How Local Service Businesses Can Win Online, Dominate Their Service Area, and Own Their Market.
Local Online Marketing in 2023
Start Growing Your Local Business Today with a Proven Online Marketing Strategy that Works.
There is a new gold rush going on right now, and it’s online. Gone are the days of traditional media marketing where only the biggest businesses with the deepest pockets get all the customers.
The playing field is level now, and if you take advantage, you can use it to grow your local service business and dominate your local market with digital marketing.
Our local online marketing system was created specifically for local service businesses. It is the result of eleven years of digital marketing experience, millions of dollars of client ad spend and thousands of hours of strategic thinking, planning and collaborating. We’ve proven that it both works and is replicable in almost any geographic market.
Online marketing for your local business does not need to be complicated or overly expensive, and when done correctly it should bring in new customers and leave you with a substantial return on your investment.
A well-thought out and properly executed online marketing strategy can attract more of the customers you want on autopilot, freeing you from the concern of where your next customer will come from.
The biggest mistake we see is that most local service businesses do not have a comprehensive and cohesive strategy when attempting to market their business online. They get lost in the sea of buzz words and acronyms (SEO, PPC, CRO) and quickly give up trying to figure it out, or decide that internet marketing simply doesn’t work.
This local online marketing guide presents an overview of what we’ve found works extremely well for generating leads and new customers for local businesses online.
It contains actionable information that you can put into place immediately to start getting more of the customers you want for your business.
We cover the “four pillars” of our “Digital Sluice System” that (when executed correctly) have proven to be a very successful way of generating leads and getting new customers on autopilot for local business owners at a substantial ROI.
Demonstrate Expertise with Your Brand, Content Strategy & Message
Start by Creating a Solid Brand
At its core, your business’ brand should position you as an expert and not just a local service provider. Experts can always charge more, they will stand out, and they will convert prospective customers into paying customers more often.
As you’re developing a local online marketing strategy for your business, having a clear definition of your brand is important. Your brand needs to be central to all of your marketing in order to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts.
What is a Brand?
A brand is an identity. It’s the image you project to your customers and prospects. It says who you are, what you do, what you stand for and what clients can always expect from working with you.
Your prospective customers need to feel confident about working with you. Feeling confident can mean a number of things for potential customers. They want to know that you can help them solve their problem(s), that you can do it for a fair price, and that you have expertise.
You’ll notice that these feelings are primarily rooted in trust, reputation and authority, all of which can be built into your brand and expressed in your marketing efforts.
Begin with Your Logo
A logo is an important step in branding and marketing your local business. A good logo can drive conversion rates up, while a bad one can drive them down. The font, images and colors in your logo should be designed to resonate with your prospective customers.
It should look sharp and professional. We have found it to be a plus for logos to visually represent the type of services you provide and or the geographic area that you do business. This helps to set you apart from the myriad of “national” directories and lead generation companies.
It should convey to prospects immediately that you are the local expert, capable of solving their problem(s).
When choosing colors, consider the emotions evoked behind your choice. Colors are psychologically associated with different emotions. You can refer to this post to see a color wheel and get some ideas for your logo.
Your website colors and design can then be designed around your logo so that everything matches nicely.
Once you have your logo, you can then move onto demonstrating credibility and authority. This can be accomplished in two ways. The first is through online reviews and the second is through the content on your website.
Online Reviews and Reputation Management
Online reviews have become essential to any local business’ brand and marketing efforts. In a local online marketing survey we conducted recently, 92% of people said they would seek out and take into consideration online reviews before hiring a local home service business.
Online Reviews Help Increase Search Engine Rankings
Online reviews can help to get your website and your local Google “Maps” listing ranked higher. This is because citations and reviews are major pieces of how Google’s algorithm ranks your website locally.
The more reviews you have across a variety of platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, the more quality signals you’ll send back to Google, as well as to your potential customers.
Positive Reviews Increase Conversion Rates
The second reason that online reviews are important is that they help convert more prospects into paying customers. Beyond search ranking factors, reviews serve as social proof to your potential customers that your business will provide them with great service.
Many business owners say that word-of-mouth referrals are a central part of their marketing strategy. In our local online marketing survey 63% of respondents said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Conversely, bad online reviews or even no online reviews can have a very negative impact on your marketing efforts. 51% of respondents said they would not hire a local home service business if they didn’t have any online reviews.
