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Small Business Marketing: Optimizing for a Local Audience

What is a Press Release?

Unless you are reading this post very late at night; take a moment, close your eyes and think about the last search you did on your phone.

Was your stomach rumbling which initiated a search for ‘pizza’ or were you running in-between meetings and needed a quick stop at a coffee shop? In this, and hundreds of other scenarios, you are expecting the technology behind your phone and the search engine to deliver results that are relevant to your current location. And they both deliver, a million times over.

In fact, according to Google, 40% of mobile searches are local in intent. Combine this with the projection that by 2014, mobile internet use should overtake desktop use and it may be time for a mobile marketing awakening.

Any small business with an opportunity to attract and sell to a local audience can benefit from local optimization.

Evaluate Your Audience

As with any marketing initiative, it’s always important to evaluate your target audience. There are a plethora of scenarios where it absolutely makes sense to have local marketing efforts. A few of the quickest examples include restaurants, retail shops and local-intent services such as dog grooming, salons, health and fitness, etc. The list goes on.

If your small business marketing strategy already includes a focus on local optimization, leverage your customer database to mine data and potentially uncover new opportunities. For example, if you can export a list of all customers from the last 12 months and then sort by zip code.

Is there a concentration of customers from an area of the city – outside of your specific location - that surprises you? If so, this can help guide your local optimization efforts to include information relevant to that part of the city and ultimately cultivate new clients.

However, there are also scenarios where Local Optimization may not be the highest priority, if you are looking to prioritize. For example, if you are creating medical device implants and your audience is national and you don’t openly invite drop-in visits there may be other high-impact small business marketing tactics to pursue first.

Know the Local Search Landscape

To uncover opportunities for local optimization, start first with checking your current site analytics. Specifically, look for:

  • Broad, competitive phrases where you aren’t on Page 1 in Google and therefore likely your site showed up in local results – i.e. pizza
  • Broad, Geo-Modified phrases – i.e. Washington DC pizza
  • Specific, Geo-Modified phrases – i.e. Dupont Circle pizza

Next, perform test searches to see where your site is ranking for terms which are sending traffic to your website and those which aren’t sending traffic but are relevant. Try variations including different search engines, mobile vs. desktop and even do test searches when you are away from your location for a more realistic experience.

With this information, you can identify:

  • Keywords where you are receiving traffic, but could benefit from higher visibility
  • Keywords where your site isn’t on page 1, but should be

Apply Local Optimization

Leveraging the keywords identified in test searches, you can apply local optimization to the following.

  • Google+ Local (formerly known as Google Places)
    1. Make sure you set up and optimize local listings, which is critical in alerting Google to your location(s)
  • Your Website
    1. Identify opportunities to incorporate keywords into the site that represent high-priority phrases. Key pages include; home page, about us, locations and contact us page
  • Content (Blog Posts, Press Releases & Social Media)
    1. Blog Posts – consider created a series of localized content, such as a blog post featuring each location and what makes each one unique
    2. Press Releases – from localizing your city, MSA, keyword optimization in the post and boiler plate, press releases offer strong local signals
    3. Social Media – leverage similar efforts as the blog posts and feature your location(s) within social media content, your customers, new offerings etc all to create a larger online footprint of locally-optimized content

Localize & Measure

Go forth and localize! And when you do, it’s important to benchmark current results so you can understand what’s working and what’s not post-optimization.

Here are a few items to measure along the way:

  1. Sales
  2. Foot Traffic (if appropriate)
  3. Changes / Increases in search engine traffic (keyword referrals)
  4. Search Visibility
  5. Referrals from Social Media / Press Release Channels

With mobile searches increasing, and search engines making a more concerted effort to deliver local results across a wide spectrum of intent-based phrases, there’s no time like the present to start optimizing for local audiences. Do you have a unique approach you have tried when trying to spur local interest? Share with us below and we’ll pick the five we feel are the most creative comments and send a free copy of Marketing in the Round, by Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingtson to any US postal address.

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