Local businesses don’t need to restrict their marketing to billboards and flyers – and digital marketing can offer a greater return than any traditional local marketing technique. These 4 tips will kick-start your online marketing efforts, allow you to leverage a host of free marketing resources, and help your business to connect with more local customers than ever before.
1. Sign up for a Google Places account
Google is the biggest player in the digital marketing world; and their Places network should be the first port of call for any local business. A Places account is the easiest way for your business to notify Google of its existence, and the fastest way for your business to get included in all of Google’s search and social results. By adding your address, opening times, products and reviews to your account, you automatically boost your chances of appearing to potential customers through Google Search, Google Maps and Google Plus:
- Google SearchAccording to Forbes, 97% of consumers search for local businesses through the internet. Local search results are, unsurprisingly, extremely competitive – but instead of hammering away at endless keyword campaigns and SEO campaigns, you can boost your ranking with your Places account.Verified businesses that use Places are more likely to be included in search results, and the simple act of maintaining an active and up-to-date account can trigger Google to push your website several pages up the rankings.
- Google MapsA huge amount of local search queries take place in Google Maps – after all, what good is a local business if you can’t find it? A Places account automatically includes your business in Google Maps; adding a store marker and link to your website, in the same location as your physical premises. This makes your business visible to anyone browsing Google Maps, and can be extremely helpful in boosting both physical and virtual traffic.
- Google PlusGoogle’s own social network is growing at a rapid pace, and your business can create its own page through the Places system. Doing so increases the visibility of your business to other Plus users; but it also enables interaction between your brand and your customers. Of particular importance are customer reviews – and as a registered Google Plus account, your business can benefit from reviews left by other Plus users.
Google Places is also available in a Premium account, allowing your business to seamlessly integrate its paid AdWords campaigns – making the account a one-stop shop for marketing your local business online.
2. Incentivize customer reviews
Traditionally, customer reviews were a potent form of social proof – allowing prospective customers an insight into the quality of the products and services on offer. Unfortunately, the power of reviews has slowly diminished, thanks to the increasing sharing of fake and fraudulent reviews. In recent years, Google have gone some way towards remedying this problem – and customer reviews created on your Google+ profile will have a big impact on your marketing efforts.
There’s an obvious correlation between positive reviews and increased sales – as your prospective customers are more likely to trust your business with their hard-earned cash. Interestingly though, these same reviews now influence Google’s own ranking algorithms. Positive reviews, from trusted sources (most notably other verified Google+ accounts) will directly improve your business’ search engine ranking.
Your business can leverage this tip by incentivizing customer reviews; offering discounts, resources and rewards to customers that review your services. Importantly though, these reviews need to be genuine and unbiased – and buying or faking customer feedback is a guaranteed way to confine your business to page 600 of the Google Search Results.
3. Submit your business to local directories
Directory submissions have developed a hugely negative rep in recent years – and as a standalone SEO tactic, it verges on the suicidal. However, local business directories are still a trusted and valuable resource for consumers, and you shouldn’t forget to take advantage of their features.
Sites such as MozLocal, BrightLocal and Yext all offer directory submission, allowing your business to appear to visitors hunting for goods and services in your local area. Best of all, these paid sites haven’t succumbed to the onslaught of spammers, so they represent an effective and lucrative means of driving visitors to your business.
4. Build a Social Media Community for Local Businesses and Customers
Many local businesses neglect social media marketing, worried that they’ll be targeting an audience that’s too broad and too irrelevant. Well, chances are that your local customers use social media too – and to get in touch with them, you just need to refine your targeting.
It’s incredibly easy to set up pages and profiles on social media, and in addition to your own business account, you can consider creating a community page. Use the page to compile lists of local businesses, and resources that local people would find useful – in other words, make the page about your local area, and not your business. Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Pinterest boards and Google Plus hangouts will offer genuine value to local people – and subtly raise awareness, and appreciation, of your local business and brand.
How do you market your local business through the internet? Let us know in the comments!