So here’s the thing: Local search is powerful. If you aren’t targeting local search, you’re missing out on an awful lot of business. You’re basically standing aside going “Here, competitor, please, take all this new custom. I don’t want it.” That’s crazy, right?
In the fast-paced Digital Age, the world is going increasingly mobile. That’s not to say that desktop computing is obsolete, but smartphones and tablets are a big deal – particularly for local businesses. Local business and mobile search go hand-in-hand. Prospective customers or leads are actively looking for your business or your type of business in their local area.
If you aren’t taking the time to optimize for local search, guess what? Consumers won’t find you – all your competitors and the big national companies will all appear before you in the search results. You’re literally leaving money on the table for someone else to just scoop up.
When businesses with a focus on local products and services hire me for content marketing, consulting, or social media engagement, alongside content creation, one of the first things I work on is helping them optimize their online presence to harness the power of local search. And it always gets significant results. Website traffic, social engagement, and – where applicable – foot traffic increases and so, in turn, do conversions and sales.
If 60 percent of adults are using their mobile devices to search for local business and service information, what can you do to get your slice of the pie? Well, the good news is that there are a number of free tools that you can and should use, even if you’re not a tech-savvy marketing whizz.
If it seems like a bit of a chore, just remember, 50 percent of all those who search for local products or services on their mobile visit a business within one day, and a whopping 18 percent make a purchase within one day.
The thing about mobile searchers:
Generally speaking, they are already a fairly long way through the purchase cycle – they tend to be “sale-ready” – so you’ve got a far higher likelihood of converting these leads into actual sales – if you get your online presence optimized.
Here’s our list of the top five free tools that everyone can and should use to market their local business.
1. Google My Business
Here’s a shocking statistic for you:
46 percent of all Google searches are local searches.
Yes, almost half of the people looking at your business online are within your local area. And Google has the biggest share of all online searches, so it should come as no surprise that Google My Business comes at the top of this list.
This one is crucial. Get your business listed with a full profile right away. You’re missing a huge amount of traffic and therefore potential sales every day that you don’t get this filled out. It’s super simple to set up, too. Even if you’re not a total techie, getting your business profile filled out isn’t difficult.
Google voice search also pulls information from Google My Business – so there’s even more opportunity to get found.
When you sign up, be sure to include all your social media links, contact information, and plenty of images so consumers can see who you are, what you’re about, and what you offer. A robust profile also helps potential leads feel that they can trust you – which is a huge plus.
If you link all your accounts from across the web, it also helps the Google bots pull everything together, which, in turn, can increase your trust and authority with Google, which is good for your search engine rankings.
You’ll be able to see customer reviews, the number of people clicking through to your website, the number of Google My Business profile views, and other potentially important data that can give you real insight into your online presence.
Landing in second place, Yelp, for marketing a local business online, is an invaluable tool. It doesn’t quite have the power of Google – but then, who does? But with over 145 million unique visitors per month, Yelp is not to be sneezed at. It’s one of the top go-to sites for looking for local business information.
With that level of monthly traffic, there’s no denying having a Yelp profile for your business is a smart move. People search on Yelp for reviews, contact information, opening hours, and all kinds of other business-related content.
So, go to Yelp, claim your website, and build yourself a thorough profile. Include as much information as possible. Give people plenty of pictures to look at along with everything they need to know about your business. Keep your profile up to date. Track visitor behavior, manage your page, interact with customers, and monitor engagement, and even respond to feedback and reviews.
Because Yelp is such a popular search destination, if you can build up a strong profile and get plenty of positive reviews, website traffic and foot traffic should increase significantly.
3. Facebook Page Manager
Every business, however big or small, needs a solid social media presence, and for local businesses, a Facebook page is unquestionably vital. If you haven’t already got one, set one up – and start scheduling posts right now. Again, make sure you add lots of images and complete your profile to make it easier for consumers to find you.
Then, to make it easier to manage your Facebook presence, go download the Facebook Page Manager app. Using this app, you have complete control of your Facebook business page from any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.
Here’s what you can do with it:
- Post and share content, images, videos, and company updates
- Interact with customers on your page
- Send and respond to private messages
- Receive activity notifications along with tips and reminders
- Access your page insights data
- Manage page settings and roles
If you don’t have someone running your social media presence for you, this app makes it faster and easier to do it yourself whenever you have a few spare minutes.
Remember: Your business needs to be active on Facebook. Everybody uses and trusts Facebook. If you don’t have a presence, go make your page right now. If you don’t have time or just don’t know how, I strongly suggest you hire a social media manager to at least get you up and running.
4. Bing Places for Business
Google is unimaginably huge. So is Facebook. But Bing is still very much alive and kicking – even if you’ve forgotten it exists. “Google” might be a colloquial term for “search online” (nobody I know says “I’m just going to Bing that”), and Google are indeed the giants of internet search, but Bing still controls a respectable 33 percent of online searches. So if you neglect Bing Places for Business, you’re essentially neglecting a third of your potential customers.
So once you’ve set up your Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook business profiles, head over and do your Bing one, too. It’s very similar to Google’s offering and is pretty straightforward. It only takes few minutes to get yourself established on here – and if you’ve already done your profiles on the other sites, you’ve got all the photos and relevant information ready to upload.
Yes, it’s absolutely true that Google has a far larger share of the search market – but many other business owners – including your direct competitors – are obsessed with Google. And many of those people just don’t bother with Bing – so you’ve got the opportunity to really stand out here and get a big portion of that one-third of online searches onto your website.
5. YP for Business
If you were around in the 80’s and 90’s, there’s more than a fair chance you can remember thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find contact information for a local business. Or using the giant book to crush bugs. It was a staple in every home and every business. Today, the book is obsolete for the purpose of marketing a local business, although it’d still make a pretty good bug smusher. Nobody flicks through pages and pages of thin yellow paper – they pull out their phone or tablet – or open a new browser window if they happen to be at their desk.
YP moved with the times and embraced the Digital Age and created the YP app. You can have your business listed in the directory for free. It only takes a few minutes, and judging from their stats, it’s worth a few minutes of your time:
- 60 million unique monthly visitors searching for local businesses
- More than 15 million app downloads
- YP drives more than three calls per second to local businesses
Whether you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar store, an online-only service business, or something in between, you can increase your sales, leads, and conversions with these five tools for local search. Each only takes a short time to set up, doesn’t cost you anything, and helps to increase your online presence. Grasp the opportunity and make the most of the power of local search.
78 percent of local mobile searches end with a purchase. That’s a huge figure. Just think of all the sales you’re missing out on if your customers can’t find you. You’re literally giving money to your competitors.