How Local Businesses Can Get More Online Reviews
If you want to generate more online reviews, asking for reviews in the first place is key. Simply sending an email or asking in person is the first step. You can do this very easily by creating a Google review link and sending it to clients directly. Another effective way to build your online reviews is to use a tool like BirdEye or GatherUp which help automate the process of requesting reviews for your business.
The second way to demonstrate credibility and authority is through the content you publish on your website which we cover in the next section.
Supporting Your Brand with Compelling, Useful and Quality Content
The best way to position yourself as an expert is through the creation of quality content which helps prospective customers solve problems and answer questions while highlighting your experience and expertise.
It should make clear to potential customers what sets you apart from other business, and why they should do business with you over anyone else.
Google’s algorithm has been refined to both reward websites with quality, useful content and to devalue the ones that have none. It’s never been more important to create good quality content for your website than it is now.
This is why you should take the time to create an overall content strategy in order to achieve long-lasting effective search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion optimization results. We work with our clients to create customized and compelling content to attract potential customers and convert them into paying customers.
Your content should be robust, well-written, accurate and most importantly, useful to your potential clients. There is no minimum or maximum ideal length; it just needs to be long enough to serve its purpose. Sometimes that may mean just a few hundred words, and other times, that may mean several thousand words.
Elements of Good Website Content for Local Online Marketing
Knowing Your Audience – We see a lot of business owners describing what they are selling. This makes for very boring and repetitive website content. Instead, we suggest you start with your ideal customer. What problems are they looking to solve, what questions might they have? What’s going on in their lives? How can you help?
Think about what information would be most helpful to them.
Solving your ideal customer’s problem(s) and answering questions they might have should be central to all of the content on your website.
Keyword Identification and Targeting –The first step in your content strategy is to make a list of topics to create content for. Think about conversations you’ve had with potential customers. What word choices do they use when they discuss their problems or issue? Take note of these word choices, most likely this is what they, and many others, would type in a keyword phrase search.
You can then use free tools like Ubersuggest to find keywords and content that your prospective clients are searching for. You can also start typing something into Google, and you will see suggested search results. This usually is a good indicator of what your potential customers are searching for. You can also scroll down to the bottom of Google’s search results where you will see “Related Searches” with even more ideas you can use to create great website content.
Unique Value (Selling) Proposition – You should spend some time considering the benefit of your services, how you solve your customer’s problems, and what distinguishes you from the business down the street.
You should communicate the value of your services quickly and in a way that is obvious to your potential customers.
Showcase Your Local Business’ Brand and Content with Your Website
Your business’ website should be the central piece of your digital marketing efforts.
From a prospective customer’s view, your website is a direct representation of your business. It’s often their first, most lasting impression of who you are, what sets you apart and how well you can meet their needs.
It is important to consider how effective your website will be in getting people to want to hire you. You can drive all the traffic in the world to your website, but if the website lacks fundamental elements, you’ll likely convert little to none of that traffic and have very little to show for it at the end of the day.
This is one of the reasons many local business owners believe that search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing doesn’t work. If you’re sending good traffic to a bad website, it won’t convert (and those clicks can be expensive!) For these reasons, it’s imperative that your business’ website be built to convert prospects into paying customers before you spend any money on getting website traffic.
Elements of a Good Local Business Website
The design of your website is critical to communicating the right message to your prospective customers. A clean, simple to use site with a strong, unique personality can instantly set you apart and help increase conversions.
Many local business owners struggle to articulate what services they provide in terms that their prospective customers can easily and quickly understand. When designing your website, always put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Your website should be able to communicate the value of your services in a matter of seconds and your message should be crystal clear, enticing and memorable.
A good local business website conveys what makes you unique and helps you stand apart from your competition.
On the Internet, trying to be all things to all people is a great way to reach no one. Effective design zeroes in on the attributes that set you apart and communicates that unique identity through images, videos, words, and how your website is organized.
Always think in terms of your customer’s expectations. If you’re in the pest control business, being “aggressive” (think power colors like red) can help reinforce your message to a prospect. On the other hand, if you’re marketing a chiropractic business taking a “softer” approach would likely resonate more with a prospective customer.
Display Badges and Awards
If you have awards, recognitions or any other badges that can bolster your credibility and expertise, add them to your website. Trade groups and local new outlets are often a good source of these types of awards.
