Local Small Businesses and the Search Engines – Geo-Targeting

“If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again. Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!”

Geo-Targeting – What’s that?

Something every local business operator should know!

More and more people nowadays are using Web search engines to find and compare local shops and businesses for their goods and services, and those local small businesses which are unaware of or ignore this fact are suffering an ever-increasing disadvantage.

Many people see little or no use for a local or regional business to have a Web site to promote their goods or services. After all, the Internet is a global thing, right? Wrong! There are several ways to promote a Web site locally or regionally, so that it brings in a disproportionately large volume of local traffic. Any business owner not using a Web site to promote a local or regional business is making a huge mistake, and ultimately leaving money on the table.

The factors now encapsulated in the field of search engine optimisation (SEO) are varied yet simple. Time and time again, however, Web site owners fail to see some of the most recent naturally occurring ‘common-sense principles’ behind an effective and successful SEO strategy. This article brings to light the most recent important change in SEO: Geo-Targeting…

The trend…

The increase in on-line purchasing generally has led to more consumers using the Web to look for goods and services in their local area. For many obvious reasons they prefer to deal with a local business than one far away.

If customers are looking to buy jewellery, and they are located in Essex, England, it is very common for them nowadays to append “Essex” to their search, or even “Southend”, if that’s the town where they live. So, instead of looking simply for “jewellery” they will search for “jewellery Essex”, “jewellery Southend”, or a similar variation of this.

“Local Search — using Internet search engines and on-line business directories to find local traders — is growing at an extraordinary pace. Figures in the US, comparable to the UK, show that 63 percent of all on-line users performed a local search in July 2006. This is a 43 percent increase year on year. On-line local searches do lead to customer action. The same study showed that 50 percent of all local searchers visited a local merchant as a result of their search behaviour, while 41 percent made contact off-line.” (Source: comScore networksmarketwire.com)

When it comes to consumers making a purchase, local search has more of an impact than national search. At the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo, held in London in 2007, John Myers of Latitude said that users are 30 percent more likely to purchase a product or service when it is related to local search. Speaker Grant Muckle from Touch Local said that 40 percent of all on-line searches are local in the UK.

The cycle…

These statistics are nothing less than phenomenal. At LocalShoppers.co.uk we think that the “art of shopping” is reaching a full cycle, but on another level. Before the Web, consumers bought locally, unless there was a good reason not to. The reasons are obvious: the travel time and expense saved by buying locally at, perhaps, even a higher price than in the next town compensated for the lower price there; likewise if the goods had to be returned for any reason, or the merchant had to supply spare parts, etc., etc.

With the advent of Web sites, consumers slowly but surely came to trust the technology, and now order goods from all over the world. Astute merchants, however, are beginning to realise that traditional shopping principles still apply. After all, they’ve hardly changed for millennia, and are entrenched in our psyche. It is these astute merchants, often small businesses and even ‘one-man bands’, who are jumping on the Internet band-wagon, and, knowingly or unwittingly, are driving the trend full circle towards shopping locally, merely by having a presence on the Web.

The future…

This is not to say that global shopping has had its day. On the contrary, it will continue to grow, but, now that the initial euphoria of being able to buy anything from anywhere is subsiding with blasé acceptance, people are coming back down to earth, and the in-bred habits of shopping locally are resurfacing. The big difference is that consumers will continue to use the Web as a tool, simply because it is there, just as they did after the advent of the telephone.

Indeed, the telephone can be seen easily as a direct precedent. It appeared first in only a few homes, and was a luxury. Then, as it became cheaper, it became more popular. Nowadays the telephone is an integral part of almost everyone’s life, and people use it to order goods and services quite naturally. Even schoolkids regard a telephone as a necessity! Now think about the on-line computer: Sound familiar? History is repeating itself.

An on-line computer has, of course, several advantages over the telephone: You can see what you’re buying; You can look for what you want at any time of the day or night; You can get far more information about the product or service, and about the merchant; You don’t need actually to talk to anyone; There’s a visible record of the offers being made, thus avoiding misunderstandings; etc. An important benefit of the on-line computer over the telephone is that comparison shopping is now so much easier and quicker. It’s human nature to want the best deal, and people are finding it on the Web. What better opportunity, then, is there for local businesses to display their wares than the one now presenting itself?

The local merchants and tradespeople who grasp the significance of the Web quickly, and take action to be a part of it, will be the ones who will be ahead of the game, and will already have an established presence by the time their slower competitors realise that they must follow them.

The opportunity…

Customers looking for goods or services are becoming more savvy. They now know that, if they search for “magnotherapy”, for example, they’ll get almost 100,000 results to choose from. If they type “magnotherapy essex”, however, they’ll get fewer than 1,000. That’s still a lot. If they enter their town in the search, like “magnotherapy canvey”, only about 100 results are returned. The more local the search phrase is, the fewer are the results.

Because consumers naturally feel more comfortable dealing with a local supplier, and they now understand how search engines work, it explains why more and more of them are performing such local searches.

If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again.

Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!

Small Business Tip: Get Off the Bandwagon

If you run a small business, it is increasingly important to stay ‘ahead of the game’ instead of just being a player. It would not be a smart business decision to open up a small food market on the adjacent corner of a Loblaws, Walmart Supercentre, Whole Foods and Costco. It doesn’t make sense. You would quickly become part of the small business graveyard.

Your business needs to stand out from the crowd, and since the world is a growing every day, you’re going to need to get creative!

