Local Online Marketing: Tips and Tutorial

A simple roadmap for local online marketing

There are over 3 billion local searches done in the US each month. As a small business, you need to take advantage of this opportunity. Work with allLocal, work with someone else or do it yourself...but you have to do it. If you decide to do it yourself, the framework below can help you get started. You can also check out our local marketing FAQs to see answers to some common local online marketing questions.

quote Nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally offline quote
source: BIA/Kelsey

Local marketing success

local search steps

We group local online marketing into general areas:

  • Organic search and local listings
  • Reputation management
  • Paid advertising

Note: We don't include email marketing in this tutorial, but depending on your business, that is another digital marketing tool that you should consider.

Organic search and local listings

Local SEO focuses on the maps or local listings, which more often than not precede the traditional organic results. This allows local listings to be showcased in premiere real estate, above the fold. A well-optimized local listing can outrank and outperform a national retailer's website for competitive non-branded terms, something that a small business was historically unlikely to accomplish due to lack of resources, inbound links and brand recognition.

Google Results

Building a local search presence

  • Claim your listing at the top local search sites. This includes Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Citysearch, Superpages, YP.com, Foursquare and Insider Pages
  • Claim your listing at the top data aggregators. These are companies that provide the 'source' data to hundreds of local search engines. This includes Infogroup and Localeze. Acxiom is the third major data aggregator, but does not allow individual business updates though you can update your Acxiom listing through a service like allLocal or UBL
  • When claiming your local listings, take advantage of all the available features/fields including pictures, business description and coupons
  • Do keyword research to understand how people search for your products and services
  • Build links and mentions of your business online through local blogs and agencies such as the your local chamber or the BBB
  • Engage through the social networks, starting with Facebook and moving on to Foursquare and Twitter

Reputation management

Social networking and online reviews sites have transformed how we share and use information. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare have been leading this revolution. Mobile devices and smartphone apps have made consumer participation even more convenient and this has lead to a large increase in the amount 'user generated content', including online reviews for local businesses.

quote When asked what sources influence their purchasing decisions, 71% of respondents claimed reviews from family members or friends exerted a "great deal" or "fair amount" of influence quote

Monitoring your online reputation

It can be overwhelming for a business owner, small or large, to monitor all the conversations happening across such a broad range of sites. The following are some tips to get you started.

  • When you claim your listing (see above) at some of the review sites you will automatically be notified of new reviews for you business
  • Sites like Google and Bing aggregate reviews from many sources together, so checking your reviews there can cover many sources at once
  • Let your customers know that you care about your online reputation and encourage them to write reviews when they have a positive experience
  • Address negative reviews by using the 'comment' feature available on many sites. Acknowledge issues and talk about resolutions. Even just responding will help show future customers that you care
  • Report reviews you believe to be fake or abusive but don't report a review just because it is negative (see above)
  • Use positive reviews and your positive online reputation to market your business
  • Never create your own reviews, either directly or through friends or family. Fake positive reviews are likely to be filtered by the review engines and if they miss it, your customers are likely to see right through it and they could lose trust in your business

Here are a few additional resources to consider when it comes to reputation management: Why Reputation Management Matters for Small Business and Saving Face Online

Paid advertising

There are numerous benefits to running a paid marketing campaign, such as a local PPC (pay-per-click), in conjunction with optimizing for organic search. Online marketing professionals recommend the practice and studies have suggested having a paid ad on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) actually increases the likelihood of conversion on the organic listing by building authority and brand recognition.

Advantages of local online advertising

  • Immediate results as you can be up and running in under an hour. Organic optimization is longer-term investment
  • Increased exposure and brand awareness
  • Increased targeting capabilities that can include geographies, user demographics (age, gender, income) and mobile handsets
  • Detailed tracking and reporting are available (and this is important since your budget can go fast so you need to make sure it is providing results)
  • Budgets can start very small, allowing you to test the waters

Challenges of local online advertising

  • Researching keywords, creating ads (text or image based) and creating ad campaigns can be very time consuming
  • Spend needs to monitored closely. Thousands of clicks doesn't necessarily mean any sales
  • Advertising online and advertising online well are two very different things. Making it work for your business requires a commitment to ongoing improvements

Some tips to get you started

  • Do your keyword research. Those free tools from Google can help
  • Bid on 'long-tail' keywords that are more specific to the exact products or services you offer
  • Make sure any PPC campaigns are geo-targeted or use the appropriate geographic keywords (e.g., plumber st. charles IL)
  • Make sure you understand broad/phrase/exact keyword matching
  • Negative keywords are your friends
  • Consider using day/time parting to increase your conversion rates
  • Depending on your business, targeting mobile searchers may be a great option for you
  • Use Google's Ad Extensions
  • Google Analytics is free and can help you understand how/if your ad dollars are working
Learn more about allLocal
Local Online Marketing for SMBs
Enterprise Local Online Marketing