Local Business Digital Strategy 101

Smaller advertising budgets, serving local geographic regions and no one on staff who has experience in digital strategy.

Does this sound like your business?

You know that Americans now spend 5 hours a day on their mobile devices. The amount of time people spend online is only growing and you know you need a strong internet presence for your business to thrive in the digital age, but what should you do?

I talk with a lot of business owners who are in the same position. The advertising budgets, types of business and goals all vary but there’s a series of steps & strategies that can ensure success in the digital age.

The following strategy applies to a wide range of businesses. While I might recommend slightly different things for different businesses, this blog post applies to all of the following and more. Keep in mind this strategy is for local businesses.

Applies to: Doctors office, Dentist office, Auto Repair Shops, Chiropractors, Restaurants, Bars, Local Retailers, etc.

Audit Your Online Presence

In order to understand where you have to go, it’s essential to know where you’re at. Take a hard and honest look at your online presence. This includes many different aspects of your website (conversion actions, content, load time, mobile design, SEO, etc), which pages are indexed by search engines (use a site search, put into google “site:yourwebsite.com” to see what’s indexed), reviews, traffic acquisition strategy (how many visitors does your website get?) and many other variables.

It can get complicated right? This is where the majority of business owners give up, outsource the work or bring someone on internally to manage these processes.

It’s far better to bring someone with experienced eyes into the situation rather than go with the lowest cost solution. Digital strategy in 21st century America should not be delegated to the lowest cost option, but instead the option that’ll bring positive change and positive ROI.

After taking an honest look at your own properties there should be a list of action items to improve.

Focus Your Advertising Dollars

Whens the best time to put an ad in front of someone? When they’re actively looking for your products or services.

Paid search (Google Adwords/Bing Ads/Yahoo Gemini) are the most effective ways to get a direct ROI from a limited ad budget. Why paid search?

  1. The intent is high. Someone is looking for your products/services. There’s a good chance they’ll follow through and buy.
  2. Geolocation targeting in paid search can get vary granular. Only offer services in your city? That’s fine with paid search. All of the ads will be placed only in your service areas.
  3. Flexible options for even small budgets. When it comes to ad budgets, more is always better but when you have a limited budget, paid search is great at stretching it to maximize the effectiveness through day parting, optimized delivery methods and monthly spending caps.

Local Search For The Win

Local search is referred to in a “non-paid” or “organic search” manner. When someone in your area searches for your products and services, you’ll not only want an ad there, you’ll want your website to show up for free. This strategy has tremendous return on investment.

Unlike an ad where you’ll get charged every time someone clicks on it, this will send free traffic to your website every single day. While it can be difficult to get into that position, it’s worth the effort. The long term ROI will be higher than any other channel.

Reviews Are Great Social Proof

One of the best ways to stand out among your competitors in search engine results is to have more and better reviews than them. As a business, you should always strive to increase your number of reviews and average review scores on Google, Yelp, Facebook or any industry specific platforms (Angies List comes to mind).

When someone searches, “restaurants near me” you better believe they’re taking reviews into account when deciding where to spend their money. The same goes for just about any product or service where you’re listed among your competitors.

General Rules of Thumb

Keep in mind these strategies are good for any business but they don’t guarantee success, nor are they potentially the best use of your time and money. It’s difficult to make a general blog post about best practices without going deep into industry specific tactics.

Best of luck in improving your online presence. Start the improvement process today, and you’ll thank yourself tomorrow.

-Ryan McDonald

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