Welcome to part four of our seven-part series, “The (Small) Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing.” Today’s focus will be on helping small businesses build awareness of their business through local search. 

Our series aims to provide business owners, particularly small business owners, with fast, actionable strategies to win and keep more customers. The seven parts of this series break down as follows:

The last post in our series, “The Fast Five-Step Strategy,” outlined some of the questions you should ask yourself before starting your strategy build. Today, we delve into how to build awareness of your local business. 

Let’s jump in!

The (Small) Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing, Part Three

Build Awareness: Helping Customers Find You

When people are looking for businesses like yours, how can you be sure they find you when they search online or on smartphones? Here are the channels you need to be thinking about to be sure people know you’re out there:

Directories, Apps & Maps 

Directories are a simple, inexpensive way to ensure your business shows up when local customers look. Apps, Maps and GPS tools—like Google Maps—pull their data from online listings such as your Google My Business page, so it’s essential to start there to build awareness of your location. 

Consider the following:

Add your business to online listings
Are you on the correct listings and directories? First, add your business to the most visible online business data platforms. Sometimes those might be industry-specific directories—but more often, you’ll want to focus on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and similar sites. While this might seem quite complex, a location marketing platform can make it simple.

Keep NAP data accurate
Be sure your location’s name, address, and phone number (abbreviated NAP) data is consistent, accurate, and complete on your local business listings. NAP is the primary data that search engines—and customers—will use to locate you. Again here, using a location marketing software partner can ensure consistency and accuracy across channels.

Remove duplicates
You should never have more than one listing (per location) per directory. Having multiple listings on a single platform for a single business location can confuse customers, especially if they contain variant information. Instead, use location management software that will seek and destroy problematic duplicate listings.

Add categories, tags and structured data
Google My Business listings let you add business categories to your listings, like ‘accounting’ or ‘women-owned.’ You can also add tags and attributes, like ‘parking lot’ or ‘wheelchair accessible.’ Select all available and appropriate tags, so you show up in searches where people look for them. It’s essential to get this right. For example, when you do a local search for ‘cafe’ or ‘coffee,’ the results may be entirely different—even though at least some cafes should also show up for coffee. Be sure to include the language your customers might be using to search.

Plan for voice search
According to Google’s most recent data, 1 in 5 mobile searches are voice searches. That number is growing fast, but an Uberall study found that only 4% of businesses have voice search-ready listings. Be part of that group, and you’ll gain an advantage with it comes to searches made by Siri, Alexa, Google Voice, Cortana, and other voice assistants. 

Claim Google My Business listings
Because Google has 90% of web search volume, you must claim your business there. Therefore, your GMB profile should include data and information relevant to your business, like business category, description, name, address, phone number, website, hours, and other vital details. 

Create an insurance policy for your listings management
We recommend managing GMB and other listings through a listings management system to keep them up to date and consistent everywhere and remove the hassles of having to remember where they all are when something changes. 

Social media

Here’s a short overview of the major social channels and how to determine whether they’re suitable for your local business:

Despite some shifts in the market, Facebook remains the top social media channel for brands and local businesses: 72% of user engagement and 66% of brand-related impressions happen on Facebook location pages (the enterprise equivalent of local business pages). Even if you’ve got a great website, don’t neglect Facebook; customers will leave reviews here, and they will reach out to have issues resolved. Facebook reviews also show up in search results and strengthen awareness of your location. Make sure to claim and populate your local page with content and check back regularly for messages.

Twitter is generally not a meaningful channel for local businesses, although exceptions exist. So unless your customers are big on tweeting, this is one you can probably sit out.

Also owned by Facebook, Instagram is a social channel many businesses may want to consider, especially where visuals are an essential part of the product or service experience. Restaurants have a significant presence on this social platform, in addition to hairdressers, artists, and other creatives. 

Youtube is the second largest search engine after Google. And YouTube can be an excellent platform for local marketing and “storytelling.” Many consumers consult it for video reviews and tutorials. Many “how-to” searches on Google wind up with YouTube results, which creates an opportunity to build awareness for your company or service. YouTube also makes it easy to embed videos on other social media platforms for broader reach. Watch the comments for information on your customers.

Yelp business listings often rank highly in Google for local searches. While Yelp is typically not considered “social media,” in the same sense as Facebook, it is a place where people read, comment and seek recommendations. You may not think you have a Yelp listing, but chances are you do. So be sure to claim it and keep an eye on your reviews—responding where appropriate.

LinkedIn is primarily a business-to-business (B2B) social network, but for professional services businesses—such as attorneys, consultants, realtors, or accountants—it certainly can be helpful.

Other Platforms
There are many different platforms to consider, depending on where your customers may be congregating: Nextdoor, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok and more. Google My Business also has a “Q&A” section, which is not a “social network” but should be monitored. Ask or survey your best customers about their sites to get a better sense of where you might want to focus your attention. 

Search marketing  

Search marketing is an industry term with two aspects, SEO and SEM. Generally, it refers to the effort to help businesses rank higher in search engine results. For most people, “search engine” means Google, the starting point for 90%+ of all online searches. However, Bing and, increasingly, Apple Maps generate meaningful traffic to websites and map listings. So don’t neglect them. In addition, your presence on Yelp and some social media sites can also help deliver more visibility for your business in search results. 

Organic SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to how high your business ranks in the non-advertising area of search results. Many factors affect your search rankings. At the highest level, Google tries to find the best answer or match for the searcher’s question or query. There’s an entire field of digital marketing devoted to SEO, but Google advises companies to create engaging, relevant content on their website, which should also render on smartphones. A blog can help with SEO, as will links from other sites referencing your business or content. 

Paid (SEM)
It can take time for SEO to work, and sometimes it can feel impossible to earn a spot on the first search results page. Another way to get in front of customers when they search online is by paying for it. Paid search or “pay-per-click” advertising is another digital marketing discipline and the primary way Google makes money. As you may already know, companies bid on search terms customers might use to find a business (i.e. salon services or Thai restaurants nearby). The highest bidder’s ad will appear at the top of the page, followed by two or three ads in the same category. Google is trying to make it easier for local businesses to succeed with paid-search ads; however, it can be time-consuming to develop expertise. It’s worth consulting with a trusted expert about how to start using paid search. 

The (Small) Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing

Thank you for reading part four of our series titled “The (Small) Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing.” Next up in our series is “Driving Engagement: Winning Customers’ Trust and Business.