The idea of "build it and they will come" is a great way to succeed in any venture. However, with the continuing evolution of search and online user behavior, resting solely on the build is the quick death of your local search success. If you build, they're likely to come, but then what will they do?
We can sum up a successful local search initiative in three words: presence, promotion, and convertibility.
While to not dwell in what you should have done years ago, your presence should have been built upon sound on-site local search practices containing localized pages with geo-centric content, images and videos, as well as the creation of local listings, Internet yellow pages placement, local-relevant linking, and so on.
As we've progressed through the online timeline, we were allowed to take advantage of building a presence through local review sites such as Yelp and other locally based sites that give users a chance to be evangelists for your brand, as well as giving Google and Yahoo and chance to aggregate these voices into local listing reviews. Sites such Facebook have given us the availability to promote our brand with group and fan pages.
A small business owner can stay quite busy trying to keep pace with building a presence throughout all these entities, as well as the continual outcropping of new social and local sites. Most local search crazed business owners or search marketers tasked with multi-franchise clients will often run ragged with maintaining their local search presence.
Where many fall short is in concentrating the convertibility of their local presence. Yes, you have a local business listing for your company in your metro area, but so do your competitors. You have a Facebook fan page for your company franchise location, and so do your competitors.
Before you lose your mind trying to keep pace with your presence on local sites, consider how you can stand apart from other local providers of this specific service or product in your area.
This is easily begun on-site, in the body copy and meta description for organic search, as well as in the company descriptions of your local listings, and local site bios. For instance, everyone knows you sell bicycles in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just like all your competitors. But what makes your bicycle shop the best? The 100 percent satisfaction guarantee? The free helmet?
Now that you've taken a chance to revisit your previous local search verbiage, and hopefully you've at least created local listings and considerations for your location(s) on your site, we can get down to making local searchers into customers elsewhere on the web.
The first way to help stand apart from the rest of your competitors is through Google Coupons. While this tactic is a few years old now, it's still a good opportunity due to the amount of reach possible, the diversity this gives your local listing versus your competitors, and oh yeah, it's free. This can be accessed through Google Local Business Center and is as straightforward as setting up your Google local listings.
With the ever-increasing popularity of Facebook, another suggestion is utilizing a static FBML page in Facebook to offer a coupon or special for your company or location linked to a printable coupon URL on your site or a page specific to an event or special. This gives you a great opportunity to promote your brand on Facebook, as well as the chance to feature a full advertisement on a Facebook page linking to your coupon or local page.
One last suggestion: utilize Groupon. This local site is becoming quite the rage. While it isn't a free technique, it's commissioned based by the provider, so it's still better than paid local advertising and the many offline advertising outlets.
There are still some stipulations on converting interested parties -- a certain number of people must buy your coupon for it to be validated and sold to all parties, and this site isn't available in all major U.S. cities. But for those who can take advantage of this, it's worth it to get a great surge of local traffic especially if your target audience is 18-34.
There are a myriad of ways to try to convert your local customers, from hanging a poster board on your kids and making them stand out on a street corner, grabbing a camcorder, and making YouTube fodder, to digging in your wallet and geo-targeting a PPC campaign or mobile campaign.
All of these opportunities provide a great way build upon your previous local search collateral, promote your brand, and take advantage of popular online channels to convert your local customers.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!