I find the challenge with local search marketing is that you need to put yourself into the shoes of the local business in order to really focus on what is best for their business.
You have to consider any issues and constraints of a small business, the importance of measuring around real world goals and making suggestions as actionable as possible so that changes can make an impact in the short-to-medium term, not just long-term.
Here’s what I would do if I ran a local company in Putney!
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to speak at a local digital marketing event in Putney (#DigitalSpring) – this gave me the chance to put myself in the shoes of the audience and consider all of these things and make my presentation all about them.
Local Digital Strategy
1) Understand how Google works for local search queries
Firstly you need to understand how people search within your local area and market. Have a look at some local search queries, find out who your top competitors are – and then you can start to see why they are winning.
Make sure you understand the different types of listings Google pull in for various different searches. Just looking at the above query for Putney Cinema, it’s no longer a case of just organic and paid listings – you’ll see a large mix of universal search listings for ratings, cinema screenings, addresses and brand listings.
This is hugely important, so that you can prioritise based around the on-page real estate and targeted traffic you are likely to receive.
2) Have a local digital strategy to target across the full buying cycle
There’s a very interesting study which shows how consumers interact at the different stages of the buying cycle: Inspiration, Research, Purchase and Post-Purchase – and which devices people typically use:
In order to capture the full market try to target visitors at every opportunity, by:
- Inspiring them
- Giving them the best research information
- Providing the best product information and purchase experience
- Keeping them engaged after the purchase
3) Make sure you’re mobile friendly – 56% of searches have mobile intent!
Local search via mobile is huge – you may be a small business, but that’s no excuse for not having a consistent and enjoyable experience across all devices.
Check your analytics to find where your customers come from – given recent growth stats, you may be surprised!
4) Create a local business profile and complete it in full
Too many people submit Google local business profiles and think that they’ve done all they need to do. But the issue is that you’ve just done exactly the same as everyone else.
You can stand out from the crowd by ensuring you have:
- 6+ high quality photos
- 1 high res logo
- Address & accurate map location
- Phone number
- Opening Hours
Try using Google Map Maker if your local area or listing isn’t accurate too.
5) For Multi-Locations – Submit Individual Landing Pages to Google My Business
This way you can provide Google with much stronger information around that specific location, so they can show a better listing for your listing.
6) Use Local Business Schemas & Rich Snippet Reviews
There’s a whole range of things you can do with schemas these days, but for local businesses I would suggest you focus on these:
These tools can really help to start making your business stand out locally – and then you can begin thinking about additional ways to differentiate yourself within vertical search outside of local.
7) Understand Google Local Search Hubs
Google Local Search isn’t all about Google – find out which other hubs feed into adding credibility to your business on a local level. Moz have released an excellent tool today to help check your local business listings in the UK.
8) Get People Talking About You Locally to Build Local Trust & Authority
I find these stats fascinating – essentially it means that 92% of people trust word of mouth recommendations. This shows the huge power of recommendations to your business.
But even more shocking than that, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That means 72% trust people they don’t even know!
Of course, the next recommendation is…
9) Find ways to incentivise reviews – these are a huge ranking and conversion factor!
The influence behind reviews is hugely significant – yet providing a great experience isn’t always enough to get people leaving great reviews, you need to give them a reason.
Think about any competitions or future discounts you could provide to reward them for taking their time to review you.
If you could turn that 6% of people leaving reviews into 10%, that could make all the difference when it comes to ranking in local search.
Volume of ratings is still a large factor within Google, so definitely try to get as many people writing about you as you can.
10) Get to Know Power Reviewers as a Business, Be on Their Radar
If you’re a restaurant or pub, definitely think about how you can get on the radar of the top power reviewers.
You don’t want to overdo it, try to add value to them instead – here’s a few ideas to get started:
- Invite them to a local event
- Offer a free meal if you’re a restaurant/pub – do your research first to be sure they’d be open to this approach
- Share their content/engage with them via social media
- Find something to help them with – but if they ask for help, don’t go too creepy!
If you can provide a great experience within your local area, you should be able to start generating attention from the reviewers that can help add extra authority to your local listings.
11) Search Results Are Becoming More Targeted to Your Location
If you’re looking for a pizza, you don’t want to travel 20 miles. Nearest location is important, and Google is paying a lot more attention to these types of searches now.
Ever since the Google Venice update in 2012, generic queries have become more locally targeted – and now you’ll struggle to find a commercial search query where any of the results listed don’t have localisation to match the location/intent of the searcher.
Think about your proximity to a searchers location and how you can be as central as possible to where your customers are, not just from a footfall perspective, but also online. Furthermore, you may want to consider generating geographically targeted landing pages for your business to expand to different regions (don’t want to ruin it, but see point 14 for a great example!) – just make sure they add value and are high quality in their own right, not just boilerplate-style find and replace pages.
12) Photography is Huge in Local – Take Great Photos & Geo-Tag Your Images
Great images get shared, attract links and get pulled into search results. For local searches, people often prefer to directly search within Google Images – so that they can visualise what they are looking for better.
If you’re not a good photographer – take a course, or hire a photographer. Also ensure that your digital camera automatically geo-tags your photos – that way, when they are uploaded online people will be able to see this and it adds towards the local signals you can provide.
13) Upload Photos & Allow People to Use Publicly with Image Link Credits
For the above image I searched for “Putney Bridge” using a creative commons licensed search on Flickr.
