For many small businesses, salvation has come in the form of local Internet marketing efforts. Never before has it been easier for a local business to get their name out to customers, giving them a much-needed edge over nationally marketed competitors. But local marketing isn’t something that happens by accident; to make the most of it, local businesses need to go on the offensive and push their brand harder than ever. Here are a few tips to help maximize your local marketing campaign.
Marketing in the past used to mean buying space in the Yellow Pages and ads in the local newspaper. But today more and more people are looking to the Internet to find new businesses. Over the next 3 years, businesses that have and maintain web presences are expected to grow 40% more than sites that do not have websites.
A common excuse for not having a website is the costs associated with creating it, but even that is becoming less of a hurdle. In 2011, Google launched a promotion to build websites for small businesses for free as a way to bring them into the 21st century. Even without this promotion, the costs of building a website can cost as little as $1,200 dollars which will quickly pay for itself.
Once you have a site, the most important step is to connect your business with your region using the correct keywords. For example, focusing on the keywords “hardware store” is almost useless; “hardware store Albany, NY” can help draw people who are looking for a local hardware store nearby (assuming you own a hardware store in Albany, NY). The advantage that local stores have over large businesses is that the local site can focus on a particular area. Programs like WordTracker or Google AdWords will show you the level of competition for each keyword and suggest variations that may offer you more success.
Once you have the keywords decided, the next step is to implement those across your site. Add them to your site’s title tags, meta description, images, and header tags; anywhere search engines are looking.
Use sites like Google+ and Bing Places for Business to their full potential. These sites often are favored by search engines and require very little technical know-how. Your business will then show up on sites like Google Maps and Bing Maps. All that’s required of you is fill out the pages with as much information as possible about your business. Creating a profile on sites like Yelp! is also an important step. Because Yelp! pages are constantly updated with reviews, they show up at the top of search results pages and can drive significant amounts of traffic.
In SEO, links are a great way to boost your site’s reputation. Getting reputable, published sources to link to your webpage boosts your search rating significantly because they are, in essence, vouching for your site. One of the most common methods of link-building is to have a local blogger link to your site; keep in mind, the bigger the blog, the more it will affect your SEO. With that in mind, when link building focus on quality over quantity. There are plenty of services that promise to link to hundreds of sites across the web, but search engines aren’t that blind anymore. As a result, these packages are usually just a waste of time and money.
Mobile Marketing is the quickly becoming one of the most important methods of marketing for local businesses. 97% of mobile users have used their device to search for local stores and services and over half are not targeted to a specific business. Also, the majority of customers who search for local businesses act upon the search results within the hour, which means the returns on a well-made mobile site can be seen very quickly. While mobile is an emerging market trend, many sites have failed to capitalize on it which means having a well-designed mobile-friendly site could put you miles ahead of the competition.
While it may seem archaic, word-of-mouth marketing is still an extremely effective way to increase awareness of your business locally. Connect with other local business owners and ask to hang flyers or put business cards in their shops. In the same way that link building from reputable sites will boost your SEO, getting a word-of-mouth recommendation from local shop owners that are trusted in the community can boost business, and referral bonuses can increase loyalty among customers.
There isn’t one end-all-be-all fix to local marketing. Successfully spreading the name and reputation of your business takes time and effort, but will pay off in the end.