For years, small businesses have been plagued with the dilemma of the high cost of online marketing. I always tell small business owners, “If you can’t afford to pay someone to do it for you, there are plenty of resources to help you learn how to do it.” After all, that’s how most of us got started in the business; by necessity. I am no different; however my journey started a bit earlier than most (back in 1999).
Today, there are plenty of low cost and free resources for the small business owner who wants to win online, so there is really no excuse for not having some sort of online marketing program for your business. If you are a small business owner, I want to share with you 6 strategies that you can use to acquire local online market share. The first two won’t cost you a dime, technically #6 could be done at no cost, and the cost of the other 3 will depend on your skills. Nonetheless, I challenge you to take some kind of action if they are applicable to you.
- Local Business Profiles. All three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) allow you to build a local business profile at no cost. There are certainly ways to optimize these for maximum search engine benefit, but being there is the first step. Follow the instructions and most of all, build a complete profile (don’t leave any blanks). The goal is to have your business show up in the map based search results on each site respectively.
- Local City/Business Guides. There are literally dozens of these and some have more value than others but most still offer free listings in additional to their paid options. If you have not taken advantage of local business profiles, I recommend checking out Merchant Circle, CitySquares, and Yelp for starters. You can also find reputable search marketing providers that can simplify these submissions for you as my firm does.
- Mobile Search. With the growth in use of iPhones, Droids, BlackBerrys, and other smart phones, you are really missing out if you are not getting in front of this audience. While search engines and local directories feed some mobile providers data, another great solution is to have a mobile version of your website which can be listed in various mobile directories and display well on mobile devices.
- Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Make sure your website is not only optimized for keyword related to what you do, but also for your location. It is critical to make sure that your physical address appears on your website as the search engines will take notice. From a link building standpoint, the number of inbound links you need to outrank your competitors will be determined by how competitive your business is. And for those who don’t know what links are, this refers to having other sites that are connected to yours. These could be search engine directories, press mentioned, or simply links from complementary websites and they act as votes for your site in the eyes of the search engines.
- Paid Search. Sometimes paying for search engine traffic turns out to be a great way to get the job done. Just make sure that you use geo-targeting so that you only pay for local search engine traffic or you will be wasting money. My advice if you are going to do this on your own is to make sure the first thing you do is learn how to set daily limits and use this feature to protect you against overspending.
- Social Media. The best way for a small business to get involved in social media is to have a blog. I know it takes time, but it will pay off. Just put it on your schedule and make it happen. You can use free blogging software such as blogger, but for long term success I recommend having your blog be a part of your website. Once you have gotten blogging down, you can add additional social media venues such as Facebook (where you can connect with local customers) and YouTube (where your video could get take on a mind of its own, if it’s unique enough).
I hope this is helpful and I look forward to hearing your local search engine marketing success story!
This guest post was written by Anthony Kirlew, founder of a.k.a. Internet Marketing, a full service online marketing firm with a commitment to making local search engine marketing affordable to small business owners.