There’s a large number of sites where you can find images to use online. Uploading your images to be shared – specifying that they can be publicly used if a link is provided back to your website as an image credit – can be a great way to start naturally acquiring high quality local links and citations.[t][u]
14) Create better local content than anyone else on the web
If you can create the best content experience for a given subject on the internet, you’re going to get rewarded in one way or another. Airbnb are a great example of this – creating local content featuring outstanding photography, useful advice, combing with maps and local information/travel tips.
Long-term, if you believe that Google wants to rank the best content at the top of it’s search results – this is a solid strategy which can only be built upon over time.
15) Research Local Data to Give it a Newsworthy/PR Angle
We developed an interactive map of the world’s most romantic cities for a client last year – collecting lots of data about the top destinations for dating across the world.
By having a large amount of insightful data, this generated coverage from a wide range of local bloggers and influencers – as well as attracting the interest of top tier publishers and the national media.
Having a local angle within your content can instantly provide more attention and give people a reason to write about you.
16) Find Historic/Uncommon Local Knowledge to Create Unique Online Content
I did some research into the history of Putney and found that “till the 16th century, it is spelt Puttenheth, or Pottenheth” – and also that Frankenstein would never have existed had it not been for Putney Bridge.
Dig deep – visit your local library to find historic information that isn’t published online. If you can find something that no-one else knows, you’ll be sure to generate some strong local attention and coverage.
17) Connect with local bloggers and influencers
Leverage tools like Followerwonk to identify who the top influencers are within your local town.
Don’t be salesy, but start to engage with them – share their content where relevant and essentially build a relationship which can be of value both ways.
18) Build Citations – Understand what content resonates locally
Tools like Buzzsumo are great for finding the best content for a given subject or on a specific domain.
Analyse what local content really resonates and which publishers are writing it – then you can build this into your own content strategy moving forward. Looking to attract local social shares, links and citations for your business to help add to your credibility and trust online.
19) Run local events
A great way to stand making a name for yourself in a local region is to start running events.
Think about what people want to do or see more of within your local area – and find a way to relate that back to your business and how you can help.
One example I gave was for a Putney pub to have given away 50 pints of Guinness to its first 50 customers on St Patrick’s Day. The cost of this will be no more than £200 – and in return, you’ve probably just got them to spend a lot more money in your pub from the good will gesture (think lifetime value!) and word of mouth recommendations – you’ll get your money back in no time.
20) Leverage the power of social media selfies!
In social, a picture really does speak a thousand words. Taking the above example of giving away 50 beers: if these people tweeted or shared a photo to their Facebook wall, think of the localised brand coverage you’d generate!
I’d strongly recommend considering how you can get people to share content via social media and if you can get a celeb to do it, it’s local media news!
21) Promote Using Locally Targeted Paid Search & Social Campaigns
The more people I spoke to about local marketing, the more I found that despite wanting to give them the best advice possible on what they could do to market their business online for free – paid acquisition was a channel they must consider.
The reason for this is because of how targeted you can go; one of the businesses I spoke to ran acookery school in Putney – they have certain times of year where their courses are completely full and other times where they struggle to generate interest.
Locally targeted campaigns using PPC, Facebook or Twitter advertising would be great for this. You target based on specific keyword searches (PPC) or targeted interests (social) around cooking and geo-target this specifically to your local region – turning off the campaign once your course is full.
22) Understand your customers lifetime value
Don’t just think about the value from a first time sale: have a read of how to think about customer lifetime value – this uses Starbucks as the model example.
“Starbucks doesn’t focus on the $5 coffee purchase, they focus on the $15,000 which is roughly their customer lifetime value. A CLTV of $15000 is quite a lot and explains why Starbucks spends so much on creating a habit forming environment and products like free wifi, comfy couches, and a rewards card. This is to ensure the likelihood and frequency of purchases.”
This may change your way of thinking about paid acquisition – ideally you’ll want to cover costs as quickly as you can, especially being a local business where cash flow is likely to be hugely important. But you may not even start paid advertising if you don’t think about the lifetime value you can generate – and that could be a hugely wasted opportunity.
23) Run Local Advertising Campaigns to Send Geo Brand Signals to Google
Google is much better now at looking into brand signals outside of links and on-page optimisation. That means that if you want to dominate online, there’s a good chance you’ll need to do the same offline.
Think of ways you can get people talking about your brand from your local region – this leads to localised traffic and brand search signals which are a great thing to send Google. Regardless of SEO, if you can get people talking locally about your brand in a positive way – whether it’s via paid advertising, PR or being a bit more creative – that can only be a good thing!
Provide the Best Experience for Your Customers
24) Ultimately – Put Your Customers First, Reputation is Everything
If you’re not doing the best job possible for your customers, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about!
Remember that word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions – you can be pretty sure that if it’s a negative experience, that number will be closer to 100% as an influence to not buy!
If you’ve read this far – I’m sure you understand this and are already doing a great job for your customers first and foremost. If you can combine the best experience possible with the above marketing advice, you can really start to take your local business to the next level online.
25) Think Globally, Act Locally
Finally – you may be a local business today, that can give you a great advantage over larger organisations right now – and it give you the chance to do things that don’t scale to really get ahead.
But longer term, you may not want to be pigeon-holed as a company which is only in a certain region – especially in the digital world where you can potentially do business anywhere. So think about how you can become an authority within your sector – you want to localise your marketing for now, because that’s where your customers are – but give yourself an opportunity to grow outside of that too.