Category Archives: local company marketing

6 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Local SEO

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customers looking at smartphone for local businessLocal businesses need local SEO. This isn’t an overstatement or an opinion. When a company’s local SEO efforts are sub-par, the company misses out on valuable opportunities to gain website traffic, leads, and sales. Fortunately, the effort doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it does need to be comprehensive and start with a few simple steps.

Confirm your Google My Business listing.

Think of Google My Business as a giant online directory filled with local business listings. When customers search for local businesses (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “antiques near me,” “furnace repair near me”), the search engine giant pulls the most relevant and local listings.

The process makes claiming a business’ Google My Business listing a top priority for companies wanting to improve their local SEO. The claiming process is free, but does need to be confirmed by a postcard sent to the business address. For optimal results, take the process a step further by optimizing the GMB listing or outsource the task of creating and optimizing to trusted marketing professionals.

Find more opportunities to ask for online reviews.

Online reviews are a key part of a local SEO strategy that gets results. Online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business are incredibly relevant to customer searches about companies, making reviews a valuable asset for local companies.

Most customers won’t leave a review unless asked—and companies have numerous opportunities to do so. The process of asking for reviews (and improving local SEO) starts with a complete evaluation of company standard operating procedures. Companies can ask for reviews via:

  • Electronic communications (i.e. company promotional emails, sales professional emails to clients, follow-up emails after receiving product or service, etc.)
  • In-person asks (i.e. cashier during check-out process, sales professional in follow-up meeting, technician after service is completed, etc.)
  • Paper ask (i.e. postcard with information to leave review with package, sales professional thank you note, etc.)

Monitor online reviews.

Asking for online reviews comes with a risk. This risk can be minimized by only asking customers that are satisfied, but the truth is that some customers leave negative reviews. While finding a negative review is never pleasant, negative reviews come with an opportunity. The key word here is “find.” Companies cannot seize on the opportunity to showcase their excellent customer service until they are aware of the review.

Negative reviews can be located with diligent online monitoring or via automated software (contact a marketing company for an automated monitoring option). The latter option makes companies aware of every review so they can respond (to both negative and positive reviews). When the review is negative, companies should respond promptly without getting defensive. Instead, companies need to acknowledge the issue and offer to discuss the matter privately (through electronic messages).

A company employee should be designated to answer and resolve the matter (if possible) to eliminate the chance of the inquiry falling through the cracks. This employee should be chosen carefully and should be trained to respond using the best customer services practices. If the customer’s issue is fully resolved to their satisfaction, company employees can ask for the customer to remove or revise their review.

Embrace the latest online search trends.

The way people find products and services online is continually evolving. Companies wanting to get online customers need to utilize this information when optimizing their online presence. Online consumers are using voice search and mobile devices for their searches. More than a million voice searches are done every month, according to this Forbes article. The amount of searches on mobile devices surpassed searches done on desktop devices years ago.

This information is invaluable for businesses, but only if used correctly. Companies should construct websites optimized for long-tail keywords, with a structure built for search engines, and with optimized media (video and images). These basics are only part of developing a website that shows up in online searches. A marketing professional can help fill in the gaps and ensure that every website element is optimized for the latest search trends.

Make it clear online the business is local (or has locations).

One of the most important aspects of local SEO is to make it incredibly obvious that the business is local or has multiple locations—without compromising the customer experience. The effort should start on a website with the location clearly spelled out on the Contact Us page, multiple location pages (if the business has more than one location), and on other optimized website pages. In addition to a clear location, businesses can also benefit from localized content and local links.

This effort comes with an incredible attention to detail. Companies should take extreme care to ensure that the name, address, and phone number is exact on the website and any other online listings. For example, address road should be written as ‘Road’ or ‘Rd.’ in all listings.

List the business in local online business directories.

Local online business directories are a powerful—and strategic—local SEO tool. The first step is to research local business directories and select the right “online phone books” relevant to the company. This comprehensive list of online directories is an excellent start (and can be used by a company or as part of an outsourced local SEO campaign). When filling in the listings, make sure that every name, address, and phone number are exactly the same. Consistency is key; all listings should include the same suite number and label (‘Ste.’ Or ‘Suite).

Effective Online Marketing Tactics that Target Local Customers

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local business trying to reach local customers with marketingLocal businesses need to invest their dollars into marketing tactics that target local customers. After all, a customer thousands of miles away isn’t going to travel cross country to buy your product.

And local customers aren’t looking in their phone book anymore. Consider phone books in the same category as the extinct do-do bird.

It’s time to move into the modern age of smartphones and tablets—and use them to target local viewers that can actually buy.

The chance for increasing sales is high. The investment (of time and funds) in the marketing tactic doesn’t have to be (if you choose the right marketing firm that delivers results).

To be clear, we’re not discounting the significance of in-person customer interactions. Customer service (both online and off) is more important than ever, building relationships and customer loyalty. However, you have to reach customers before you can provide excellent customer service. Far too often, local business owners waste their money on generic marketing tactics that can reach anybody anywhere. Frankly, a flooring store isn’t going to increase sales if their marketing is seen 1,000 miles away.

Website Optimization

An optimized website is built and designed for users and search engines. This is not done blindly. The best websites are built with the right structure for search engines and fast enough for any impatient customer (statistics have shown that online viewers leave websites that take too long).

For the benefit of both search engines and online viewers, website content should be written with information and images relevant to local online viewers. Lastly, contact information for the business should be included on several web pages for search engines and customers. For the latter, include easy-to-use ways to contact the business, such as a contact form and social media.

