Being in the industry I am, I talk with a lot of local business owners almost everyday about marketing (they are sniffing around for free tips, but I don’t mind sharing). In this economy, I have found the conversation sliding a little more to cost effective marketing tactics, if not completely free marketing suggestions. Hopefully I can help a lot of small local business owners with this post with some real suggestions that will help them get real results.
Here is the main question I get asked:
“What can a small local business do for marketing online if they have no budget?”
Believe it or not, there is plenty a small local business owner can do for online marketing that costs very little, or is completely free. I want to share these local marketing options with you.
1. Google Local – One of the first things I do for any clients local marketing campagin, is to make sure and get the business listed on Google Local ASAP. This almost gurantees a first page ranking for your most targeted local keyword. For example, if you lived in Lindon Utah, and were looking for a preschool, you would probably more then likely type in “Lindon Utah Preschool” – when you get the results from Google you will see how there is a big list of local options to choose from. (see picture)
It gives you a list of results that are in, or close to Lindon Utah, as well as a map that if you click on will give you exact driving directions and more business information. So it gives you the option to check out all the local spots near you. It is very simple to add your business to Google Local, and the approval process does not take that long – all that FREE and an instant ranking!. If you are a local businesses that does not have a website, you can still get a Google Local listing and get customers from it because you have your address, as well as your phone number listed.
In many cases getting a Google Local listing can help you get multiple listings for your local keywords. If you look at the example picture above – My Smart World, has a #1 local listing, as well as a #1 natural ranking. This just makes you look that more credible in the eyes of potential customers.
Reviews about your business on Google Local can also be written, and the more reviews you have written about your business, the better it is for you (as long as those reviews are positive). You can have people you know that have used the products and services, go in and write the reviews for you. Tell them to be honest as you never want to fake any of these kind of reviews. The number of reviews does not help where your local ad is placed, it just helps out your credibility.
Most people don’t realize how easy it is to get a listing through Google Local, or that it even exists. They just see the results, every once in a while on a search, and often wonder; “How do they get those results there?” To sign up its easy, just go to http://local.google.com and click on where it says; “put your business on Google Maps” (see picture below)
Once you get this far, you will be required to log into your Google accounts and they will walk you through the rest. From my experience it usually only takes 2 – 3 weeks to get included on Google Local and Google Maps. From everyone who I hve helped get on Google Local, they have told me they almost immediatly knew when the listing kicked in because hits to their website, emails or phone calls to their business. Yes, getting on Google Maps is 100% free, it is just going to take you a little bit of time and energy to get signed up with them and thats all! It is a pretty cool way of seeing your business in a top spot without putting much marketing efforts into it!
2. Yelp – Yelp is a great local review site that will help you find just about anything in your local area that can be reviewed. Getting your site listed on Yelp, and getting people to write positive reviews about you will help increase its chances of being picked up on the search engines (more reviews = more content = happier search engines). Check out the user-generated (content) reviews, and the set up of Yelp:
Yelp listings ranks well, and has many trusted users and is a well policed community (from my use anyway), and that is why (in my opinion) the search engines like them so much. Just check out this search result when I look for “Color Me Smart” a Queen Creek Arizona based Preschool -
The owner of the preschool does not even have a website, but since they have a review of them in Yelp, they are getting a first page Google ranking for their business. Think about this, if they list with Google Local and Yelp, they can start to dominate the rankings for their name, as well as local keywords with ease. Again, all 100% free, it just takes some time to get accounts and register your business.
Yelp listings can even help with your Reputation Management by gaining another very valuable spot in the SERPs. For every single one of my businesses, a Yelp listing appears in the first 10 results on Google.
3. Craigslist – If you have not at least heard of Craigslist by now, I wanna know where you have been locked up over the last several years? Craigslist is great for more then just selling your car with ease, it is a great site for placing classified ads for all kinds of businesses and business needs. if you own a house keeping service you can find your exact city and place an ad. You can post up to 3 times a day (with the same email address) although I do not advise spamming them with multiple accounts and multiple listings for the same business. It can come back to bite you!
To understand how Craigslist works, and how people use it to find service providers check this out: First you will go to Craigslist.org and select the State you are in (in this example; Arizona) Lets say we are doing this to post an ad for Phoenix House Cleaning -
Next you will pick the city that is closest to you: (in this case and example it is Phoenix)
Then you will find this screen (see picture) and click the link that says “post to classifieds”
Once you have done this, you can browse through the categories and find the proper place to list your ad. In this case if we are still taking about posting an ad for the service of house cleaning in Phoenix this would be the place you post – (see picture)
Then from here is where it will walk you through how to place your ad. I know its hard to believe but people really do use Craigslist. If you are brand new to the site, you may be scratching your head and saying, “Why does such an ugly site do so well?” It is because they have been around a long time, and have a huge following, and good rep with the search engines. Everything I have ever tried to sell, or ad to gain business has been successful. I can’t even say that much about eBay – I get charged by eBay to not sell anything … FAIL!
4. Yahoo Local – The basic FREE local listing is very hard and confusing to find (IMO), and it would appear that Yahoo does not offer a free local listing, but they do. If you click on the link I provided it will take you right to the basic listing of Yahoo Local and it works pretty much the same as Google. If you look at the screenshot I provided below you will see how the listings work, and how they are very similar to Google -
You just fill out the information they ask for, and once you are accepted in and the database is updated you are good to go and can start to show up in all the same ways I have already explained.
5. USCity.net – USCity.net is a HUGE Internet business directory – It is not the kind of directory that is good for helping out search engine rankings by getting a listing, it is a local directory that is amazing for sending actual traffic to your site. They have such trust with the search engines that for a huge number of local searches they come up on top, and people will find you and click on you that way. For one of my sites about 15% of the daily traffic is sent to me from USCity.net
Here is a picture from a local search done – Arizona Mattress Store – and you will see the results, and how the USCITY.net page ranks in the top 5
These guys do have paid options for listings, (better placement of your ad) but they do have free listings. All of my listings are free and I still see really good traffic. Just follow their instructions for listing and its pretty easy and self explainatory – especially if you have ever listing wtih a web directory before!
These are the main top 5 that I recommend; however there are a few other free local marketing options that might work well, and I would suggest giving a shot. I am talking about the free classified ads through the local TV stations. Just watch your local news tonight, and wait for them to talk about their website. When they do, go log on and find the classified ads on the site and place your ads! I have never personally used these classified ads, but have talked with many who have, and rave about their success.
Obviously, there are so many options for free local marketing that works, and I know I have not listed everything here, but think this would be a great start for anyone looking to help improve their local business. If you guys know of any other great local (free) listings that work please let me know about them here in the comments and share with everyone!