In this day and age, local businesses should not restrict their marketing efforts to billboards and flyers. Eighty one percent of consumers rely on online sources for their purchase decisions, and investing in digital marketing simply makes sense if you want to effectively reach your target market. Online marketing is something you can do yourself and there is no need to worry about budget allocation since this will require practically no cost. All you have to do is take some time to know the basics and put in a few hours every week into internet marketing planning and implementation. Yes, just a few hours!

Here are 4 tips that will help you kick-start your online marketing efforts and allow you to take advantage of free marketing resources that will enable your business to effectively connect with more local customers:

Create a Google My Business Account

With over 1.2 billion unique users per month, Google provides small businesses a great online marketing opportunity. Google My Business has been launched recently to make it more convenient for brands and local businesses to connect with their customers on Google+, Google Maps, and Google Search.

Through a dashboard, local business owners can provide their business information, including their operating hours, contact information, and other details that will make it easier for their target audience to find them in a Google search. When you create your Google My Business account, you will automatically generate a Google+ page, allowing you to build an audience through Google’s own social media channel. Google+ pages are usually displayed highly in Google search results, which will help improve your business’ online visibility and website traffic.

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List Your Business in Local Directories

Online local business directories are still a trusted and valuable resource for consumers, so get your business listed and take advantage of their features. Listing sites such as MozLocal, BrightLocal, and Yext offer directory submission, allowing your business to become visible to their visitors searching for specific goods and services in your local area. And since these paid sites have not yielded to the onslaught of spammers, so they represent a genuinely effective and lucrative way of driving potential customers to your business.

Connect on Social Media

Many local business owners are reluctant to engage in social media, thinking that they will be targeting an audience that’s too broad and irrelevant. While that may be true, it is also a fact that your local customers are actively connecting on social media. And if you want your business to get in touch with them, you need to be on social media as well. You just need to refine your targeting when boosting posts or creating ads.

It is very easy to set up pages and profiles on social media platforms. In addition to your business account, you might also want to create a community page where you can compile a list of local businesses and resources that local people would find useful. This page will be primarily about your local area, not your business. Creating and regularly maintaining Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Pinterest boards, and Google Plus hangouts will allow constant engagement with local people, increasing their awareness and appreciation of your local business.

Encourage Your Customer to Provide Online Reviews

Ideally, online customer reviews provide helpful insights for prospective customers as to the quality of the products and services being offered by a particular business. However, the credibility of online reviews has slowly diminished due to fake and fraudulent reviews. Recently though, Google has undergone some steps to fix this issue, so customer reviews created on your Google+ profile now have a big impact on your online marketing activities.

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Positive online reviews are instrumental in influencing prospective customers to trust your business and try your products or services, consequently increasing your sales revenue. Additionally, these online reviews also influence Google’s ranking algorithms. Garnering positive reviews from trusted sources directly affects your business’ search engine ranking.

You can leverage on online reviews by encouraging your customers to leave reviews about your products or services. Provide incentives such as discounts or rewards points to customers that provide their feedback online regarding your business. Politely ask your customers to provide their honest feedback and be careful not to make them feel forced to do it. It is important that these reviews are genuine and unbiased.

While you may not be an expert in internet marketing, these tips will help you get started with the basics which should not be underestimated. Simple as they are, these are powerful tools that will bring in positive results. Observe and be amazed to be welcoming more customers at your doorstep!

Author Bio:

Michelle Rubio is an experienced SEO copywriter and blogger since 2010. She has been working with various businesses, big and small, in the United States, UK, Canada, and Australia. You can see more of her works and experiences in her LinkedIn profile.

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