Smart Guide to Digital Marketing for Local Business
How to put your local business on the map with digital marketing
A guide to digital marketing for local business, including tips on how to improve your business’s online presence in your local area.
Do you own a business that depends on local trade?
Do you need help getting new customers through the door?
If you said ‘yes’ to either of these, keep reading.
This guide will help your business get noticed by the right people – those just around the corner from your premises.
Here, we’ll introduce you to local digital marketing, explain how your online presence can affect your physical footfall, and show you why it’s important to get it right.
It’s a mammoth task, but with a little help we think you’ll crack it. That’s why we created this guide!
Table of Contents
- Section 1: Why is digital marketing so important to your local business?
- What is local digital marketing
- What impact can it have on my business
- Section 2: Step-by-step guide to local optimisation
- Section 3: Round-up
Section 1: Why is local digital marketing so important
What is local digital marketing?
Effective local digital marketing uses a combination of techniques to make businesses more visible to local customers.
Done correctly, digital marketing gives your prospective customers all the information they want to know about your local business, including:
- Where you’re based
- If you have the products or services they want
- When you’re open
- How to contact you
It sounds pretty easy, so why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, it takes time, effort and serious know-how to get right … but don’t worry, it’s well worth it in the end!
What impact can it have on my local business?
Improved visibility equals improved revenue. It’s that simple.
As more people are able to find you online and learn about your products and services, more will come through your door to spend their money.
Many businesses don’t realise the impact their online presence has on potential customers who might be hovering right around the corner from their front door.Imagine this scenario:
One of them whips out their phone, and voila! They have all the information they need to make a decision:
- The menu
- Whether they cater for specific dietary requirements
- Any special offers available
- Customer reviews
- Social media accounts
If everything’s in tip-top shape, they’ll walk in, sit down and have a lovely meal. However, if they can’t find the information they want or there are a couple of negative reviews, they’re going to go somewhere else.
That’s why managing your online presence is really important.
Section 2: Step-by-step guide to local optimisation
By now we’ve shown you that local digital marketing is a good idea and massively important to your business success. But how do you go about it?
You need to take a holistic view of your digital presence. All your different channels – website, social media, third-party listings and more – must interconnect and give the same positive impression of your business.
We’ll take you through the process, stage by stage, so you know exactly how to make local digital marketing work for your business.
And if you’re thinking you need an all-singing all-dancing website before you can get the word out, don’t worry – you can do most of these steps with a basic site or no site at all!
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is the first tool you should use to establish your local online presence.
It’s a free business profile that displays all your vital information (name, address, phone number – aka NAP).
By creating your free Google listing you can control how your information is presented to customers running searches for your services in your area. It’s an easy way to make sure potential customers can find you and learn more about you.
When you consider that 46% of Google’s searches are local, this quickly becomes very important.
Moz ranked having your business information available as the #1 finding factor. This means if you don’t have it, you probably won’t get found! GMB is the best way to get the information out there, so using it is really a no-brainer.
GMB is mostly powered by your input, so you should make sure your profile is complete. However, it will compare what you’ve entered to data from other providers to ensure accuracy and consistency, so make sure your entries are correct.
What To Do
Simply go to the Google My Business homepage, click “start now” and input your information.
Filling in the standard NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data is good, but stick in your opening hours and you’ll appeal much more to potential customers. They don’t want to come all the way to your shop to find out you’re closed, after all!
We’d also suggest linking your business up to Google Maps while you’re at it. Don’t worry it’s not difficult – you can drag-and-drop a pin into the map right within the GMB tool. 86% of people check business locations on the app before visiting so this is definitely worth doing.
Remember that while a GMB listing is a great start for getting found in local search results, you need to do much more to secure the best positions within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Read on to find out more …
If your business is referenced on any other website, this is known as a citation.
The most common places for citations are online directories such as Thomson Local and Yell.com. However, most business sectors have their own versions: plumbers and builders have Checkatrade; hotels and attractions have Tripadvisor, and so on.
Google is also considered a citation – so pay attention to it! The search giant crowdsources information by asking your visitors about their experience. They know they’ve visited you thanks to location data from their smartphones. They’ll try to find out as much as they can about your business so they can help others make decisions about visiting. Some of this includes:
- Accessibility options
- If it’s kid friendly
- Opening hours
- Busy times
- Parking options
- Suitable for those with special requirements (e.g. gluten free, vegan)
What to do
First, establish the sites your target audience use to find information about your business.
