Local online marketing is a set of marketing tactics that use the internet to target potential and existing customers within a business’s physical location.
Online marketing is a crucial aspect of promoting a local business because:
In this article, we’ll look at 10 ideas that can help you grow your local business through SEO, social media, advertising, and more.
If you haven’t created or claimed your Google Business Profile (GBP) yet, make sure you do. Because here’s what people usually see when they look for something in their vicinity—a list of GBPs “recommended” by Google for a given search query.
In all, 84% of GBP visits come from discovery searches (source). This means that a striking majority of your potential customers won’t be looking for you. Rather, they’ll be looking for businesses that offer things or services they need.
So what you want here is not just a GBP…
… but an optimized GBP. One that shows accurate and helpful information and clear, useful photos. It’s a straightforward process that you can complete in 30 minutes, and it has two goals:
All optimizations can make a business look more attractive to customers, but these few are known to impact its ranking on Google.
Having a business name consisting of the thing or location people are searching for can impact rankings. I don’t think I have encountered a study of local SEO ranking factors that doesn’t mention this as one of the most important factors.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to change your business name to something like Dentist Near Me.
This “hack” doesn’t work anymore, at least not in Google Maps.
Nor does it mean that having an SEO-driven name beats every other ranking factor.
But this means at least two things:
You can help Google understand your business better by selecting up to 10 business categories. And that will most certainly impact your rankings.
Google has thousands of categories to choose from. It seems that the reason behind it is that it wants its results to be as specific as possible. This is something to keep in mind when picking your categories.
Moreover, Google keeps adding new categories every month, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on that and update your GBP accordingly. For example, if you’re a local optician offering glasses repair, you may add that category as of August 2022.
You can think of attributes as labels or tags that convey additional information about the business, which may help searchers find what they need. For example, curbside pickup or Wi-Fi inside.
Some GBP attributes are objective (aka factual), meaning they can be controlled by the GBP manager. For example, “black owned [business].”
Other attributes are subjective. They are sort of earned when a certain feature of your business is often suggested by the customers. For example, “cozy” or “good for kids.” You can only impact them indirectly by making them part of the experience.
Just as categories, attributes are regularly updated by Google. If you want to learn more about their impact on rankings, check out this case study.
They greatly impact rankings and visibility. While the ones you get on your GBP will likely have the most impact on Google’s services, reviews on third-party websites and even reviews published on your website also count for Google.
Since reviews are quite a nuanced topic, I’ll discuss them in a separate point below.
Everybody relies on online reviews.
Customers rely on them because they make choices more effortless and less risky. And even if not everybody trusts online reviews, plummeting rankings and negative comments never look good.
Online platforms also rely on reviews. Reviews tend to be a fundamental part of ranking and recommendation algorithms so that platforms can suggest the best choices to their users. And it’s true for SEO too. The number and the sentiment of a business’s reviews can impact local rankings in Google (although they are probably most important for Google Map Pack and Google Maps).
But let’s address the elephant in the room: Can you pay or otherwise incentivize customers to write any kind of reviews?
Generally, it’s a bad idea, and you can get prosecuted for it. Here’s why:
So here’s what to do instead:
You may come across advice like “include keywords when replying to customers” (fortunately, most of them probably don’t work) or “suggest to customers to include certain keywords in their comments” (I haven’t seen any evidence, but some SEOs say this works). Even if you find hard evidence for “optimizations” in this area, be careful because you may easily harm your business’s reputation.
Setting up pages describing what you offer and where you offer it is pretty much standard practice. But you can give these pages an additional SEO boost if you use the kind of language searchers use.
To illustrate, let’s say you offer an electronics repair shop specializing in phones, consoles, and computers in the U.K. By doing keyword research in a tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we can discover how people search for these kinds of services.
The first step is to type in the names of basic services, select the U.K. as the country, and then go to the Matching terms report.
On the results pages, we can see that people use the brand of the hardware they need fixing or the type of damage.
An interesting example here is water damage. If your shop offers this service, it will be a good idea to mention it on your website (you can also consider expanding your services with this kind of repair).
From this point, you can go even further into competitive research. By clicking on the SERP button, you can reveal other keywords this page ranks for. Just click on the caret next to the URL and then “Organic keywords.”
You will be directed to a report showing keywords and their SEO metrics.
You can then change the mode to “Subdomains” to see keywords the entire domain ranks for.
And this can lead to other interesting finds:
Additionally, you may want to see if a specific service is also a GBP attribute.
Just like everybody else, your potential customers look for solutions to their problems online.
Using keyword research, you can learn what those problems are and then address them with helpful blog posts. Result: free traffic from search engines.
Here are two methods for finding relevant topics with search traffic potential.
For this method, you need the URL of a website with content related to your business (likely your competitor) and an SEO tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
There’s a report in Site Explorer called Organic keywords, where you can explore keywords of any website. Along with the keywords, you will see SEO data—such as volume or Keyword Difficulty (KD)—that will help you choose the right keywords.
If you know what kind of keywords you’re looking for, you can use the provided filters.
You can also analyze competitors in bulk, even simultaneously comparing them to your existing content. For this, use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool in Site Explorer.
These are broad, non-local keywords, so not every visitor will come from your area. But some potentially will (or will tell others about you). Plus, you can earn links to your content and boost your SEO.
Recommended reading: How to Write a Blog Post (That People Actually Want to Read) in 9 Steps
Citations are online mentions of your business. And let me be blunt here: You need those if you want customers to find you online. And this is because people search for businesses like yours either through search engines like Google or through niche directories and aggregators like Tripadvisor or FindLaw.
