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6 steps to marketing your local business online

by Kristi Hines  |  June 24/2014  | 

6 steps to market your local business online

If you run a local business, you may be missing a gold mine of effective online marketing opportunities. Social media is known for connecting people around the globe and successfully promoting international causes and businesses. It is less well known for marketing local businesses in their communities. But there is a whole world of marketing opportunities available for location-based businesses, including search, social, and content marketing options. In this guide, we explore the top six marketing strategies that successful local businesses use, both online and off. Follow these six steps to getting noticed online.

Step 1: Optimize your website for local search

There are a number of ways you can optimize your website for local search that will help attract local clients and customers. The first thing you need to do is identify your keywords. These are the words (usually a short phrase) that describe your business.  If, for example, you run a wedding photography business, your keywords might be “wedding photographer.” To localize your business, add the city you target to that phrase, e.g. “Burbank wedding photographer.” Read the Small Business SEO Guide, do some keyword research to make sure the city + keyword phrase has strong search volume, then optimize your website for the best locally focused keywords using the on-site optimization tips in the guide.

Next, include a local street address and phone number (with a local area code, not 800 number) on each page of your website. Most businesses do this in the footer. This information must be on the website in text, not image format, so that search engines can crawl the information. If your business has multiple locations, the alternative is to put the primary location on each page and create individual contact pages for each location.

Tip: Make sure your website has a contact page for each location that includes the address, phone number, and a map helping customers find it. Adding photos of each location on the contact page is also a good idea.

Actionable Takeaway: Craft locally focused keyword phrases for your business and optimize your website for them. Also, include your local address and phone number on each page of your website.

Step 2: Find the right local directories to join

Local directories and review sites are often referred to as “citations,” and they can help your business website rank well in local search results on Google. Here are the keys to ensuring each local directory and review site you join counts towards helping your business rank well in local search:

  • Make sure your business name, address, phone number, and website are consistent, on both your website and in local listings. Things that will cause ranking problems include having your business name listed as ABC Services in one place and A.B.C. Services in another, or having your address listed as 1500 West First St. in one place and 1500 W. First Street in another, or having your website address listed as abcservices.com in one place and www.abcservices.com/index.html in another.
  • Encourage (but do not incentivize, bribe, or purchase) customers to write reviews about your business on the top local directories and review sites. The more positive reviews you have, the better your business is going to rank.
  • Complete each of your local listing profiles as thoroughly as possible. If you are given the option of adding additional information, social network links, photos, and videos, be sure to do so.

With hundreds of local directories, review sites, and profile pages, choosing which ones to sign up for can be difficult. Start here:

  • Create listings on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, and Yelp.
  • Search for your business name using Google and then claim and complete profiles for any of the listings that appear on the first couple of search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Use the GetListed resource pages to find the best citations for your business based on industry and city.

To get in a wide array of listings without spending a lot of time, you can use services like Universal Business Listing. You complete a profile in their system, and they take that information and populate it across all of the local directories and review sites. You can also use tools like Whitespark to find citations for your competitors. They also offer a free review handout generator that helps you create a guide for your customers to use on how to do reviews for your business.

Don’t forget about local media and organizations such as newspapers, news stations, and chambers of commerce. Many have their own business directory that you can get listed in simply by asking or becoming a member.

You can also reach out to local business owners to see if they are willing to become referral partners. For example, caterers, wedding planners and florists would be ideal referral partners for a wedding photographer. Look for local businesses with partner’s pages or local resource pages.

Actionable Takeaway: Create consistent local listings on local directories, review sites, and other networks.

Step 3: Localize your social media

There are lots of opportunities for local marketing on social media networks. Let’s look at what you can do on the top social networks.

Facebook

Facebook is a hotbed for local activity. For starters, most cities have a business referral group. Just use the Facebook search box to search for Groups named ”phoenix” about Business and replace Phoenix with your city name.  You should find one or more groups that are all about promoting local businesses.

(Note that you will need to type this in slowly as opposed to copying and pasting it, otherwise it won’t work.)

Six steps to marketing your local business online

These groups will help you connect with people looking for business referrals in your area. If you build strong relationships with other local business owners by referring their businesses, they will likely do the same for yours.

Another way to connect with local customers on Facebook is to engage with them on other local Facebook pages. You simply “like” their page, and then start commenting on the page’s posts to get into conversation with other local residents. You can start with Facebook pages for local newspapers, the chamber of commerce, and complimentary (not competitive) businesses. Engage as your personal profile or as your Facebook page itself by going to your Facebook page, clicking the Edit Page dropdown menu, and selecting the option to use Facebook as your page.

