These are exciting times for small businesses. The rush is on to find the best way of using the web to propel your product to a larger audience and reach the global marketplace. But before you start dreaming of exotic holidays and fast cars you have to first ensure you are already covering your own backyard. After all, The Beatles would never have cracked America if they had failed to sell any records back home.
Business models are changing fast. But you should never underestimate the importance of reaching your local consumers. The fact is that the majority of businesses conduct most of their trade within a 50 mile radius. Ensuring that people in your vicinity can find you as easily as possible is crucial.
The latest research from the US suggests that more and more people are searching for, and finding, local businesses and services online. Global exposure can still be your long-term goal and dream. But reaching local consumers should be your priority – and is a lot easier to achieve.
Research by Comscore networks showed that in the US 63% of interviewed net users conducted a local search in July 2006 compared to only 43% the previous year. These searches were for local restaurants, entertainment and businesses. The most promising stat is that this in turn led to 41% making contact online.
The Yellow Pages is now being left to gather dust in a cupboard, whilst the days of ringing costly directory enquiry lines might be coming to an end. The Internet is a resource for information and is increasingly the medium on which people will find your business.
Developing your web presence so that the search engines push you onto peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s screens has never been easier. And it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to cost you an arm and a leg via a short term pay-per-click ad campaign. PPC is fine if you know your conversion percentage. But for smaller businesses, just looking to capture more targeted visitors in your local area, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably not the most cost effective solution.
Posting to your blog once a week with relevant material will not only develop the sales process but will Ã¢â‚¬ËœorganicallyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ optimise your website for search. Depending on the competitiveness of your keywords, you could be hitting the top of Google and Yahoo for local search terms in less than two months.
The advantage we have in the UK is that business blogging is still in its infancy. This is largely due to lack of awareness and reluctance to invest time and money in a new marketing technique with no obvious, immediate ROI. This simply means that the early adopters will find it easier to push their website to the top of their local search terms – and capture the most targeted traffic as a result.
Research by Fasthosts (a web hosting company) revealed that although half of UK SME businesses think they should be blogging only 3% actually plan to start. When you consider the growing importance of local search, ensuring your website is as easy to find as possible should be regarded as mission critical.
Marketing is no longer simply a case of carpet bombing your area with leaflets and placing an ad in the local paper. Maximising the optimisation of your web presence for search is essential for reaching an increasingly web savvy population.