Much to the relief of pretty much everyone, SoLoMo – a crude portmanteau of Social Local Mobile, and surely one of the most godawful marketing buzzwords in existence – failed to catch on and become part of digital marketing’s already insufferable lexicon.
However, that doesn’t mean that local search also fell by the wayside. If anything, it’s become even more crucial than it was a couple of years ago, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses hoping to drive more foot traffic to their store.
To help you maximize your local visibility, we’ll be looking back at the 13 best local marketing tips we’ve ever published. Some are highly specific while others serve as more of a generalized guide, but if you’re trying to reach new customers in your area, grab a coffee and read on.
Our first tip is among the most important, but it’s also one that often elicits audible groans from already overworked marketers.
An example of a unique landing page that accompanies an ad for legal advice for LLCs
Relevance is key to the success of a locally focused campaign, which means reusing generic or overly broad landing pages could cost you conversions. Per our recommended PPC best practices, creating unique, highly relevant landing pages for EVERY SINGLE campaign is one of the best ways to increase your conversion rates. Yes, there’s a greater upfront overhead in terms of time, but laying the groundwork in this way can pay off big further down the road.
Facebook Ads’ greatest strength – besides its obscenely large global user base, of course – is the granularity with which advertisers can target their ads.
Facebook offers advertisers a truly remarkable range of targeting parameters
Facebook allows advertisers to target their ads using virtually every aspect of a person’s life as an advertising parameter, including demographic data such as age, life events like getting married or having a child, their level of education or approximate income, and much more. These parameters can then be combined with location targeting, refining potential audiences even further.
Aside from serving as a cautionary tale about how much information we willingly surrender online, this level of granularity is what allows Facebook to offer advertisers an incredible degree of control over their campaigns.
However, although Facebook’s targeting options are very powerful, it’s important to remember that being too selective with your audience targeting options could result in diminishing your audience to the point it becomes detrimental, so tread carefully.
Unique, highly relevant landing pages are the cornerstone of many ad campaigns (as we established in tip #1), but landing pages can be a double-edged sword; they can be a powerful tool, but they can also be among the “leakiest” stages of the funnel.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate the possibility of losing conversions to a landing page and capitalize on mobile traffic is to use Call-Only campaigns. This ad format is available in both Google Ads and Facebook, and allows advertisers to bypass landing pages entirely by offering users a “Call Now” button in their ads, which lets users call your business directly by clicking on an ad.
This feature can be immensely valuable to advertisers hoping to connect directly with prospective customers. Why ask prospects to fill out a web form when they can literally talk to you within seconds of seeing your ad?
We all know that Content is Good, but it’s amazing how few locally-focused businesses don’t bother with content as a marketing strategy. It’s understandable; for many small-business owners, there are barely enough hours in the day to actually run their business, let alone launch and sustain a comprehensive content marketing campaign, but for those who can handle the extra work, it could really pay off.
Local content – it’s what’s for dinner.
Creating locally focused content is an excellent way to both increase your visibility to prospective customers and establish your business as a trusted voice in the community. When it comes to deciding upon which types of content you should produce, think about it from the perspective of your customers. What are their most common questions? What aspects of your products or services could benefit from complementary content? Are there opportunities for seasonal content?
When AdWords first launched back in 2000, the ads users saw alongside their search results were…a little rudimentary. Today, advertisers can take advantage of a number of features and ad formats to improve their visibility, and ad extensions are among the most effective ways to do so.
There are two ad extensions in particular that can be very powerful for local search marketing:
Display Location extensions allow advertisers to – you guessed it – display their business’ location as part of their PPC ads, which resembles the example image above.
Users who see ads with Display Location extensions can click on the address in the ad to receive directions to an advertiser’s store, which is an excellent way to drive foot traffic. As well as making it as easy as possible for prospective customers to find your store, this extension could also offer local search marketers a competitive advantage; even if a rival store is closer, having one-click directions available could tempt prospective customers to patronize your business.
Promotion extensions are among the most recent additions to AdWords’ already lengthy list of ad extensions. This ad extension allows advertisers to add time-sensitive offers to their PPC ads, as seen below:
This can be a powerfully persuasive addition to your ads, particularly if you’re targeting high-commercial intent keywords or branded terms for popular product lines. Speaking of time-sensitive…
Although AdWords’ Promotion extensions can be very powerful, no ad extension can replace unique, relevant ad copy, which is why you may want to consider creating unique ad copy for time-sensitive sales and promotions.
