Category Archives: local marketing

magnifying glass on search engine rankings in Google

Local Businesses: How to Rock Rankings in Google

How do local businesses get customers to (and through) the door? Driving online and foot traffic is (or should be) the bread-and-butter of every local business marketing strategy. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including (but not limited to) email lists, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

The last item isn’t as tangible as sending out regular emails to customers or posting to social media, but it’s one of the most important ways to drive customers to your business. SEO is the process of getting to the top of search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases. For some businesses, this can be phrases like, “school backpacks for preschoolers” or “backyard grills.”

For local brick-and-mortar businesses, the focus on SEO results needs to be far more specific. After all, a person searching for flooring in Wisconsin isn’t going to contact a business in Ohio. For businesses with a specific target area (around their business or business location), local SEO is one of the top ways to ensure that local businesses are showing up in online user’s searches.

Statistics from Google, the most popular internet search engine, prove this marketing tactic to be successful:

Those statistics are based off of real online behaviors. When a person is looking for a product or service, they are going online to research products and businesses that provide the specific product or business. This could be an intensive process or an impulsive search online. Some of the research is done through voice search or typed-in keywords, phrases, and questions.

If a local business wants to be found in these searches, the business name and information needs to show up in search results. This can be in the form of tips and information, business-specific information, or lists of local businesses that provide a product or service (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “djs near me,” etc.)  There are numerous ways business can show up in searches; this list is just the start of a business’ targeted local SEO efforts (for more technical local SEO, contact local SEO experts).

Claim a Google My Business listing.

Online visitors need businesses that provide products and services. They look for them online, either by typing in or asking questions. An article on Forbes estimated that an average of one billion voice searches occur every month.

In a Google searches, the businesses listed as answers in those searches are often pulled from Google My Business (GMB). GMB is an online directory of local businesses.

To be included in GMB, business can claim a free GMB listing. To verify the listing, businesses need to enter a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add strategic content to your website.

High-quality, optimized content is a huge asset in local SEO. The content can answer questions or provide information relevant to searches about the product or service. Either way, the content must bring some value to the reader.

Years ago, this content would have to be 300 words and only text to be high in the rankings in Google. As search engines have evolved and the sheer amount of content has multiplied (exponentially), the stakes for content has skyrocketed.

Modern content needs to be optimized with keywords and topics relevant to online searches. This does NOT mean repeating keywords over and over, which is called “keyword stuffing” and is penalized by search engines. To be clear, the content not only needs to be optimized for search engines but also for the target audience. (Optimized content can be outsourced to professionals to get regular content that gets results.)

All content should contain images optimized for higher rankings in Google. These images should have relevant alt text and ideally would be a video that provides more value for the reader. While these images should be clear, they should not slow down page loading speed. Page loading speed is another Google ranking factor.

According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.

Claim directory and review site listings.

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). For this reason, business listings on review sites and online directories are a common result on search engine results pages (generated after a search).

Businesses should compile a list of online review sites and web directories relevant to their industry and claim listings on those sites. Every listing should have consistent information—even down to the abbreviations. The suite should be “Ste.” on every site, the same for “Rd.” and “Ave.”   

These sites also play an integral part in building trust with potential customers. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business. To earn those positive reviews, businesses should provide excellent customer service and make asking for reviews a standard part of the process. Every staff member should be trained to provide an excellent experience and ask satisfied customers for a positive review.

To make the process easy for the customer, businesses should look for opportunities to ask for reviews. This could include a link included in a follow-up email, a postcard included in a package, or an in-person ask from a salesman or technician.

Build a website with an optimized structure.

An optimized website is an integral part of every business’ SEO toolbox. To get high rankings on Googles, businesses must structure their website for search engines. In addition, an optimized website must load quickly, contain relevant keywords, never have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions, and contain no broken links.

Astoundingly, almost three-quarters of all Americans have a smartphone. The growing amount of smartphones should be a key part of every company’s marketing strategy. According to Google, almost half of all mobile users are frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. This trend is reflected by Google, which include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

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

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.

8 Marketing Mistakes Local Businesses Make ALL the Time

map of world on laptop for business owner looking to reach local customersIt’s easy to take the “follow the leader” approach to marketing.  After all, if that marketing tactic has worked for other (bigger) businesses, it should work for you, right? However, following the “big dogs” can be the wrong strategy when you’re trying to reach local customers and they are marketing to a much larger, national audience.

We’re not saying you can’t use resources that national suppliers send your way, or use elements of a national strategy in your marketing.  But you should avoid these marketing pitfalls we’ve seen many local businesses make when they use marketing tactics meant for a not-so-local audience.

