For some businesses, being able to market to consumers anywhere on the planet has been a boon. But a much larger segment of the small business community mostly serves customers in their own backyard. Here is a look at how local businesses can use the power of online marketing to reach their local customers.
Introducing Local Search
Having an easily found local business is important to its growth and development. The foundation of local online marketing is being found easily when prospective customers are searching online. Google has found that 73% of online activity is centered on local searches and content. This means that you have to make sure that your website is optimized to come up in localized searches either on search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo, or in map applications like Google Maps or Mapquest. This process is often referred to as “local SEO.”
Keyword research is the foundation of local SEO, and it can be easily done with Google's keyword tool. The tool can show search data about local search phrases accurately and it is constantly updated. A business owner can use this tool to get a good idea about the search habits of the locals and can focus efforts on those keywords. For example, a dentist in Denver can see how many people search on the keyword “dentist” compared to “dentist denver.” While there are fewer searches for the latter, you can be sure that those are much better prospects to go after.
Once the keywords are found, pages on the website have to be optimized for those keywords. The most common place to change is the title and the descriptive tags of the pages. These descriptive tags, called meta description tags, are what people see when they search for the website in search engines. The tags should include the target keywords and a description of the page. It may also be a good idea to have multiple service pages for the different areas around them to reach a wider audience. Another important step is to add the physical address and the phone number of the business at the footer of all the pages located in the website as it will help search engines find information associated with the business while someone is searching for key words.
Once the keyword research and optimization is completed, the next logical step is to submit the website to various local directories and Google. Many people still use local directories to find information, and that combined with Google+ Local (which replaced Google Places last year) service means that you have just created a website that can reach as many people as possible. Some directories are nationwide, while others are for local businesses. Your local chamber of commerce may also maintain online listings. There are also directories specific to particular industries. Some research is necessary to find all the potential options, but it is worth it to go after them all. Even if you do not pay for premium listings, it is important to check them to make sure they have the correct, most up-to-date information about your business.
Once your online presence is set up to be easily found online, you can earn even more attention from online customers through local display advertising. These are high-quality banner ads, run them on well-known relevant websites to viewers in your target geographic area. In some ways this strategy is similar to advertising in magazines or newspapers, but because of the targeting capabilities with online display it is much more cost effective as there is less waste on audiences that are not relevant to the message. Studies have shown that running display ads provides significant lift to the effects of PPC campaigns as well, since the brand awareness generated by display ads can prompt more people to search for a brand by name later.
Together, these the essential steps that local business owners can use to make online advertising work within their local area. Remember, the Internet has the ability to pull customers away. Even offline businesses must get online to be able to pull those customers back.