Local businesses are the heart of a community’s economic success, but they often face similar issues online that they do at their storefront—getting the same attention as larger companies that have more financial resources. Small bookstores, for example, don’t get the same notice as Barnes & Noble or Amazon, and small business owners might wonder what the point is of going online when they’d still fight to get attention. The whole thing is a bit small-dog-versus-big-dog, if the dogs were fighting for market share.
Google has leveled the playing field, giving small business owners new ways to ensure their company gets the attention it needs to be successful. Best of all, they’re free (or have free options) and they don’t take a ton of time or expertise. Here are some ways you can use Google to enhance local business online marketing.
1. Sign Up for Google My Business
Google My Business is free and it gives your customers all the information they need about your business, including location, hours of operation, contact information and website. Even better, your business info appears on Search, Maps and Google+, so no matter where customers look for you, they can find you. Just make sure you keep your information current, so people can find you when they need to. There’s nothing worse than going to a restaurant only to discover it’s closed for summer hours.
List your business page on other important sites like Yelp and Facebook as well to round out your online presence—here’s a handy guide that shows you how to claim listings, what to do if someone else has claimed your page, and how to enable check-ins and other pro tips.
2. Encourage Customers to Write Reviews
Google My Business also has a review section, so your customers can write reviews about how awesome you are. Let’s face it, people still rely on recommendations when they make purchasing decisions. The more good reviews you have, the better.
But simply generating reviews isn’t enough—it’s important to respond to them and maximize this user-generated content for your brand. Here’s a 5-Star Guide to Responding to Online Reviews to put you on the right track when it comes to navigating the tricky world of online reviews.
3. Connect with Customers
Google offers a variety of ways to connect with your customers, including Google Hangouts and Google+ pages. Have a new product to share with the world? Use a face-to-face video chat to introduce your customers to it. Developed a new culinary masterpiece for your restaurant? Celebrate it with photos on your Google+ page. These all help get you noticed online and get potential customers through your door.
4. Issue Special Offers
Gone are the days when the only special offers were available from a newspaper flyer. Nowadays, you can announce special deals on your Google+ page to encourage new customers to check out your business. The more you update your page, the easier it is to find your local business online. And hey, we all know customers love a good deal.
5. Use Keywords
Keywords are how your customers find you, so you need to be sure you’re using words relevant to them to bring them to you. The keywords for a restaurant are different from the keywords for a dog groomer, so make sure when you write your description you use the words your customers would use when searching online to find you. Google AdWords Keyword Planner can help with this.
6. Use Google Alerts
Google Alerts is also free, and it lets you know when something is published online about your brand. You can set up as many alerts as you like to keep track of your company. Create a Google Alert for words associated with your business—including your business name—and you’ll know when your company is given a good review, when someone asks a question about your product or when someone has a concern. This gives you the ability to respond and monitor how your customers view, and talk about, your company.
7. Use Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free way to monitor how your website is doing and whether or not your customers are engaging with your content. With a click of the button you can see where your website is viewed, how long viewers stay on your site, how many pages they visit, and what their needs are. The standard package is free, premium packages have associated costs.
Thanks to some great tools from Google, any small business owner can enhance and monitor his or her presence online, which can lead to more customers walking through the door.
Morgan is a Connectivity blog contributor.