The Beginner’s Guide to Local Marketing

The Beginner’s Guide to Local Marketing

Local marketing can be simply described as any marketing activity which puts your business in front of consumers within a certain radius of your location. While that’s straightforward enough, there are lots of different types of activity that fall under this neat umbrella.

Local marketing is especially important for small and medium businesses which rely on clients physically visiting a brick-and-mortar location to make a sale or access a service: dentists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors for example or retail stores without an e-commerce presence, bars, and restaurants, locksmiths, plumbers, a builder’s yard or car dealership. Our research confirms that within the last 12 months, 90% of consumers have used the internet to find a local business. Local marketing is therefore vital to connect your offering with those in need of a local service provider or retailer.

By its nature, local marketing is highly geographically specific. This means it’s important to carefully consider your strategy as you need to be sure that all of your efforts are being directed at exactly the right person within what could well be a small geographic area. The danger with local marketing is that you think too big and waste budget on incorrect location and consumer targeting.

Casting too wide a net means your precious funds (and time) will likely be spent trying to gain the attention of people who are too far away to ever convert – 93% of consumers say they won’t travel more than 20 minutes from home to make an everyday purchase, so if you are targeting too big an area with any of your local marketing tactics, anything outside of that 20-minute radius represents a waste of time and money. Likewise, it’s also pointless targeting absolutely everyone within your locality because some just won’t need or want your products or services.

Local SEO

Build citations for your business

The mention of the word ‘citation’ may bring back nightmares of essays and term papers but in local SEO terms, it simply means that your business name, address, and phone number is referenced online.

Citations are beneficial to your local marketing in a number of ways. First and foremost, they provide a local SEO boost which means, if you build enough citations, you could start to see an increase in local search visibility. This in turn means that you’re more prominent when local consumers take to their chosen search engine to find a specific product or service.

Citations can also help consumers to find your business on other websites, aiding discovery. If you create a directory listing for example in order to create a new citation, users of that directory could easily come across your business address or website and then proceed to your store or website. In this way, they function as new pathways to your actual or virtual door.

Finally, citations can be used to confirm a key detail about your business, such as your address, before the local consumer jumps in their car and sets out to visit you. If they come across the same name and address in a few different locations, they can feel confident that the information is accurate and trust that they’ll end up in the right place.

Optimize your Google My Business listing

Google My Business feeds information about local businesses to the search engine results pages and search engine users – optimizing this listing means confirming your information is up to date, the correct category selected and that all settings and data fields are accurate and relevant.

The information that you provide in your Google My Business listing is known to impact on where your website ranks for appropriate keywords. The actions that you perform during optimization determine what information is presented to search users and how your business is perceived. Creating an optimized description for example gives Google a clue as to what to rank you for, and can entice search users to visit your store or give you a call.

Selecting a main category and sub-category is also part and parcel of optimization and is known to strongly influence where your site ranks in Google search. That alone can impact your overall local visibility and generate more traffic.

The process of optimizing your listing also includes uploading appropriate images to your profile, which can immediately make your business stand out and capture the eye of local consumers.

Generating reviews and responding to them naturally comes under Google My Business optimization activity. Online reviews strongly influence the consumer decision-making process and can actively determine whether a local consumer chooses your business or a competitor.

Monitor local search rankings

Monitoring local search rankings as part of your local SEO campaign is as straightforward as it sounds; it’s simply the process of tracking where your keywords appear in the search engine results pages. This doesn’t have to be done manually and there are lots of affordable local SEO tools available that automate this process for you.

While monitoring changes in your ranking position can be hands-off, the insight that this data offers is invaluable. The most obvious advantage of tracking any changes in your search position is that you can determine whether your local SEO activity is generating ranking improvements or causing positions to stagnate or worse, decline. In the latter two scenarios, just having that data to hand gives you concrete proof that you need to revisit your strategy. In turn, this means you aren’t wasting precious time and resources on actions that aren’t working.

Ranking data can also help you to decide if you need to assign funds to other areas such as advertising to be visible to your target audience.

If you use a rank monitoring tool, you may additionally be able to add in competitor domains to keep an eye on how your rivals are performing. This should give you a clear picture of where your business stands in comparison with others in the local area.

Monitor and grow business reviews

Reputation is everything in business so you’ll want to ensure you’re proactive about monitoring what people are saying about you, and encouraging customers to share their experiences of working with or buying from you online for others to see.

Many businesses hesitate to be proactive about growing reviews but, if you make this a regular part of your local marketing routine, you’ll be rewarded with better search engine rankings and increased consumer trust. The number of reviews you have along with how often new reviews are published all influence your search position therefore, the more you can grow your review profile, the better your local SEO visibility is likely to be.

Online reviews have replaced traditional word-of-mouth recommendations for modern consumers. They expect to see plenty of recent reviews, make a habit of reading around 10 reviews before developing a sense of trust, and tend to discount older reviews. You’ll, therefore, need a steady stream of fresh reviews to generate inquiries and sales.