A good local business website answers a prospective customer’s questions.
Make it simple for prospective customer to know that you are the answer to their problem(s). A well-designed website clearly communicates this upfront by answering questions they have before ever speaking with you.
You can do this by answering frequently asked questions that you hear when speaking with prospects and current customers alike. Include these questions and answers throughout your website, in headlines, FAQ pages, and anywhere they fit naturally.
A good local business website has personality.
Don’t just be another “stock/template” website. Keep in mind that while you’re selling services, you’re also selling yourself. Don’t be afraid to add personal touches such as your photo to your website.
Also keep in mind that people are looking for a local expert. Avoid using too many stock photos. Choose images that reflect your personality, services, and geographic area you serve. Then, reinforce those messages in headlines and other prominent blocks of ad copy.
A good local business website is easy to use.
Your website should be mobile optimized with easy to read content on all devices. Fancy features such as Flash video and graphics, sliders or other memory-consuming content can actually make the user experience worse. Flashy features like this rarely increase conversion rates. Keep your website straightforward and easy to use.
Make sure that mobile versions of your website include features like “click to call” buttons and very simple contact forms. It should be easy for people to know how to contact you.
Your Website’s Domain Name (URL) / Web Address
When choosing a URL for your website, there are two main considerations. If your firm or legal practice specializes in one particular service, you can structure your domain name as follows:
Use a keyword targeted domain for your website URL.
- Example: treeserviceboise.com
Make certain that if you choose a keyword target URL that you are only going to target that service area because this will cut down on your ability to rank for additional keywords. However, if you are only targeting one service area, keyword domains are a great way to go.
If your business offers multiple services (i.e. new home construction, remodels, decks, doors and window, etc.), this is how to structure your site:
Use a branded domain – NOT a keyword target domain.
- Example: jrbuilders.com
Using a keyword targeted URL will send mixed signals to Google. For example, https://boisegargagedoors.com/our-serivces/windows/ crosses two service areas. It’s best to use your business’ brand name as the root domain (URL).
Getting Found by Prospective Customers
Internet traffic is the lifeblood of any local online marketing strategy. You can be the most qualified, most experienced service provider in town, but if Google isn’t showing your website on page 1 to prospective customers when they are searching for the services you offer, you’re losing out on a lot of business.
Getting Your Website Found with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) for your local business involves strategies and techniques that help attract more prospective customers to your website by obtaining first page ranking positions in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Having a comprehensive SEO marketing strategy is one of the best ways to get more local customers online. One survey showed that 89% of people search for a local business on their smartphone at least once a week.
A successful SEO campaign can be a local business’ largest source of new customers, while bringing in an excellent return on investment.
Keys Factors for a Successful Local SEO Campaign
Focus on these five elements to increase your local business’ search engine rankings.
Target the Right Keywords for Your Local SEO Campaign
Keyword research is all about determining which strategic keywords you should be targeting in your website’s content, and then how to create that content to satisfy both search engines and the people searching.
Keyword research will provide you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like:
- What specific terms are people searching for relating to your practice and geographic area(s)?
- How many people (per month) are searching for those terms?
As we mentioned in the content creation section above, You can use free tools like Ubersuggest to find keywords and content ideas that your prospective clients are searching for, along with Google’s “people also ask” section.
Simply put, you’ll want to target the keywords that are going to have the most search volume, and result in the highest conversion rate possible for your local business. The best approach is to target both short and long-tail keywords throughout your website content.
On-Site Search Engine Optimization for Your Local Service Business Website
On-Site SEO (also called technical SEO) is one of the main things that you can directly control in order to help your website rank higher. This include things like:
- Title tags– Search engines like Google use your title tag to understand what your page is about and then serves that content to its users. Make sure your title tag is less than 160 characters, unique to the page, and click worthy.
- Meta descriptions– Search engines show your website’s meta description in search results more frequently when the searched-for phrase is within the description, so optimizing the meta description is a simple and import thing that can be done to improve your SEO.
- Image alt tags– Applying alt tags to images can positively impact a law firm’s search engine rankings, especially for local (Google Maps) SEO.
- Schema– This is specific “markup” (code) that helps the search engines return more informative results for users directly within search engine results pages (SERPS).