Again, this is a bit more work than relying on more automated solutions such as Dynamic Keyword Insertion, but it can really pay off. Combining Promotion extensions with unique ad copy that emphasizes time-sensitive offers can be very persuasive to would-be customers.
One of the most powerful tools at marketers’ disposal when it comes to local search is geotargeting.
While ecommerce businesses likely aren’t too concerned about where their customers are located, the same cannot be said for local retailers and businesses with a predominantly local focus. Fortunately, AdWords makes it easy to maximize visibility in specific areas through its geotargeting options.
Geotargeting isn’t just useful for businesses operating out of a physical store or location. It’s also ideal for individuals and companies that operate across wider regions, such as plumbers who serve customers in several states, for example.
Combining ad scheduling with geotargeting can be an incredibly powerful way to focus your marketing efforts on specific areas at specific times – a win-win for local advertisers—not to mention allowing advertisers more control over when their ads are displayed to users.
Say you own a pizza parlor and want to drive more traffic to your store. If your ads were displayed to searchers at all times of day, you could end up wasting money on clicks that will never convert. On the other hand, by selecting specific windows of time during which your ads can be shown to prospective hungry customers, you can maximize your visibility and keep your ad budget under control.
Another technique you can use to maximize your visibility in local search is by using location-based bid adjustments.
Location-based bid adjustments allow advertisers to bid higher on certain keywords in specific areas, such as individual cities, states, or even zip codes. This means that advertisers can prioritize bidding on keywords that are more likely to drive conversions.
For example, a pizza parlor may bid less on more generic search terms such as “family pizza restaurants” but bid more on more specific terms such as “family pizza restaurants Buffalo”.
Although location-based bid adjustments have been around in AdWords for ages, prior to the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns, advertisers were forced to create entirely separate campaigns if they wanted to adjust bids based on specific locations. Today, location-based bid adjustments are very easy to implement.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it never ceases to amaze me how hard many businesses make it to find their damned address on their website.
Obviously, it’s crucial that you optimize your site for mobile. It’s just as important, however, to remember that unless you make your business as easy to find as possible, you’re missing out on untold opportunities to attract new customers.
With so many ways to create sophisticated websites with no coding knowledge such as Squarespace and similar hosting services, there’s simply no excuse for not including your address and a Google Maps widget to help people find you.
Alongside word-of-mouth recommendations, social proof is among the most persuasive elements you can leverage when promoting your business.
The proliferation of review sites such as Yelp and the ubiquity of customer reviews mean that customers – satisfied or not – expect to be able to gush and/or vent about how great/awful you are. If your customers love you, why not make the most of your business’ fans by asking for reviews and promoting the positive customer feedback on your social channels?
Many small businesses leverage this technique to great effect, particularly on Facebook. If a customer leaves you a gushing message about how much they love your business, engage with them and gain more exposure by promoting this feedback. You don’t necessarily need to use positive customer feedback as the basis for ad creative, either – it’s just as viable to incorporate customer reviews into your organic social content.
Google My Business is a free and yet incredibly powerful tool for local businesses. Your Google business listing (aka your Business Profile) appears on Google Maps, in the local section of Google Search results, and on the right-side Knowledge Panel of Google Search. Creating a Google listing is easy, but doesn’t give you control over that listing. You must also create a Google My Business account to be able to access and optimize your listing. All of the additional details about your business that you provide in your Google My Business dashboard will then populate in your Business Profile, making it more attractive to customers and more likely to rank in results. You’ll also need a Google My Business account if you want to use Location extensions as mentioned above.
Claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile through your Google My Business account is absolutely critical for marketers focused on local search. Not only does this make your business easier to find, but it also offers searchers much more information about your company and opportunities to engage with you right within the SERP.
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We’ve covered a lot of ground, but there’s one last tip you may want to try, which is using Local Search Ads as part of your wider advertising strategy.
Local Search Ads were introduced last year as a way to further develop Google Maps as a commercial platform for advertisers. These ads can appear directly on Google Maps (both web-based and app searches), as well as Expanded Maps results from Google.com. They feature prominent “Call” and “Directions” buttons, meaning that it’s practically effortless for prospects to call or find you from a Maps search.
It might seem a little like overkill to test Local Search Ads in addition to several of the steps outlined above, but rather than think of it this way, instead think of it as covering all your bases; your business should be as easy to find as possible, whether from an organic result of a generic search, a PPC or paid social ad, directly from your own website, or as part of a Google Maps search. The more steps you take to maximize your visibility, the greater the potential ROI will be.
Here are some resources you might find useful for further reading on local marketing:
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
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