Optimize your website for mobile

Given the popularity of mobile browsing and Google’s much-publicized mobile-first indexing, ensuring your website is quick to load and highly functional for visitors from a smartphone or other mobile device is a must in any local marketing strategy.

As with all optimization, making sure your site is optimized for mobile is no small undertaking but this investment does unlock a wealth of advantages for your business. It’s no secret that the majority of search users now go online from a mobile device. Traditional websites are optimized for desktop computers, often connected to high-speed broadband. The smaller size screen and often slower internet connection make navigating a desktop site frustrating and awkward. A site optimized for mobile gives the mobile user a seamless experience. Pages are quick to load and forms and shopping carts designed for ease of use by someone wanting to input information or checkout using the smaller screen of their phone.

Consumers expect a slick mobile experience as standard. If you fail to meet that expectation, in all likelihood that potential client will leave and go to a competitor who has taken the time to make their products and services accessible from a mobile device.

To put this into financial terms, last year’s Black Friday saw more than $2.9 billion of sales originating from mobile devices. Shoppers are spending money like never before on their smartphones and tablets – but you can only get in the running for that if your site is optimized to work well on a mobile device.

Keep in mind too that mobile optimization (ensuring pages are quick to load, that forms are easy to complete, that information is easily navigated, etc.) is also a core requirement for local search visibility. Google’s primary index is mobile-first, meaning your position in the local rankings is dependent on mobile optimization.


Run a pay-per-click ad campaign in the local 3-pack

If your local marketing strategy calls for immediate visibility, a pay-per-click ad campaign allows you to buy advertising space within the organic search results.

For many businesses, the major benefit of running a local search PPC campaign is the speed with which you can get your products and services to the top of the search results pages. It is possible to set up a small ad campaign and see your adverts live in a matter of hours – in comparison with local SEO activity which could take several months to bear fruit.

Local pack search ads also give you targeted exposure which can lead to a rise in in-store visits and calls. If someone searches for ‘mechanic near me’ for example, they could see your advert at the very top of the search results just when they needed you most.

Local search ads can feature your business locations, which can lead to more foot traffic. They can also provide directions and offer call options.

Run Google Local Services ads

If your business is a service provider, you can run a Local Services ad that displays your business details at the top of the search results. The ad will show when a consumer in the local area searches for a service you offer.

There are several business benefits to running a Local Services ad campaign as part of your local marketing strategy. These ads immediately give you the opportunity to be found right at the top of Google search results, meaning local consumers don’t have to search too hard to find and book your services.

With these ads, you can also earn a Google Guarantee or Google Screened verification on your advert. This tells consumers that Google has verified your business licenses, insurance policies, and carried out employee background checks. This is an easy way to build trust and showcase the authenticity and quality of your service offering to win new business. Becoming Google Guaranteed also opens up the possibility of a free listing on voice search as a service provider.

Local Service advertisers can use an app to communicate with clients so you can reply to messages on the go, track the progress of leads, and manage bookings.

Local print advertising

You may decide to add an offline element to your local marketing efforts and if that’s the case, placing an advert in a print outlet such as a local newspaper is a tried-and-tested strategy.

Print advertising has been overlooked in the last few years as digital options have taken off but that’s not to say that investing some of your local marketing budget in a targeted ad campaign with a local newspaper or magazine should be discounted. In fact, adding a physical print dimension can bring you additional benefits.

One clear advantage of local print advertising is that your business is assured of visibility within a specific, relevant geographical area. Local print media is naturally highly targeted, meaning they often serve as important local hubs of information for households within that town or city.

Competition for local ad space is arguably less in print than online, with many businesses having migrated to digital options. This gives you a great chance to stand out, without as much competition as you may find on social media for example.

Because of their physical nature, your print ad may also endure longer than a digital equivalent. Whereas a PPC ad will disappear when your budget runs out, older copies of the local newspaper or magazine may stick around for weeks in the doctor’s surgery, library or nail salon.

If you have the budget for it, you could make a positive contribution to your local community while ticking off some of your local marketing tasks by signing up to sponsor a local event such as a high school football game or a charity like your nearby non-profit animal shelter.

There are a number of compelling arguments for sponsoring local events or charities. Being a shirt sponsor of a local youth team for example brings both brand recognition and a higher profile within the community – each time that team hits the field, all spectators can’t help but see your business represented.

Sponsorship of a local worthy cause or organization could also help to bolster your local SEO efforts by earning you a backlink (or several) in recognition of your donation. You can build on this further by creating press releases to announce your sponsorship and commemorate key events – such as reaching the playoffs in the case of the youth team of holding a family fundraiser in the case of the animal shelter. This adds to your local profile, can result in favorable local media coverage and earn you even more backlinks to propel your local SEO efforts.

