In spite of — or perhaps because of — its age, email marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to accomplish outreach, retain customers, and boost engagement. Assuming you go about it the right way, that is!
When it comes to email marketing, the tactic’s impact never seems to halt, yet it’s one that most local businesses either don’t use or aren’t measuring.
Don’t just take my word for it, though — the numbers on email marketing’s ubiquity and success don’t lie.
- Per research agency Statista, the number of global active email accounts is expected to reach 5.6 billion by the end of 2020 – larger than the entire population of the United States.
- According to research conducted by marketing trade organization DMA, email marketing offers an average return on investment of approximately 4,100%. For every dollar you spend, you can expect to make $42.
- Per email marketing firm GetResponse, the average open rate for a welcome email is 82%.
- Research agency Statista found that 49% of users are interested in receiving brand emails on a weekly basis.
- A 2017 study by email marketing platform Campaign Monitor found that 66% of consumers prefer receiving branded communication via email, compared to only 23% for social media.
As you can see, email has enormous potential for creating greater audience engagement, improving traffic, and strengthening your business’s relationships with local customers and communities. And that means it has some very real applications for local businesses.
Let’s start with a more general overview before drilling down to the specifics.
How can email marketing empower local businesses?
The real strength of email lies in its capacity to boost engagement, thereby increasing traffic numbers to your client’s website.
By effectively segmenting your audience and leveraging your understanding of what they’re looking for, you can direct qualified leads to whatever sections of the site will best resonate with them. This offers several benefits for local businesses — from an optimization perspective and beyond:
- Reduced bounce rates. Users who subscribe to receive email notifications about your brand are, by definition, more interested in what you have to say. That means that properly personalized emails can generate traffic with a bounce rate considerably below average, coupled with increased time spent on page.
- Higher engagement on new content. Via targeted mailing lists, you can get content in front of audience members who are more likely to share with friends and colleagues. This provides a further boost to website traffic while also creating social engagement.
- Increased lifespan for old content. Just as sharing an evergreen piece on social media can revitalize it, distributing it to the right mailing lists can breathe new life into old sections of your site.
- Encourage user reviews. Online reviews are extremely important, especially for local businesses. If you maintain a digital storefront, consider embedding product review requests in their thank you emails. You can also send out personalized email blasts with the same request.
- Learn more about your audience. Just as you can use mailing lists to tap your client’s audience for reviews, you can also leverage them to encourage survey responses about content preferences, helping you further guide and direct your marketing and optimization efforts.
- Generate new content. Have an email that performed particularly well? Boost your site traffic by transforming it into on-site content.
How to create a quality mailing list
Next, I’ll talk briefly about how you should segment and set up your mailing list.
Although your core goal here is to improve engagement with your website, email marketing provides several other opportunities for your brand. This all begins with building a properly-segmented mailing list.
You should feature an email signup form on all relevant pages of your website (e.g. your blog, news, or resources pages), but keep it as simple as possible. The more information you ask for, the fewer signups you’re likely to receive.
Here’s an example of BrightLocal’s email signup form that sits at the bottom of blog pages such as this one.
You might also consider popup messages urging visitors to sign up, but I would err on the side of caution here as popups can be more of a distracting deterrent than an effective conversion method.
Popup messages are rarely as interesting or engaging as you’d think. At best, they’re an irritating interruption to a user’s experience of your content, shoving your call to action in their face regardless of their intent. At worst, they can outright drive users away from your site.
If you do choose to go for a popup, ensure that it only appears on relevant pages, doesn’t interfere with mobile view, and occurs only once per site visit.
It’s also important to think about why someone would want to subscribe to your mailing list and include that in the CTA (call to action). These reasons could include special offers, coupons, or access to exclusive content.
Signup should further involve a double opt-in process, while unsubscribing should be as simple as clicking a single link.
In addition to making the subscription process as simple as possible, you also want to ensure your audience has control over the type of content they see. The most common way to segment mailing lists is according to interest.
As part of your overall SEO efforts, you’ve likely already separated your content into specific buckets — these can now form the base for different lists of subscribers.
It may also be worthwhile to provide subscribers with the option to opt in to geo-targeted content, too, and send them emails about events and updates within their specific community.
Integrating social channels into your email marketing is a natural next step. You can also use social media activity to inform your email marketing efforts and allow the two processes to feed into one another. Figure out what people want to know and what they’re saying, and develop content based on that.
Beyond that, you can drive more social shares simply by making it easy to do so from within your emails, and invite local users via Facebook or Twitter.
Consider including social badges with links to each profile at the end of your email communications, like so:
Keeping emails locally focussed
Now that we’ve established a big-picture explanation of the benefits that email marketing can offer, let’s discuss how to utilize it to achieve success in local search.
Your goal here is to build a dedicated, engaged community of local customers to support your local SEO efforts. As such, you’re going to want to take a slightly different approach to personalization than you would with non-local email segments.
