As a small or medium-sized business owner who wants to grow locally and become a local force to be reckoned with, you obviously need local customers.
So, what’s your game plan? Flyers, billboards, spreading the good old word of mouth?
In this digital day and age, your go-to channels, platforms, and marketing resources are all online. After all, don’t we all use the internet, specifically Google, for literally everything? From how to tie a tie to “best restaurants near me,” Google has all the answers.
A vast majority of users looking for local services or products like yours will first look them up online.
Now, wait for the jaw-dropper. After looking up (and finding) your local business online, 88% of those users will go on to call you or visit you within 24 hours! Talk about a surge in leads.
But now for the kicker. How will they actually find your local business online? How do you get those local customers? That’s what you’re about to find out.
Follow along for some great local business-boosting, customer-generating tried and true online strategies.
Grow Your Local Business with Google My Business
When going for local customers and local exposure, you won’t find a better partner than Google My Business (GMB). Your very first step should be creating a GMB profile or optimizing it if you already have one.
But first – why GMB? Because a GMB listing is the first thing that shows up in local search results. It puts your local business on the map – literally (on Google Maps) and figuratively (increases your online visibility and exposure). It also gives your customers all the info they need.
They’ll see your exact location on the map and know you’re near them, in the same city or area they are.
And if that’s not convincing enough, how about this? Around 50% of all clicks on search engine results pages (SERPs) go to the top 3 GMB listings. You don’t want to leave those clicks and clients to the competition. So better hurry up and claim that top 3 spots. Here’s how to do it.
The first step is to open a GMB profile if you don’t already have one on the Google My Business page. If your business has been around for a few years already, you might already have a listing up there. You just haven’t claimed it yet. You can easily check this by typing in your name in the search box. If it shows up, you will have the option to claim it. And that’s exactly what you should do.
If there’s no existing listing, then choose the option “Add your business”. Follow the steps and instructions, and make sure to put in all the correct info. Once all that is done, you will also need to verify your GMB listing. You’ll fill out an application form, wait 3-5 days for Google to review it, receive a verification code that you’ll enter, and voila! Your GMB is up and running.
And now for the optimization. If you want to be on top, visible, and get those clicks from local customers, optimization is key. So, here are the optimization highlights:
- Use your full and actual business name for the listing
- Choose the most relevant category, one that fits your business best
- Try to fill 100% of your profile – provide all the data that you can
- Double-check your phone number and work hours, and mark holidays when you’re closed
- Choose the photos that represent you best, improve the ones you have
And finally, make sure all your data is up to date, keep track of your account, and always stay on top of any changes.
Make Your Way Into Local Directories
The next thing to do is sign up in local directories and business listings. Not sure what these are? Ever heard about Yelp, TripAdvisor, MapQuest, and Foursquare? These are all directories. They are sites with business listings, i.e., profiles of different businesses where users can easily find information about them and, in many cases, reviews as well.
Basically, they are the modern-day, upgraded versions of phone books and the yellow pages. So, making your way into them is very important if you want your potential clients to find you.
What is significant about directories is that Google has been giving them more and more relevance and pushing them to the very top of search results. So when your potential customers Google you, they’ll click on your GMB listing if it’s there, then most probably on the local directory that came up just below (or vice versa). They’ll be able to learn more about you and double-check your location to find you more easily.
In addition to that, another great thing about local directories is that your existing clients can leave reviews there. And we all know that good reviews are gold! This is, therefore, a great way to leave a good impression and strengthen your overall reputation.
So, sign up for those directories, and get those listings and new local customers. It’s usually pretty simple, straightforward, and all you need to do is fill in the information about your business.
But there’s one crucial thing to keep in mind! Keep that information – most importantly NAP – consistent!
Get Your NAPs in a Row
In digital marketing, we like to use a lot of acronyms. NAP is one that we hear and use a lot. It stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. It’s the basic and most important information about your business. It’s only logical to make sure it’s correct and consistent across all your business listings in local directories.
So what exactly do we mean by this consistency?
When it comes to your business name, it means writing it the same way everywhere. Don’t use abbreviations in some places and full names in others. Decide if you’ll be using “LLC” alongside your name or not and stick to your decision.
When it comes to the address, details such as using both “St” and “Street” are OK. Both your customers and search engines will understand this. But things like street numbers, zip codes, cities, and street names should be identical everywhere. Make sure to include the full address every time without leaving out any of the info.
One of the top reasons for having this consistency is pretty straightforward. If your potential customer sees two different addresses for your business, they won’t know where to go and eventually won’t go to you. Imagine how many sales you risk losing just for this small, yet crucial mistake!
You also risk losing online visibility and rankings. Google doesn’t take kindly to inconsistency, either. Correct and consistent info, on the other hand, will be a positive signal for ranking you higher on both Google Maps and SERPs. The more listings you have in local directories, and the more accurate and consistent your NAPs are, the greater online visibility you will achieve in your local area.
When creating listings of any kind, just make sure all your NAPs are in a row. Including the NAP on your website.
Localize and Optimize Your Web
Now that we’ve mentioned websites, we can’t go on without touching upon location pages and a bit of local search engine optimization. The bottom line is – you can’t become the #1 local business without having a dedicated and optimized page for your specific city or area.
That’s because, first of all, your local customers expect the page they click on in search engine results to be dedicated to their specific area. And secondly, you need to show Google that your business is actually in the location where it claims to be.
Now, if you operate in only one location – your entire website should be optimized for that location. And if you operate in multiple locations – you should create as many pages as the locations you serve.
But what exactly do we mean by “optimize”? As a starting point, your location pages should contain location-based or geographic keywords. These will be specific words and phrases that your local customers google, accompanied by the location name, such as wedding cake baker in Des Moines.
These geographic keywords should be included throughout your website’s content, as well as in some crucial website elements, such as the URLs, meta titles (also known as title tags), and H tags (titles and subtitles).
And while on the topic of optimizing your location pages, there is another key aspect they all need to have – a schema markup.
Get Some Structure With Schema Markup
So, on your path toward getting more local customers and becoming a local force, you’ll also need some structure, and you’ll get it with a local business schema markup.
At its core, a schema is a form of microdata. A group of tags that are added to a website and that help search engines better understand your location-based info, such as NAP. It provides context and helps Google decide which information to display. It was basically created as a bridge between search engines, which are always looking for the most accurate data, and local businesses wanting to appeal to their customers.
So, by properly implementing schema markup, you help Google push and display all the most relevant info for your customers across SERPs. Or better yet, more informative, descriptive, and user-friendly results are generated.
For example, once you have the schema properly implemented, Google can generate the so-called “rich snippet” for your business on search results pages. This means it will pull additional data from your schema structured data and display it. This additional data may include your location, business hours, reviews, ratings, photos, and even menus and recipes. The regular snippet shows only your web’s URL, title, and meta description.
Last but not least, it’s important to implement separate schemas on every location page if you have more of them so that Google can easily understand all the info about your business and the locations you operate in.
Stay in the Local Game
Staying competitive and at least one step ahead of your local competition is a tough game. And it will only get tougher with time, new trends, and with every new business that springs up.
But if you use these tips and strategies for generating local customers, you will kickstart your business growth and get on top of the local game!
About the author
Matej is a digital marketing expert, CEO, and head strategist at Kala Presence, with more than 10 years of experience in the marketing industry. For both his local and worldwide clients, he offers comprehensive, hands-off digital marketing solutions, fully personalized strategies, and complete market domination. He perfected his skills in the most competitive U.S. market, and now uses the valuable knowledge, techniques, and experience he gained to further promote and advance digital marketing in Croatia.