Everyone is on the internet, which is just wonderful! But you’re not looking to reach everyone. No, you’re a local business and you have a very specific target market that you’re looking to reach. So how do you get your message to the right people online? At times it feels like no one cares about the online visibility of us little guys. How are we supposed to get onto page one of Google’s search results, before the Fortune 500 companies and the big guys with huge advertising budgets? It’s time to get scrappy, local business owners!

Local online advertising is expected to grow 255% to $35billion by 2014. Here are my 3 favorite tools to use for geo-targeting online messages. Small-medium sized local businesses should be using all 3 of these to improve their online presence among the people who matter to their business.

1. Google Places

97% of consumers search for local businesses online. You can list your business on hundreds of online directories, but Google is the most widely used search engine in the world with 900,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors. Google Places is a free service that finds the searcher’s location (whether they are on a laptop or their phone) and provides them with local business listings. The best part is your business is no longer buried on the 10th page; Google shoots these business listings to the top of page one, for free. No need to pay hundreds of dollars for Google Adwords.

Local Search, Google Places
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If you already knew this, here’s a statistic that you may not know: 50% of visitors to Google Maps only do business with the top 3 results. So what does this mean for you?

– You must set up and optimize your listing properly – this means making sure your name, URL, address and contact information are correct.

– You should include keywords people are searching for, as well as information about business that people may find helpful. Photos are a plus.

– You need to encourage your (happy) customers to go onto your Google Place page and rate and review your business.

2. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a social media management tool, similar to Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. I love Sprout Social (most days) because of its great smart search feature. Once you connect your Twitter account through the Sprout Social dashboard, you can perform local Twitter profile and tweet searches based on keyword.

Local Twitter Search
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For example, here I have searched all tweets mentioning social media from people within a 25 mile radius of Princeton, New Jersey. I can also search all people who have mentioned social media in their Twitter Bio in a 25 mile radius of Princeton, New Jersey. Once you find these people, it’s your job to connect with them! These tools can only get you so far.

*Note: I am aware Hootsuite has a local search feature as well, but it is not as user friendly.

3. Facebook ads

I cannot tell a lie – I used to think Facebook ads were pointless until I actually tried them out. Now I’m hooked! Let me tell you why:

– Pay-Per-Click Facebook ads are reasonably priced. For all of my local business clients, I can spend between .70-$1.20 for someone to click on my ad. If they click on the ad and then “like” my clients page, that’s one new lead for around the price of a dollar.

– Facebook ads are hyper-local. I can say I want my ad to be seen only by people in a 10 mile radius of a town, or I can list several towns that I want my ad to show up for.

– Facebook ads can be targeted by interest and demographic. If I’m a local clothing store, I can target my ad so it gets seen by my competitor’s fans. I can also target my ad so people who are interested in shopping, clothes, fashion, and any other keyword I can think of. Say I carry a popular line of clothing, and I want people who like this brand to come to my store. I can target people who have liked the brand on Facebook, and they will see my ad.

– You can link the ad to your Facebook page or an external site. Which makes it a great option even if you aren’t totally sold on social media marketing.

Facebook local marketing
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The possibilities are endless. Play around with Facebook ads, and set a couple going at the same time to see what people respond to.

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