You should still promote customer reviews. You should still share the content you’ve created for your site. Your emails should all still include calls-to-action that drive users to your website.
But you’ll also want to feature more locally-oriented content. Here are a few ideas for content to get you started with your local email marketing efforts:
Updates about local or regional events
Whether you’re a local mom-and-pop shop or a national business, you can share updates about any local or regional events taking place at your stores via email. Events worth promoting could range from anything big or small — for example, a new product launch, community event, charitable efforts, or national holidays.
Struggling for ideas? Take a look at Twitter’s marketing calendar filled with hashtag-appropriate holidays, and use them as inspiration for your own in-store event. If you’re a bakery, for example, National Donut Day would provide the perfect opportunity to host an in-store event and let customers know about it via email. Even pet service providers can get involved — why not host an in-store event with relevant promos for National Pet Day?
If you aren’t already, now is the time to start hosting events and promoting them to your audience! Offline events have a whole host of benefits, but they’re also a great way to show customers that you care, and engage them online as a result.
Details about sales or store openings
Store openings and sales provide great opportunities to engage your online audience. After all, these are the kinds of things your subscribers are going to care about. If you usually host your sales online and are looking for more foot traffic, why not consider hosting an in-store only sale to benefit local customers?
When it comes to promoting store openings, don’t be afraid to get hyper-local. If you’re able to, create a mailing segment of customers who live within close range of your new store, and let them know that your business is coming to them!
Geo-targeted keywords based on region-specific queries
If you’re a larger business, you might find that customers have region-specific queries (you can use a tool like HotJar to track these on your own site, or simply Ahrefs to track search volume). Make the most of these by answering those users’ queries and emailing them out to the relevant segment.
For example, if you were McDonald’s and you discovered that users are often asking Google whether or not their nearest McDonald’s has free parking, you might email customers a short guide to parking near their local store.
Customer testimonials which make direct reference to your client’s region
You don’t always need to make a big song and dance about reviews in your email, but there’s certainly no harm in including the odd testimonial to serve as social proof. If you’ve got location-specific reviews, try turning them into email banners or visuals to promote the local store relevant to each email segment.
Using McDonald’s as an example again, if you’ve got a glowing 5-star review that says “The McDonald’s on 42nd Street, NY has world-class service!” you’ll want to use this in emails promoting your store to customers from the Manhattan area.
Including a location in a review can make testimonials that bit more compelling and, if you’re a national brand, it can help to reassure customers that each store will offer a service just as good as the others.
Promoted content from local partnered businesses
Collaborating with fellow local businesses is another surefire way to provide customers with more value. Are you a local health food store, for example? Why not partner up with a local gym to provide customers with keep-fit food and fitness plans? And perhaps those who engage with your content can benefit from discount codes when they visit your store in future?
It’s worth getting creative with the local content you provide if you’re hoping to leave a lasting impression with customers. In general, the kinds of content you’ll want to create and promote will vary based on your target audience, so knowing your customers should be the first step. Once you’ve got a good idea of what they’re looking for, play around with the ideas suggested above and see how they work for you.
How to measure success
There are several metrics that are particularly important to look at from an email marketing perspective.
Some of these directly relate to SEO, while others are tied more to email interaction. According to Hubspot, these are:
- Traffic/clickthrough rate
- Conversion rate
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Sharing/forwarding rate
- Subscriber growth
It’s worth monitoring and measuring these metrics to ensure your email marketing tactics are working effectively.
Tools like Mailchimp provide at-a-glance looks into how your email has performed in terms of open- and click-through rates, but to find out how your campaign has impacted site traffic and beyond, you’ll need to integrate your email marketing efforts with Google Analytics.
Track success with Google Analytics
In order to maximize the return on your email marketing campaign, you’ll want to set up email tracking via Google Analytics.
It’s actually fairly simple once you drill down into it.
First, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to set up a Google Analytics account. Navigate to the Google Analytics homepage and follow the process outlined there to get your account up and running and establish ownership of your website.
Once you’re all set up in Google Analytics, you can work on creating trackable links using Google’s URL builder. Using unique campaign parameters and UTM codes means you can track the success of each email directly within Google Analytics, either in the ‘Channels’ section or the ‘Campaigns’ section.
Now, it’s important to note that, by default, Google Analytics is only able to track traffic which originates from your emails. If you want to actually track metrics like open rates, you’ll need to get creative, as outlined in this blog post from Contact Monkey.
Alternatively, you can use a tool such as Mailchimp, as mentioned above, which handles the lion’s share of tracking on its own.
SEO and email marketing are more closely linked than a lot of people realize and, when used in conjunction, can help you achieve great success in the local sphere.
Be sure to 1) Create a frictionless signup process, 2) Segment your mailing list and keep it personal, 3) Promote local content, and 4) Track success. If you follow these four steps you’re almost certainly guaranteed to boost your online and in-store engagement.