In this informative webinar, online marketing expert and best-selling author Michael Fleischner will reveal marketing mistakes and how to fix them.
Listen to the amazing webinar or read the transcript, if you don’t know:
Michael: I literally wrote the book on search engine optimization. It’s been out seven or eight years. I think now it’s in its fifth edition. It’s called “SEO Made Simple,” which stands for search engine optimization. It’s sold more than 50,000 copies. But one of the issues that I had was really focused around local marketing, and that’s why I put the book here. This stemmed from a need that a lot of clients had, that with the changes to Google and everything happening online, they really needed something that was more focused on local optimization as opposed to general SEO.
My background there is that I did SEO and then ultimately local optimization, which we’ll talk about, primarily for agencies, at least initially before I started working with larger clients like Mercury Media, Princeton Partners and others. And then I worked with some pretty large clients. Dow Jones, InStyler, Cross Pens, Lenox China, just to name a few. What I learned there was that I didn’t necessarily love working for the larger companies, because those projects generally took much longer to see the outcome.
So I started working for local businesses. I’ve worked with more than 500 local businesses, both storefronts and online businesses, and really started to have an impact. I’ve created more than seven figures of increased business alone working for these clients, applying some very simple local optimization techniques that I’m going to share with you throughout this presentation, so be sure to look for those. Now I’m going to show you how to do it. This process is pretty simple, but it’s really effective.
Just to start, let’s begin with a little level setting just so we’re on the same page, and I’d like to talk about exactly what local online marketing is and why it’s so important to anyone looking for an easier, better way to grow their business. To me, local online is really about promoting your business to potential customers within a specific geographic area. You do that by using local search engines, and these are resources like Google Maps, MapQuest is another one, local search, online business directories like Yelp, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, or Thumbtack is another one, and digital media including Facebook and other social media channels. Local marketing is really changing the way that people search online, and it can also be the key to taking your business to the next level.
My goal today is to show you how to use local online marketing to finally promote your business, make more sales, gain loyal customers, which is really the key, and get the recognition that you deserve for your business. Now, let’s talk about the shift, because this shift is really driving this whole idea of local online marketing, and it’s pretty significant. Even before we work through the bullets, I think this picture’s pretty representative here. Most of us have multiple electronic devices, and right now this digital shift is driving local buying behavior, so people are using their digital devices to buy local. Google.com is now driving more traffic both online and offline to more local businesses than any other source. In fact, they control more than two thirds of all web traffic. Not only are people using their devices, but largely they’re using Google, and that is what’s driving their options, if you will, when it comes to products, services and solutions providers.
Larry Page, Google co-founder, said that lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future. Well, fact of the matter is the future is here now. Sixty-two percent of all searches have some type of local intent, and that means that people are picking up their devices and they are using those devices to find something in a specific geographic area.
Sometimes the search has a city or state included or area included. Other times it’s just the phone using Geolocation to provide solutions that are most relevant to where they’re searching from. Fifty percent of mobile visitors visit stores within a single day. That’s a pretty powerful statistic. So not only are they looking online, but then they are going to local businesses and buying, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendation. That can’t be overlooked.
3.5, why is that number significant? Well, when you think about the fact that the majority of people are looking online to find products and services, your audience is actually everybody who’s online, 3.5 billion people, and of course this is happening because of the proliferation of connected devices. We all have multiple devices, and it’s reported that there are more than seven billion active devices in operation. Unlike platforms like Google, they’ve truly become the pathway to more buying power than ever imagined. What’s great is that the tools and resources are available to find the portion of this traffic that may already be interested in the products and services that your company offers, and we’re going to be exploring those in detail. But this eliminates the need to hunt for potential customers, kind of the old marketing model, and rather creates an opportunity to get in front of people who are already looking for your products and services.
The shift is the local platform that search engines like Google have provided is really making some local business owners extremely well recognized in a pretty short period of time. I always like to put examples into my presentations, because hopefully you’ll resonate with one or some of these, but let’s start with the first one. This is a wellness center run by Dr Swanekamp. He was a little known chiropractor, small town of Robbinsville, and in just eight short months he was able to basically emerge from obscurity to become one of the top providers in central New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And what’s so interesting to me is using the power of online local. He did this without a single dollar spent on traditional local advertising like newspaper ads, coupons or inserts.
So it’s pretty powerful. He’s tripled the size of his practice, He now offers a bunch of services: chiropractic acupuncture, PT, he calls it, and massage therapy. When I did this presentation initially, he had a two-month waiting list for new patients. and all of this because he really embraced this idea of local online marketing. He’s far from perfect. There are a lot of things he still needs to do right, like collect some additional reviews and other things that are a priority for him, but he’s getting results, nonetheless.
