‘Local’ is the new organic.
That’s the clear and consistent message coming out of virtually every internet marketing survey over the last 12 months. Local search is of vital importance to every small business that either wants to grow or consolidate its place in the local market. So why is it so important? Well, according to statistics released by respected advertising agency, MDG, late last year, 74% of consumers looking for information relating to local businesses do so online using search engines. Moreover, search will remain the primary source of local information with at least 30 percent of all online searches being local by early 2015. MDG estimated that potentially local search could be generating £5.9 billion by the same date.
So what’s driving this growth? Why is local search so popular?
Well, it’s principally down to the growth in the mobile and smartphone market. Mobile handsets use mobile search applications, and the location data stored in the handsets is factored into the search results. Statistics from regulatory authorities suggest that 20% of mobile users use local search every day, and maintain that this figure will continue to grow. But why should that statistic have any relevance for local businesses? Well, the same regulatory authorities claim that 12% of consumers always search locally because they have greater trust and confidence in local brands: what’s more, 36% of these very consumers then go on to purchase in the local area.
Now if you still haven’t tapped into the local market, or have only just started to scratch the surface, what can you do to harness its massive potential? What actions can you take to ensure that it’s your business that makes that local sale rather than your competitor round the corner? The answer is to optimise your website for the local market, and apply basic SEO principles to make your site more competitive.
Website Design and domain name.
Each local business should ideally have a website with its own specific domain name. Moreover, the website should be designed in such a way that it reflects not just the business identity, but also the services and products it sells. If a business can figure out what it is their customers will be looking for, then they will be able to tailor the content in such a way that they will encourage potential customers to stay on the website longer and engage with both the business and the products and services it offers.
Blogs and content are essential to any local SEO campaign. Good effective content will give businesses an opportunity to engage and interact with their customers. Businesses can tell potential customers what they’re about, what they produce and what makes them different from everybody else. Blogs also come with the added benefit that they can also rank in search engines on their own merit.
Most local businesses should be concentrating to a degree on geo-location keyword targeting, so that the services or products they offer will be targeted towards the local community which they serve. As the majority of local searches are geographically targeted, it makes sense to use this information to your advantage. Towns, cities, neighbourhood names and counties should all be targeted. It’s also important to remember to title all your web pages and posts with these geo-targeted keywords.
If you have a local business address, then you should also have a listing on Google places. These listings are shown at the top of the Google results pages with a flag and a Google map. It may be that if your business caters for a limited or niche market, then yours might be the only flag displayed. In most cases, however, there will be competition, and your business flag will be just one of many. So is there any point having a listing if the competition is so fierce? Well, actually there is, as the key is to get businesses listed in as many different places as possible. If your business is not listed then the likelihood of any potential customer finding you is negligible.
Social networking is all-pervasive. Over 900 million people have already signed up to Facebook alone and Twitter is catching up fast. Social networks are important because they can help businesses build an online community. If there’s a misconception it’s that many local businesses mistakenly believe social media only works for big brands and larger businesses. However, local businesses can also gain by using Facebook as a source of information: you can tell your customers all about the business, the people who work for you, what you offer and any special promotions you may offer.
Twitter can also be effectively used locally as it’s an ideal tool for building the reputation of a local business. Even though the tweet is limited to 140 characters, it’s surprising just how much information can be squeezed into that. Tweets are surprisingly accommodating, and can be put to good use in a local market, as long as they remain predominantly business-related and avoid personal stuff. Tweet to advise customers of special offers advertised on your main website or Facebook page. You could even try offering your customers Twitter-only deals, or time-limited deals.