The ultimate goal of on-site SEO is to leverage the factors Google uses to judge the quality of each of your web pages. You can then create content that uses these factors to enhance the experience of your prospective clients to increase conversions (contact form submissions and phone calls).
If your site isn’t where you want it to be and you’re not seeing the traffic or search rankings that your competitors have, you need to run an SEO website audit. An SEO audit checks for site errors, meta descriptions and title tags and helps you uncover what needs to be fixed or changed on your web pages to boost your search engine visibility.
Achieve Top Search Engine Rankings with the Right Content Marketing Strategy
Effective, quality content marketing is paramount for top search engine rankings. The content on your website has a direct effect on your website’s ability to rank on Google and on your ability to convert website visitors into clients. Google has come right out and stated that “content” is among its top three ranking factors.
If you follow the steps in Part 2 of this guide “Supporting Your Brand with Compelling, Useful and Quality Content” then you’ll already have this part covered.
Always create content for your potential clients first. Never put content on your website simply because you think your website needs more content. Everything on your website should serve a specific purpose for your prospect. It should address and answer frequently asked questions and help illustrate why you are the best choice to do business with.
Google Maps Listing Optimization
Google Business listings (Google Maps) are featured prominently on desktop and mobile devices for users seeking local products and services. As a result, Google Business SEO can create incredible exposure for local service businesses.
Primary factors that influence Google Maps rankings:
- Whether or not your business is verified on Google Business.
- The volume and accuracy of “citations” to your business (mentions of the firm name, address, and phone number on other web listings, such as Yelp, Facebook, Yellowpages, LinkedIn, etc.).
- The total number and average rating of reviews on your Google Business listing.
- The proximity in which your business is located to the searcher.
- The domain authority of your website (having to do with the quantity and quality of your backlinks).
With mobile Internet use dramatically increasing, the relevancy for Google Maps marketing is on the rise for a majority of local businesses.
- Today’s digital environment revolves around mobile use, with 90% of Internet users owning a smartphone.
- Over half of Google searches done on a mobile device are done so with the intent of looking for a local business, service, product, or information.
- Google search continues to focus on local searchers seeking products and services in their area. Beyond marketing, Google Maps displays general brand and business information such as hours of operation, physical location, customer reviews, and driving directions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be labor intensive and time consuming, therefore it’s not a bad idea to consider outsourcing the project to a competent Local SEO company. Search engine optimization should be an ongoing process that you have a plan to keep doing for as long as you want to stay high up in Google’s search results.
That said, having a basic understanding of how a successful SEO campaign works is important. Any SEO campaign done for you should include all of the elements listed above. Furthermore, the price of SEO services varies widely. It’s absolutely a good idea to talk with multiple companies and compare their price and the tasks they’re actually performing for you.
Getting Your Business’ Website Found with Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing platforms like Google Ads are a great way for local businesses to quickly start driving prospective clients to their website. When done correctly, local PPC advertising can become a major asset in the effort to grow for your local service business.
Pay-per-click ads are extremely effective for local businesses because they identify people at the exact moment they are searching for your services and show them a relevant ad, phone number, and link to your website.
But, with PPC keywords costing anywhere from $10 to $50+ per click, it’s extremely important that your campaign is setup correctly in order for it to be effective and successful. If you bid on the wrong keywords, or send paid traffic to a bad website (one with an unprofessional appearance, thin content, and bad sales copy), it won’t work.
Your website must be setup to convert prospects into customers before you start paying to send traffic to it. If it’s not, you’re simply lighting those marketing dollars on fire.
Setting Up Your Local PPC Marketing Campaign for Success
If you’ve tried PPC marketing and haven’t had the results you’d hoped for in the past, it’s likely due to one or more of these reasons:
- Targeting the wrong keywords (or using the incorrect match type). A “broad” match keyword for example can show ads for the wrong service offering.
- Your website isn’t setup correctly to convert prospects into clients.
- Your campaigns are not optimized correctly (this includes ad copy, ad extensions, and landing pages).
- Your targeting too large of a service area (or too small).
So, how do you execute a PPC campaign that attracts your ideal customers while maintaining a healthy ROI?
Target the Right Keywords for Your Local Business
It’s vital you ensure your target keywords speak to the search’s intent and readiness to hire for the services you provide in the area you provide them. You don’t want to target keywords as broad as “plumber” or “chiropractor.” These keywords can cost as much as $50 per click and will convert at a very low rate.
