Customers tend to stick with the local businesses they know and trust. But when they don’t know who to trust, they often go online. For local businesses, this means they must take steps to ensure that they appear at the top of online searches, and they need to continuously manage the accuracy of contact information and tone of customer reviews. That’s a lot to cover, but my guide on How to Win the Local Marketing Game (PDF) should help you get started. In it, I cover what you need to know on following tactics and more, including group-buying and local deals sites.
Localize your Web pages
Most people searching online don’t bother looking beyond the initial page, so it’s critical to ensure your business is among the top results. Since your business’ town, state or ZIP code will likely be typed into a local search, full contact information appearing repeatedly across your site’s pages will help improve your search ranking.
But don’t stop there. Weave the names of local towns and neighborhoods into your site’s content in a natural way, and add words and phrases to your site’s content that are most often used by customers searching for businesses like yours.
Get listed and build profiles
Online directories continue to emerge that list local businesses and their contact information. When customers search locally for a business, these directories now increasingly appear high up on the first page of a search. Many also list your business’ name, address, phone number and site link in its search summary.
The best way to find out which directories relate most closely to your field is to search for your business and those of your competitors. If your business’ name does not appear in the directories that surface, review their home pages for instructions on how to set up a profile or provide a profile entry.
Also, Google, Yahoo and Bing now encourage local businesses to provide them with detailed profile information to improve your chances of appearing toward the top of highly targeted local searches.
Track and respond to reviews
Customers who search locally for businesses often want to see what other customers have said about your business. Such reviews are becoming highly influential, often determining whether customers do business with you.
Among the major sites that host customer comments and reviews are Yelp, Insiderpages, Citysearch, Local and Merchant Circle. In addition, several tools can keep you up to date on what’s being said about your business so you can address customer dissatisfaction quickly and efficiently.
Build an audience
No matter what you sell, there are enthusiasts who would be thrilled to share their personal expertise online with other customers. By establishing a Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, LinkedIn, MeetUp or Biznik page, you can encourage ongoing remarks, monitor the dialogue and chime in as needed. Such activity can not only improve search results, but also may result in worthwhile ideas for the growth of your business.
Learn more about how to build your local traffic by downloading and reading “How to Win the Local Marketing Game”.
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