Optimization Technology

An optimized website is the first step; it shouldn’t be the last. The next step is to continually optimize with content and technology. Search engines credit websites that regularly add high-quality content (i.e. blog posts, infographics, etc.) Online viewers use the content as they research topics that solve their problem. The answer is to regularly add content to the website for both online viewers and search engines. If a staff member isn’t available to do so or doesn’t have expertise, consider outsourcing the effort to the experts.

For brick-and-mortar businesses with one or several locations, optimization technology is the logical next step. Optimization technology specifically targets customers within a specific radius around a business location (or locations). This marketing tactic takes a high level of expertise and understanding of best-use search engine practices; use this guide to choose a marketing firm that offers effective optimization technology that has proven results.

Social Media

Social media is a free marketing tactic that gets results. Unfortunately, those results can be hit-or-miss if some best-use social media practices aren’t followed. Sales-driven posts can also be more in the miss category if these ideas for local social media posts aren’t used.

To build a solid social media following that buys, promote the social media channel on every marketing piece (i.e. website, e-mails, traditional mailers) and during in-person interactions (i.e. register sales, sales meetings, etc.) Get the maximum amount of followers and audience engagement by carefully choosing the social media network that the business target audience is on. Use this helpful social media chart to select the right social media networks and post regularly for maximum effect. Regular posts fit into the “not too often, not often enough” category. The exact schedule should be determined by using statistics, social media insight, and a testing method that determines the best time for customer engagement (i.e. comments, likes, etc.)

Increasing sales on social media does not necessarily mean “only sales” posts. Social media marketing is more of a subtle practice; approximately 60 percent of posts should be sales and 40 percent should be relevant content. To that end, plan a marketing calendar that meets this criterion and showcases the local nature of the business (this list of ideas for social media posts).

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics—especially for local businesses. The first step is to build an e-mail list that is open to communications (use this list of ideas for building an e-mail list). Try to avoid buying e-mail lists which can fill the list with e-mail users that don’t have any interest in the business.

Set a regular schedule of e-mails (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) around dates that are relevant to the e-mail recipients. Try to avoid sending e-mails too often (this is a sure-fire way to annoy e-mail recipients). If the schedule starts to feel too arduous, consider outsourcing the effort a marketing firm.

In the e-mails, include content that is relevant to the target audience. Just like social media content, these topics are not always sales-driven. For local businesses, include community events that the e-mail users are interested in and topics that e-mail recipients want to act on. For a maximum return-on-investment, include call-to-actions in the e-mail that are easy-to-use.

Local Businesses: Get Customers to Your Door (and Keep Them Coming Back)

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customer headed to local business after looking onlineIf you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s the million dollar question: how do you increase the amount of customers who walk through the door—and keep them coming back? The answer may not be as tangible as your company’s location (computers and the internet never are), but the results—customers walking in the door, contacting you, coming back time and time again—are real and rewarding as your business grows.

Target local customers (not just everyone!).

It’s hard to look at a crowd and not see dollar signs, but to effectively market you need to thin the crowd. As tempting as it might be to take a “the more the merrier” approach, it makes more cents (pun intended) to target your local customers. Customers residing thousands of miles away aren’t going to be ordering your product or services; you need them to be able to walk in the door.

As such, invest your budget to marketing tactics that targets your local customers: emails, mail marketing pieces, local search engine optimization. All three of these options target local customers in zip codes around your business. Email marketing does require an initial visit—-either in your store or on your website—but has a high return on investment if you deliver valuable information (not only sales information) to them every month. The return on your mail marketing pieces depends on value, whether the method fits your demographic, and—similar to your email—whether your piece delivers some value to your customer.

The third tactic, local search engine optimization, is verified by an important statistic: more than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine. The rise of mobile marketing has led to larger stakes: more than ¾ of all mobile searches end in an offline sale. Local search engine optimization targets your local customers (in zip codes within miles of your location) so they get the information they’re looking for—and the call-to-actions that lead them to contact your business (either in-person, via email or phone).

Build a solid foundation to your local marketing plan.

A block tower with a heavy top load is going to topple without a strong base. When marketing your business, this means you can promote your website—the base of your marketing—as much as you want; however, if your website isn’t strong, it’s not going to drive customers to you.

A strong website is comprised of a strong structure built for search engines, content targeted at your customers, call-to-actions that produce results, and contact information that makes it easy for your customers to contact you. Once you’ve built a strong website (more information about strong websites here), you can build a marketing plan with strategic promotion (i.e. social media, email marketing, local SEO, etc.)

Make your social media site very local-minded.

If social media is part of your marketing plan, show your customers why they should stop in. This recommendation comes with one disclaimer: you don’t want your customers to feel like you are screaming advertisements at them. Mix photos of your store and personnel, information of upcoming specials and sales, and other relevant tips and information in to your targeted marketing plan. Since you are local, add one other key component to your social media plan: information and pictures from local community events. Show your business is part of your community.

Take customer service to the next level.

There is one factor that can set your business apart from your national competitors, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for it: prompt and excellent customer service. Now it’s your turn to prove it—every way your customers contact you. Respond promptly to e-mails, social media inquiries, phone calls, and in-person requests. Use these tips to respond, and respond quickly; prompt means within hours, or even minutes, of when the question comes in. Don’t shy away from a response if the inquiry is negative. Instead, use the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If the request is public (such as on social media), ask the customer to privately message you with details.

Monitor your online reviews.

Online reviews may seem inconsequential to your local business, but the reality is that online reviews can majorly impact your business. Social media and local review sites are full of negative and positive information left by your customers. Your potential customers see that information as they research your business, which is why you need to monitor the reviews and take steps to resolve negative reviews. If you want to make the process easier, contact a marketing firm with an automated system that informs you when reviews come in and gives you time to respond.