Remember when the world was young and finding a copy of your book on Fly Fishing meant hours crawling through the local yellow pages or trusting to luck that ‘Six Gun’ Tex McCain was really a reliable plumber?
Thankfully these days we have the magic of the internet, where anyone can have a fully functional, great looking site for their local business.
Unfortunately this does leave smaller business or individual users with a problem: How are you going to market your site?
There’s a mountain of marketing guides out there, but there is a tendency to assume you’re trying to build a multinational media empire. If you’re just trying to get a few extra people through the door of your cake shop then a lot of this advice really isn’t going to be suitable.
Having a great LinkedIn network is fine, but are those international jet-setters really going to stop at your small Hardware Shop?
If you’re trying to raise localised traffic it can be hard to know where to start, and let’s be honest, if your site isn’t in the top ten when someone Googles ‘Launderette, Stevenage‘ then there’s no point in having a site. So let’s see what you can do to get yourself a decent search ranking...
Know your enemy
Firstly, do your research.
A few keyword searches with local names will let you know which local businesses are showing up. Check out their pages and see what they are doing. You can use sites like wordtracker.com to see how and why their SEO is working and utilise it yourself.
Location, location, location
Make sure you have your address displayed on every page so that search engines have something to grab hold of, and add this to any copy on the site as well: ‘Yarmouth Electrical Goods’ for example.
Likewise try to add your district name in ’located within easy reach of xxxxx train station.' Be as specific as you can while making it sound natural.
You can also reach out to the local community through your page.Try adding an events calendar or blog, and exchange links with other local businesses and blogs. This will add to your non-specific search traffic, raising awareness of your business.
Put yourself on the map
More and more people are now searching for businesses through Google Maps, Bing and Yahoo Local or direct from their iPhone or mobile maps, but a lot of local businesses still don’t take the time to exploit this.
By taking a little time to build information rich profiles for these sites you’ll give your business a massive advantage over your competitors.
Go and visit Google Places (formerly Google Maps Local Business Centre), Bing Local Listing and Yahoo Local Business for starters. These engines all want the info because it makes their job easier, and it will ensure you rank highly in map searches.
You can also add your business in different categories and localise them. Be sure to put in ‘Garden Centre’, but make sure you also add ‘Sheffield Garden Centre.'
With Google maps you can add up to five categories so make sure you use them all!
Exploit niche markets
If you’re set on marketing locally, then there are some major league strategies that will still pay dividends.
Have a look online and you’ll probably find a Facebook group or two for your town, so why not start your own group? You can promote this through Twitter, Facebook, MeetUp. Anywhere.
Likewise, try using your Twitter to offer promotions or post printable coupons on your blog or FB and ask group members for feedback. The more you get them talking the more they’ll be likely to visit you and your site and add links to their own sites.
If you can help promote a local event or association here that’s good too. If you’re sponsoring a local school fete then you can guarantee that some proud parent will have filmed it. Get that on YouTube and make sure your business is mentioned there too.
Every mention counts.
Don’t get mad, get helpful
Have a quick search online for local directories.
Nowadays its common practice for these to have ‘add review’ boxes, meaning one bad comment could be losing you a lot of business.
It’s important to be proactive here.
If there’s a problem then try to help solve it and let other customers know why the problem occurred. You’ll foster great customer trust by taking a few minutes a day to personally reply to any negative comments and hopefully garner a few positive ones in the process.
If a local paper printed a positive review of your café, you might display it in the window, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same with online testimonials, and if you have a lot of reviews then you’ll have a higher mention rate online, all helping your search position.
Get natural listings
Speaking of listings, take the time to fill out all those trade group forms you’ve been studiously ignoring all year.
If you haven’t got the time to list yourself everywhere manually, there are plenty of universal listings sites that will submit your info for you for a small fee, meaning you’ll have more mentions and links all of which contribute toward organic SEO growth.
Social media marketers constantly talk about building communities. Remember above all that you already have one. If you want to get your business noticed online (and in the real world) get out there and get involved.