Now, this is really interesting. This is a small bagel shop. I’m sure you guys all have them in your town. They don’t even have a website, but this is an amazing success story. They’re essentially leveraging online, like I’ve been talking about. In just three months they really turned things around by having this online presence.
You can’t get more local than a bagel shop, right? So thanks to the power of online marketing, Mike, who’s the owner you see there in the picture, he’s grown this, and now on Saturdays and Sundays there is literally a line out the door. People are turned away because they can’t get into this bagel shop on weekends. He just opened a second store in the next town over, and he shared with me by year end he’s going to pay off the store, and just paid about $50,000 in upgrades to his existing store interior. So really, really great, great progress there.
The last one is H&H Appliance Center. Here is a company, they sell products, and some of these are very high end, around $14,000 a piece, and just a year ago they were planning on closing shop, but recently moved to a bigger, more modern space, and it’s all because of what they’re doing online. In addition to these examples that I’ve shown you, there are hundreds if not thousands of businesses making a name for themselves on Google. In the process they’re creating a huge base of new and happy customers, capturing the attention of their community and really generating a healthy income. The question is, Well, what makes this different? What makes local online different?
There are a few things that are making this different from your traditional advertising. The first is that with Google and other local search engines you’re able to get your business promoted online much more quickly if you do it the correct way. Just make sure that you’re not losing ground against your competitors and that you’re able to promote the latest and greatest promotions or offers that you have, including information about your business. So speed to market is incredibly important. The second thing is you’re joining forces with a real multibillion-dollar, globally recognized brand and tapping into a seven-billion-person marketplace.
Google is where it’s at. It’s not the latest app, it’s not sexy anymore, but Google is where all of this is happening. Aside from Facebook, most people are using Google to research and find businesses to do business with. And finally, Google has a platform that makes promoting your business, selling your products and services much, much easier. This not only creates an opportunity for businesses looking to get in front of consumers, but consumers as well who can usually find what they’re looking for with just a few clicks of the mouse on their mobile phone when they’re on the go.
When it comes to local online marketing, I have a confession to make. Yes, I have done a lot of things right, but I’ve also done a lot of things wrong. This is really interesting, because I thought that some of the techniques and strategies that I use for the larger businesses that I consulted for I could use with the smaller businesses, and that clearly was not the case. After doing this for almost a decade now, I’ve discovered that no matter what niche you’re in, there are a few key things you must do in order to be successful with local online marketing. What’s interesting to me is that I’ve discovered these things not only through modeling other people, but mostly by running experiments. Running experiments on my own, running experiments with clients, and that’s really made all of what I do much more effective.
What are these three things? Well, the first is discovering how to pinpoint potential customers in a specific geography. The key again is getting in front of people within a given geography and doing that consistently so that people see your brand over and over again. The second thing is getting clear on the information you must be sharing to get customers to take action. It’s not enough just to be in front of them, you also have to get them to pick up the phone or fill out a contact form or visit your store.
And the last piece is generating so many inquiries in sales that other businesses have no choice but to take notice.
The reality is that growing your business is a numbers game. By finding the trigger points that generate the most effective result in essentially what I call double downing, so finding those things that work on a local basis, and putting more of your marketing budget into those things can help you grow more quickly and with less effort. Does that make sense?
Let me show you how to do this, and keep in mind that I discovered this stuff the hard way. The good news is today you’re going to be able to take advantage of a shortcut and learn the easy way. Now, the hard way, here’s the hard way. I fought with being overwhelmed and avoided jumping into the online marketing space. As a marketer, online seems so complex and overwhelming that many of us hesitate in some way. Maybe we’re comfortable with Facebook so we focus on Facebook, but we’re not comfortable with AdWords, so on and so forth. That was kind of the feeling that I was having, but it’s also probably the mistake you’re making as well.
My advice is stop waiting until you know everything. You never will. I’ve been in this business now for a decade. I still don’t know things. But every day you learn more and you learn what’s working, and that’s what you focus your efforts on.
The second thing is that I had no idea how to target my local customers using local online marketing, at least not in a meaningful way, and this made it difficult to grow my business beyond what I could do using more traditional advertising, whether it was newspaper advertising or email marketing or whatever the case may be. The other thing is, like you, I’ve hired digital media agencies or consultants and other outsourcers from sites that really didn’t produce, and that only set me back, as opposed to jumping in on my own and starting to learn some of the strategies. At the end of the day I ended up losing a lot of money and most importantly time, which is the most valuable aspect. This is simply because I didn’t have a road map to get me where I needed, and I’m going to share that road map with you.
