Most local businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals to get customers. According to a survey, 85 percent of small business owners said customers learn about them through word of mouth.
Word-of-mouth marketing has its perks. For one, it’s a cost-effective strategy to attract new customers, counting on your existing customers to spread the word about your brand. Plus, consumers are more likely to trust recommendations that come from people they already know.
But with word-of-mouth advertising, you’re only scratching the surface of a much larger pool of potential customers. You’re relying only on the networks and relationships of your existing customers, leaving an untapped market of people who have never heard of your brand.
One effective way to accelerate growth for your local business is to take your brand online.
The Power of Local Search Marketing
In the past two years, there’s been more than 150% growth in “near me now” searches made through mobile phones. These kinds of searches show strong purchase intent. When a user looks up “gas station near me open now,” there’s a big possibility that they’re almost out of gas and need to refill quickly.
With the help of the location services of their smartphones, the search engine results page (SERP) shows users what they want to see.
Optimizing for these local searches can help boost your visibility online, increasing consumers’ awareness of your brand. Plus, 46 percent of all Google searches seek local information. It means you can’t afford to skip local search optimization. Otherwise, you risk losing hundreds of lead generation opportunities.
Apart from improving your brand awareness, you can use local SEO to strengthen your reputation management strategy, helping you win the trust of potential customers.
Follow these best practices to boost your reputation, ranking, and revenues with local search optimization.
1. Optimize Your Website according to Local Ranking Factors
Google determines local ranking using these three factors:
- Relevance: How well a local business profile matches what the user is looking for
- Distance: How far the search result is from the user’s location based on the device they use, or from the location they typed in the search bar
- Prominence: How popular the business is
Your website should be located near the user, relevant to the search query, and well-known in your niche and community.
Among these three factors, prominence is the most difficult to achieve since it’s dependent on your industry or community instead of the user. You can increase your prominence by getting more positive reviews and ratings to improve your business’ local ranking. Your SERP ranking is also a factor, so make sure you follow SEO best practices.
If your business doesn’t appear in local search results, it means you need to work on your website’s local SEO. Below are some easy-to-implement local SEO strategies:
- Include your brand name and the location you’re targeting in the meta title and meta description
- Create content that is specific to your location, such as local news and events
- Research location-specific keywords and insert them as naturally as possible into your web copy and content pieces
If you’re not yet familiar with SEO techniques, you can outsource your web design to an agency that creates SEO-ready websites. This way, you can be sure that your website abides by SEO best practices.
2. Create a Google My Business Page
A Google My Business account is a must-have for every local business. By creating a GMB account, you’re giving your website one powerful backlink – the one that comes from Google itself.
Plus, your business details appear on the right-hand side of the SERP every time someone makes a relevant search. This position gains plenty of exposure, giving you more online visibility.
When creating a Google My Business page, make sure you include the following details: official name, selected short name, address, operating hours, contact number, and website. If you’re in the food or restaurant industry, you can also include a clear photo of your menu to help potential customers with their decision-making.
Use high-quality photos of your storefront, products, and services on your GMB page. These let users learn more about your brand and offerings without having to visit your physical store.
Make sure that the details on your GMB page, website, and other online platforms are identical and accurate to avoid confusing users.
Apart from Google My Business, getting listed on local indices can also boost your local SEO. Facebook, Bing, and Yelp are some directories to consider.
3. Build Social Proof through Reviews
Social proof is any user-generated content that makes you appear more trustworthy as a brand. It could be testimonials, reviews, or user-submitted content.
In a way, social proof is like word-of-mouth online. Your existing customers leave a product review on your website to confirm that your merchandise or service is worth buying. Like word of mouth, social proof builds credibility because the ratings come from other people instead of you arguing the value of your product or service.
Make it easy for users to leave a review for your website. You can send them an email with a link that takes them to your GMB profile. Adding a QR code on your receipt also works, especially since not everyone opens emails from brands. You can convince your customers to leave a review by offering them a perk in exchange, such as a discount coupon on their next purchase.
Even if you get negative reviews, you can use these as part of your reputation management strategy. Understand the customer’s concern and get in touch with them to resolve the issue. Once you’ve settled the problem, it’s a good idea to address them publicly to let other users know that you quickly respond to such issues.
4. Get Valuable Local Links
Local SEO requires valuable, relevant backlinks, especially from authoritative local sources. First, optimize your internal links by finding and fixing all your broken links.
Always be on the lookout for linking opportunities in local magazines, blogs related to your industry, editorial contributions, and sponsorships. Be creative with finding local linking opportunities. Explore other local businesses and find out how they get citations.
Here are some local link building ideas:
- Send samples of your product to local influencers, vloggers and bloggers, and review sites
- Partner with local interest websites and local guides
- Enter your business for local awards
- Create a local resource page on your website, containing links to other small businesses in your location
- Partner with other small businesses in your area and launch product bundles, gift ideas, and other exciting offerings
5. Be Active on Social Media
Social media is an effective platform for generating noise and interest around your brand. It helps you widen your reach beyond your existing customers and their networks to the other people residing in your community.
Facebook paid ads and boosted posts are highly targeted, letting you reach users near your business address.
If you don’t want to spend on ads and paid posts, you can still use social media to increase your reach. There are communities and closed groups on Facebook dedicated to certain neighborhoods where residents promote their small businesses and post items for sale. Joining these groups allows you to keep a pulse on the goings-on in your neighborhood.
You can share the answers to FAQs about your business on your Facebook profile. It helps customers in their decision-making by giving them all the information they need immediately.
Leverage the power of online platforms to more customers through your doors. The rise of digital marketing doesn’t bring the downfall of physical stores. Rather, they offer a way for your business to grow. By adapting to the needs of the modern, digital consumer, your brick-and-mortar business can improve its online ranking, reputation, and revenue – making you a household name in your community.