It is impossible to escape the reach of location-based marketing. Whether or not you specifically set out to find local solutions to the problems you look to solve through web searches, the search engines will tailor their results based on where you are, giving you the options that are close to you. Google’s algorithms factor in the searcher’s location in returning results in a certain order. This is even more the case with the huge increase in recent years of sharing your location with apps and browsers so that advertising on those websites and apps will also focus on businesses based in your neighbourhood.
This is great news for you if you’re running a location-sensitive business and wants to grow your footfall and build awareness in your local community. Even some basic knowledge can go a long way to helping you maximise this extra work your search engine is doing to help you expand your local customer base.
Why is local marketing important?
The approach to take is more subtle than simply adding geographically specific words (e.g. the name of your local town or city etc) to your products and hoping this will bump you to the top of a Google search. You do need to understand your local community and how they talk about the industry in which you operate and the problem you’re offering to solve. Not only will thinking about this in more detail and then incorporating this into how you talk about your product be great for the search engines – because it will create more relevant location-based content for their results – but also it will drive genuine appreciation from your potential customers, who will feel like you take a proper interest in your community. People still prefer the idea of small, local businesses, as compared to large multinationals, because they perceive them as more locally engaged and trustworthy, with more focus on quality and value-offering. Ultimately, your brand can get maximum benefit from this preconception by showing actual local knowledge, turning this into customer trust and ultimately longer term loyalty and promotion of you by the customers.
What specifically can you do?
The first thing to note is your tone in talking about your business, whether it’s on your website in an about page, or when speaking directly to customers. You should remember that your customer is a human being with needs and emotions and show a higher level of care and personability. Asking potential customers about how they find the industry at the moment will not only help them feel cared about, but will also glean you valuable insights to help you improve your product or service.
In particular, examine your branding materials online (and any physical ones too, e.g. flyers) to ensure they sound both friendly and professional – this way your potential customers will think that they are going to get a good, rewarding experience (because you sound like a friendly business to work with) but also efficient, thorough results (because you sound professional).
Presence in the community
Taking the time to show up at local events and speak to individuals and other businesses in the field will also build your visibility and get people talking more frequently about your business. If you can talk at local conferences or even festivals about how your business is improving the lives of your local community, this is even better. Just make sure you talk to as many people as possible and don’t just talk about your business – ask them about their lives in a way that allows you to mention your company name and spread the word.
It’s also worth making friends with your local journalists, newspapers and radio stations – it might seem like they have a small reach compared to the large national media outlets, but the likelihood is that they’ll still get good exposure and circulation in your community, especially for readers who are already interested in learning about their community – that means your business!
Optimising your site with the right keywords
This is obviously directly related to the idea of localised search results. First, to understand what the “right keywords” are, you need to try and get into the mind of someone searching for your business. If you are a hairdresser based somewhere in the vicinity of Brighton, imagine yourself as someone in Brighton looking for a hairdresser. How would you search on Google? “Brighton hairdresser” maybe would be a good guess, or something more location specific e.g. “Hairdresser The Lanes”. If you’re looking to target a really specific local area, it’s definitely worth incorporating these hyper-local keywords and place names into your website text.
For larger, more regional or even national businesses, the best approach involves creating location-specific pages and posts and then centring them around more expansive regional keywords. It’s almost like seeing yourself as a franchise with virtual branches in different regions of the country. So if, instead of a hairdresser, you were a web designer based in Brighton who wanted to grow your reach across the south of England, you could create pages focused on other parts of this region to bump up your website in search results in those places. You can have a lot of fun with this – if you write a web design blog, you could find a way of writing a post about the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur that’s also relevant to web design (Ok, Spurs might be better at football, but who has the better website?) and then use this post to incorporate some location specific keywords around north east London. Just make sure not to alienate too many Arsenal fans in the process…
Only Google can completely understand how their algorithms function but it seems widely agreed that they use “keyword clusters” to dish up the best content. For example, rather than producing results simply for “bicycle basket”, the search engine will also show you results for “pannier” –– because it knows that those two search results are very closely related, and therefore part of a “word cluster”. In summary, if you incorporate as many of these clusters as possible on any given webpage, your maximising your chances of being pushed up the ranking in different Google searches.