Category Archives: local marketing ideas

smartphone search by local customer finding local business

What (Really) Goes into Local SEO that Works

One of the best marketing choices a local business can make is to invest time and effort in local search engine optimization (SEO). Local SEO is a powerful tool for businesses that want to get found online in searches by LOCAL users. These efforts generate website visits, e-mails, in-store visits, and phone calls.

The effort to get found online does provide value, both in online and in-store visits. Search Engine Watch reported that Google said that half of all local consumers head to the store after doing a local search online. Google also stated that more than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Other local SEO statistics also prove the value of this online marketing tactic.)

However, don’t let the term “generate” make local SEO seem like a passive marketing effort. Companies can’t sit back and wait to be found online.

Local SEO is an active and comprehensive marketing effort that never ends. This online marketing effort is a combination of one-time and ongoing tasks. While that may sound contradictory, some local SEO services, such as building a website or claiming a listing on a review site, are a one-time effort. Other items on the local SEO checklist, such as publishing optimized content and asking for online reviews, need to happen on a consistent basis for best results.

A stellar local SEO effort is complete with every item checked off the local SEO checklist. Because online marketing is also continually evolving, businesses need to stay up-to-date on the latest SEO practices that get results (or consult with local SEO pros).

But what really goes into local SEO that works? What do all those technological terms mean?

The list of off-site and website tasks breaks the local SEO process down—giving businesses the short list of what needs to happen.

Off-Site Local SEO Checklist

  • Claim, verify, and optimize a Google My Business listing. (One-time)
  • Ask customers for company reviews, which are also an integral part of local SEO. (Ongoing)
  • Update online review sites and directories with the (exact) same name, address, and website URL. (One-time)
  • Update Google My Business listing with posts. (Ongoing)
  • Engage with customer comments and reviews on Google. (Ongoing)

Website Local SEO Checklist

  • Build a well-structured and fast website with optimized content. (One-time)
  • Follow Google best-practices for a website with https. (One-time)
  • Optimize website pages with relevant keywords, headlines, and topics relevant to the target audience. (One-time)
  • Make a website mobile-friendly (important for search engine optimizations and website visitors). (One-time)
  • For businesses with multiple locations, create a separate page for each location. (Be careful not to duplicate content, which can incur a penalty). (One-time)

Locally Optimized Website Content Checklist

  • Add local, focused content to the website regularly. (Ongoing)
  • Select topics and high-volume keywords relevant to the target audience. (Ongoing)
  • Optimize content with keywords (without keyword stuffing). (Ongoing)
  • Include keywords in headline, meta tags, and URL. (Ongoing)
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.

customers shopping for products found online

Top Local Marketing Tactics that Earn Your Business (More) Sales

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get more local customers is online. This isn’t a misprint; the local customers down the street from the business or the customer driving around doing errands is on their computer and smartphone right now looking for information (mobile usage statistics show the latter to be especially true).

With that being stated, don’t throw away those postcards or signs just yet. After all, local marketing is the process of using tactics to reach local customers around the business. Rather, businesses should integrate traditional marketing tactics with online strategies that drive customers into the business in-person or via phone or message. Think of the process as connecting with a person who is walking by on their phone and doesn’t look up.

Effective local marketing campaigns target many potential customers on their phones and computers and convert those visitors into customers. The key word “effective” comes with a marketing plan that integrates tactics into a seamless series of strategic online and in-person interactions with potential customers. While all that sounds like a mouthful, it basically revolves around a list of social media posts, e-mails, and other tactics that reach potential customers.

Those communications should be focused on driving local people to the business location, website, or social media messages. To be effective, most businesses should use all or most of the one-time or ongoing tactics listed below; the exact list of tactics included in the marketing plan that gets results is different for every business.

Be part of the community on social media.

If a business wants to be seen as local, the business needs to show they are local. This tactic is a great way to build awareness and loyalty within the community. Businesses can sponsor local events, host events, and promote local causes and events on social media. One note: this is an effective tactic IF the business chooses the social media site (or sites) that has users from the local community and in the business’ targeted demographic.

This effort is not just about showcasing what the business is doing. It’s also about sharing news about community events (such as holiday events) and publicizing local causes. In addition to information and company promotions, businesses should regularly share photos and videos of company volunteering days, company-sponsored events that benefit a local cause, and posts from local organizations that the business endorses. These social media efforts need to be regular to be effective; if the business cannot maintain a regular schedule of relevant posts, the effort can be outsourced for best results.

Completely fill out the Google My Business listing.

Google My Business (GMB) is an online directory that the search engine uses to answer online visitors’ questions. GMB listings show up when visitors ask to see “flooring companies near me” or “coffee shops near me.”