Try to take control of each of the listings on those sites and make sure your business information is correct and consistently formatted. This will avoid misinformation and any unhappy customers.
Make sure to complete any profiles that may have been created automatically or made by someone else.
Don’t just leave it there – regularly monitor all your citations to build the foundations of a strong local presence online.
Reviews and Reputation Management
An enormous 88% of people give them the same weight as personal reviews from friends and family, so you really need to make sure your best side is coming across, whoever comes through the door.
However, reviews are subjective and there is almost always someone who gives a bad one. Luckily, having an existing stream of good reviews will drown out the negatives and persuade readers to come to your local business anyway.
Getting reviews can be a bit tricky, and some industries have it easier than others. If a restaurant delivers a great meal with great service, they’re very likely to get a positive review online. However clients may not think to leave a good review for their conveyancing solicitor after they’ve helped with selling a house.
Tracking reviews can be even harder than getting them. They go out on lots of different platforms including social media and behind-closed-door forums such as Mumsnet and Nextdoor. These can prove particularly troublesome as threads are visible through Google and can seriously affect customers’ purchasing decisions.
What to do
First, make sure you provide a top-notch service that will inspire good reviews all year long. In the hospitality industry, a one-star rise in your online rating can result in a 10% sales boost!
Once you’ve done that, you can start encouraging your customers to leave positive reviews in high profile places, such as:
- Social media
- Industry review sites
- Consumer review sites
- Company website (however, this is not always trusted as readers know you won’t put a bad review up online)
Set up profiles on the key review pages so you can interact with reviewers. Then monitor the reviews coming in and address any feedback (politely). A weekly scan of these pages is what we would recommend.
Each month, search for your brand on Google so you can find out if any third-party websites are posting about you. Address the feedback and make changes to your overall customer experience if needed.
Whatever you do, don’t fake your reviews. This is very bad practice and pretty obvious – visitors may also think you have something to hide if you need to post fake reviews. However, if you suspect a competitor of faking, you can report these reviews as spam.
Have a system
If you really want to manage your reviews well and build up your reputation, you need a good system to back you up.
Manually monitoring review sites is fine, but it can often be a bit of a faff so try a system that sends you alerts about new reviews coming in.
We’ve created a portal designed specifically for local business reviews. It’s called Smart Reviews and controls the way your customers feedback to you.
Firstly, it directs customers to the review sites you want them to use. Then, it presents the reviewer with two options:
- Thumbs up – Invites them to write a public positive review
- Thumbs down – Invites them to email negative comments directly to you
It’s a really handy tool that can make all the difference in reputation management – just make sure you reply to any emails that come in to keep those discussions private!
Website and Onsite SEO
If you have a well-built website that is optimised for local search, you have a great shot at appearing near the top of the SERPs for relevant search terms. And boy, is that important!
70-80% of people ignore the paid ads at the top of the search rankings. Instead they skip straight to the organic rankings – those that are judged by Google to be the most useful and relevant to their keyword search.
Local search optimisation helps with this by making sure your website is full of local industry specific keywords that will help you get found. It helps make sure you’re at the top of the pile, which is great as 75% of people never scroll past page one!
With the rise of voice search, you really need to be gunning for that number one organic spot. Our phones and smart assistants only tell us the top-ranking result. Anything below that is just ignored.
As for what happens after someone Googles you and finds your website, just look at the numbers:
- 50% of mobile local searchers visit a store within a day
- 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase
- 18% of local searches result in a sale on the same day
Don’t forget, 89% of people search for local businesses on their smartphone every week. And a whopping 58% do so every single day. Make sure they find you!
What to do
Before worrying about SEO, your website needs to cover the basics. It has to be:
- Easy to use/navigate
- Mobile responsive
Make sure you know what your website is trying to do. Is it a brochure site, an information resource or a lead generator? Has it been built in a way that supports this goal?
Once these matters are decided, install Google Analytics and sign up for Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). These will allow you to set and measure goals for your website (e.g. source of your traffic, bounce rate, time on page, session duration), and keep on top of any warnings from Google about issues with your site.
Now that’s all sorted, you can think about optimising your website for local search.
