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Improve your local visibility

Improve your local visibility

Once upon a time, a yellow page listing or ad was the gold standard when it came to driving local traffic to your business. With online searches growing, and physical Yellow Pages directories becoming obsolete, it’s clear that, if you haven’t already established your online presence, you need to do so ASAP.

If you’re running a business with a local focus – restaurants, dental practices, law offices, and storage facilities are a few good examples – you should be focusing your efforts on marketing specifically within your geographic area. And keep in mind that the type of business you’re in will determine the size of the region you focus on: for example, someone may be willing to drive an hour to get to a great lawyer, but they’ll be unlikely to drive that far for pizza (even if it is THAT GOOD)

Optimize your website for local search

First, you have to determine where the majority of your customers will be coming from. Again, your target area may be smaller for a restaurant or dry cleaning shop than it might be for a lawyer or an accountant. Think about the neighborhoods that house your potential clients, and consider the names of those neighborhoods, developments, school districts, etc. when discussing your location on your website (e.g. “only five minutes from ABC Mall”).

It’s surprising how many businesses fail at this simple task. Living and working in South Jersey, I find myself searching for “South Jersey” attractions and events quite frequently. Without fail, I am directed to general New Jersey information – most of which is concentrated in North or Central Jersey. So think about the terms your potential customers might use when searching for your type of business.

Claim your profile

Log into Google Business (you will need a Google username and password) and follow the steps to create and claim your Google Business Listing. Next, you will want to create a Google+ Profile for your business (You will need your own Google+ profile to complete this process). Always double check your address shows your correct location in Google Maps. For us, this requires our using Clementon as our city instead of Laurel Springs.

You will also want to create a page for your local business on Facebook (again, you’ll need to have your own Facebook account to complete this process). Be sure to follow the instructions to claim your business’s Facebook page.

Google Business, Google Local Guides, your Google+ page and your business’s Facebook listing will all require a verification process – usually in the form of a verification postcard with a PIN number, a phone call, or by uploading specific business documentation that includes your the physical address of your business. Then continue to do the same for other social networks Bing, Pinterest, etc. and other location aware apps - such as Yelp, Foursquare, Swarm, etc. Prioritize the networks you’ll be concentrating on initially - but do try to create listings on all of them eventually.

Make your address and phone number easy to find

Your address should be visible on each page of your website. Your phone number should also be available on each page and should be presented as text (not as an image). Customers browsing from their mobile phones should be able to call you just by clicking on that phone number.

Request reviews

On invoices, restaurant checks, and other communications with your customers, it’s a great idea to ask them for a review. While many people aren’t inclined to review an establishment unless they have a complaint, they are more likely to give a positive review if there is a reminder to do so.

And don’t worry about negative reviews. While nobody wants to have bad reviews floating around about their business, a few bad reviews can actually be helpful. When a business has nothing but glowing reviews, people begin to doubt the integrity of those reviews. After all, anybody can write reviews anonymously (even the owner of a business or his/her family members), so a negative review may not be the kiss of death some people believe it to be.

Think like your customers

Include the information on your site that you would search for: location-specific information, directions, hours of operation, product offering/menu, pricing (if appropriate). When they’re searching for the products or services you offer, you want them to find you.

Build up citations

A citation is basically any online reference to your business. If you have a website (and you should!) the optimal citation is going to include a link to your site. At the very least, it should include your name, address, and phone number. Review sites (such as Yelp!) can be a good source of citations.

Of course, if you don’t have a website of your own (contractors, plumbers, electricians and other trades often do not), citations will be the extent of your online presence. You will want as many citations as you can get. Review sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp! are a good place to start, but there are many other ways that any business can begin to build up their citations:

Sponsorship/Event Opportunities

Whether you sponsor a little league team, a scholarship, or even a hole for a charity golf tournament, your business name is going to appear on the website of the organization you’re sponsoring. Becoming a sponsor or a resource for a local event can also be a good way to get your name out to anybody involved with or attending the event. And, depending on the marketing and promotion of the organization or event, you could be looking at citations from local news agencies as well. While some sponsorships can be pricey, there are plenty of opportunities out there for a more modest budget.

Build relationships

As a small business owner, you likely have your fair share of local connections. If you join local organizations (Chamber of Commerce, networking groups, or industry-specific organizations), you’ll likely be listed in that group’s online directory. In many cases, groups like these will include not only links to your site and address and phone information, but also a profile of your business.

You may also want to make yourself available to provide reviews and testimonials for other local businesses (who may be willing to provide a link to your site along with you review), or as a guest speaker for an industry-related event.

Small businesses – especially newer small businesses – often have lean marketing budgets. As you can see, many of the opportunities that exist for you to increase your local visibility are low- or no-cost options. Remember to keep yourself in the mindset of your customer, and focus your efforts where they will be the most effective.

Oct 01, 2015
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