Local online marketing refers to the marketing efforts designed to target audience in a certain area. Obviously, local online marketing is especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses from restaurants to car repair shops to other retail shops. However, even online businesses can use local online marketing when they want to focus on a certain region.
With that being said, in this guide we will learn the ins and outs of local online marketing. From its basic principles to common tactics to strategies you can implement
First, let us start by discussing the basic concept.
So, What Actually Is Local Online Marketing?
With local online marketing, we are focusing on two main keywords: local, and online. The thing is, the nature of the online world is global, and so if we want to target a specific audience based on location (local), we have do some tweakings. This is the essence of local online marketing: narrowing our online marketing efforts to target a specific audience based on geo-targeting.
So, how can we achieve that? Although there can be many different tactics and strategies, in the end they will boil down into just two categories:
1. Inbound tactics
In inbound local online marketing tactics, we attempt to pull our geo-targeted audience towards our business. Hence, “inbound”.
This is mainly achieved through SEO by targeting location-based keywords. For example, targeting “restaurants in New York” as your focus keyword. Optimizing your Google Maps (Google My Business) listing is also a common and effective tactic.
Of course, ranking high on local-focused keywords and Google Maps listings will be useless if your landing pages (and content pieces) are not optimized. So, content marketing is also a huge part of the inbound local online marketing.
2. Outbound tactics
If inbound is essentially about putting yourself out there and letting your audience find you, outbound tactics are the opposite where we go out there to inform as many people as possible through promotions. “Traditional” tactics like advertising belongs to this category.
So, how can we optimize our promotional —outbound—activities to target only local audiences? Many popular online advertising platforms nowadays are offering versatile targeting options, among them are the popular Google Adwords and Facebook advertising.
So, our focus in this guide is to discuss these two different activities: inbound and outbound. How we can implement them, and how we can optimize each tactic to achieve the best results. Now. let us discuss the important principles in attempting local online marketing.
Local Online Marketing Best Practices: The Essentials
1. A Mobile-Responsive Site Optimized For Local Search
Having a mobile-responsive site is a must nowadays, even more for businesses targeting local audiences. Why? More often than not people are searching for local businesses through their mobile devices via “near me” search queries (restaurants near me, bookstores near me, etc.). This can happen through a regular, text-based search, or voice search, and when they are interested with the search results, they will visit the respective site.
When this happens and the site is not mobile-responsive, the audience will usually bounce, and so your marketing efforts will go to waste. Second, quite recently Google updated their algorithm to prioritize mobile-responsive sites. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it will be hard, if not impossible, to rank high on the search results.
Second is about optimizing for search queries, which is done through keyword research (link keyword research). Your site should also include a comprehensive information about your location, a description about your company, and your products/services.
2. Optimize Your Landing Pages For Each Campaign
Local online marketing is about relevancy, and so you will need to create a specific, focused landing page for all your different marketing campaigns. The relevancy of your landing pages is the most important factor in driving conversions,
For example, if you are a restaurant business with a campaign promoting a specific menu, you should create a landing page for that campaign with an interesting, comprehensive information about this menu.
While creating a lot of landing pages can translate into a high upfront cost, this is an essential practice in optimizing your conversion rates.
3. Optimize Targeting on Your Advertising
Advertising (and other outbound marketing tactics) is generally effective in generating short-term results. That is, provided you are willing to spend enough money to target the right audience, with the right message, and with the right frequency (including placing your ads on the hottest, most expensive time-frame). So, the issue here is managing your cost, and the more effective your targeting is, the better you can save money and resources.
Facebook Ads is especially known for its versatility in audience targeting, and combined with its huge user base, you can use the platform to reach your most ideal audience. The key here is adequate market research and to properly design your buyer persona(s). The better you understand your audience, the better you can also design the proper advertising campaign to maximize conversion.
Adwords, another popular advertising platform, also offers excellent geo targeting options
4. Locally Relevant Content
As the overused saying goes, “content is king”. However, many don’t realize that only relevant, focused content pieces are truly king. On the other hand, many local-focused businesses also don’t put enough attention on content marketing. Although content marketing can be time and resource-consuming, a proper content marketing game can be a huge advantage for any business.
If you are targeting local audience, locally-focused content pieces can bring two main advantages: attracting the ideal audience, and establishing your position as the expert, thought leader of your niche. Remember that people only want to buy from brands they can trust, and this is a huge opportunity.
But, what are the types of content you should work on? The answer lies in the proper understanding of your audience. Specifically, their needs, their frequently-asked questions, and their problems. Also, depending on your niche and the types of your products/services, there can be unique opportunities to develop a locally relevant content.
5. Utilize Locally-Targeted Remarketing
Above, we have mentioned that the main issue we have to deal in advertising is optimizing cost-efficiency, and remarketing (or retargeting) (link to remarketing) is a relatively new, but effective way to lower your advertising costs.
What is remarketing? Essentially, remarketing is showing your display ads to those who have visited your site or have triggered certain actions like visited a competitor’s sites or searched for certain keywords. Meaning, we can use this feature to target local audience (i.e., by retargeting those who have visited local competitors or have searched for local keywords).
6. Be Consistent With Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
Your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are the most important pieces of information for any local-targeting businesses. You will need to provide complete, up-to-date information for these, as well as other important information like directions, store hours,and so on.
