Let’s say that you own a small business, an insurance agency for example, and are looking to grow your local business. Offline, you could
- Sponsor events
- Advertise locally
- Put up some big, bold signs
- Team up with nearby similar businesses
While these are all fine, they can be expensive, slow, and give murky results. Rather, if you are really looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, digital marketing is almost always the better way to go. Local online marketing, when done right, is fast, effective, powerful, and affordable.
You will notice I said, “when done right.” That’s because (as you likely know) there are plenty of ways to waste money online too. That is why, in fact, I wrote my latest book, Your Small Business Boom—to give small business owners the best digital ideas out there for growing their businesses.
Here are my best recommendations for marketing your business online.
Top 4 Ways to Market Your Local Business Online
1. Claim Local Listings
For a site and business that is local, an easy, affordable, powerful marketing win is to “claim local listings.” Several big sites have curated directories for local businesses—Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable in particular, with the two most important being Google and Yelp.
“Claiming a business listing” on any of them means that the owner has verified that they own the listed business. This then allows the owner to update and expand on the basic information that the site has posted.
Google My Business
Google of course is Google. In a previous blog, we discussed in detail how to manage your local “Google My Business” reviews, but this is different because we’re not talking about reviews per se, but about the actual listing itself. Each of these directories, including Google My Business, offers people who are searching online a one-stop shop for locating the sort of local business that they are looking for.
Take Yelp for example. According to a recent survey, 97 percent of people make a purchase after visiting Yelp, with 90 percent making that purchase within a week. So, the question is, when they visit Yelp (or Google My Business, or Trip Advisor), why would they choose your business over another?
One main reason is that the listings that STAND OUT tend to be local businesses where the business has claimed the listing. Claiming really does make a difference, especially with regard to local marketing. According to Womply.com, small businesses that claim their local listings make 58 percent more money.
Why is that?
The reason is that unclaimed local listings look, well, empty. You have seen a Google map with local ads that have not been claimed for sure—they look abandoned and may contain incorrect or obsolete information. They definitely will lack personality, photos, information, pizzazz. Alternately, by claiming your local listing, you can
- Add pictures (Yelp says that users spend more than double the time on pages with pictures)
- Hours of operation
- Phone number
- Contact information
- The address of your physical location
- Website, ecommerce, and social links
Do you see what a great local advantage that is?
The other great benefit of claiming your listing and optimizing it is that, because of the huge number of clicks that these sites get, there is tremendous search engine optimization (SEO) value doing so.
Which brings us to…
2. Optimize Your Site for Local Search
Whole books have been written about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because it really is that important in today’s small business marketing climate. In a nutshell, SEO is the process whereby Google and other search engines (to the extent there are other search engines these days) index and rank websites.
If you do your SEO right, Google will notice your online presence and rank your site and pages high for relevant searches.
The problem is that SEO can be confusing, time consuming, expensive (if you hire someone to do it for you), and, as well, Google is constantly tweaking its search algorithm. Outthinking the search wizards at Google can be a pretty thankless task.
The good news is that there are some local SEO basics that you can use for your local digital marketing efforts that work, no matter how the algorithm is altered. Use these and your site and specific pages will get ranked higher, especially with regard to local marketing, thus upping your chance to attract new customers.
And, additionally, given that most searches now are done on mobile devices, by using these strategies, your site will be placed in front of those potential customers most likely to seek your small business out—typically someone searching for a local business does so on the go.
SEO in 3 Steps:
1. Use keywords locals are searching for: Google analyzes whole websites, yes, but think about when you do a Google search, what happens? That’s right, you get directed to specific pages within websites. Those pages are the ones that Google thinks answers your query best.
So what you want to do is have pages that answer local queries best.
This is the secret sauce. If the keywords on your site match the keywords someone searches for, your site will very likely get a high ranking for that search. How do you know what people in your area are searching for? Don’t guess. Use a tool. The ones to check out are
If you really want to get into the weeds, a tool like ClearScope will tell you exactly what keywords need to be in your content.
