Business owners find it intriguing when they read Internet consumption statistics telling them that over 60% of the local purchase decisions are made online and that as many as 78% of the customers research about services and products online, before contacting a business, either online or offline. That is an awfully huge number and as most of the business owners would see – there is not much that comes their way, neither in terms of web traffic nor in the form of inquiries. What may be the possible reasons?
We are at an interesting crossroads when it comes to the Internet. It appears that marketing has become mobile, local and social; all at the same time. The local business owner is not faced with the question – “What to do”, but instead it is the plethora of choice, platforms and experts that make their life full of options and hence confusion. Add to that the still existent Yellow pages and trade publications. Small business owners have too many choices and this creates a hurdle in coming up with a decision of which channels to prioritize and which ones to leave.
If you have a business which is focused within a locality, a metro area, a county or even within a state, your traffic that “converts” comes from the target region. If you are in Cleveland, OH and sell dermatology services, chances are that most of your customers would be from North-east Ohio and not from other states, until and unless you have a big brand name and a spotless reputation.
Since we are in a mode of “prioritizing”, we would be looking at search rather than social as a traffic channel. The returns from a social marketing campaign originating on sites like Facebook and Twitter are still very low and for most of the small businesses, the traffic numbers are way too small. We have seen examples of Facebook sending tons of traffic to sites which are either in a particular industry type like hospitality, music, fashion, food or are a very well known brand themselves. For the other businesses, web traffic from social media websites is still an illusion.
Google is the dominant player in the search marketplace and with the “segmentation” that it has done over last two years, local is the new global. With the evolution of better Maps functionality and a highly evolved local business center, known as Google Places, Google has turned the table and made the playing field level for most of the small businesses which do not have a strong brand presence.
Any business focusing locally should have a 2 pronged strategy when it comes to marketing online locally on a search engine. The first focus should be on organic rankings on Google for terms which have a geo-local modifier. A geo-local modifier is a location name that is used in conjunction with a keyword to show local results. We all do it all the time. I am in Columbus as I am writing this article and to search for a music teacher in Columbus, I may add Columbus to terms like “music lessons”, personal music lessons” or “music teachers”. This would narrow the results locally and websites that are locally owned or operated or national businesses which have a local brand may show up.
It is the same as SEO and if you are still not sure what SEO means, you may have to do some learning before you can apply these local SEO techniques:
Ensure the usage of hCard for address and phone number wrapper DIVs.
Mention your address on the footer of every page along with the phone number.
Have your business location map and driving directions integrated on your contact page using Google Maps
Use the location modifier in your title, meta description and throughout the body copy, without making it look artificial.
Build local links. These can be websites about your city and state, local newspapers, chamber of commerce, list pages, local directories etc.
Promote your site on local websites for getting links and visibility.
Register on Google Places or claim your listing on it. Google Places is your new online address and claiming it means that you are telling everyone on the Internet where you do business from. Once your business is claimed online, there are several tools, tips and tricks that can be deployed as the parts of an effective local Internet Marketing strategy. Right from small things like updating your information and making sure that it stays at 100% completion to building citations and generating reviews (positive ones) for your business, there is a whole lot that can mean 10x exposure.
Google displays the Google 7 pack results when it sees preposition like “in” in the query. This happens with words like “near” too. To a customer, the 7 pack result is like an instant search from yellow pages directly, even better yet. It has a map of the business, the driving directions and a phone number that stands out. The customer is so compelled to click on this very relevant and very prominent result that even a high presence in organic rankings is going to be missed completely.
Ranking well for the terms that contain a local modifier should be the highest priority for small businesses with a local market. SEO and search engine marketing offer a wide opportunity for everyone to tap into and the one who moves early will definitely enjoy the advantage.