Don’t jump on a bandwagon as it’s barreling through, be a member of the construction team that BUILDS the bandwagon to reap the most benefit as it picks up speed.

Easier said than done – a very select few thought that a micro-blogging platform that only allowed users to speak 140 characters at a time would amass into the social media giant Twitter is today. Ashton Kutcher was a bandwagon builder, and was the first to reach 1 million followers. How many followers do you have?

Not to say that Twitter is dead or dying soon, but if you don’t have a large Twitter following by now… perhaps it’s time to look for a new way of building your online reach and conversation. A new idea is emerging every second of every day, do some research and become an early adopter!

Here are a few leads to get you started:

Group Buying – is on the cusp of becoming huge, and it has been for a few years. Do some research and get involved with sites that give away daily deals- it might actually help promote your business/products. Best case scenario? The site becomes huge in your area/industry and sales skyrocket as a result.

QR Codes– Smartphone barcodes that are starting to pop up everywhere (heck, I even sit on one in the subway every morning). Since 1 in every 2 people will have a Smartphone by Christmas (it’s true!) this might just be the next massive trend in technology and advertising. “Social scanning” includes tools like Stickybits and SCVNGR that incorporate the new location ‘checking in’ fad that might also be on the brink of social domination.

Q/A Platforms – Millions of people are starting to ask questions on sites like Quora and Linked In. Pick a platform that speaks directly to your audience, and start answering some questions. Get in on the conversations; build a reputation as an expert and you’ll start to stand out from the rest of the social media crowd.

Find an alternative to the ‘biggies’ – use Statusnet instead of Twitter, use Aardvark instead of Linked In Answers, use Brightkite instead of Foursquare. Try to hit the bigtime with an emerging trend rather than trying to scream over the noise of the crowd.

Be proactive and set yourself up for success!

Small Business Marketing – Trends That Can’t Be Ignored

In our current market, changes are being seen everywhere and that includes in small business marketing. Small businesses realize that if they want to be truly competitive they must keep up with the trends and the main aspect of marketing that is getting a lot of attention is social media. Social media has completely changed the way that small businesses relate to their customers. It is becoming more and more obvious that small businesses need to adapt their marketing to become part of their customer’s lives instead of intruding on their lives.

Small Business Marketing is Meeting People Where They Gather

Once, marketing meant finding your way into people’s lives by intruding into their regular lives – while they were watching televisions, listening to the radio, or even the using the public washroom. It meant finding a way to get in front on them where they couldn’t get away. Marketing is changing, though!

Businesses are realizing that there are other ways to get their message in front of people without being intrusive. In order to do that though, businesses have to go where people gather. Today, that means getting involved in social sites. Sites like Twitter and Facebook were created to connect people – old friends, classmates, and family. Businesses have realized that they can interact with people on social sites in a way that is almost like the relationship between friends.

Sharing Information and Giving Advice

Businesses are doing more than just getting a message across on these sites. They are developing relationships with their customers. How? One of the main ways is by sharing information and giving advice. People who interact with businesses on these sites are doing so because the businesses involved have something to offer them.

Businesses are not selling things on social media – instead they are giving away what people really want. They are giving them ways to use their products more effectively, ways to make comparisons, and ways to make decisions. By doing this they are building relationships. By building relationships with customers and with potential customers they are increasing the trust factor, which goes much further than just selling a product.

Small business marketing is taking advantage of every tool at their fingertips and the trends are all pointing at social media. Social media enables businesses to build trust and trust lasts longer than any sales pitch that a company can make.

Social Media Marketing – It’s All About Interaction

This is written from the perspective of a business owner that is using social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) to promote their business.

There are at least a couple mentors I have that do not use social media, and they don’t encourage those that they mentor to use social media. Here is their reasoning. Unless you have a definite plan and process in place, social media can be a tremendous waste of time. Even the best of systems for marketing on social media requires your time to make it work. Interaction requires time. The lesson from them is get a system and work your system for a set amount of time every day. Begin to get other systems in place. Multiple streams of leads insures the long term success of your business.

To interact effectively with others on social media you have first got to identify who you want to network with. Who do you want to be your friends on social media networks. Only invite folks to be your friends that you truly want to build relationships with.

After you establish friends that you want to interact with, then you begin to network with them. You begin communicating with them.

If you have been a student of something that you are passionate about for a while, get involved in social media and then become a teacher of what you’re passionate about. The big “secret” to attraction marketing will involve you becoming expert in at least one aspect of internet marketing. If you don’t do that you will not have anything that will be attracting others to you.

If you’re great at building a lead capture page, start a blog and talk about that. Help the rest of us out.

You need to engage people in social media. Having 50 different Facebook, MySpace or Twitter accounts and never using most of them isn’t going to get you anywhere. So start interacting with people on the social media you’re involved in.

Listen to what others are saying on the sites you’re involved in. If you have anything of value to add go ahead and interact with them.

Make sure that you add value. Another way to say that is make sure you share something with them that you think they don’t already know. This is where the power of studying whatever you’re becoming expert at will kick in. You must have more than a cursory knowledge of anything to be of value to someone.

Start interacting with people. You have to communicate to be social. Be there when someone needs you with something that is beneficial for them.

Begin to focus on a target market. At the end of the day our report card is our bank account. But there is a balance between being a member of a community and adding something to that community and just being a taker. People will pick up on what your motives are in short order. That will dictate how much trust or confidence they place in you.