April 7, 2012
Familiarity Breeds Customers
If your small- or medium-size business marketing plan consists solely of local print advertising in media such as PennySavers, weekly or daily newspapers, and the Yellow Pages, it's time to join the new millennium.
To succeed in today's ultra-competitive markets, local businesses really need to have an Internet presence. At a minimum, an effective Internet presence requires a website, a Google Places page, and a Facebook fan page.
Each element of your Internet presence should be optimized for local search returns, ensuring that your business appears in the top search results when someone is looking for your goods or services in your geographic area.
Businesses that use best practices for marketing understand that the Internet is the most efficient way to deliver local marketing results. Newspaper ads, direct-mail coupons, and the Yellow Pages are the way of the last century. Today, folks use their computers, smartphones, and handheld devices to find merchants in their neighborhoods. A website has to be search-engine-optimized for it to show up high in local search rankings.
Many people believe that using keywords as frequently as possible will increase the likelihood of a high search engine result (SER). This is no longer true. At one time, keywords were the primary criteria for SER. Now, because Google is attempting to make search results more meaningful, Google's complex, secret search algorithm penalizes keyword stuffing and rewards content. Google has advised users in a broad sense about how its latest updates, known as Panda and Farmer, affect searches.Search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that judicious use of keywords and extensive use of descriptions and meta tags, along with current and relevant content, is helpful in improving a websites SER.
Also, keep in mind that Google uses geolocation in an attempt to determine the user's general location, and then returns searches listing merchants who are close by. Thus, it is very helpful to include certain basic data on each page of your website at a minimum, your business name, address and phone number. Also, if you are in a specific neighborhood or near a landmark, include that, too. For example, a Philadelphia business near the Liberty Bell might note its address and then say in its tagline, Located steps away from the Liberty Bell.Or a business in downtown Sacramento might say, "Find us in downtown Sacramento, California." The more specific your content is, the more likely you will be found.
Google Places Page
Google has a free business directory called Google Places that allows you to register your business, thereby increasing the likelihood that your business, via its Places page, if not its website, will show up in local search results. For no charge, you can link to your website; display photos; display your business name, address and phone number; and more. For a business without its own website, this is an easy entry to the online world that ensures the business will show up on local searches. Merchants should be aware that Google Places gives customers the opportunity to rate businesses. Be prepared to respond to negative ratings promptly. Often, a response to a negative customer rating can mitigate the damage or even reverse it by showing the merchant is tuned into its customers.
Facebook Fan Page
Social media is an extraordinary way to market a business. Your business needs a fan page on Facebook to capture the local market. Like a Google Places page, a fan page on Facebook is free. For a Facebook fan page to be successful, it must be special and provide offers to fans that are unique. For instance, you could run a one-day special that is only good for those who mention that they saw it on your fan page. Not only will fans use this kind of offer, but they will also tweet it or text it to their friends. Your fans become a part of your marketing team, marketing to others who may want to use your products or services, too.
The greater your presence on the Internet, the more familiar your market becomes with your business. In marketing, familiarity breeds customers.