Whilst the principles of a localised digital marketing strategy are the same as if you were running an online-only business, or a multinational, there are differences and these need to be catered for within your local marketing strategy.
As a local business, your strategy needs to be as much about driving online sales as it is supporting your bricks and mortar store, as well as performing a key role in your customer service (and customer buying experience).
Mobile Friendly/Responsive Website
This is important for all businesses, not just local businesses, when it comes to both user experience and SEO.
Google updated its mobile algorithm so that businesses that don’t have mobile friendly websites may not show up in mobile search results when consumers search (and other prominent search engines followed this pattern). – “Mobilegeddon” Quote
It’s not been a secret that Google have changed their primary user-agent from Desktop to Mobile, and it’s no secret that mobile usage surpassed desktop usage way back in 2015 – but Google aside, being mobile friendly for a local business is much more important than rankings. Mobile users need to be able to:
- Clearly find your address, postcode and directions
- View prices and products, or at least a clear way for them to discover them
- Be able to make reservations/enquiries easily
- View opening times
And from a technical point of view, beyond all else, your website must load fast on mobile devices – and not just on Wifi, but on 4G and 3G (as Google measures in 3G).
Control Your Online Presence
More Than A Website
Thanks to a shift in user behaviour, you as a business are no longer fully in control of how consumers choose to interact with you, and having a website is no longer enough.
You need to make sure you have setup a:
- Facebook page (and regularly post content)
- Twitter profile (and regularly post content)
- Google+ & Google My Business (more on this later)
And if you’re a restaurant, potentially an Instagram profile too.
Managing social media profiles however can be time consuming and tedious, especially if you’re a small business and you’re wearing a large number of hats as it is. This is why I’d recommend using Hootsuite, and making time maybe once a week to sit down and schedule at least one post a day across your social networks, and then from your phone post on the fly during the week.
But always keep your audience in mind whilst posting.
You also have to post things that are actually relevant and useful to your audience. If you offer heating and cooling services, maybe that means you could post links to helpful articles about keeping your home cool enough during the summer or warm enough during the winter.
That type of content gives people more of an incentive to follow and interact with your business online.
Consistent NAP = Vital
This is a mistake I learned when I was 15, and building one of my Dad’s first websites and the start of his online presence.
I knew that having some authority directory links pointing to your website was important for local search, but I also knew that a lot of these directories had “watchers”, and the minute you posted a new directory listing masses of digital marketing and website development sales people would contact you.
To prevent this, I used my mobile phone number on the business directory listings instead of my Dad’s, to shield him from the slippery sales. Big mistake. 12 years later, my Dad has people contacting him through his live chat and other channels saying his phone number doesn’t work, because they’re finding the listings I made and trying to call my old phone number.
This is why it’s important that your NAP is consistent. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number, and if it’s not consistent it can lead to horror stories like the above.
If you’re a physical store, but you’re business is registered elsewhere – make sure you are using your store address, as this can impact signals to Google and confuse things like your Google My Business listing on Google Maps,
Google My Business Listing
Regardless of your industry or purpose of your website, whether you’re targeting a local, national or international audience, having an accurate and verified Google My Business listing is important.
Your Google My Business profile can affect a number of things, such as how you appear on Google Maps (and Google Maps Directions feature), Google+, and local search results.
Data from Think With Google suggests that approximately 70% of mobile users are performing local search queries on their smartphones at least once a month. It also suggests that 50% of smartphone users who are conducting branded searches are looking for business opening hours, address information and directions.
Google My Business Reviews Are Prominent
Peer reviews of products and services are playing an increasingly important role in peoples buying decisions and whether or not they trust what they are investing in, whether it be their time or their money.
Just like when you’re buying a product online, or buying a takeaway through an app, what are you more likely to do – buy from the provider with a rating of 3.4 or 4.7? I know it’s not as straight cut as that, but it still plays a part in your decision making process.
These reviews are very prominent in Google search listings and studies have shown that 61% of online customers read and are influenced by online reviews, not only the quality of reviews, but also the quantity.
Google are currently phasing out the SERP Review Stars from their results pages, making the Google My Business reviews a much more stable, long term option.
Paid Advertising (Local Targeting)
Whether you’re advertising on Facebook, Google or other online platforms, targeting is essential. Always target customers in your city or community and use other relevant factors as well.
One of the main ways to ensure you are maximising your budget with local advertising is to leverage targeting capabilities to reach local consumers. That way, you are focusing as much of your budget as possible on people most relevant to your business.
Search engine advertising can be another great way to get your business in front of relevant customers, such as Google AdWords – and even Bing Ads, which have a great CPA (cost per acquisition) from my experience.. Platforms like Google allow for local targeting. And with the right strategy, you can reach customers that are looking for exactly what your business offers.