Local Online Marketing : Tips for New Businesses and Start-UpsFor new local businesses, especially small ones, establishing a local search presence early on is crucial. Understanding your local customers and the best strategies and mediums for reaching out to them is the most important thing you can do to secure local online marketing success. There’s so much information out there these days that it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially for a very busy entrepreneur. So to make things easier we’ve put together a quick list of the 25 steps a new business should follow to jump-start their local search efforts:

  1. Create and/or claim and verify your Google My Business page. Google My Business is a valuable tool for local business owners, because it brings together reviews, business information, and social sharing all in one place for searchers to access. 
  1. Create a Yelp listing. Yelp is a dominating force in the world of business reviews, and a strong presence there can help you build credibility as a new business. Add information about your locations, website, products and services and fill out the page with some high-quality photos of the business. 
  1. Build a Facebook page for your business. The more places potential customers have to find and interact with you, the better. Your Facebook page offers users a way to learn about you and get in touch using a platform they’re already spending a lot of their online time on.
  1. Put your brick and mortar location on Street View Trusted. Google has a list of trusted photographers who can help you bring your location to life on Google Maps.
  1. Reach out to local publications and websites. Whether it’s to offer your services as an expert source for an article, request a review, or simply to take out an ad, this is an important step to building up a local business network and building awareness of your business in the community.
  1. Claim and update every unclaimed local/business listing you can find. There are many local directories and search sites that aren’t as well-known as Yelp or Google My Business, but can still offer you exposure to searchers looking for what you offer. Step #5 in last week’s “Top Ten Local Marketing Tactics” post offers resources for getting started with a local citation audit. 
  1. Polish up your CTAs. All the exposure and website traffic in the world doesn’t mean anything if you can’t convert visitors when they reach you. Tailor each CTA to keep local user and persona considerations in mind.
  1. Take high-quality photos of your location, products, and services (and people, if applicable) to fill out your profiles. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words—and when you’re a brand new business with little brand recognition, showing that you’re a real place with real employees is important.
  1. Focus on social media community building. There are many ways to approach this project, and we covered our top tips for building a social media following here on the blog back in June.
  1. Update your website and all social properties to ensure branding and NAP (name, address, phone number) are accurate and consistent. When users encounter multiple search results for your business, there should be no confusion over what’s the right phone number or address to contact you with. One of the most important user experience factors is consistency; don’t lose potential customers because they’re not sure where to find you or how to get in touch.
  1. Test your website to see how it renders on mobile; update your design if it’s not performing. A staggering volume of local searches happen on mobile, so ensuring visitors’ user experience on your website is vital. Don’t make prospective customers muddle through confusing navigation menus or wait forever for your website to load—they’ll quickly lose interest and pursue another option.
  1. Optimize meta titles with your location as appropriate. This is fairly straightforward, but it’s important to give search engines an idea of how relevant your offerings are for the areas in which you operate, so your pages can be served up in the results for searches in those areas. 
  1. Ask your best customers to review you online. There’s nothing wrong with asking happy customers to vouch for you—many of them will be happy to do so, especially if there’s some sort of incentive involved. Reviews have massive influence over online consumers’ buying decisions, so starting off on the right foot is key.
  1. Share visual content. We touched on this above, but having quality video and photo content present on your website and owned media properties reinforces your business’s credibility. It also gives you more fodder for sharing and linking, which are ongoing marketing tasks that will help you build up your social following and website traffic over the long term.
  1. Take advantage of local awards, events, and sponsorship opportunities. Dig into the business networks, charity events, and sponsorship opportunities in your area. Your business’s name can appear in sponsor lists, event recap articles, in publications, tagged in social posts—the possibilities are endless for a well-connected business.
  1. Start putting together your email list of local customers. There are many tactics you can employ to grow your email list—free downloads, in-store promotions, discount offers, the list is endless.
  1. Learn how to use Schema markup and implement it effectively on your website. This can help Google know what information to potentially include in a Knowledge Graph in search results.
  1. Get friendly with other local businesses. You can share links, swap posts on social, offer deals, and provide value to your customers in other ways by partnering up with local businesses whose offerings complement your own. 
  1. Build our your Wikipedia page. Wikipedia pages often feature in the top five search results, and may also feed into Knowledge Graphs. Note that any content you put on your Wikipedia page must be accurate, well-written, and thoroughly edited.
  1. Implement Open Graph tags on your website. Want to ensure that your website and blog content always look good when they’re shared in other places? Open Graph tags can help you set parameters for titles, excerpts, and photo thumbnails that will appear in social posts around the web. 
  1. Establish your local search campaign KPIs. In the early days it’s all about “exposure”, but it’s important to have clear goals and performance indicators for any local online marketing effort from the beginning. Measuring success and adjusting your tactics will be very difficult without some kind of benchmarking in place.
  1. Set up a blog. The early days of any business are incredibly busy; it probably feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to even consider sitting down and writing blog posts. There is a lot of data out there confirming that blogging is a very effective marketing strategy, and the early days—when you’re trying to get the word out any way possible—are the perfect time to kick start this aspect of content production. (Did you know that 61% of consumers say they’ve made a purchase based on a blog post they read?)
  1. Put your reputation management plan in place. Do you know how you’ll handle a bad review or negative customer experience? This early in the game, winging it is not an option. Take a look at our recent post on managing negative online reviews to get an idea of where to start.
  1. Host events at your location. Not only will you have potential customers walking through your doors, but event recaps are a great way to generate content for your blog and social media profiles. Photo ops are also a plus, as well as the potential for newspaper or blog coverage. It’s also a great way to introduce your business to the community, interact with your target audience in person and meet other business owners.
  1. Maintain the momentum. When things get busy, local online marketing activities are often the first to fall by the wayside. For small businesses in particular, keeping up with your digital campaigns can be a challenge; when you have a small staff, everyone wears multiple hats. But a well-structured marketing plan and clear goals can help you stay on track and avoid losing value due to waning resources or attention.