The question is, do you want the easy way that guarantees you won’t make any of these marketing mistakes? I put this here just to remind me of a famous quote. I don’t remember who said it, but essentially it said that the average person learns from his own marketing mistakes and a smart person learns from someone else’s marketing blunders. What are a few secrets when it comes to online local marketing? The first is that I can sell more of my products and services, attract more loyal customers, and make more money in one month online than I can in an entire year selling them anywhere else. We’ve seen this time and again. The second thing is that once I apply all the steps in my system that we’re going to cover, customers flock to me instead of me having to search for them. This is a really big plus, because I hate having to market my business in how most local businesses have to.
And number three, and this is really the most important piece that we’ll start covering, I only need a small amount of time and money to make this work, about $150. Now, what I would say is you can actually do it for zero. This piece is for people who are less patient than I am and want to start generating interest sooner rather than later.
I’ve been talking about Google throughout this entire presentation, and the fact is they do it all. Just look at search results for any business or any local business, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Allowing search engines to handle the marketing, brand building and promotion while you handle your core business is just plain smart. Google has a well-oiled machine already in place that will continuously drive people to your website or store and literally make sales for you, so we want to tap into that system that’s already working. And local search engines work hard to promote your business, attract new customers and make money for you, so why wouldn’t you focus there?
What do you need in order to be successful at applying these five steps? Well, the first place is to really think about how to best leverage Google and other local search engines to be successful. The place to start is always with a little bit of knowledge and understanding. Most business owners leave this critical step out, and really don’t take the time to learn how local search works. I’m not talking about general search, I’m talking about local search. Once you do, you can leverage local search to grow your business.
Although Google allows you to leverage your platform for free, you may need to pony up $150 if you’re too impatient to wait for local search to start driving your business. What would that money be used for? Performance-based local marketing. That could be AdWords, which now has a local marketing option, could be Facebook ads, which we’ve seen a lot of success with, even at $5 a day. But those things generally we lay on top of the organic piece to enhance the results.
Then finally you have to be willing to repeat this process over and over. This is not a once-and-done strategy. You really need to work this process on a go-forward basis if you want to see results. The fact is most businesses claim to do marketing but never get to the point of recognition and growth they hoped for. This is mainly because of one simple reason. Can anyone guess what it is?
We talked about this earlier. The fact is that they make the major mistake of putting more effort into the marketing they’re being sold versus promoting their businesses to local customers already looking for the products and services they offer. I’m talking about paying for ads in local papers that few people read, investing in ads on websites nobody visits, things like Valpak, high school programs, and other marketing where you’re simply chasing down potential customers. If you continue to focus on chasing customers versus getting in front of those looking for what you have to offer, you’ll never become the successful business you deserve to be. We talked earlier about the shift.
This is the fundamental shift in mindset that I want you guys to make when you think about marketing and promoting your local business. Are you going to chase potential customers or get in front of those already looking for what you have to offer?
There are basically five ways or five steps that you can do this, and now I’d like to share those with you. Here’s my five step process for creating a massively successful online presence for your local business. The first step is to learn how local works, we talked about that understanding, and how to use it to so successfully promote your business. For this step, we get help from the world’s largest search engine, Google. This search results page looked pretty familiar to you guys. You can see from a simple example that Google’s using very specific assets to present potential buyers with information.
You’ll see similar results no matter what area you’re searching for and in any niche. So by understanding the components of local online search and how these results are being generated, you’re already ahead of 90% of other businesses, maybe 99% of other businesses, even your closest competitors. In fact, all you have to do to stay on top is learn what the top-ranked local sites in your area are doing. That’s what’s most important.
What’s great is that Google doesn’t try to hide this. If you know what to do and how to run the local searches and dive a little deeper, all of the information is there in terms of what factors are being weighted and how people are ranking the way they are. By discovering this information and applying it to your own business, you can start to see similar results. Once you know what your local competition is and what they’re doing, you have to jump right in and begin using Google to promote your business. This can start bringing new customers almost immediately and is really one of the most powerful steps in growing your business. So let me show you how to do this.
One of the best ways is what I call Google My Business Plus. This technique works in a pretty simple way. The first step is to register and list your business on Google My Business. If you guys are familiar with Google my business, unfortunately we don’t have more than the time allotted. I’m sure I could do a presentation on this alone, so if there’s interest, definitely let you know.