One additional trick: Use the keyword tools above to try and find keywords with low competition—that is, fewer articles using those keywords. That way, you will be far more likely to get ranked high given there are less sites to go up against. Similarly, Ahrefs has a ranking for keyword difficulty; having a low keyword difficulty would mean you have an easier time showing up in search results
2. Use an Add-On: A site built on, say, WordPress will have a plethora of options for add-ons that will analyze your page’s SEO. At my site, we use Yoast, but there are many.
3. Have a great site and great content: Most of all, Google likes good sites and good content. This means that the site has to be fast, lacking 404 errors, etc.
3. Pay Attention to Reviews
Down the street from me is a cute little breakfast place. Or at least we thought it was a cute little breakfast place. My wife and I went there occasionally and always had a good, if not spectacular, breakfast.
Then one day the place was closed.
It turns out the local health department had cited them for violations several times. As a result, the cafe’s customer base started posting negative reviews online. After a while, if you Googled the place, that’s all you would find: Negative reviews and city code violations.
So they closed the doors, cleaned things up, and—get ready for it—renamed the place. Their online reputation and brand had become so toxic that no amount of fancy SEO could fix it. They had to start over.
As the importance of Yelp shows, reviews are critical for any local business. Increasingly, online reviews are the difference-maker for local businesses. Get good reviews and people notice. Get bad reviews and you just might have to change the name of your business.
Reviews can show up in a variety of places:
- Google, Bing, and Yelp
- Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
- The Better Business Bureau
So, if you want local people to notice your business, you need to monitor these sorts of sites. Ask for reviews from your happy customers. Post them on your website.
And equally, you need to manage bad reviews. Interestingly, surveys show that if you respond to a negative review in a helpful, non-defensive manner, people will likely remove it.
Your social platforms and presence are no less important. You are on social sites a lot. I am too. We all are. Use that. You have to. That is where decisions about local small businesses are often made.
By posting great content, having a solid landing page, interacting with social site visitors, posting specials and sales, and all in all, by actively managing your social presence, local potential customers are far more likely to find your business and want to check it out.
4. Boost Visibility with Paid Traffic
The bad news about SEO, social media and other similar marketing campaigns is that these things take time. Are these marketing efforts effective? Yes, you bet, very. But are they quick? No, not usually.
That is where paid traffic comes in.
It might take a few years for one of your webpages to make it to the Holy Grail—Page 1 of Google. What do you do in the meantime? Buy your way there, that’s what. Aside from organic search, content marketing, and social media posting, another–and often better–local online marketing strategy is to buy traffic.
The 3 Ways to Buy Online Traffic
There are three main ways you can buy traffic online:
- Paid search (Google ads, etc.)
- Display ads (found on other websites, say, a local TV station’s site)
- Social media ads (Social media marketing can happen on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
What is great, I mean really great, about buying traffic is that you can target your ads to the exact, local area demographic you are trying to reach. This is lead generation turbocharged. If you are looking to get teenagers in your area to come into your skate shop, you can buy ads that will reach only teenagers in your area that love skating.
Indeed, instead of looking for keywords, creating great content, SEOing the heck out of it, and waiting, you can instead micro-target your desired local customer and place online ads for them These ads can be targeted by age, sex, zip code, profession, interests, income, etc.
And, if you choose to pay only when you get a click (hence pay-per-click, or PPC), what you are getting are very affordable, highly qualified leads because you are only paying for people who have seen your ad, liked it, and decided to click on it. This is why PPC ads are 50 percent more likely to convert than organic visitors.
Begin by choosing a platform to advertise on—Facebook and Google are the biggest online ad spots, but there are many. Next, drill down on your desired demographic and choose your keywords. Place your ads, test it and see if it works. If it doesn’t, your tweaked, revised ad should.
Local Online Marketing Works
What is so exciting about business today is that a small business owner, like our insurance agent, has so many ways to grow their local business. Online ads, SEO, reviews, a local listing—can all be part of a high-quality marketing plan that works.
Check some out and see if they don’t work for you!