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Whether you’re a coffee shop owner, a local hair stylist or a restauranteur, local visibility drives the success of your business. While a strategically placed sandwich board may draw in more foot traffic, the true power lies in digital marketing, unlocking the potential to drive Google traffic and attract online customers.

But not all online traffic is “good” traffic — especially when it’s untargeted for your service area. What you need are customers who can physically step into your office or storefront, actively seeking service providers in their vicinity.

This is where the essence of “local” internet marketing thrives. Combining digital prowess and community engagement, local internet marketing allows you to attract local customers who are eager to engage with your business.

Related: 4 Strategies to Help You Attract More Local Customers to Your Small Business

Local internet marketing, defined

Local internet marketing refers to the strategies and activities businesses use to attract customers in a specific geographic area. It is particularly important for local businesses that depend on foot traffic or those that are only licensed to practice in certain areas. The goal is to reach people who are in close proximity to the business and/or are looking for geo-specific service providers.

Grow with local SEO

People use search engines (namely, Google) to find restaurants, clothing stores, salons, law firms, coffee shops and more in their local area. A Google search for “burger place near me” brings up a list of Google Maps and organic Google results, targeted to the user’s location.

As a business owner, you can capitalize on the power of search engines to get found by local customers. To do this, you’ll need to optimize your website for the search terms (“keywords”) your potential customers are using to find products or services like yours. This is what’s referred to as local search engine optimization (SEO).

This involves using strategic keywords in your web page titles and content, writing detailed page descriptions, implementing user-friendly navigation and optimizing your website for mobile devices. Create engaging content that appeals to the local audience, such as blog posts, videos or infographics about local events or interests.

Google isn’t the only search engine in town, though. Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex and others can also display your business in the search results if you follow SEO best practices.

More than just Yelp

Yelp is one of the most popular online business directories, with a vast user base and robust review platform. However, there are many directories businesses can use to get found by local customers.

One such directory is Google for Business, Google’s proprietary (and free) directory platform. Businesses can find and claim an existing listing or create a new listing to display their phone number, hours, business description, photos, logo, website link, reviews and more.

Some other directories to which you should submit your business information include Yellow Pages, Bing Places for Business, Foursquare, Better Business Bureau, Superpages, Merchant Circle, EZLocal and eLocal. It’s also worth it to submit your business to industry-specific directories (such as Avvo for the legal industry, or Workbook for photographers).

Make sure that your business details are consistent across all directories. Prioritize earning reviews for your Google Business Profile, then direct customers to leave reviews on subsequent profiles.

Related: Why Local SEO is the Key to Business Success

Gain an edge with local search ads

While local SEO focuses on optimizing your website to improve its organic rankings, local search ads involve paying for visibility through ads that are displayed alongside the search results.

Google Ads is the most common platform for running paid search ads. With Google Ads, you are able to target a specific geographic area, designate what keywords you want to “rank” for, write compelling ad copy and track the results of your advertising spend.

The Meta Ads platform also allows you to target certain audience demographics, interests, and geographic locations to attract customers best suited to your business. Search ads are a way to drive immediate visibility, traffic and leads for your brand, as opposed to waiting on traffic from SEO.

Tap into your local community

Don’t underestimate the value of good ol’ fashioned networking. Engaging with your local community through Facebook Groups, LinkedIn communities, Instagram and the like is a great way to promote your local business.

The best approach is to find local networking groups specific to your industry. Join these communities with the goal of commenting on existing posts, forming connections with its members and posting your own interesting or helpful content.

Make sure to be authentic and avoid overly promotional posts. Engage with the community to establish trust and credibility, prioritizing long-term partnerships over short-term promotions.

You can also look into resources like Meetup.com and Eventbrite to find online and in-person networking opportunities in your area.

Related: 5 Simple SEO Methods That Produce Major Traffic for Small Businesses

Level up your rep and reviews

Positive online reviews are an important factor when it comes to your business’s SEO and reputation. To increase your local visibility, encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, Facebook and other online directories.

Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by including links to your review profiles in follow-up emails, receipts and on social media. Respond to positive reviews, thanking customers for their business, and respond to negative reviews to address concerns in a professional manner.

It can be helpful to offer incentives or discounts to customers for leaving reviews (restrictions may apply for certain industries). Acquiring many, five-star reviews can improve your Google Maps rankings and ultimately build trust with potential customers.

Remember, local internet marketing is much more than high rankings in Google. Adopt a multi-channel approach to get your business found in local directories, community groups, social platforms and even via paid ads. That way, your business can attract more foot traffic, as well as online customers.

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