Not showcasing your community involvement

If you want to reach your local customers, show them you’re in their community—and an active participant.  Share an occasional social media post about an event you sponsor, pictures of a public event you’re involved in (i.e. business trick-or-treating, class your staff gave at a local school or group, etc.), or any other proof that you are a trust-worthy member of your community.

Forgetting to include a solid contact page with your website

This is local business 101: if you want your local customers to contact you and you want search engines to bring up your address in search results, you NEED a contact us page with all your information on your website.  It’s shocking how many businesses don’t include that basic information on their website.

Not investing in local SEO

More than 90% of online users use search engines to find information.  If your business is not listed on the search engine, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to get their attention and their business.  There are many kinds of SEO that businesses use for their website; local SEO gets your business in front of users within a certain radius of your business (and your business locations).  Don’t just take our word on it; research the what, why, and how of local SEO before you invest in this valuable marketing tool (and read about the proof that it works).

Thinking you have to be everywhere

Overreaching is one of the most common mistakes we see local business owners make; they want to reach EVERYONE so bad that they miss out on the opportunity to reach their targeted local audience.  These business owners see the ‘big dogs’ on every social media site, and they follow by signing up for every social media site.  Unfortunately, they can’t keep up with the workload and the result is that they miss out on what they set out to achieve: reaching their local audience (more info on effective tactics to reach a local audience here).

Treating social media like a world-wide connector

Your local business social media strategy should be different than a national business with a wide scope.  One of the biggest (and most common) errors we see is a local business that doesn’t have its contact information on social media.  If your social media goal is aimed at your local customers, carry it out with solid marketing tactics in your social media plan.

Not using email to connect with customers

Email marketing is one of the most valuable tools for small business owners, but one that they often don’t utilize.  We’re not talking about cold-selling emails sent to addresses on an email list bought online.  We’re talking about emails sent to customers who have given you their consent to send them emails (use this info to build your email list)—customers who want to hear from you and have an interest in your business.

Failing to include calls to action in your marketing

What do you want your customers to do?  Surprisingly, one of the biggest mistakes we see local businesses make is not telling their customers what they want them to do.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean always screaming in their face: “CALL US NOW!”  The right call-to-action is somewhere in between; a sentence or graphic that lets your customers know what they can do to find an answer to their problem (you, the local business!).

Not taking advantage of local reviews

Local reviews of your business—positive local reviews—are an important part of marketing to local customers that many business owners fail to utilize.  Ask for local reviews on social media and local review sites, and respond to those customers that indicate they had a less-than-stellar experience.  Showcase your company’s responsiveness and excellent customer service—and enjoy the results of a sound local marketing tactic.

How can I use social media to connect with local customers?

Female customer with plastic cards and shopping bags looking for local businessFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat…all the major social media sites have been touted as the ultimate world-wide connector—and for good reason.  On Facebook alone, statistics show that more than one billion people around the world are active users.  As great as that huge statistic is, if you’re a local business owner or manager, it does little toward meeting your goal of using social media to connect with your local customers and, ultimately, increase your sales.  That’s when it’s time to use a more targeted approach to connect with your local customers on social media so they come back—and to attract new customers in the process.

Share posts and tweets about local events.

If your company is an active part of your community, show it.  Share posts and tweets about local events in your area.  This tactic has a two-fold benefit: 1) it shows you are involved in your local community 2) it gives your customers information they want to see.  This strategy comes with a note of caution, however: be smart about how much you share local events.  You don’t want to push your followers away because they are sick of the same old posts about the same events over and over again.  Share a post or tweet every once in awhile to showcase the event, or to make your customers aware of a need in the community (and a chance to help).

Use social ads.

There is value in using social ads to reach your local customers.  Make sure your ads are targeted locally and relevant (if you don’t know how, outsource your efforts).  Don’t pound your audience over the head with endless advertisements; use ads strategically to boost relevant events or information you know your customers want to see (but can’t because of the decrease in organic business page reach).

Embrace local reviews.

A positive review of your product is worth its weight in gold—especially in the eyes of potential customers looking for a local service or product that can fix their problem.  Enjoy every positive local review, and ask for more.  Make an in-person ask or a sign requesting your customers leave reviews after you’ve helped them, and respond to their reviews and requests as soon as possible (good customer service and interactions spur more!).

Make your live video feeds and videos local news-worthy.

Video is the wave of the future, so use it to your advantage.  Produce videos that catch your audience’s attention about local going-ons and information they care about.  If you have an event, involve your participants in your video for a fun interaction.  If you don’t have the time or the know-how to make that happen, contract your efforts out to the marketing experts that do.

