Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would have made a fantastic on-line marketer simply because she knew one plain truth: there’s no place like home. Print media, once the staple of local advertising, now has lost its appeal to many neighborhood merchandisers. In fact, an incredible 70 percent of U. S. households use the Internet to find local information, and 36 percent of all searches are for local businesses. These staggering numbers add up to opportunity. With the right combination of Web site strategy and geo-targeting, any company can attract nearby customers like never before.
The Top 10 Ways to earn money where you live are:
1. Keep your Web site in sight. Most people start shopping on one of the big search engines. Your site must use the right keywords and other search-engine-optimization techniques to be noticed.
2. Make your Web site out of sight. Once your site is optimized, shoppers will find you, so make sure they like what they see. Explore the sites of your competitors and compare: does yours have the best content, navigation and graphic appeal?
3. Bring people on-line when they are off-line. Advertise your Web address everywhere: letterhead, signs, print ads, fliers, your door, menus, napkins, t-shirts, hats — anywhere you can think of.
4. Get connected. Link with or register on local Web sites, vertical market sites, local on-line papers and Yellow Pages, and business directories such as Yahoo!® Local and Switchboard®.
5. Consider the source. Geo-targeted ads identify users by zip code, area code, IP address or some combination of the three. Decide how wide a net you want to cast; depending on your market, zip codes and area codes might contain widely different population numbers.
6. Check ad providers for accuracy. Find out how geo-targeted ad providers collect their user data. Declared data, or information provided by the user during a registration process, is far more accurate than observed data. The most commonly observed data is IP addresses; but these cannot always be traced back to a specific or accurate location.
7. Don’t go by content. If your business is in the heart of Manhattan, you might think advertising on nytimes.com makes geo-targeting sense. It doesn’t. Popular news sites draw visitors from all over the globe.
8. Make an offer they can’t refuse. Ads featuring a specific offer achieve dramatically higher click-through rates than ones that don’t. Local shoppers want to do business with you, so give them a reason to do it now.
9. Email a newsletter. Everybody knows neighbors like to gossip, so they might like a newsletter that covers the local scene and what’s up with your business. And, by adding newsletter content to your Web site, you optimize for the search engines.
10. Blog A Web log, or blog, can help you establish your company as a thought leader in your field, or simply give local shoppers another way to get to know you. Since business blogs are exploding in popularity, potential customers often search on blog-specific search engines rather than tradition ones. You might have the blog search space all to yourself, at least for awhile.
In short, effective geo-targeting requires a combination of advertising strategy and SEO. Google™, Yahoo!® and the other big engines are rolling out powerful tools to filter searches down to sites that most-closely match the shopper’s location. Local businesses with optimized Web sites and geo-targeted ads will capture the home-field advantage.
Aaron Wittersheim is president of Whoast Inc. , a suburban Chicago search marketing firm. For more information, visit http://www.whoast.com