically can help to reinforce your relevance to the potential customer who has contacted you.
Now that the functionality is available in such a wide range of places on the web, it would be a wasted opportunity not to engage with your potential customers in this way.
4. Update Your GBP With All Relevant Newly Available Attributes
Google keeps updating the features available through its Google Business Profile property. Make sure you keep your listing fully populated with the relevant attributes as they become available.
How Do New Attributes Work
Google frequently adds functionality to Google Business Profile that your business might be eligible to use. Not every new feature is available to all types of businesses, however.
Whether you can access new updates depends on what category is set as your primary in GBP.
To keep up to date with what new features are becoming available and who is eligible for them, visit Google’s GBP announcements page.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
With any new change to Google Business Profile, early adoption will put you ahead of the pack. Although these attributes will not necessarily affect your rankings in the map pack, they can make your business more attractive to prospective local customers.
For instance, attributes can include details of the business’s ownership. For example, it’s possible to include attributes like “women-owned” and “black-owned” to your Business profile.
Google also introduced the option to denote a business’s support for the LGBTQ+ community through “LGBTQ+ friendly” attributes.
A business showing that it is inclusive and supportive of minority groups can help members of those groups to feel welcomed. For some people, knowing they will be welcomed at a business can be the difference between them visiting there instead of a competitor whose support isn’t guaranteed.
5. Join Local Marketplaces And Forums
The key to marketing your local business well is understanding what your audience is looking for. A great way of understanding your target market is by spending time where they are.
This includes online.
Make sure you register your business in local directories and forums. This is not so much for the traditional citation benefit. It’s so you can be amongst your prospective customers, hearing what they are talking about.
How Local Marketplaces & Forums Work
Look on platforms like Facebook for marketplaces relevant to your location and products. You don’t necessarily need to be engaging with the audience to learn more about who they are and what they respond to.
For instance, if you sell locally created craft products in your store, you can get a feel for how much your audience is willing to pay for products by seeing what similar items are being sold for in your town’s Facebook Marketplace.
By watching what your local audience is saying about prices, quality, shipping, and sourcing of products, you can begin to understand more about your audience’s preferences.
If you are a local pizza restaurant, you would do well to join Reddit subreddits for your city and read the threads that talk about restaurants in your area.
What is your local audience saying about your competition? Are they sick of pizza restaurants and really want someone to bring something new to the area?
Perhaps they are enthusiastic about local independent shops and want to support them more.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
This kind of information can help you to tailor your search marketing strategy, tone of voice, and more.
Go to places where your target audience members are talking freely about your local area. Find out what they want from their local businesses.
If you are feeling brave, you can even interact with your audience on these platforms. This has to be done sensitively and authentically.
Most people don’t want to be mined for information without their consent. Be open and honest when reaching out for feedback on these sites.
The more you can watch and learn from your audience, the more likely you are to be able to offer products and services they will respond well to.
6. Don’t Neglect Bing, DuckDuckGo, And Others
Google is not the only search engine you need to be concerned with. There are others, too, that might be the first port of call for users looking for information on local businesses.
How Other Search Engines Work
You may see the vast majority of the organic traffic going to your site coming from Google. Don’t forget that you might not be tracking all of the ways customers discover you through search.
Your profile showing in the SERPs might not generate a click. As a result, it will not show up in your web analytics program.
So, unless you are measuring impressions across different search engines, you will not know that your business has been seen on the likes of Bing or DuckDuckGo.
DuckDuckGo’s maps are powered by Apple Maps. Therefore, if you want your business to appear in the DuckDuckGo local map pack, you will need to have your business set up with an Apple Maps Connect profile.
Similarly, Bing uses Bing Places to power their local map functionality. Setting up and optimizing a Google Business Profile listing will not help you with increasing organic visibility on Bing.
We are seeing an increase in the popularity of other search engines over time, and for some locations, Google is not the primary search engine used.
If you have physical stores or business locations outside of the U.S., you should look at which search engines are also popular in those regions.
Make sure you utilize the local map functionality of these other search engines.
How Does This Help Build New Business?
Yet again, being where your competitors are not will put you in good stead.
If your competitors are not appearing in the Apple Maps results in DuckDuckGo, you are going to be far more likely to win the business of local searchers using that platform.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Reputation
You may be keeping a close eye on the reviews left on sites like TripAdvisor. You even check your own Google Business Profile listing regularly.
But are you keeping on top of some of the other places in the SERPs which might be giving potential customers an outsider’s view of your business?
How Reputation Monitoring Works
Top and middle-of-the-funnel local search queries, such as [car mechanic telford], can bring back a variety of features in the SERPs.
Prominently Featured Review And Directory Sites
Take a look at this SERP result:
The top carousel lists large directories, social media sites, and niche directories. This gives potential customers access to information about your company – and potentially even reviews – on sites you may not even be checking.
Aside from the inaccurate data about your company that these sites may contain, what have customers, former employees, or even competitors said about you?
Given that links to these sites appear as the first feature in the Google SERPs for this query, it would stand to reason they may get a lot of visibility from your potential customers.
People Also Ask
If customers are in the process of narrowing down their choice of business, they might start searching for specific information about those businesses. That can often trigger a “People Also Ask” feature to appear.
When searching for [is (name of a mechanic) in Telford any good], the following PAA box appeared, talking specifically about that brand.
That first “People Also Ask” question is, “why is [brand] so expensive?” That does not inspire much confidence in the value for money of this particular mechanic.
Although there is not much you can do to control what questions appear in the “People Also Ask” section, it is important to try to influence the perception of those who may click on this question.
Write a page addressing this question and try to get it ranking. That way, when someone interested in your local business clicks on this question, they at least will see your response around “the quality service,” “not compromising by using cheap parts,” and “highly-skilled technicians who you pay well for their expertise.”
How Does This Help Build New Business?
It is crucial to remember that what a potential customer sees about you may not just be the information you are writing on your website or Google Business Profile listings.
It might not even be the reviews left on sites you are closely monitoring and responding to.
A potential customer will be influenced heavily by others’ opinions and experiences of your business. Local businesses tend to attract a lot of reviews because they are promoted by sites that encourage them to be left.
A negative perception of your business will likely be the difference between you winning or losing a new customer.
Always monitor the SERPs around your core lead-generating search terms. Identify where negative perceptions of your business could be formed.
There are many aspects of SEO that you need to consider if you want your business to do well with your local audience.
How your website appears for searches with local intent in Google Maps and the standard SERPs can make or break your business.
If you want your brick-and-mortar business to succeed online, make sure you develop a robust local SEO strategy.
Featured Image: Rido/Shutterstock