Marketing Your Business Online

Try Local Search Marketing to Cost Effectively Reach Customers

Does your business need a cost-effective way to attract the local market? Local search marketing is the answer.  Done right, this type of marketing targets the consumers most likely to buy from you.  Whether you sell through your website, your brick-and-mortar locations or both, optimizing your business for local search can bring you a permanent source of leads and sales that won’t bust the marketing budget. 

Here are some effective local search marketing tips that reap big dividends for little cost:

1. Build a Local-Friendly Website
Create a local-friendly website with these tips:

  • Add geographical content that includes local terms.  This includes your physical address, town and street names and names of communities or neighborhoods that you serve.
  • Add local keywords to internal and external links.
  • Sign up for Google rich snippets.
  • Create community resource content relevant to your local area.
  • Ask local businesspeople to contribute to a company blog and link to your pages.
  • Create local landing pages –one for each location you serve.  This will improve your ranking and help your site get picked up by Google Maps.

2. Create Local Search Profiles
A local search profile is your online “Yellow Pages” listing.  Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local all offer business profiles that help local traffic find your door.  By claiming your profile you’ll be able to manage the information in your online phone book, and post company news, promotions and photos.

3. Offer Reviews
Consumer reviews are the online version of “word of mouth” recommendations —and they’re just as important.  A study by comScorereports that online consumer reviews have significant influence over consumer choices.

Offering a review component for your local customers helps you learn what’s important to them, their likes and dislikes, etc.  Proactively responding to reviews improves your service, draws more local traffic and builds your reputation among your target market.

4. Get Noticed
Getting listed, cited and mentioned is important to your local search marketing efforts.  Your online business profile, reviews and links to and from other sites give you greater visibility with search engines (and therefore with consumers).  But, it’s important to manage this exposure.

Check on your how your business is doing with the search engines at a data compiler such as getlisted.org.  Get a universal business listing that places one consistent listing on every search engine, Yellow Pages site, business directory, social site, mobile device and 411 service.

5. Socialize
What local search marketing strategy would be complete without social media?  Network with local bloggers, find local leads through Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook and form a local group that could include other businesses and their customers.  According to online marketing resource econsultancy, over 700,000 local businesses have active pages on Facebook alone! 

These local search marketing techniques can help your business attract and retain local customers, build your reputation with them, and get the word out about your products and services—all for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods.  Put them to work for your business!

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Website Localization Tips

Your market is global.  Your website—not so much.   It’s ok—you’re not alone!  The fact is, companies everywhere are scrambling to make their businesses accessible to a worldwide market.  Creating or adapting websites to local culture and language, also known as website localization, has become a big priority for businesses around the globe. 

World Internet Stats estimates that as of 2011 over 60% of Internet users are non-native English speakers.  This figure represents vast revenue opportunities.  If you want to tap into them, your website needs to speak to these potential customers.

Website content is key.  Use these website localization tips to help you optimize your content for local audiences:

1.  Target your market.  Use correct keywords throughout your content, at a density that will sound natural to humans and also get properly indexed by search engines.  Long tail and secondary keywords that include the regional or city name target your markets more precisely. They are invaluable in website localization.  After all, “California sushi bar in Dubai” will lead locals to the right place, whereas “sushi bar” might take them on a wild goose chase to the ends of the earth.

2.  Respect the culture.  Focusing your content on the local culture will boost your credibility with visitors.  For example, if a website is speaking to a culture that respects seniority and hierarchy, the titles rank and qualifications of your team members will be important to them.   In other cultures, such information is not only relatively unimportant—it may well be seen as self-promoting.

3.  Watch your language. This applies to everything from avoiding slang to clarifying your pricing and measurements.  Just as English comes in many and varied forms (think British, Canadian, American and Australian), other languages contain many regional dialects—something to keep in mind when engaging in website localization. 

