Using the web to promote your local business
Max Jennings, co-founder of welovelocal.com, explains how local business marketing can work for your company
You may not know it, but small businesses are at the middle of a revolution taking place on the web. Google, Yahoo! and MSN are all currently fighting it out to become the leading source for local information on the web.
Why? Because, searching for local businesses and services on the web is predicted to be one of the fastest growing segments of online search over the next five years.
As more and more people turn to the web to look for local information, there has never been a better opportunity for smaller business to get ahead online and benefit from undervalued advertising costs and the opportunities to get a lead on building up a great online reputation and buzz around your company.
Paid Search Marketing – Over £1 billion was spent on paid search marketing last year in the UK, though only a small percentage is spent promoting smaller local businesses. As such pay per click advertising costs for localised search terms like ‘mechanic in Newcastle’ remain hugely undervalued.
Using Google Adwords you can set up targeted advertising campaigns within Google’s search results to advertise your website against specific search terms. Importantly, you can geo-target adverts so that your advert will only appear to people looking within the local area so that you know that you are targeting people who live within your town. The key to online marketing is visibility and relevance so make sure that the keywords you choose for your campaign are as specific as possible to your business.
Long Tail Localised Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – SEO is the way you optimise your website to rank for keywords relevant to the subject of your website or webpage. This is a notoriously competitive industry, usually with thousands of sites competing for the same high-value keywords. For smaller localised ‘long tail’ searches, however, competition is less fierce. Take advantage of the reduced competition and hone your SEO around location based keywords, rather than aiming to rank first for generic terms like ‘Plumber’, concentrate on ranking highly for ‘Plumber in Newcastle’ or ‘Plumber in NE2′ where the relevance of traffic will be far greater.
Local Directories – There are loads of business directories and listings sites on the web (nationwide and local), which provide a free business submission service. Take advantage of the great rankings these sites already have by searching for keywords relevant to your business and get listed on these sites first otherwise you’ll be missing potential customers.
Google Local and Maps – Submit your business to Google Business Centre for free. You can add your address, opening hours as well as photos. Your listing will then appear whenever someone does a search for a business on Google Maps and also within the Google Local search results.
Managing Word of Mouth Online – Customers have never had such a range of choice, or breadth of access to information. The rise of review based websites means that customers can now research small businesses based on real customer feedback, rather than just select testimonials. As such, connecting with customers online and managing your online reputation is essential. A great way to keep in contact with customers is through a blog, which is a simple but effective tool to informally keep customers up-to-date with latest company news and on occasions to defuse negative press and reviews.
Converting online customers to paying customers – Unless you have an eCommerce solution it is unlikely that you’ll be selling your product online. The challenge is to convince people once they’ve visited your site, that they should now opt to use your service or buy visit your business. A great site does not need to be flashy, keep things simple and functional. Content is king on the web, so provide as much information as possible to inform customers. Ensure that your telephone number and email address or access to a contact form is clearly displayed across the site. A clear easy to use map locating your business is also important. The Future of Local Search – Looking up local businesses is an inherently localised activity, so mobile phones are set to play a major role in the way people search for local information. As mobile web-access tariffs continue to drop in price, the ability to search for recommended local businesses on the go will become increasingly easier. For smarter businesses who take advantage of some of the opportunities discussed, mobile local search serves as another great way to help new customers discover your business.
Max Jennings is co-founder of welovelocal.com – a social local search directory which enables small businesses to harness the power of the web and connect with new customers.