Effective Online Marketing Strategies That Target A Local Consumer Base
When you start to make the move to an online presence, small businesses of the bricks and mortar variety are often left wandering in the dark. Unlike national firms, you likely don’t have the budget to hire an outside source to do it for you and with few staff, you’re under some crippling time restraints. There are only so many hours in a day!
Identifying the strategies that target your local consumer base
For this article, we’re going to identify 5 effective online marketing strategies with the small business owner in mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baker, butcher or candlestick maker, these methods are all viable resources for accomplishing the following:
- Increasing your business exposure to a wider audience
- Engaging a wider audience as part of your online growth strategy
- Increasing your potential for sales conversion
1. Leveraging “Google My Business or Google Places” To Target a Local Consumer Base
Google My Business is all about increasing the visibility of your business within a limited geographical area. If you only take one tip away from this article, make it this one; it’s getting increasingly difficult to make an impact in a local area without it. 43% of searches within Google are local in intent, in this case meaning that potential customers are looking for your service within your area.
You can also include the other major search engines, such as Bing in this plan (and should do!), but for the sake of brevity I’ll concentrate on Google and you can move the concept across to the relevant services after you’ve tackled this one.
How does this increase the visibility of your brand to a local consumer base? When searching for a particular town, city or county, Google Places are more often than not the top results (now reduced from 7 to 3) and there’s a direct correlation between the relevance of your Google Places entry and the search position of your website.
- Under most circumstances, they are listed above all organic results
- Your contact number is included, as well as a direct link to your website
- Your business location is marked on the map
- Business related images are displayed
The Benefits Of Google Places For Business
Double the exposure – Google Plus Local pages give a potential for two results on page one of Google. Let that one sink in for a moment; two results for the searcher to click on that puts you leagues ahead of the competition. Imagine being at number one in both Places and the organic results and the increase in both exposure and click-through rate that can generate.
Increased trust via testimonial and reviews – because Google Places allows previous customers to review you, using an unbiased rating and review system, testimonial placed here is often seen as trustworthy. After all, it’s in Googles best interests to weed out unscrupulous business owners who like to spend an afternoon creating fake accounts for fake reviews.
It’s under your control – So many advertising opportunities today are run on an automated basis, to the point where a simple change of business address involves endless emails to a directory site who’s owner doesn’t update. Google Places For Business is entirely editable at all times, even if some changes require review before they become live.
How to optimise Google Places for best results
Before jumping into your account (or creating one!), bear this one point in mind at all times. Your contact details – for example, business name, address, post code and links – should be the same for every entry you make on the web, no matter where. This is called a citation.
Citations make up 25% of the overall local search ‘score’ and the aim is to always provide complete, not partial, citations for maximum impact.
Why are citations so important?
- Citations help customers find you
- They are an important part of local search engine optimisation factors, because search engines rely on the consistency of results to give the best results.
Ok, so let’s begin optimizing that account!
Keywords – the search terms you expect visitors to find you with. As with traditional on-page SEO, you need to include these within your listing. Don’t go all spammy on me; you only need to mention this a handful of times within the description of your business. Keep your English flowing and readable; the keywords need to sit as a natural part of the text. Write for humans, not search engines.
DO NOT places them within the title, unless they are part of your official business name. Sooner or later, Google will lunge out of the darkness and drag your listing to hell for trying to game / spam the system. Keep very much to building your brand; if your business is called ‘Italiano’s’, don’t be calling yourself ‘Stone Baked Pizza’.
Set your service area – anecdotal advice is to set your location as a primary physical location, as opposed to a radius. The radius setting waters down the impact a little, with less chance of a strong position. From previous experience, the position of your Google Places account seems to tally up with the health of your website SEO, so if you’re in the top slot already, by all means experiment.
Categories – first up, make sure you’ve got your primary category first. Select as many categories as you think are relevant to your to your business; the more the merrier and it can give added exposure.
Imagery – a decent image is worth a thousand words and Google Places puts them in a prominent position. If you have an elegant restaurant that looks great in photographs, this is going to attract more customers to your fine dining experience than any amount of gushing prose.
Be complete – if it asks you to fill it in, wherever humanely possible, fill it in. Another mention for citations, because as we discussed, the more complete the information the more the search engines have to latch onto. This basic contact information is going to be identical everywhere.
2. Citations & Directory Listings
Remember me mentioning citations earlier? Directories form a very important part of cohesive citations across the web; a large amount of that local SEO impact comes from this, so pay attention!
What we’re not going to do is place an advert on every single directory out there. With a past history of link farms and the newer thin content penalties, choosing the directory website for your listing needs to be done with a critical eye.
Quality over quantity is the name of the game, so we’ll concentrate on those directories that have a sense of quality, which naturally tend to be the ones with a strong public branded image. A diverse link profile is an ultra important part of a modern day back linking profile.
The strongest directory entries are the ones that are both relevant to your industry and trusted
Points to bear in mind when using directories as part of your online marketing strategies
- Directories offer both paid and free listings. Paid listings are often given more exposure within the directory but the free listing still has great value.
- Never use a directory that demands a ‘reciprocal link’from your website; as a concept, this is dead in the water and contravenes the google webmaster guidelines
- As before, be complete. The same contact information across the web is absolutely crucial.
- Resist the urge to pepper keywords in the anchor titles, i.e. the link within the directory that leads to your listing. Branding is key, because SEO tactics change as time goes on.
- If the directory in question allows you to write a lengthy description then use it – but don’t bore your potential visitors to death! Vary your descriptions to avoid falling foul of duplicate content issues.
- As in Google Places, strong imagery is a big seller, so use it to best advantage.
Some great examples of directories you need to be in are:
- Thomson Local
- Touch Local
Consider using a paid for service to handle everything from one dashboard. Moz Local is making good headway and is extremely easy to use, analysing problem areas and duplicate content.
Leveraging local directories
Occasionally, you’ll come across hand curated local directories. These may be specific to your location; obviously, the links to the local area are more often than not picked up up by the search engines as relevant to your listing and give a small amount of lift. Have a read through the site content first – if it’s overloaded with advertising and worthless content, avoid it.
3. Social Media – How, When and Why
The most important part of a social media campaign is to target who your customer base is in the first place and to recognise that it requires time and effort to succeed. You also need to identify which social network that demographic is most likely to use.
As time is money and time is also limited, choosing the two most viable platforms pays greater dividends than using four that you don’t have the time to do a good job with. For this example, we’ll use Facebook.
The approach requirements of other social media platforms vary wildly. Twitter is a constant crash of information that requires posting up to 15 times a day to get yourself heard, Instagram revolves entirely around images (not a good idea if you can’t take the extra time to photograph everything you do) and Linkedin deals with the more professional trades.
Facebook – The Great Leveller.
Everyone and their parents are on Facebook and it is possibly the only social network that allows promotion and advertising at an affordable level to small businesses.
Create a business page from your personal account, not a full blown personal account to promote your business. Facebook is exceptionally aware of those that do and may suspend services.