Let's say you are a small business owner who wants to make their brick-and-mortar store popular online. Or, let's say you are a local SEO consultant who is helping the said owner with Internet promotion.
What marketing tools can you use to perform the task faster and easier? Well, as there are quite a few tools in the market that do similar things, I decided to break them down into 5 major types of tools that are essential for effective local biz marketing.
1. Keyword research software
People search for products and services using keywords and key phrases, so, the first thing to do would be to identify what keywords are popular with the users searching for your type of business.
Google's AdWords Keyword Tool is probably the most popular SEO keyword tool out there, but if you're going to use it for local keyword research, there are a few things to remember.
- Use location markers in your initial keyword list (such as pizza New York)
- For relevant results, specify the Location and the Language that apply to your potential customers
- For more exact results, use Broad match and Exact match options in the tool
- A big share of local searches comes from mobile devices. So, get separate data for keywords searched for on mobile (by default, the tool shows stats for desktop/laptop devices)
You might also want to check out this article about How to build up keyword phrases when your research tools fail, which was posted on our blog some time ago - it has a big chunk dedicated to local keyword research.
2. Citation finder
Citations are often called "the life juice" of local SEO, and for a good reason. By "citations" local SEO folks mean different type of online mentions of a business.
For example, since Tom Hanks is a celebrity, you find his name on many webpages. Google uses the same logic to determine how popular a local business is with online audiences. A few things to remember about citations:
- To help search engines correctly attribute citations to a biz, make sure the same Name-Address-Phone Number-Zip Code is used across all its mentions.
- Not all citations help your site/listing rank higher. Citations from low-trafficked, low-PageRank websites won't do much good, and may lead to your site being in bad standing with Google.
This app is one of the best of its kind. It has been topping the charts for local SEO tools for years now. The software will help you accomplish 2 tasks: find your own online citations and get new citation ideas for your biz.
As you can see from the screenshots, the app can either find your top competitor and let you explore their citation sources, or it will let you see your own citation sources, including the type of website they come from and the domain authority of the site they come from.
GetListed (initially provided by David Mihm) is a great tool to quickly see if your business is cited on the most important local business websites such as YellowPages, CitySearch, Yelp, Localeze, etc.
What I also like about this online app is that it allows you to quickly check if your business name, phone number and address are consistent across different listings.
Point is, you don't have to get your business listed in each and every directory under the sun. It'll be enough if you list it in key directories, from which tons of other directories and social networks get their data.
Another thing I'd like to note is that, Yelp, a popular review platform, reportedly powers over 20% of Siri search results. Hence, it probably would be wise to make this leading review site one of your priorities.
3. Web design software
Luckily for local business owners, quite often there is no need for them to have crazy complicated websites, as their web presence will most likely be scattered across a large number of different platforms anyway.
For example, you'd probably want to pay decent attention to your Google+ Local listing, your Facebook page and other vital social media sites (including review sites) in your niche.
Along with it, it's important to have a neat-looking website of your own that contains all the key information people might want to know about your biz such as its store hours, location, the people behind the business, etc.
WordPress is open-source content management system that lets one set up a site in just a few simple steps. It's deal for people with little to no web design background.
If you are planning to create a WordPress site for free, it's worth mentioning that the way your site looks mostly depends on the theme you use. WordPress offers a number of free themes, however there are more professional ones designed for WordPress which you can buy, and they come relatively cheap.
One such theme is SmallBiz by Don Campbell. It's only $97, and the price includes email support. What's also great about this theme is that it automatically adapts to mobile screens, which is a huge advantage for local businesses.
4. Reputation management software
In local online business, the impact your online reputation has on the way your business performs in search is particularly great. Negative reviews can have an adverse effect on where search engine rank your website.
Reputation management basically consists in:
- "Listening" to what's being said about your business online
- Dealing with negative feedback
- Promoting positive sentiment about your brand
Google Alerts is a super-easy-to-use service that will deliver rumors about your business straight to your door - for free. All you have to do is create alerts for your target keywords and listen away.
Besides, you can create alters for mentions from particular sites. For example, if you create an alert for "Hilton Hotel" site:Yelp.com, you will be alerted only for Yelp mentions. By the way, quotes marks "" are there for a reason, too - they prompt Google that you'd like the results for that exact phrase.
BuzzBundle is Link-Assistant.Com's SMM and online reputation management tool. Using BuzzBundle, you can track brand mentions across a wide variety of social sites (Facebook, Google+, etc.) in one place and reply to people right from the dashboard.
5. Local SERP tracker
As many small businesses choose to leverage Google local search and also organic search for Web traffic and sales, it's important to know where your local listing or your website show up in Google. There are quite a few tools that include local SERP trackers.
PlacesScout is a relative new all-in-one local SEO toolkit that has a local SERP tracker among other things. Its Rank Tracker checks rankings in both Google Places and Google Web search.
What I also like about their Rank Tracker is that it also offers the Map View of your local rankings, which is convenient for estimating your local SEO progress at a glance:
However, if you'd rather use a stand-alone local SERP tracker, you might want to try Rank Tracker by Link-Assistant.Com. In addition to supporting local and web search, it also has advanced search settings that let you specify language, location and safe search settings for your rank check.
Of course, the list of local SEO tools you can use does not boil down to the software pieces mentioned in this post. The purpose was rather to articulate the most helpful types of local SEO tools one can use for small business promotion.
Flickr image courtesy of Ed Yourdon.