Make certain that you are only paying for your ad to show up for extremely specific keywords related to the services you provide. Paying for traffic from keywords that are too broad is the fastest way to waste your PPC budget with no results to show for it.
Refine your traffic with negative keywords. Negative keywords are terms that you don’t want your ad to show up for. For local businesses it’s important to include negative keywords such as “jobs” and “salary” to prevent your ad from being clicked by employment seekers. There are many other negative keywords you may want to include as well, such as local competitors and specific keywords pertaining to services that you don’t offer or don’t want to target.
Target the Right Geographic Area
Targeting too broad of an area is another way to quickly spend ad budget without a return. Take the time to look into your target market and know what areas they would be searching from. If you have multiple locations, separate these into their own campaigns so you can target each accurately and individually. You can target your ads at zip codes, cities, and even a radius around a specific address (such as your business location).
Use Keyword Targeted Landing Pages
It’s also importance to direct certain keywords to targeted landing pages. For example, if your a plumber and somebody clicks on one of your “drain cleaning” ads, make sure that ad takes them to your /drain-cleaning/ page and not your homepage.
The more specific you can make your whole sales process using Google Ads, the better your results will be. Remember, prospective customers go through a progression of searching keywords. They scan results, clicking on a compelling one, and land on a web page. They then either read and call you, or click the back button depending on how relevant and convincing your landing page is.
Tracking conversions is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your Local PPC marketing campaign is successful.
It’s not enough to simply measure success by how many people click your ad. An ad might be getting clicked a lot, but if those clicks don’t result in an acceptable conversion rate then that keyword needs to be eliminated from your campaign.
You need to know things like how long prospects are on your website, how many pages they visit, and ultimately if they called or filled out a contact form.
Track Conversions and Increase Customer Acquisition with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of conversions (new customers) you’re getting from your website.
It’s a combination of your branding, content, sales copy, website, customer reviews, and calls to action (click to call buttons, contact forms, etc.). This is where it becomes important to review all the previous parts of this guide, and ensure they are working together.
Having a website and getting more traffic is only valuable if it leads to an increase in paying customers. At the end of the day, a local online marketing campaign is designed to do one thing… get you more customers.
If you follow the key elements in the 4 Pillars of this guide, you’ll already have the vast majority of your CRO work completed. From there it’s simply a matter of A/B testing things like images, ad copy, and offers.
Having a website and getting more internet traffic is only valuable if it leads to an increase in paying customers.
Keys to Increasing Your Conversion Rates
Display Online Reviews on Your Website
Social proof is one of the most powerful and fastest ways to increase your conversion rates. What we see is that many prospective customers find a local business by searching a service specific keyword first (i.e. “roofer Seattle”). They then go back to Google and search for the business they found specifically and include the keyword “reviews.”
Preempting their search by showing them all of your best reviews on your website first can increase your conversions significantly.
Create Keyword Targeted Content Pages
The content on these pages should be optimized for specific keywords such as “what does a chiropractor do” (whatever the Google Ads phrase or SEO keyword you’re targeting). They should be unique for each specific service you are promoting.
The content on these pages should specifically address (in detail) the search phrase a prospective customer used to arrive at the page. Going the extra mile to create a valuable, free resource for your prospective customers is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Make Sure a Person is Answering Your Phone
It’s amazing how many local business owners actually answer their phones. If a potential customer calls and can’t reach you right away, they’re moving on to the next listing on Google.
Don’t spend time, money and energy getting more traffic to your site if you don’t have a good system in place to have a real person answer every phone call (at a minimum during regular business hours). Also, minimize the use of automated call answering systems that require a person to press multiple buttons before being connected to a real person. People are impatient, and these systems can reduce conversion rates significantly.
This is the single most important step to running a successful local online marketing campaign, and the one we most often see overlooked. You will never know how successful your marketing dollars are, or how to optimize your campaigns for more success unless you track conversions.
There is still a ton of opportunity for local businesses to grow with local digital marketing in 2023, and it doesn’t have to be painstaking or expensive. If you simply follow the fundamentals in this guide, you’ll be well ahead of the vast majority of other local business owners.
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful, but also empowering. You can absolutely still win online, the gold rush has only just begun. Take action today to start leveraging the power of digital marketing for local service business and start getting more customers today!
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