Most small business owners are both fascinated and overwhelmed by the web. Consumers rely on the Internet for purchasing decisions more and more. In fact, by 2014, more than half of all retail sales (53%), offline and online will be affected by the web according to Forrester Research from two years ago. This trend is already affecting all brick and mortar businesses, but most small businesses are not equipped to deal with the complexity of the web.
Here are 10 local Internet marketing tips that will help you grow your business without spending thousands of dollars.
Sure, you can sell your services online without a website, however, it is an uphill struggle with the hill getting steeper and steeper. Just having a website offers tremendous benefits, but having a website that sells your service can propel your business growth sky high while cutting your costs. Your website should be either your first salesperson or come in close second and this is how:
Make sure that the design of your site reflects your commitment to your business as it is the first impression potential customers get of your business. Design should be used to convey credibility and inspire trust.
Educate Your Visitors
This is a crucial element of successful websites. Potential customers will land on your site to solve a problem or to fill a need, without necessarily knowing what products, services, solutions or even concepts will work for them. In educating customers your website needs to make two big sales.It needs to sell:
In other words, both primary and selective demand have to be satisfied for a website to succeed (ie. if you own a PPC management consultancy, you have to sell PPC, as well as you your company).
Show your visitors how to use your products. Take a look at this page
When you run a business that caters to customers in a specific town, state or a region, make it known, on most pages of your website:
This will help your potential customers to immediately realize that they are on the right website, but perhaps the bigger benefit comes from the search engines knowing that your website should be served as a result for queries with local intent, thus attracting targeted traffic.
Small local businesses have an almost built-in competitive advantage over larger businesses – trust. However, small business websites usually are not created with trust in mind.
To solve this, think of your website as your storefront. Besides making sure that design is professionally done, and your copy doesn’t have spelling errors, you could also include memberships in your local business associations, industry organizations, press coverage if you had any, along with testimonials from your former customers.
A website that cannot be trusted cannot be a good salesperson.
Since the goal of your website is to sell services and/or products, it is necessary to measure how exactly your website performs.
Web Analytics doesn’t have to be expensive nor complicated. You could implement Google Analytics. It is a fairly powerful and easy to use. On top of that, Google Analytics is completely free and will satisfy the needs of all local small businesses.
Learning even the basics of web analytics will allow you to understand Internet marketing much better and to see how effective your online, as well as offline, marketing efforts are. I recommend to start with the materials Google offers, that can be found at their Google Analytics Education pages. If you prefer a crash course, I suggest this video.
The importance of local search seems to be growing exponentially. Google started integrating “general” organic search results with their local search results even more, which gave a huge push to Google Places.
There is a number of things you can do to improve your Google Places page that doesn’t require any outside help, such as:
In addition to this, you should try to encourage your current customers to leave a review of your business on Google or other local search platforms without incentivizing them.
No local business can afford to miss being present in Bing and Yahoo! local, because these two local search engines combined represent a significant portion of the market.
You can submit your business to Bing local by using this link., and to Yahoo by visiting this page. Both Bing and Yahoo! offer similar features as Google.
Now that you have a perfect local business website, the world must know about it. This is important because every link to your small business website can bring customers. As a free bonus, search engines use links to determine relative importance of pages of your site.
This means that one of your marketing goals should be to get links from other websites. You can do this by:
There are many active and vibrant messaging boards in almost every town in the US. Being an active member of your local messaging boards can be very beneficial to your business, especially if you’re not trying to sell your products and/or services.
However, by helping people solve their problems you can become their go-to person when they think about hiring and/or buying services that your business offers.
Twitter is an excellent tool for communication, but unlike local forums, Twitter can do wonders when it comes to connecting with your current customers. You can offer “Twitter specific” discounts and coupons, referral rewards, etc.
Not all industries can reap the same kind of benefits from Twitter, but in every industry you can use it to communicate with your customer base.
According to Hitwise, Facebook surpassed Google in the number of visitors for 2010. This made it crucial to make Facebook a part of your local Internet marketing strategy. Here are some tips to get you started:
Online classified sites such as CraigsList can help you grow your local business because:
they have massive user bases (according to Compete.com, CraigsList is roughly double the size of Twitter)
they are inherently local
their user base is usually at the end of the buying cycle.
And never forget to rinse and repeat.