But once you’re listed on the Google My Business platform, the next step is to complete and optimize your business profile, your listing, because Google favors those companies that have a complete and optimized listing, and that includes everything. It includes photos of your business, hours of operation, a well-targeted description, videos that you may have produced regarding the business and so on. There are other factors, but these are just some of them.
The goal is that you want to complete it. This is the most important part of this entire step. What most people don’t know, and I apologize for the typo in the flyer there, but what most people don’t know is that Google compares this information, the information that in your Google My Business profile, to what’s published on your website. So what you need to do is you need to double or triple check that the information in your Google My Business profile appears exactly, exactly the same way, as it does on both the website and the Google My Business profile. Make sure Google My Business profile, get it set up, get it optimized. Use the same information as appearing on your website.
The tip here, and this is really important, so I just want to go over it one more time, is that the information matches exactly what you have on your website. Failing to use the Google My Business Plus method that we’ve created in the right way can mean doom for your business but massive sales and recognition if you use the right way. It’s simple, but you have to apply it. Most people do these things independently and they don’t think about how Google is using both to verify the information. So just to wrap up, your listing needs to be so complete and accurate that potential customers and Google can’t tell them apart. This will help to optimize your business online across multiple search engines.
Step number three is simply to verify your Google My Business listing. This is a necessary step, and unfortunately not completed by most business owners. Verification isn’t difficult, but you have to do it. Over the years and dozens of tests, we have found that more than 80% of local businesses have not verified their listing on Google My Business and don’t rank as well as they should. And I can tell you from experience that a lot of people, because Google may be pulling in information from their web page, they’re like, “Oh, I’m verified on Google.” If you have not taken the time to go to Google My Business and actually go through the verification process, your business is not verified.
It’s something manual that you need to do. This alone makes verifying with Google a necessary step, and again, I encourage everyone to do it, but once you go through the process, Google sends you a postcard, you have to follow the verification link they give you and enter a code. It’s pretty example.
Step number four, use honest reviews to create social proof. Step number four is to use honest reviews to create what we call social proof, and this sends a really strong signal that your business is worth buying from. The stronger your online brand and the more positive reviews that you have, the more potential customers are going to buy from you. Now, one of the ways that I’ve been able to build online reviews is both fast and free, and essentially it works like this. What you do is you identify some of your best customers, and you should for the most part have their contact information. If not, try to locate it.
And send them something before I ask for the review. I’m going to give you an example on the next slide, so just bear with me here. But essentially you’re creating this quid pro quo relationship. The last step is to gently ask them for a review on Google, but there’s no obligation. Now, you need to send them a direct link to where they can leave a review, and I’m mentioning this because this is the mistake I see a lot of companies make where they go through the process. They identify someone, they ask them for a review, but they say, “Give me a review on Google” or “Give me a review on Yelp.” If you want it to work, you have to send them the links.
Let me give you an example, and I usually start my communication out this way. I’ll say something like, and I’m going to use organic shampoo is my example, but let’s say I say, “I see that you’ve recently visited our store and enjoyed purchasing our organic shampoo. We began offering a new line of organic conditioners, and I think you might really enjoy one. I actually sent one a few days ago. When you have a moment feel free to take a look, and if you’re feeling extra generous, I’d love to receive a review on Google from someone who obviously knows their stuff when it comes to organic hair care.” And that’s it. That’s all you need to do, and watch the reviews come pouring in. I’ve used this strategy for many of my clients time and again, and it works. It works.
You might be asking yourself why the approach works, and the answer is simple. It’s called the law of reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action. The example that I use is someone who’s walking through a set of doors and they hold the doors open so that the person behind them can go first. When you do this there’s a much greater chance that the person feels obligated to return the favor by holding the next set of doors open for you. I’m sure that makes sense. You guys have experienced this maybe as recently as this morning when you went to work.
And in addition, wanting to return the favor by giving them something of value for free. In my personal experience, most people are usually honored that they’ve received recognition for their expertise and that you’ve actually asked them for a review. I’ve never received a bad online review using this strategy, because people always ask me, “How do you get reviews? Should I pay people for reviews,” which you shouldn’t do, by the way. But you can create something of value for them and ask, if they’re feeling extra generous, if they would leave you an online review. They don’t always, but I have generated a lot of reviews in this way.
And then the final step is to go beyond Google and focus on data providers. Now, this is important because as you learn more about what’s under the hood of local search, you’ll find that data providers are having more and more of an impact. Over the last couple years, I’ve been really surprised, I guess pleasantly surprised, about the my ability to boost local online presence using what’s called a data aggregator or data aggregators. They’re essentially data providers who are giving Google their data, or Google is using their information to verify what they have in their own directory, which is Google My Business.