Hyperlocal Facebook advertising

Just as the name suggests, hyperlocal Facebook advertising is a Facebook advert which is targeted at a small, specific local area. This could be as hyper-targeted as specifying your ads only be shown to people within a certain zip code.

Being able to narrowly define who sees your ads can make your budget go further and work harder – as you can be sure you aren’t wasting cash showing adverts to people who are outside of your catchment area. By the same token, hyperlocal ads are laser-focused on consumers within your immediate vicinity, which is ideal if you want to drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.

Get listed on lead generation sites

Depending on your service or trade, it may be possible to get your business listed on lead generation sites such as HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List. This is often as simple as registering, creating a profile, listing your specialisms and then waiting for people interested in those services to get in touch to request a quote.

Adding a lead generation presence to your local marketing is a smart move as it puts you in a prime position in front of credible buyers and those actively looking for your specific service. Lead generation sites are attractive to consumers as they remove the need to research, contact and request quotes from dozens of different service providers. The consumer simply inputs details of their project, which is then sent to relevant service providers to quote. You have access to leads which you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

While you’ll typically have to pay a membership fee or commission to the lead generation platform, it’s a great way to get quick access to projects to quote on and build your local reputation and reviews.

Content Marketing

Email marketing

Email marketing involves sending an email (often with a special offer or deal) to a list of email contacts. This places your deal or news directly in the inbox of everyone who has opted in to hear from you, typically previous clients and leads.

Email marketing is a highly effective medium, loaded with business benefits. Studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to generate $38. That’s a ROI of 3800%.

Email is especially effective for small businesses because it provides a fast, cost-effective way to communicate with customers and prospects. At the same time, it can directly generate visits to your website, calls, and foot traffic.

You can additionally use email marketing to deliver useful, informative content to your pipeline, which helps to cement your reputation as a trusted authority in your field.

Today’s email marketing platforms are very advanced and most offer automation. This makes light work of time-intensive sales tasks that you may not always be able to do yourself, such as emailing someone who has added items to their cart on your website but left without completing the order or, contacting someone who has enquired about your service but then never picked up the phone to your customer service team following up.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the practice of using social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to build your profile, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your site or brick-and-mortar location.

When leveraged properly, social media marketing is a very effective local marketing tactic. Social media usage is prolific and today’s consumers, from baby boomers to millennials, are accustomed to using their preferred networks to look for deals, find businesses, source recommendations, and increasingly, shop.

No matter the size of your team, social media provides an accessible real-time forum to engage and communicate with prospects. You can use platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to have meaningful discussions with your audience, bring them closer to your brand, answer questions, and share local promotions.

If your local marketing budget is a little tight, social media marketing is also low-cost and at its most basic level, requires no investment at all. For those who want to go further, you can use the many paid advertising options offered by social networks to raise your visibility while also specifically targeting local consumers thanks to the wealth of demographic information social networks hold on their users.

Think of links as roads into your website – the greater the number of links you can convince third parties to share back to your site, the easier it is for consumers to find you online.

By their very nature, building links creates greater visibility for your site. If you write a press release for example about an award you’ve won and this is published on a local blog, all of the readers to that blog could click the link to be transported directly to your website.

If you partner with a local influencer and they offer a link back to your site within their post, you not only get the benefit of exposure to that influencer’s audience, you also get a direct way to draw that audience to your site.

Links remain a key currency for SEO because, in addition to aiding discoverability, they are also a signal of trust. Someone willing to share a link to your site is essentially giving your domain a vote of confidence. The more relevant links you have, the more traffic your site is likely to see and the better your search engine rankings.

Create relevant local content

Writing and sharing relevant local content is a targeted form of content marketing that can bring a range of benefits as part of your local marketing campaign.

As with the other tactics on this list, it is a tried-and-tested way to reach, engage with, and hopefully convert local consumers into confirmed clients. Focusing on community or local topics is a smart way to attract local readers and simultaneously reinforce your expertise or authority in a particular area. To ensure that your content really hits the mark, you can use tools such as Google Trends to research what people in your area are most commonly searching for on Google within your niche.

Creating original, useful content also adds a great deal of value to your own site. It provides optimization benefits to aid in search rankings but it can also make your website a destination in its own right and give visitors a reason to remain long after they may otherwise have flicked back to the search results. Marketers often refer to this as making the site ‘sticky’.

Over and above giving local consumers a reason to visit your website regularly, good quality local content is highly shareable, which can lead to more links (again helping SEO and overall visibility), an elevated social media profile and peer-to-peer recommendations.


Local marketing is a broad field and, as a local business owner, you have a wide and varied range of tactics at your disposal. Broadly speaking, the three core pillars of a local marketing campaign are local SEO, advertising and content and social media but, within those three categories, you’ll find multiple tactics and approaches which can be mixed, matched, and adapted to suit your budget, your objectives, and your audience.

Jamie Pitman
About the author
Jamie heads up BrightLocal's content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.

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