A successful local marketing strategy requires more than just choosing a few general keywords and setting up pages on Facebook and Yelp. Small businesses and consumers are constantly getting smarter. So if you want to stay ahead of the competition and make sure local customers can find your business, your local marketing strategy has to evolve.
Small Business Trends recently spoke with David “Rev” Ciancio, director, industry insights for Yext, a company that helps businesses manage their digital knowledge and reputation everywhere it lives online including listings, maps, apps, Knowledge cards and more. During the conversation, Rev shared a number of helpful insights for small businesses looking to step up their local marketing efforts. Here are the top 10 tips.
Go Beyond Google My Business
Google isn’t the only place where all your business information should be listed and up-to-date. There are hundreds of them out there that range from general sites like Yelp, Facebook and YP.com to ones meant for specific industries like TripAdvisor for hospitality businesses, and YaSabe, USA Yellow Pages site for Latinos.
Rev said overlooking these business listings is the number one mistake that local businesses make with their online marketing efforts. Yext offers a solution that can help you easily control and update all of your business listings across platforms. But even if you don’t choose to use a paid service, monitoring these listings manually should be a top marketing priority.
Scan Through Online Directories Regularly
Updating your digital knowledge isn’t just a one-time task either. You should sift through all the places online where your customers can find these facts about your brand regularly, especially if you’ve made any recent changes, like updating your holiday hours or adding a new service. Doing so should only take a few minutes if you are using Yext. If you are managing your digital knowledge manually, it will take much longer as you’ll need to update each intelligent service on its own..
Rev adds, “A lot of small businesses prioritize their marketing efforts upside down. It’s been reported that the average half-life of a Facebook post is about five and a half hours. Said another way, if I posted something on Facebook five and a half hours ago, there’s a good chance no one will ever see it again. A small business owner could spend hours crafting and monitoring social media posts and to ensure that customers and prospects see them, they should take the time to sift through these online networks to make sure their hours and other information is all correct and up-to-date. If someone can’t find their business in search, they’ll never see that beautiful Facebook post.”
Keywords are a major component of any SEO marketing strategy. But when you think of the keywords to focus on for your local business, you have to go beyond just your industry and location.
Ciancio explains, “If you are a pizza shop then you obviously want to use keywords like pizza and restaurant because those words do still describe your business. But let’s say your pizza restaurant is also really kid-friendly — you have high chairs, booster seats, coloring books, kids menu options, changing tables in the bathrooms and a clown that comes in once a week. In that case, you’d also want to add ‘kid-friendly’ or other keywords to differentiate your restaurant.”
Add Reviews to Your Website
Reviews are another important part of local SEO. Sites like Google My Business and Facebook give customers an easy way to share their thoughts on your business. But how do you encourage more feedback? One option is to add a reviews section to your own website
Rev says, “You can have them on your own website too, you just have to follow the rules — you can’t sift through them. A third-party software can help you navigate these rules.
Respond to Every Single Review
When customers do leave reviews, whether it’s on your website or another platform, respond. You can use it as an opportunity to turn around a negative experience, explain your business’s position or just say sorry and thanks.
Rev says, “Even for customers who give your business five-star reviews, it takes just seconds to say a quick ‘thank you.’ And it can go a long way toward showing customers how much you appreciate their feedback.”
Thank Customers for Reviews Publicly
Another way to respond and potentially even encourage more reviews is to thank customers publicly for them. You can add a quick update to your Facebook page posting a positive review and thanking the individual for sharing their feedback. It’s simple, but it can lead to more visibility and might just remind someone who’s been meaning to share their thoughts to finally do so.
Consider Paid Ads in Some Instances
When it comes to local search, getting your business to the top of the results page, or at least in the top three listings, is the ultimate goal. And sometimes, the fastest way to do that is by paying for advertising space on Google or other relevant platforms.
Rev says, “If one or two out of that three pack is going to a sponsored post, then it might be something to at least consider for your own business.”
Answer Potential Customer Questions on Your Website
Though customers can get plenty of information from search engines and business listings, your website is still important. And your goal when building your website should be to answer any questions customers might have when deciding whether to patronize your business or not. This can be done through a FAQ section or just including enough information on your homepage.
Tailor Your Website to the Customer Experience
You also need to think about the customer journey and tailor your copy to that experience.
Rev explains, “If I’m a plumber and I’m working on my website copy, I have to think about the frequency between how often people call me saying “my faucet just broke — I need someone to come out right away,” and someone looking for more long-term service. If nine times out of 10 someone is calling because they need help right away, then my website should say something like, “Need a plumber right now? Click here to call.””
Prepare for Voice Search
These tips should help your local marketing efforts now. But going forward, there’s another trend that could make a major impact on your search marketing.
Rev explains, “By 2020, 50 percent of all search traffic is expected to be from voice search. When you do that, you don’t get ten blue links to choose from — you get one answer. So small businesses that are not thinking about what will happen when people say, ‘Hey Siri, I need a dry cleaner near me,’ are going to miss out.”e