In today’s digital era, a strong online presence is crucial for local businesses aiming to increase their reach and credibility. Gone are the days when you could just ‘open the door and they would come’.
In smaller markets, using local businesses is not a given, it’s a hard-won branding exercise.
With access to bigger markets, just a short drive away, the temptation to use larger multinational brands rather than locally owned-businesses is growing. The offering of choice and price discounting outweigh easy returns and delivery costs.
Local businesses need to understand that they need something more than just a sandwich board to pull in customers.
To build a local presence online, the first step is to create a compelling local search presence organically to boost your Google ratings.
Google has become the new ‘Yellow Pages’ of yesterday. If you want more information you ‘google’ a business and expect to find them online.
Here’s a look at how local businesses can utilise both organic and paid strategies effectively and efficiently to gain local prominence.
Develop an Organic Local Search Presence
Optimise your Google Business Profile (GBP) Listing:
Creating and optimising a Google Business Profile listing is paramount. This free tool from Google helps local businesses manage their online presence across the search engine and its associated products like Google Maps. Ensure your listing contains accurate information, including your business name, address, phone number, website, and operational hours.
Customer reviews significantly influence online visibility and consumer trust. Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your GBP listing and promptly respond to negative ones with a solution-focused approach. If you can’t employ software to do it for you, ask people who leave nice comments on your social media or by email to give you a five-star rating and supply the link to your review page.
Create Localised Content:
Develop content that resonates with your local audience. Regularly updating your website’s blog with locally relevant articles, engaging with local communities on social media, and utilising local keywords can help improve local SEO and establish a solid online presence.
Even if you are not a writer, you know your business, services and products better than anyone, and with advances in AI, anyone can write a blog if you are an expert on something!
Build Local Citations:
Ensure your business information is consistent across online directories and platforms. Building citations, essentially online references to your business, enhances your local SEO and lends credibility. This is easy to do, just contact your local network groups like your local Chamber of Commerce, New Business Groups and Charitable Organisations that you support or are a member of and ask them to include a backlink to your website.
Leverage Paid Marketing Wisely
While organic strategies lay the foundation, paid marketing can elevate your local search presence. Paid advertising, if executed correctly, can be quite economical, especially for businesses targeting smaller areas.
Use Geo-Targeted Ads:
Leveraging geo-targeted ads can help local businesses reach consumers in specific locations effectively. By focusing on a confined area, businesses can optimise their ad spend and increase the relevance of their advertisements.
Explore Local PPC:
Pay-per-click advertising allows businesses to display ads to their target audience and pay only when someone clicks on the ad. Local businesses can utilise PPC campaigns to target specific demographics and regions, making this a cost-effective option for small market promotion.
Employ Social Media Advertising:
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer sophisticated ad targeting options enabling local businesses to reach their specific audience seamlessly. By optimising ad spend and targeting, businesses can efficiently engage local communities and drive traffic and conversions.
Cost-effective Promotion within Small Markets
Partnering with other local businesses for joint promotions or community events can be a win-win. It not only shares the promotional costs but also broadens the customer base and enhances local community relations. If you have regular festivals or events, see how you can help out in return for promotional opportunities. Depending on your business you could also offer discounts or special offers for other supporters or visitors.
Utilise Local Influencers:
Engaging local influencers can be a cost-effective way to gain exposure. Influencers are not always people on Instagram or TikTok with a large following, they can be local people in your area who hold a lot of influence. Court them, introduce them to your business and they may positively promote you to their friends and followers.
Leverage Word-of-mouth and Referral Marketing:
Encouraging satisfied customers to refer new clients can be one of the most cost-effective promotion strategies. Offering incentives for referrals can help in maintaining customer loyalty and acquiring new ones.
By effectively developing an organic local search presence and strategically integrating paid marketing tactics, local businesses stand to gain considerable advantages. Employing budget-friendly promotional techniques enables businesses not just to bolster their online visibility and improve Google ratings, but also to establish deeper and more impactful relationships within their local community.
It is important that you build your brand locally so that when it comes time to buy your customers see and hear your messaging everywhere your buying customers live. These ideas will go a long way to helping your business establish its brand using no-cost or low-cost strategies and hopefully encourage greater support for your business and others like you trying to survive in smaller markets.
Cheryl Jowitt is co-founder of Rebel Connect PL, a family owned and operated Australian business that provides total marketing solutions. Rebel Connect clients have access to advertising across the company’s radio networks, Rebel FM & the Breeze and Rebel Agency, a digital marketing solutions company providing website development, SEM and social media marketing strategies.