Columnist Garrett French explains how local businesses can improve their online visibility by becoming a part of the local ecosystem, both online and off.
If you’re just in Yelp or the Yellow Pages, you’re not truly “local” yet. You’re missing out on audiences native to a particular city.
Yes, you have to be in these big directories. But marketing in the true local web means creating campaigns relevant to audiences where they live.
In this piece, I’ll outline our team’s recent findings on the anatomy of the true local web, with a focus on how “Web National” brands and app developers can organically access local customers in any community.
What is the “true local web?”
The true local web is composed of websites that are published by actual local organizations, as opposed to websites that are created by national publishers that don’t have a real local presence. In other words, these are websites published by entities with actual addresses in the city you’re trying to market to.
The true local web includes not just local retail or service businesses within a given city, but other organizations, as well. It includes the nonprofits. The arts. The news publishers, bloggers and events native to a location.
Who should care about the true local web?
There are three types of businesses vying for web traffic in CITY X:
- Businesses local to CITY X
- National chains with brick-and-mortar locations in CITY X
- “Web National” businesses that serve CITY X without a brick-and-mortar location (think Uber)
When you write about “local marketing,” most people assume you’re talking about the first option above, maybe the second. The third generally gets ignored, even though it’s arguable that these organizations are most in need of true local web connections. “Web National” isn’t a ubiquitous term yet, but we’d argue that it’s a distinct category, separate from other national brands.
All three business types care about web traffic and search engine rankings within CITY X, but their strategies for getting there are going to vary.
The true local web is more easily accessible for the local business owner. She already knows people on various town committees; maybe she bowls with local bloggers on Tuesdays. Even if she doesn’t already have these connections, they’re easy to pursue because she’s already a local in her target market.
National chains with smart marketers will encourage their brick-and-mortar store employees to leverage their local connections. Supported by their national advertising and PR strategies, each unique location doesn’t have to spend much on local marketing, thanks to the “rising tide” nature of these big chain businesses.
But how do “Web National” organizations solidify their place in the market?
They haven’t yet curated local connections, nor do they have physical storefronts and signage to draw in customers. For these reasons, web national organizations may need the most help accessing the true local web.
True local web engagement for traffic & rankings
If the true local web is an online manifestation of a city, then partnerships with these local organizations are the way to access true local web traffic and to influence local PR, social media and search rankings.
A bit about true local partnerships
Local sponsorships are the bread and butter of a community. But to find them, you have to take the time to look in the breadbox and dairy drawer!
Sponsorships are the crux of the true local web. They allow local, chain or web national businesses to join community efforts, often including a myriad of advertising for one’s dollar.
We often see local sponsorships overlooked because they’re complicated and disjointed. Each organization is unique, with its own price points, benefits and requirements. But the benefits for local visibility make them worth pursuing.
True local social media marketing
Going local with social media means attracting pages and influencers that are region-specific. This could mean individual bloggers and local celebrities, or it could mean Meetup or Facebook groups focused on a particular city.
As with sponsorships, they’re disjointed, but they also provide a way to meet potential customers without the noise of traditional marketing tactics. When you have to dig for a true local fit, there isn’t as much competition.
True local social media opportunities can be found by connecting with nonprofits, clubs, events and organizations looking for monetary or in-kind donations. Even partnering with a nonprofit for an employee volunteer day can secure social media mentions to the organization’s local following. These activities are also primed for storytelling, which is why web traffic can also be served by public relations.
True local PR
Local journalism isn’t dead. But it has moved online. The upside is that there are now many more options when it comes to outreach — a more liberal company may even consider bloggers as members of the press. After all, many of them cover a beat, share local news and hold themselves to legal standards.
But as with finding and coordinating partnerships with organizations, working with local press can be a messy enterprise. In our experience, local journalists are spread thin, and they don’t often have time to evaluate every unique pitch from an unknown source. There are two best practices for securing local press, and both could be considered part of a long-game strategy:
- Persist, respectfully. Keep emailing (new) pitches. And don’t stop developing locally relevant stories.
- Show up. The upside of “true local” is that journalists in a given city won’t be hard to track down. They’re wherever news and community can be found. The more a brand is involved with community goings-on, the more chances brand representatives have to meet and greet the reporters covering these events.
True local blogger engagement
Topical searches for bloggers are not new, so why not search for online influencers who live in a particular location? Try using advanced operators to search “about” pages for mentions of your target city, and see who comes up. (For additional ideas, we’ve discussed some great tactics for finding local bloggers in the Citation Labs Local Webinar.)
Local blogger engagement can work for one-off campaigns or as part of a larger event (see below). While not all bloggers in Dallas consider themselves “Dallas bloggers,” with the market saturation of online writers over the past decade, many are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. And local blogging can be a real money-maker.
In-person engagement: Where true local tactics link together
Event engagement is as local as it gets. Events may come with a booth, tickets or a table at the dinner party. And it’s a tactic primed for creative thinking. Local presence can drive so much more than awareness; a presence at these events can be used to:
- generate app downloads;
- sign up new customers;
- hand out coupon codes;
- engage with local bloggers and press; and
- reward existing local customers.
If you’re at an event, you should be doing everything you can to drive potential customers to meet there. Web national organizations that can’t afford to send a rep to CITY X may even recruit a local customer to be a brand advocate in the area. What better way to reward frequent customers than to give them free tickets to local festivals?
Additionally, if you spend money on local advertising, why not let people know that they can come meet you at an event?
“We Are A Proud Sponsor of the BBQ Festival! Come Get a Dessert At the ACME, INC Booth!”
If you design your event engagement properly, there might be a case for local press or bloggers to be there. There are a lot of ways to weave these pieces together by being physically in a location, at a specific event. Oh yeah, and you’ll most likely get a link and social media mention from the event, too.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)