Make sure your site displays the same level of practical information beyond NAP (Name, Address, Phone) as you have already included in your GMB and citation listings. Ideally your NAP and opening hours should be on every page of your website.
To get local audiences and search engine crawlers (the things that decide where your pages rank) interested in your site, you can place little ‘hooks’ in the front and backend of your site.
Using structured data is a clever method for anyone looking to target a specific audience. It helps the search engines better determine what the contents of your webpages say.
Schema mark-up is a really useful way to present this structured data – they’re specific tags that you can add to your site’s html, and improve the way the page is represented in search rankings. Make sure it answers the 5 ‘Ws’ – who, what, where, when, why.
All of this makes sure your website is primed for local customers to find you before they stumble upon your competitors’ sites.
Social media is a wonderful thing – it’s estimated that there will be over 3 billion social media users worldwide by the end of 2020. Over 65% of UK adults are now on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and they are checking those sites regularly. That’s a lot of potential new customers!
Admittedly, you only want to target a small snippet of those 3 billion+ users: a hairdresser in Romford isn’t going to need to reach someone in Rio. Yet, used correctly, social media plays a critical part in local digital marketing.
With the right tools, businesses are able to locate social media users in their area, and use various channels to communicate directly with them. Unlike your company website, which can often be a little one-dimensional, social media offers the chance for businesses to engage in dialogue, show their personality, and demonstrate their usefulness to their customers. It acts as an entry point for content marketing, but we’ll delve more into that later.
What to do
Choose your platforms:
Identify which platforms you need to be on. Think about the platforms your customers use, and make sure you business is set up on there.
All companies should be on Facebook and Twitter, even if it’s just for branding purposes. You can have all your NAP information and connect with customers through it.
Facebook is especially important because if you don’t set up a business page, they’ll most likely automatically do it for you – but you won’t control what appears there.
Use your Facebook page to engage with customers and other local businesses for extra exposure. Make sure you respond to any queries or reviews posted on your page.
Facebook has a paid advertising service that is super-useful to local businesses. It allows you to target certain demographics and send out ads based on location. So, a high-level ladies hairdresser in Barnsley can target women aged 25 – 45, within 5 miles of their store. Perfect!
Twitter has its uses too. You can create lists of locals and influencers to target, and check their profiles to see what’s going on. You can also create private lists of competitors – you don’t have to follow them – and keep an eye on what they’re up to.
Other channels such as Instagram and Pinterest can also be useful, especially for visual companies such as retailers, but B2C companies don’t really need to bother with LinkedIn unless it’s for networking.
Next steps …
Next up, you need to attract those in the local area – it’s all about bringing your offline connections online. Here are just a few of the groups you could target:
- Local influencers
- Business partners and suppliers
- Related local businesses
- Local journalists – they’re always looking for a story, and something newsworthy could result in a citation or link!
- Local organisations and charity pages
This will help you create a strong network within the community.
Interact with all of these different people, and post content relevant to them. You need to know your aim for your social media strategy – is it to generate leads or raise awareness? – and this will affect what you post.
Use lists and Twitter searches to find popular tweets from within a certain radius. This can help you identify key influencers to follow. Follow local event pages so you can really get involved.
There are lots of tools that can help improve your output. A social media widget on your website is a great place to start. You can then look at using a social media management tool such as HootSuite to schedule your posts in advance – saving you time in the long run.
You can measure your success through social media analytics. We’d suggest focusing on engagement (content shares, video views and interactions) rather than how many people have ‘liked’ your page. Use Facebook Insights to see exactly what’s going on with your page and its content.
Get some training
Social media needs to be done right. 47% of millennials say their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media, and the older generations are catching up fast.
Proper training will give you the tools you need to manage all of your social media channels. It will also guide you on which content to use and advise you on how to best target your audience.
Social media is a key part of your online presence, and if you work hard, it can generate new local customers time and time again. You just have to stay consistent and stay relevant!
Content marketing is the best way to keep your SEO up-to-date and attracting new customers to your business.
A whopping 72% of marketers say that relevant content creation is the most effective SEO tactic – this is because Google has a strong preference for websites that regularly add good quality content. Usually the best formats are resources such as blogs, guides and help sections. You can also add videos, images and interactive content such as quizzes.
