According to Google, 97% of people who frequent local businesses find them through the Internet first. Are your customers and prospects finding you?
What can you do to reach out online to local people in your own backyard?
It used to be that a large printed book of yellow pages was what consumers consulted when they needed to find a photographer, bookkeeper or realtor. If they weren’t sure where to go for art supplies, books or pizza, they let their fingers do the walking. The vast majority of today’s consumers locally and globally, however, turn to online searches and internet directories to find what they are looking for. Within a few seconds they are given information about the closest service provider, restaurant or shop, along with real time customer reviews, ratings and “buzz” that influences their decision on which business to patronize.
Making sure that your business shows up in the search results is determined by whether or not you have your town, county or region listed on your website, blog, or social media profiles, as well as if you have a presence on several of the social networks online that are geared toward serving a local clientele. The following resources will get you started in creating more local doorways into your business.
List Your Business Online
Yelp is the most popular business rating, feedback and referral social network and because of its popularity, when your business is listed, your listing will have a powerful presence on the web. Past customers and clients can write reviews and testimonials on your business profile, and potential new customers can find you, learn more about your business, and contact you. The community of Yelp users is expansive and social, and connections are readily exposed to their friends’ favorite businesses. Since Yelp users are directed to businesses closest to their chosen metropolitan area, local people are drawn to you and share your information with other local people. When filling out a business owner profile on Yelp, be sure to thoroughly describe yourself, your business and your company mission, and include all of the extras such as photos of your product or service in action, and any special offers or announcements.
Merchant Circle network is a stand-alone community geared toward connecting local independent businesses with their neighbors. Their platform allows businesses to create mini-websites, blogs, coupons and newsletters – free. Consumers for whom it is important to use local business instead of chain stores or franchises appreciate being able to depend on Merchant Circle to steer them toward truly local, responsive companies, who offer them incentives to do business with them. Emails to your local neighborhood go out on a regular basis, and your business information or coupon is included. Whether you have a website or blog already, creating a presence on Merchant Circle is another powerful way to engage with your local community.
Meetup.com is another way to get extra local and online exposure, as well as being very highly indexed by search engines.When you join Meetup as a member, you can browse any number of topics and find local gatherings to join. Some are weekly, some are monthly. Some are just for some, and some are business oriented. When you join an established Meetup, you create a bio or profile that can be linked to your business information and website. This profile and any activity within the Meetup page is also visible to outside search engines. To get even more visibility, consider organizing your own Meetup (for a fee) or list a current group or workshop you conduct via Meetup’s system.
Google, Yahoo and Bing Local Business Listings
Each of the three major search engines have local business listings where you can create a complete profile that outlines your business description, location, web addresses, categories and photos. Take the time to submit your home business listing to Yahoo, Google and Bing LOCAL.
Customers can rate your service, leave a review or testimonial, and share your profile with their contacts. Creating a local account on the search engines requires verification by phone or mail and that adds credibility to each of the listings, since people know that the businesses listed are verified to be who they say they are. Since these directories are associated with each search engine, having a presence there means that your listing is bumped to the top of search results when someone in your area uses the search engine to find someone who does what you do.
Get Involved in Local Groups Through Social Media
Most major social media platforms have a local component to them. There are Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups. Twitter has Hashtags you can follow and post in, and Pinterest has boards people have created about their local area. Use the search function to locate groups that are already discussing local issues, or sharing tips and ideas about a specific city or region. Jump into the conversation and share your own ideas, and you will start to make new contacts who share that interest. If there isn’t already a group for your local area, consider starting one yourself and you will attract others who like to network locally online.
As you can see there are many resources available for those who want to leverage the power of the Internet and the search engines but really want to target people in their own area. I’ve shared just a few of my favorites here. To take a deeper dive into the how-to’s of these and more, get my ‘Going Local Online’ webinar at Social Buzz U.
An expert in social media and Internet marketing for entrepreneurs, Karen Clark uses her 14 years’ experience in online marketing to meet people where they are and show them how to attract new business, foster loyalty by serving, and stay true to their principles while building an ethical and effective online presence. Her focus is on using the Internet to connect with people, not collect people.