Integrate social media with other local marketing efforts.

One of the most effective ways to use social media to reach your local customers is to integrate it with your other local marketing efforts (we’ve given you a full list of ways to reach your local customers).  One idea: use your social media channels to drive people to the gallery on your website or use your social media to showcase your content marketing efforts (which optimizes your website for search engines).  Here’s how to craft a strategic integrated marketing plan that accomplishes your local goal. Social media helps you connect the dots—between your marketing efforts and you and your local customers.

9 Effective Ways to Reach Your Local Customers

customer buying item after being reached by local marketingIt’s the million dollar question for any local business owner: “how do I reach my local customers?”

Website

If you want to reach local customers, you need to have a solid foundation: a well-built business website.  A solid website has all the information your customers and potential customers could need or want, and a convenient way to contact you.  Though you can’t use the website to overtly reach your customers, your business should have a website that you can direct your customers to when they find your website on search engines, social media, through a content marketing piece, or from email.

We’ve written about the important elements of a solid website before; don’t just open your brochure and start haphazardly putting the text into a website.  Instead, organize the information that your customers want in a format they can easily navigate (or hire the pros to create a website) and that you can easily direct people to from email, social media, and direct mail pieces.

Search engines

Think of SEO technology as a website amplifier.  SEO optimizes your website for search engines, making major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo take note and list your website at the top of search engine results pages.  Not just any SEO technology can do this effectively, so choose your SEO provider carefully.

If you want to use SEO to reach local customers, contact a company that provides local SEO.  Local SEO gets your business at the top of the searches (not ad listings-important!) that pertain to your business by people within 10, 20, and 50 miles of your business.

Social Media

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat.  If you want to reach your local customers, you need to harness the power of these sites for your business.  Choose the right social media sites that your target audience is on, and make sure you don’t take on more social media marketing than you have time for.  Start by using these tips to grow your social media followings, and be careful not to oversell on your pages.

Even though your goal is to use social media to grow your business, focus on connecting with your audience instead of selling to them.  No one wants to listen to a business that continually broadcasts advertisements at them.  Instead, use humor (when appropriate), excellent customer service (please answer their messages!), relevant information, tips, community information, and anything else your customers want to hear to build trust.

Review Sites

Local review websites don’t help you directly reach out to your customers, but they do help build trust when customers are trying to find you.  When they do, use common internet review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to your advantage.  Fill out a complete profile on top review sites and ask your customers to post feedback after their experience with your company.  If you have multiple locations, you may have to create numerous profiles.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is exactly what it says: producing content for marketing.  Basically, you write about topics that your audience wants to know about (i.e. tips, advice, checklists, etc.) and use different methods to promote it.  For example, if you are a pet store, you would write about choosing the right food for your cat.  The article would be posted to a blog, then sent out in an email to your customers with pet food specials and scheduled to post to social media.  If you don’t know what to write about, or don’t have the time to write new content, use these tips to select a content marketing firm that can. 

In addition to building trust with your audience, content marketing has another benefit.  Adding relevant content to your website can gain the attention of search engines and improve your ranking in search engine listing.

Email Marketing

Connect with your local customers through their inbox—with their consent of course.  Use these tips to build a quality email list (please don’t buy lists) and add sending emails with strong attention-getting headlines and strong call-to-actions to your to-do list.  Make sure your emails are relevant and relatable, and that you give your email subscribers the chance to ‘unsubscribe’ when they want (it’s the law).

Direct Mail

Contrary to the obnoxious naysayers, direct mail as a marketing tactic is not dead.  However, the days of sending direct mail after direct mail pieces out is.  Instead, integrate direct mail into your marketing plan as a targeted effort.  Target customers with services that you know they are going to want to know about, such as an accessory sale for a product they had bought.  In addition to direct mail, use other marketing tactics to spread the word about your sale (i.e. content marketing pieces about product maintenance, social media posts with memes, etc.).    

Advertisements

Whether online or traditional, there is value in advertising.  The key to a successful advertisement (and any marketing tactic, really) is to know who your customers are and advertise in media where they go for information.  If your customer base is younger, look into advertising on search engines or social media.  Make sure you target local customers in online advertisements; if you don’t have the opportunity to target your online ads, you’re not going to reach the potential customers you want.

Marketing Plan

We know a marketing plan is not technically a marketing tactic, but it is an important element of reaching your local customers.  Instead of randomly employing these tactics to drive sales whenever you hit a lull, use a marketing plan to strategically promote your business all year round (here’s how to draft a solid marketing plan for local customers).  If you don’t have the time or expertise, contact a company that can draft a marketing plan and help you reach your local customers.