Local online marketing will involve listing your business on online directories like Google Maps, Yelp, and many others according to your industry (we will discuss this further below), and it is important to list all your information—especially NAP— consistently across all these listings.
Also, don’t forget to include all these important information pieces on your own site. This is .seemingly obvious, bul it is actually a common mistake made by many local businesses. Make sure your business is as easy to find as possible, and optimize the “contact us” section to be easily readable on mobile devices.
7. Manage Your Online Reputation
Nowadays, everyone is checking the reviews for everything from restaurants to coffee shops to products they’d like to buy. So, a huge part of local online marketing is also about managing your online reputation: handling negative reviews, encouraging positive reviews, and maintaining a positive reputation across all the relevant channels.
Below, we will further discuss how we can manage our online reputation properly, but you might want to check out our previous guide on online reputation management here (link online reputation management).
Local SEO: Improving Your Online Visibility
Above, we have mentioned that an important aspect of local online marketing is the inbound tactic: attracting our ideal audience towards our business. We can mainly achieve this through local SEO. which is mainly about improving our positions on Google Maps ranking, increasing our business’s online visibility.
The thing is, nowadays Google only shows the top 3 results for Google Maps-related queries (i.e. restaurants near me). To check other results, we have to click on the “more places” button.
As you might have guessed, these top three results will get much more attention than the rest, and so if you can rank here, you will get more conversions. How can we do this? Here are some key principles to follow:
1. Register and verify your Google My Business account
The first, and most important step here is to register and verify your Google My Business page, and you can do it here. The process itself is fairly simple, and to verify your business, usually Google will send a postcard to your physical business address. The postcard will include a unique PIN that you can use to verify the account. Fairly straightforward, but very important.
2.Complete and comprehensive information
Google My Business offers a versatile feature to fill out your business information in the form of subcategories, and you should utilize it. The first thing you should understand is that you should describe what your business is, and not the products/services you sell. For example, your description should be “restaurant” or “pizzeria” instead of “delicious pizzas”. “Pizzeria” here is a good example of a subcategory, where the main category of this business should be “restaurant”
Each of the different subcategories you utilize will be another opportunity to attract more customers, so think of all the different possibilities available for your business.
3. Using and optimizing images
Google Maps by nature is a visual platform, and businesses featuring proper, interesting photos will have more chance to attract visitors, as well as ranking higher. Spend some of your resources to take professional, high-quality pictures and publish them on your listing. Also, don’t forget to optimize your photos.
4. Build local citations
As we have briefly mentioned above, a huge aspect of local SEO is listing your business on as many online directories as you can. This is how Google will determine the credibility and relevance of your business, so you should put enough efforts here. There are two different online citation platforms where you should list your business:
- Major platforms like Yelp!, TripAdvisor, Facebook Places, and so on
- Online local directories according to your niche. For example if you are a phone service company in New Jersey, a quick Google search will help you find online directories for phone service companies in New Jersey or in the U.S.
Remember to maintain consistency on each of your listings, and make sure your information is up-to-date.
5. Encourage positive reviews (and manage negative ones)
The more people who left positive reviews for your business’s listing on Google Maps, the better your business will rank. So, it is very important to encourage positive reviews from your existing customers. However, let us first discuss how to handle negative reviews, and we should first understand that there are two different types of negative reviews:
- Those coming from real customers with valid issues. Here, the long-term solution is to fix the underlying issue. Or else, you’ll keep getting similar complaints. The short-term solution is to answer the review quickly and politely, and offer incentives when necessary (i.e. when a valid solution is not yet available).
- Those coming from people with malicious intents. If you have sufficient proofs, you can ask Google Maps or other platforms to take down the reviews. If necessary, take legal actions.
The key here is to be able to differentiate between the two, and take the required actions accordingly. So, how can we encourage positive reviews? Although there are many different ways, here are some key principles to understand:
- Before any tactics and tricks, the most important thing is to actually deliver a good product and service, and maintaining a customer service excellence. There’s no shortcut around this, as without providing value, you can’t encourage positive reviews
- Offering incentives is always a good option. You can, for example, offer discounts or freebies in exchange of positive reviews (or social media mentions).
- You can use various monitoring tools to keep track of your reviews (and your competitors’).
6. Content Marketing To Target Your Focus Keywords
Content marketing here has several purposes in relations to local SEO:
- First, to include the target keywords within the content. In local SEO, the focus keywords are usually business type followed by location, or vice versa (i.e. phone repair service in NY). The main principle here is to use the keywords naturally, focus on human readers and make sure the content is naturally comprehensive.
- With high-quality content pieces, we can aim to get more backlinks from high-quality sites. Backlinks are always a strong ranking signal.
- When done right, you can publish your content on other relevant local sites via guest blogging.
Content marketing, by itself, can be a pretty broad subject. However, there are three main principles to follow:
- Start with a keyword research and find keywords with enough search volume, yet manageable difficulty.
- Remember that although you are optimizing your content for the search engines, your focus should be to give value to human readers. Make sure your content pieces are relevant and informative.
- No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value unless someone is actually consuming it. Promote your content with various channels. You might also get valuable backlinks in the process.
Local online marketing is essential for any businesses targeting local audience, and throughout this guide, we have learned the important principles, strategies, and how to implement local online marketing to our businesses.
The key, however, is consistency, especially when listing your NAP information across many directories. Remember that local online marketing is by nature, a long-term game, and you should expect to invest at least 6 months before you see any significant increase in organic traffic.