4.  Use a professional translator. We’ve all experienced them.  The painfully bad translations that are humorous at best and at worst, a marketing disaster for the companies that use them.  Neil Payne, director of cross-cultural communications consultancy Kwintessential , asks the question: “Do all the words, phrases, sayings and metaphors translate directly to the target language?”  Whatever the message, native alternatives should always be used in any website localization effort.

Remember—people won’t buy what they can’t understand!  Using these website localization tips will help you to tap into the vast global market and create unlimited new revenue opportunities for your business.

Photo by Gary Smith.

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Improving the Hometown Website

A visit to my hometown’s website gave me an idea to blog about…are small towns, and by extension small businesses, missing the boat on keeping their residents and customers engaged by maintaining stagnant websites? The information that I was looking for was basic – how to purchase a dump sticker – yet difficult to find, as the site was hard to navigate, with many links leading nowhere. I finally found the information buried below a story about the preservation of a historic building. I really hope they’re not looking to preserve it by moving it to the dump.

Here’s a look at my town’s website: http://www.town.scituate.ma.us. They have improved the look and navigation since my first visit, but the template of the site is a dinosaur and starts to look very familiar when visiting websites of other towns in the area. Here’s one from a town nearby http://www.townofnorwell.net. Norwell’s website is cleaner, but doesn’t feature an “important links” section which can be helpful for one-stop shopping.  

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Social Media for Small Business: Referrals in an Online World

Are opportunities circling the drain?

I was recently on the hunt for a new plumber. In days gone by, I would have just grabbed the Yellow Pages and called the first one listed in my area. But in this social media era, I posted a request for recommendations from my local friends on my Facebook page. Lo and behold, in about ten minutes, I had five different recommendations. Recommendations, contact info, the whole nine. One, in particular, was repeatedly recommended – so, done and done. Plumber hired and within twenty-four hours I was released from my job babysitting a leaky pipe.

This process made me start thinking about the power of social media for small business. And then I started thinking about my recommended plumber. He has no online presence, and doesn’t want any. Yet, he was helped by social media as well. What if his small business was “liked” on Facebook by all of my neighbors? Would my search have been made even shorter?

This led me to a Google search of plumbers in my area, which returned more than eight local phone listings. Of those eight, only one had a website. It was short and sweet, but did the trick by listing all necessary contact info. as well as a brief bio. of the company. Are plumbers and other trades service businesses missing the boat in online marketing and social media for small business, or does the “Mom and Pop” feel of contacting a plumber actually make the relationship more comfortable? I think the former. The plumber that had a website was the most well known in the area, but definitely not the best. However, if I were new to the area and doing a quick online search, they would most certainly be the one that I would go with.

In the future, we’ll undoubtedly see more and more of these businesses use an online presence and social media activity to reach more customers and expand their businesses.

Photo by chrisjfry.

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Internet Advertising Strategies for Local Small Businesses

As a local small business owner looking to promote your services, you know two things – well, hopefully more than two but we’re going to start small and see where it takes us. First of all, you know you need to leverage the reach and immediacy of the internet to spread the word about your brand. Secondly, you know you need to stretch your advertising budget dollars as far as they can go. One particular branch of interactive advertising that makes good on both points is Search Engine Marketing. As far as internet advertising strategies for local small businesses go, SEM is a particularly attractive one, as it is quick-to-market, requires few assets in order to get up and running and – done properly – can be a low cost, high payout enterprise.

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Jumpstart Your Local Business Marketing

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Groupon Drives Local Customers Through Social Marketing

Groupon is currently all the rage in the social media world and for good reason. It's a great service for customers and businesses alike. Customers take advantage of a great deal, and local businesses get new customers through the door.

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I Know You Are a A Small Business But Your Website Sucks!

I am a big proponent of supporting local businesses. Especially small local businesses. Not because I think Walmart is evil or McDonald’s is poison. Actually I do think Walmart is evil and McDonald’s is poison but I have picked up an inflatable pool or two and scoffed down a big mac on occasion.

I try to shop at local businesses because of the quality and service.  The guy from Argentina at my local liquor store remembers me and has recommended some tremendous bottles of Malbec for $10.

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