The four main barriers to good content are:
If you can overcome each of them, you can succeed in attracting more local customers to your business. The aim is to educate with content and answer any questions your audience may have, so they feel confident buying from you.
It’s an ongoing and time-consuming process, but content marketing is estimated to generate six times more conversions than other methods. Can you really afford not to do it?
What to do
Content should centre around your audience, so start off by thinking about what they want and need to know. This will determine your content strategy.
Generate ideas from real-life customer questions to make sure you’re always thinking about your content from the customer’s point of view. Don’t just write about what you think is interesting, as your audience may not agree!
Tie in your content to local events, issues and organisations to really get involved in your local community.Imagine:
A veterinary practice decides to publish an article about Guy Fawkes night. Their piece lists where all the local events are held, and offers advice for pet owners on that night. By offering helpful advice relevant to their target audience – pet owners in the local area – they position themselves as trustworthy experts. They might even get a few social media shares out of it too!
The most important thing with content is to keep working at it. Consistency is key, so decide how frequently you can publish new content, and stick to the timetable.
Content is great for many reasons, but one of best things it can do is help to generate backlinks* – and they’re super important!
*Links to your website from third-party sites. Follow this link for more information about backlinks.
The number and quality of backlinks a website has is a great indicator of its popularity or importance with search engines. The more high quality links you have, the more relevant Google and other search engines will think you are.
However, these links must be genuine and reputable – the top organic ranking factor for a site is the quality/authority of inbound links to your domain, according to Moz.
It’s no good buying thousands of spammy links as you’ll get penalised for improper use. Low quality links can really damage your reputation and put a dent in your search ranking so it’s best to cultivate high-quality backlinks wherever possible.
What to do
Think about why other websites would want to send their visitors to your site. 94% of people share posts because they think they might be useful, and businesses do the same. If they think your content is valuable, relevant to their audience and can support their point, they’ll probably link back to you.
Creating high-quality content is one of the best ways to encourage other sites to link to yours. However, there are some other techniques you could try:
- Get involved with local charities/sponsorship events – generate links from organisations and press publishing the story.
- Present content to popular and relevant industry websites – they will decide whether it’s worth linking to.
- Build up citations – online directories are great links, so go back to the beginning and make sure you’ve covered your bases.
- Reciprocal linking – use your website to give free publicity to relevant/nearby businesses, local networking groups, suppliers and friends. If you link to them, chances are they’ll link to you later on.
Remember, the quality of links from locally relevant domains is ranked the 7th highest organic ranking factor, so you should really concentrate on building website connections within the local community.
Throughout the link building process, you should be really careful about what anchor text you use. It must be:
- Relevant to linked-to page
- Keyword-friendly (without overdoing it)
- Not too generic
Proper local link building will improve your credibility as a local source and increase your exposure to potential local customers. Why not give it a go?
Section 3: Round-up
93% of online experiences start with a search engine. If your local business doesn’t rank highly enough (i.e. on page 1 for each of your search terms), you’re going to lose out on a lot of potential revenue.
Using local digital marketing techniques will get you noticed and build a strong reputation. However, that’s only if you do it right – building up your local online presence step by step and making sure your information is consistent and accurate across multiple platforms/channels.
A blip, however tiny, could be the difference between someone visiting your premises, or looking elsewhere. And once they’ve had that negative first impression, it’s really difficult to get them back through your door.
This is really important for local businesses, as their customer base changes very little over time. If you ruin your reputation with inaccurate information or a mismanaged review, you don’t have a supply of new customers to fall back on.
You should consider this when deciding to optimise your website for local search. Can you afford to make any mistakes? Do you really know what you’re doing? Should you consider getting an expert in?
Introducing Smart Local
We’re a bunch of tech-savvy local digital marketing specialists.
Decades of experience has helped us develop tools and techniques to improve local visibility for businesses across the UK, so we’re perfectly placed to help you out.
We take a holistic and proactive approach to local digital marketing, and tailor our methods for each businesses’ individual needs.
We focus on these core areas:
Each strategy we create is designed to deliver top quality outcomes without breaking the bank. We ensure that all the information displayed is consistent and accurate, and anything we create is of the highest standard to really bump you up the local search rankings.
So that’s it. A little bit about us, and a whole lot about local digital marketing. We hoped it helped!
Want to know where you stand in local search? Try out the free analysis tool by clicking on the button below!