Six steps to marketing your local business online

Tip: Make sure your own Facebook business page is optimized for local search by including your business location and address under Update Page Info and adding relevant and searchable keywords in your About section, encouraging check-ins, and engaging with people who “like” and comment.

Twitter

Want to engage with locals on Twitter? Start by going to Followerwonk and doing a search for people in your area with specific interests. An accountant in New York, for example, might search for small business owners.

Six steps to marketing your local business online

The accountant could easily follow people whose profiles match his or her ideal customer base and start engaging with them. He or she could also use the Twitter search box to look for people asking for recommendations for accountants in New York.

Six steps to marketing your local business online

You may need to modify this search for phrases like recommend accountant new york, looking for accountant new york, and similar in order to find some good tweets to respond to.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the top social network for professionals, and a great network to tap into for local connections. Type in your city name in the search box at the top of the page and click the search icon. On the results page, click on Groups in the left sidebar. Then browse the groups to see which ones would most likely attract your ideal customers or clients. Depending on the size of your city, you may need to add additional keywords to narrow the results to specific interests. Join the most pertinent groups and jump into the discussions to start engaging.

Tip: Prior to engaging in these groups, make sure you’ve edited your LinkedIn profile headline to tell people who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. Your headline shows up next to your LinkedIn group activity, so it has the potential to turn a group member into a customer.

Actionable Takeaway: Start using social media to connect to a local audience on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, using the strategies outlined above.

Step 4: Take advantage of local social media advertising

Don’t want to spend a fortune in online advertising? With a local business, you don’t have to, compared to businesses targeting people nation or worldwide. The key is targeting.

Facebook Ads

Let’s take Facebook Ads, for example. If you target your ad to people with small business interests, you would have an estimated audience size of 3.6 million people in North America alone. That’s a lot of exposure. But how many of those people are actually potential clients or customers? If you add local targeting to Burbank, CA, your estimated audience size drops to 84,000.  It’s less exposure, but more qualified leads for your business.

LinkedIn Ads

If your business is B2B, then you may want to skip Facebook and use LinkedIn Ads. You can target your ideal customers based on their location, and also by industry, company size, job title, and skills.

This means you can get super granular with your ad targeting. If you know your ideal customer is a medium-sized business owner in the health industry in Birmingham, then you can target your ad towards them. Less exposure and clicks due to this kind of detailed targeting equals less ad spend and a higher likelihood that any clicks you do receive will convert into customers.

Actionable Takeaway: Use Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads to target social users in your region who fit the definition of your ideal customers. These ads will have less exposure, less clicks, and more conversions, resulting in a higher ROI.

Step 5: Get exposure by helping your community

Want to do good things for your community while increasing your profile among local customers? Look into local organizations, non-profits, and events that you can support through sponsorship.

Six steps to marketing your local business online

Photo Credit: Lester Public Library on Flickr

Most sponsorships are rewarded with online and offline recognition. To find these opportunities, search for phrases like thanks to our sponsors Detroit, sponsorship opportunities available Detroit, or look for local non-profit organizations, charities, sports teams, events, etc. to see if they have sponsorship pages on their websites. Preferably, look for ones that have pages listing (and linking to) their sponsors.

Actionable Takeaway: Seek out opportunities to support local non-profits, events, sports teams, and organizations that will put your name in the spotlight.

Step 6: Attract the attention of local media

Journalists and reporters are always looking for story ideas and sources. If you keep an eye out for these opportunities, you have a shot at putting your business in front of local customers on the nightly news, in your local newspaper, or in a local magazine.

Finding these opportunities may take a little research work. Start by:

  • Following local stations, news networks, newspapers and magazines on Facebook and/or Twitter.
  • Subscribing to newspapers and magazines your ideal clients would read.
  • Signing up to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) as a source.

Once you’ve done these things, spend a little time every day looking for opportunities to contribute to each media outlet. You may get asked for expert opinions, story ideas, contest entries, sponsorships, etc. Whenever you see a good fit that would allow you to casually mention your business, contact the specific organization and offer to contribute. If you make an impression on the journalist or reporter, you may get a chance to work with them in the future – and get even more local media exposure.

Actionable Takeaway: Connect with local news stations, newspapers, and magazines that your local customers follow. Look for ways to get mentioned by them through contributing expert opinions, interviews, stories, and sponsorships.

In conclusion

By taking the following steps, you will increase exposure for your business to your local customer base.

  • Optimize your website for local search.
  • Create detailed listings on local directories, review sites, and networks.
  • Focus your social media activities towards a local audience.
  • Target your social advertising locally for less exposure, but more qualified clicks.
  • Look for sponsorship opportunities that help your local community while gaining recognition for your business.
  • Attract the attention of local media to turn your business into the talk of the town.

What steps do you take to market your local business? Please share in the comments!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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