Here’s the spoiler alert. By targeting these providers, the data aggregators, your business is preferred over other non-verified providers, and it’s a long explanation as to why that is, but a lot of it has to do with website authority and who’s pointing to your website, how consistent your information is wherever Google tries to find it online, so on and so forth. This is really a simple way to continue building your online credibility and making [inaudible 00:28:31] sources of business validation. I consider my leveraging data aggregators as like a secret weapon that truly enhances results for hundreds of clients, especially in competitive markets, because it helps them stand out.
Marketing tip number five is the focus on data aggregators like Acxiom and Local Leads. There are others as well who are continually validating Google’s data and filling in the missing pieces. A great tool for this, especially if you’re smaller business, is Moz Local. You may have heard of that before. With the speed of change in the number of local businesses opening every year, Google is continually looking for new resources to help them confirm and verify their listings in search results, so of course it makes a lot of sense to expand your online presence using this tool which taps into data aggregators.
Finally, let’s put it all together. I like to condense things down. There are essentially three simple ways to get started marketing effectively online. I’ve used all three of these. They’re very easy to do, and they’re effective.
The first is to get your business listed and optimized on Google. I always teach my students to start here. Even if your business is already listed, I want you to go back after this presentation and make sure you completed all the information. So whatever Google’s asking you for, I need you to provide, and be sure to have that information, especially your name, address and phone number, match with what your website says. Avoid careless marketing mistakes that most people make when setting up their Google My Business profile.
The second thing is to focus on getting positive reviews, and share them. We didn’t talk about this at length, but you want to spread the word on social media and put a link on your website to your Google My Business profile.
And finally, use a data aggregator like Moz Local. If you’re a small business owner, this would be the perfect option for you. And think about what makes Google different. What makes Google different is that your company information gets published almost immediately, usually within a day or two. And with Google you’re tapping that 70% of traffic that’s using Google as a platform, or the mobile devices using Google.
It also doesn’t have to be perfect. I showed you a number of examples, and all of those local businesses can improve in some way, and when things are digital you can make changes at any point and time. I mentioned you instantly achieve an online presence, and then finally, prospects and customers are accessing this information as they search, and that’s happening 24/7, 365 because it’s all online.
Here’s another example. Let’s take a look at KinderCare. It’s a popular franchise that offers day care, and they need to attract the right audience in a very specific geography. And just ask any parent. They don’t just leave their kids to anyone, so this is really a high stakes search.
This new center, they filled up in just seven months. They didn’t use a single print ad, a single bulletin board or local mailer. None of the above, but they were able to create a powerful online presence so that when people were searching for day care within this geography, they were coming up and they were presented in a way that created conversions for them.
Last example I’ll give here. This is a local chiropractor outside of Philly. He saw an increase of more than 86% in new patients in just a few months. The fact is once your business is online, you’re getting in front of people already searching for local providers.
He was able to actually increase his average order size. He’s averaging more than $1,200 a patient now, which was more than double than it was previously. He shared with me it was closer to $700, but it’s almost double.
Just to wrap this up, the biggest difference is that when it comes to local online marketing, things have changed. A number of years ago it was fine to just update your information once a year, and that’s why the Yellow Pages were so popular, but now, thanks to all the technology that people have, the expectation is that information is immediate and it’s up to date. It’s got to be at people’s fingertips. They want to know if your store’s open, if what they want is in stock, if they can make an appointment, what specials are running, so on and so forth.
So what you need to do is generate robust online listings that include a lot of information about your business. Videos, photos, seasonal offers, so on and so forth. Keeping this information updated and changing on a regular basis is important. I said at the beginning of the presentation it’s not just set and forget. You need to be on top of it.
And of course there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. You want to make sure that you’re updating your information on Google My Business, you’re using data aggregators to push information out, and you’re using online listings from some of the more important directories. I won’t go through the details here, but you can see in this example there’s an unclaimed listing and then there’s an optimized listing, and this is for MapQuest which not only is available online, but actually feeds some navigation software.
I used to do consulting for a company called Navteq, which is now owned by Nokia, but they created all the maps that go into these different devices and cars and things of that nature, and they’re pulling from this type of information. So you want to make sure it’s claimed, that you actually go in and claim your own profile, and that it’s complete. That’s a very important thing.
Just to highlight, accurate and consistent business contact information. Again, you want to make sure that matches with what’s on your website, and optimize description. Use keywords and location-specific information if you’re a location business. Finally, make sure that you’re uploading everything you can, especially photos and videos. When building your online profile, make sure to be thorough, make sure to be accurate, update your information regularly, and finally, be consistent.