In the past, many local businesses had one marketing tactic: create a Yellow Pages ad. Today, it’s not yellow pages but smart phones that drive local marketing.
Digital media changed local advertising years ago. But today, it dominates it. This is not always welcome news for local businesses because digital advertising is more complex than just creating a print ad.
But there are also advantages. Small local businesses can use their digital presence to create brand awareness at a level that used to be impossible, working like a billboard that follows people when they browse online. Word of mouth (via reviews and online comments) has far more reach online and can do a great deal to drive business when it’s positive.
And of course you never saw a potential customer lugging the yellow pages into a coffee shop or for a walk in the park, but today people take their phones everywhere. That means when their need arises, you have the chance to get in front of them.
Here are 8 ideas and tips to help local businesses get exposure and drive business through internet marketing. Follow these to keep phones ringing and people coming through the front door.
#1. Set-Up and Optimize Google My Business
Google My Business is how you get on Google Maps. It is the main way Google understands where your business is.
This is a free tool that has the sole purpose of connecting local consumers with nearby businesses. Features include:
- Location/contact information that updates in Google search and maps.
- Photo galleries and description to introduce people to your business while categorizing you for search.
- A review platform you can track and respond to.
- Links to your website.
- Analytics tools with data on your traffic, including click to calls and direction requests.
- An app that lets you post pictures, respond to reviews and update business info on the fly.
For a business with walk-in and phone-in customers, Google My Business is a necessity. Having complete content that uses your keywords and a healthy review profile will help you rank better.
#2. Use Top Rated Local
If you want to gain more control over what’s being said about you online, try Top Rated Local. This service gives your business more latitude in verifying reviews and managing comments. It’s also a website widget that connects to the third-party review platform:
This gives you kind of a combination of testimonials and unsolicited referrals, with a strong link to your website call to action.
#3. Focus on Phone-Calls
While some local leads will search and research across websites and review platforms, many others are ready to call you right now. These are usually the hottest leads, so you don’t want to miss them.
There are several strategies you can use to get more phone calls with local marketing.
Call-only campaigns are PPC ads that display only on mobile phones. Their only call to action is a click-to-call.
This is probably the most straightforward direct-response ad in online marketing. The lead doesn’t even visit your website. They go straight to a call. The ads look like this:
You can also use call extensions on regular ads, which gives both the option to link to your website and a click to call button:
With over half all search happening on mobile devices and the immediate needs of call-in leads, these two types of campaigns are vital. Note that you can choose to run these types of ads only during business hours when you can take phone calls.
You might think this goes without saying, but it’s amazing how many business websites – with the main goal of getting phone calls or having someone come to their location – fail to put their contact information central in their design. Instead, they have a Contact Us back page that requires an extra step, often even having their map and phone number below the fold (meaning the visitor has to scroll down) on the contact page.
This is bad on desktops and can be fatal on mobile devices. Simply put, if you want leads to call you, make your phone number prevalent throughout your website. In this example, the phone number on the homepage is also a click to call for mobile viewers:
#4. Geo-Target Adwords
An essential practice for local paid advertising is to geo-target. The system allows you to choose specific locations based on zip codes or a radius setting.
With these tools, you can ensure that ads you run only display in the local areas you want to target. You can create campaigns designed to hit certain regions based on demographics to further target your ads.
#5 Facebook Local Awareness
Facebook local ads not only help you create brand awareness in your area, they now have call to action buttons so leads can get directions to your business or call you right from Facebook:
You can also add local context using a map card that pins your location, shows the users distance from you, and has contact information:
Like AdWords, you can geo-target these ads to display only in specific areas and use Facebook’s considerable demographic data to target people based on things like age, education levels, income, hobbies, and family status – just to name a few.
#6 Optimize Local Landing Pages
If you want to get organic search results for more than one location, you can create landing pages and optimize them for the region. For example, a roofing contractor located in Denver (where their Google Business page will help them rank) might also want to optimize for the suburb of Littleton. They can create a back page with meta information and content optimized for a keyword phrase like “roofers Littleton” and get exposure this way.
Note that unless you have a physical business address in the region, you can’t create a second Google Business page, but you can do the paid advertising we’ve covered and geo-target any location.
You will also, of course, want to optimize your home page and main website pages for your location. For example, a plumber in Fort Collins Colorado will want to include keywords like plumber and plumbing contractor with the location Fort Collins in their website meta information and content.
In addition, add new content to your site and blog that includes updates on local events and news. When you optimize your paid ads, Google business listing, and website content, you can claim three spots on page one of results for a local search:
Local marketing today is a far cry from the days of just running a single Yellow Pages ad. There are so many micro decisions across so many platforms that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why so many business owners just turn the process over to a professional marketing agency.
The good news is, all told, digital advertising doesn’t have to break the bank. A full-page ad in YP used to be well over 1k per month, and that budget can take you a long way with local digital advertising.
The times are what they are. The internet and mobile technology march forward, impacting our lives and culture. The formula today is to be visible in as many places as possible, then to make it easy for leads to make contact with you. Do it right, and your growth potential is pretty much unlimited.