Local Digital Marketing
Local marketing is all the focus right now and Google+ reviews are a huge part of it!
When digital and search marketing first started, it was definitely a broad-based tactic that helped your company (through a website) target everyone, equally. In the early days, that was undeniably one of the biggest benefits from the Internet.
However, with this huge attraction towards large scale marketing due to increased visibility, came an increase in competition. In hindsight, this is a rather obvious trend. All of these small businesses opening up their reach through the onset of the Internet were bound to attract the notice of other smaller businesses and those larger ones too!
To oppose this trend of increased competition, marketers began to look for ways to confine their online visibility to specific areas, rather than taking such a broad-based approach. This makes sense because most businesses cannot service globally or nationally.
Consider a local pizza shop that has no reason to advertise in more than a 10 mile radius around their location. Even a national pizza chain wouldn’t need to actually advertise nationally, rather just the 10 mile radius around each store! That goes for nearly every restaurant. But even to look at other industries, it is much the same.
Lawyers are generally confined to county or state.
Doctors, dentists, contractors and landscapers are limited to a locality.
This added “local” consideration for digital marketing opens up a vast number of options for businesses, compounded by Google’s focus on local search results, maps or GPS, and local directories such as Yelp and Yellow Pages.
Google has played a significant part in the increased focus on local marketing and search. Their algorithm automatically takes into consideration a person’s location when providing search results. There is even a significant amount of the search engine results page (SERP) dedicated to local marketing – including organic results, map pins and more.
So can companies best leverage local search for their benefits?
This is really a question of local SEO.
Just like regular SEO has a number of factors that affect it, so does local SEO. Some of the main factors for local SEO are as follows:
- Verified Business on Google Maps
- Local Backlinks
- Online Reviews
- Local User Metrics & Keywords
Verified Business on Google maps
Verifying your business with Google is one of the most important factors for a local business, whether it has a website or not! Not only does this help a website show up higher on search results but it also ensures that a company’s address shows up and a ‘pin’ is located on your location on Google maps.
There are a few steps to verifying your business with Google. They are as follows:
- Go to Google My Business
- If you have a Google login already select “Login” but if you do not have one, select “Get on Google” (you may be prompted to create your Google+ Page)
- Type your business address in the search bar.
- If Google recognizes your business address you may continue.
- If Google does not recognize the address you must enter in all business information.
- From here, enter in all of your business information and Google will send you a postcard in the mail with a confirmation code on it.
- Once you receive the business card, go to your Google+ page and then enter in the confirmation code and your website will be verified!
This is step one to increasing your local search and marketing efforts. It also allows your general business information to show up directly on Google search results. Be sure to include important information about your business, like your hours of operation!
You can take this a step further even with Google by contacting a certified Google Photographer to take a photo tour of your storefront for Google’s Business View.
This is probably pretty obvious, but if you want to appear local then localized backlinks work best! Google’s algorithm is set up to associate you with other web properties you associate with and they can tell this from links. Rather than having a number of national links pointing to your company, other local websites that direct to you show that you’re reputable in your area.
So, the more inbound links you have from other local establishments and the more outbound links you have local establishments, the better. Now don’t just go for a number of links but go for quality links. There are three main “localized links” a business needs.
- General Directory Links:com, Yellowpages.com, AngiesList.com, etc.
- Industry Specific Directories: Depends on your service.
- Local Websites: Depends on your area.
The second and third points really depend on what kind of business you are and what your local market looks like. Industry specific directories are everywhere and are usually the go-to place for consumers to find someone in your field. If you want to identify some in your area just Google search “<insert industry/service> directories” and you should be greeted by a number of options!
It’s in poor taste for me to advise you specifically on local websites that you should use because you know your local area better than I can and you have to use your judgment. A general suggestion though could be getting links from your local Chamber of Commerce or local paper. There are probably a number of local websites as well, for example Pittsburgh, PA has PittsburghPA.gov and VisitPittsburgh.com and if these apply to your business you may want to use that!
Tip: You can even go hyper-local using school district websites or community/neighborhood sites and Facebook pages.
A gym could even offer a local hotel chain’s customers access to their equipment for a discount in order to get on their website to build that link. Just like any marketing effort, you’ve got to get creative.
