With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Ontario is hoping to slow cases by implementing a new ‘lockdown’ level in the province. The new lockdown is set to last 28 days and went into effect Monday, November 23, 2020. While many essential services will still be open during the lockdown, those deemed non-essential such as retail stores, bars and restaurants are going to feel the pinch on their businesses, particularly during the holiday shopping season.
Who is Affected During this Lockdown?
Under the new restrictions here are the businesses that are going to be impacted the most;
- Indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants is prohibited. Instead, restaurants can only offer takeout, drive-thru and delivery.
- Nightclubs and strip clubs can offer takeout, drive-thru or delivery if they also operate as a food and drink establishment.
- Non-essential retail and malls are limited to curbside pickup or delivery only.
Business owners that fall into these categories are going to need to be innovative and shift their business models to fit within the restrictions. Many businesses have already started new sales channels during the pandemic, which in some cases is the only way they have been able to stay in business. Many brick and mortar businesses have started moving into the world of e-commerce to offer delivery and curbside pickup. With Ontario opening up liquor laws to allow off-sales and delivery many breweries and restaurants have been able to supplement their income by adopting this new channel. The most popular e-commerce site, Shopify, has seen a 71% increase in new stores on their platform in the last quarter. Those not willing to adopt this new channel are going to have a very difficult time adapting to this ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in.
Time to Adapt and Take your Business Online?
Taking your business online can seem like a daunting task, but Shopify and other e-commerce providers have designed their platforms to be user-friendly and some businesses can have their shop created and selling in just a day! The Ontario government has recognized that small businesses require help to transition their businesses online and have partnered with Digital Main Street to offer grants to assist in taking your store online.
Why is Local Search Visibility Important to your Business?
The Importance of Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Shopify has seen a massive increase in the number of customers shopping locally during the pandemic, so now more than ever it is important to have an online presence in your neighbourhood. Local SEO is extremely important while the Ontario government is still allowing curbside pickups and deliveries for small businesses’. While you may already have brand authority and loyal customers this will not solely cover the loss of walk-in traffic revenue previously obtained before lockdown. Most new customers are going to find your store through search engines (Google, Bing etc…), so there are some important tactics your business should be actioning to increase your online visibility.
3 tips to increase your Business' local visibility
Google My Business Checklist
- Review Name, Address, Phone(NAP) info to ensure it is correct on the Google My Business(GMB) listing. Adjust if incorrect.
- Upload store/product photos with descriptions to the Google My Business listing.
- Add news/product articles to the posts section.
- Add products to the product section of the Google My Business listing.
- Add services to the service section of the Google My Business listing.
- Interact with customers in the review section
2. Add local Citations listings
Local citations are any mention of your business’ name, phone number and address (NAP) across the web. By creating listings in 411, Yellowbook, Yelp, etc… with details of your services and the same NAP as your Google My Business you will signal to Google that your business is providing the listed services in the local region and increase your visibility. There are hundreds of local directories to add your listings which you can do manually or hire an expert like JumpSearch to do the work for you!
3. Add Structured Data to your website or Webstore
What is structured data?
“Structured data is a standardized format to mark up the information about the web page. It allows search engines like Google, Bing and others to better understand what the web page is about. When a search engine understands the content of the web page, then it may serve it for appropriate search queries.” – Mangools
How do you add structured data?
There are plugins available that will insert structured data code into your website, some are fantastic, but always be wary of free plugins as they often add unnecessary code to your site that can affect the performance and user experience. Here at JumpSearch we suggest adding the code manually to your website so performance is not hindered. This method is a bit more technical, but the extra effort will pay off. If you do not have the technical expertise to complete this yourself contact JumpSearch.ca and we can assist!
This lockdown is a terrible blow to small businesses in Ontario, but this could be an opportunity for those affected to build a web presence and start a new sales channel that will continue to pay off when all of this is behind us. We are all in this together and there is always light at the end of the tunnel – We’ll get through this and come out better as a community! #supportsmallbusinesses