Case in point. This is a search result from Google for “electrician near me.” Right below the GBPs, which we have already discussed, we see directories.
On top of this, local citations can help you rank higher in the Google Map Pack (source 1, source 2).
I’m sure you already know some directories in your niche suitable for your business. You can add some more by:
Two important things to remember. You should:
Because of the reasons above, you may want to consider a tool that will help you manage your listing, e.g., Yext, Uberall, etc. Such tools offer additional, useful features like managing reviews, so you can consider the tools as longtime investments.
Recommended reading: How to Build Local Citations (Complete Guide)
According to Facebook, this should be the first thing you do when setting up your ads:
Thing is, nobody really wants to see ads. People want what they came for, and ads are a distraction.
At the same time, online ads are still an effective form of promotion. But making them work is hard because effectiveness relies on so many factors—geographical relevancy being one of them. (Naturally, local businesses can leverage that.)
Apart from the opportunity to attract local customers, ads have the advantage of being:
Oversimplifying things, there are two types of ad products. You can target:
Geofencing usually refers to drawing a location fence in a small area. Well, the smallest area you can target on Meta’s and Google’s products is 1 mile.
So let’s say you run a casino in Paradise and want to show what real fun looks like to the folks who have visited the venue across the street. Unfortunately for you, that casino will be in the same circle as other casinos, a couple of local churches, and Costco.
The web has plenty of ad options to choose from, and each deserves a dedicated guide. But according to my experience, these rules seem to be universal:
Recommended reading: PPC Marketing: Beginner’s Guide to Pay-Per-Click Ads
You could go all day listing reasons why your website should be optimized for mobile phone users. Basically, at least half of the people will look up your business on their mobile phones.
If you already have a website, you can check its mobile-friendliness in minutes with a free service like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It allows you to test one page per test, so you may need to run it a few times to test the most important pages on your website (such as homepage, services, locations, contact, etc.).
For checking website speed (both mobile and desktop), there is a whole other set of free services, such as the popular PageSpeed Insights one from Google. What’s particularly useful in this test is the use of Core Web Vitals, which are part of Google’s Page Experience signals (a ranking factor).
Both tests will show you what needs to be fixed in terms of speed and design. If there’s too much to be fixed, it may be better to invest a few bucks into a new website than to spend time fixing holes in the old one. A cost-effective solution here is using a service like Squarespace or Wix. There, you can set up a mobile-friendly, fast website without technical skills.
People want to know what it’s like to be your customer. They tend to do a bit of online research to see whether you’re the kind of business or even the kind of person they want to deal with.
So don’t be a stranger and make the research easier for them: show the effects of your work, show how you work, share tips, or even show that comfy chair they can sit in while waiting for the service to get done.
For example, Nick Bundy is one of the many electricians from the U.K.’s Midlands. But what sets him apart from the competition is how much you can learn about the quality of his work before you hire him.
He’s promoting his business on YouTube and Instagram with simple videos that either show how he works or answer questions, such as how to price a house rewire.
What may look like content made for other electricians is actually a signal for potential customers that other people trust him. Moreover, he’s so confident about his trade that he shows it publicly (some more “inquisitive” customers can read the comments too).
And it seems that Nick is very aware of the effect that his videos have. Good for him:
He’s also aware that his videos have “wider than local” reach. So he makes a note that, in any case, large jobs outside of his hometown are also welcome.
Of course, many people realize the boost that social media can give to a small local business, and they use it similarly to Nick. You can find creators like him in probably every niche.
By the way, Nick seems to be quite proficient with the monetization of his work—something you may also want to look into if you decide to create similar content. The same videos that promote his business generate ad revenue from YT (which he talks about in this video). On top of that, he utilizes sponsorships, does affiliate marketing, and even co-designed a product.
Not everyone simply looks for the
best bar in [whatever city]. Some people want more specific things like “rooftop bars,” “arcade bars,” “jazz bars,” or even “weird bars.”
Like their more popular counterparts, these niche search queries often have their own rankings and guides. These could be easier to get featured in while still offering a good opportunity to attract customers.
Here’s how you can find them. You can:
Once you find them, the last thing to do is to contact these websites and tell them why they should add your business to their lists.
Even small local businesses can get free press. What matters to the press is the attention it can get by telling your story, not necessarily how big or profitable the business is.
And every business has its own story. It can be related to how it started, the unique idea behind the business, the values it lives by, or the unique way it manufactures products.
But you may be wondering how you can actually benefit from that:
You can earn free press typically in one of these two ways.
The first is simply pitching your story to the press. The outcome may be something like this: An interview with a local entrepreneur in a local magazine featuring the story behind creating an ethical and sustainable jewelry business.
Of course, nothing stops you from pitching your story to multiple outlets (also national ones). Here’s another example linking to Fair Anita; it shows a link from a popular local magazine, Star Tribune.
The second method is providing expert commentary per a journalist’s request. You can monitor relevant requests through services like HARO, SourceBottle, or Terkel. If you answer well enough and quickly enough, your quote may be featured along with a link to your website.
Local online marketing tactics seem to be focused on the promotional aspect. So speaking in terms of the classic four Ps of marketing framework, make sure you don’t neglect the other Ps— product (or service), price, and place—while doing promotion. Promotion is actually the very last step in creating an effective marketing strategy.
Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.
Source: ahrefs.com, originally published on 2022-10-11 01:00:00