This is a huge benefit for businesses, aside from just local SEO, but it is often overlooked. Online reviews are great because they are trustworthy! Places like Google and Yelp put a lot of time into ensuring reviews are legitimate. Also, Google rewards those businesses with good feedback.
Fact: After 5 reviews Google provides your company with star ratings under your name.
People want to see what others thought about their experience with your company before they purchase. I look at reviews before I buy something, I’m sure you do as well, so why wouldn’t your customers? If you have a local business, you should be soliciting your customers to leave you reviews online. It’s easy to do and it is very beneficial. A word of caution though is to screen those who you ask to leave reviews.
I’m not advocating that you fake the reviews by only getting happy customers (rather you should just constantly be promoting your service offering to increase satisfaction) but some people are just difficult to satisfy and are just looking for a chance to complain. Once those reviews are up, they don’t come down! If a negative review does come up though, you should be actively fixing that problem. Some review platforms will even allow you to respond to reviews so reach out to your customers to get a chance to right that last wrong or let them know that you fixed the problem and it won’t happen again.
It’s ill advised to allow the same negative situation to occur twice!
Here are a list of places you can be collecting reviews for your website:
- Google+ Reviews
- Yahoo! Local Listings Reviews
- Consumer Reports
- Consumer Search
There are still many more but those are definitely a start! A lot of people like to mention the Better Business Bureau but I avoid mention of that name altogether (Click here to see why). A lot of the directories you submit your site to also have review sections so you may want to look at those industry specific directories as well.
Local User Metrics & Keywords
Just like backlinks – the more local links to your site the better, compared to nationally scaled links. This also goes with user metrics. Not to say that national users visiting your site aren’t good, they just aren’t as important as local users – unless you service nationally but that’s a different lesson entirely. More local visitors add more local credibility.
Here is an example to illustrate my point:
A number of New York locals visit a NewYorkExample.com but leave quickly, without going to another page. Then there are a number of people scattered around the U.S. visiting that same page and perusing the site, staying for more than 5 minutes on average and viewing 5 or more pages. This tells Google and other search engines that this website is not important to New York locals but it is important to people nationally. It will de-rank the site in local search but promote it in national searches around that query.
Additionally, the longer a keyword is the more specific that then becomes. Adding the area to your keywords then attaches more local emphasis to your offering while making it more specific as well. Consider your community, township, city, county, and state when planning out your keywords because this will narrow your competition and make you show up more relevant in those localized searches.
A great example here would be for a lawyer looking to market their services. Chances are that lawyer has a physical address in a certain community, serves a number of different counties and is limited to the state he/she is operating in. This makes it a lot easier (and cheaper too if you’re using PPC in your digital marketing toolbox) for a Mesothelioma Lawyer to market their services (this is one of the most expensive AdWords) because now your keyword is not “Mesothelioma Lawyer” but instead “Mesothelioma Lawyer PA”. This is actually still broad so let’s look at making it narrower:
|“Mesothelioma Lawyer Allegheny County” (county)||“Mesothelioma Lawyer Pittsburgh” (city)||“Mesothelioma Lawyer Pittsburgh South” (area)||“Mesothelioma Lawyer Southside” (community)|
The great part about this is that there may be 1,000 lawyers for this in the state of Pennsylvania but only 1 in your community. And, if people are searching in a particular city or area, they don’t even have to type in the location-keyword it will be automatically applied. The following image shows how location is applied to your Google searches:
A local marketing presence isn’t just restricted to those smaller companies that are confined to a small area. Larger companies that have operations in that area just have to act locally as well. Geo-specific subdomains are great options to provide a company that operates nationwide a way to appeal to local search engines. Rather than just operating as http://example.com the company can then use http://pittsburgh.example.com for operations in Pittsburgh and http://newyork.example.com for those in New York. It just adds that extra element of locality to it and gives the local operation more flexibility to please cater to local tastes in consuming content instead of just one.
A successful local digital presence requires a lot of attention. Stay up to date with your listings and carefully monitor your links. These will support your company’s local visibility and help you maintain competitiveness in your area. Employ all of the tactics above in a way that suits your business to start achieving results! Good luck!