To show up in those search listings, businesses should claim their Google My Business listing. Claiming the listing is free, but it does require entering a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.

Add the business information (exact information) to online review sites and directories.

Accurate information on online review sites and directories is an important part of showing up in online searches. When checking and entering information, businesses need to make sure that the listings are the same on every suite. Even road and suite abbreviations should be consistent.

When choosing online review sites and directories, businesses should start with popular sites like Yelp and Manta. Depending on the industry, businesses may want to consider listings on other sites as well.

Start asking for reviews.

According to a recent report, more than three-quarters consumers report that they research businesses before purchasing. An easy way to build trust with online visitors is to have a review or social media site full of positive reviews. The best way to get those reviews is to ask.

Businesses staff can ask customers during almost every interaction, such as at the checkout or in a follow-up communication. Signage and marketing postcards placed in packages and bags can also be an easy way to request a product or service review (a full list of ways to ask for reviews can be found here). To make the review process easier for customers, salesman and managers can also send follow-up emails with satisfied customers with links to review sites.

Build an e-mail list.

E-mails are a form of marketing with a huge return-on-investment. However, email marketing is not effective without a list of recipients interested in the product or service.

There are several ways to ask for e-mail addresses, both in-person and electronically. Salesman and checkout staff can ask customers if they would like to provide an e-mail address during the sales process or in follow-up communications. Automated e-mails sent after a completed transaction can provide a link where customers can sign up to receive electronic communications. On websites and on social media, businesses can ask customers if they would like to opt-in to their e-mail list. These ideas are just a few of many ways to build an e-mail list; there also a few tactics to avoid so customers are not driven away with unwanted e-mails.

Once a solid e-mail list is built, the “trick” that gets results is to draft an e-mail with information that the recipients want to read. The subject should get the recipients’ attention and make them want to read the contents. Businesses should include strategic call-to-actions (i.e. “for more information,” “click here for…,” etc.) that make it easy for recipients to interact and with the business. Every e-mail should include links to the website and social media sites.

6 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Local SEO

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).

Local Businesses: 20 Marketing Ideas that Connect with Customers

local customer with smart phoneAs local business owners, another sale may be the ultimate goal, but a connection with a customer is what gets those sales in the door. With in-person and digital options available, local business owners and managers need to select the right (and most efficient) marketing ideas that form those invaluable connections with local customers.

What is the goal of a customer connection?

A connection with a local customer is more than just a means to another sale—and it’s different for a local business versus a huge national corporation. A local business owner should choose tactics that inspire actions from a customer, such as (but not limited to) a referral, brand awareness, positive reviews, or in-person contact. The desired action should play a key factor in deciding on the type of tactic selected to reach business goals. A marketing professional can also offer advice on the specific tactics right for a local business.

It’s also important to realize that many marketing tactics are more than just a part of a plan; they are an integral part of operations that should be implemented via customer service employees who are the face of the business. This means that local business owners and managers should develop standard operating procedures that are a daily part of business and a standard part of employee trainings.

When its time to outsource local marketing efforts, take that team approach a step further. A marketing firm is an extension of your business’ efforts; contact them regularly with updates and information that can be used for a cohesive execution of all local marketing tactics.

How can I get more connections with my customers?

In-person

  1. Ask customers during customer interactions to follow business on social media
  2. Provide a card or flyer during customer interactions with social media options
  3. Ask customers during customer interactions to sign up for email list
  4. Provide a card with deals and contact information to be included in local community event goodie bags
  5. Ask satisfied customers for online reviews
  6. Give customers a mobile device for payment and for leaving an online review (when service is completed)

Website

  1. Optimize your website so you appear in search engine rankings
  2. Include clear call-to-actions (graphic & text) that ask for social media follows and email list sign-ups
  3. Post content with local news, tips, and information helpful for customers

Social Media

  1. Post pictures of employees doing work or on special occasions (with their approval)
  2. Drive traffic to a specific website page from social media
  3. Share website content relevant to customers’ lives
  4. Respond promptly to messages from customers with helpful advice
  5. Share posts from other local businesses and events
  6. Social media advertisements that target local users

E-mails

  1. Send out personalized e-mails with relevant information
  2. Showcase community involvement and local news pertinent to the community and business

Print

  1. Send out flyers or printed materials to local prospects
  2. Ask other local business owners to carry printed materials

Online Review Sites

  1. Take ownership of business profiles on review sites
  2. Contact a company with brand reputation software that manages positive and negative reviews from all online review sites
  3. Respond to all online reviews (negative and positive)
  4. Provide excellent customer service to customers who leave negative reviews (i.e. assist with resolving issue, offer to help)