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How to Maximise Local Digital Footfall

Location, location, location is the estate agent’s maxim but now that much of business ‘real estate’ is built of 1s and 0s rather than bricks and mortar has location become less important?

Not a bit of it.

In the early days of the web, digital marketing had more of a global approach, with a focus on creating a powerful online presence and maximising global rankings on the search engines. This created several problems. Huge chains would get the advantage simply because of their marketing budgets while customers were often being served irrelevant results. Yes, I’m sure that Starbucks in Bristol is great but it’s a bit of a trek from Paignton on a Monday morning!

Today, location is everything. Google in particular has rebuilt its entire search strategy around serving local solutions to local problems. It uses location signals from everywhere (postcard verification, directory entries, reviews, ip addresses, GPS signals, etc.) to bring customers and businesses together on a local level.

Read on to make sure you are getting your share of that digital footfall.

Budget Allocation and Location Targeting

Just as with buying or developing business property, you will have a budget. Now you could blow all of that money on web design and online ads and you will end up with a visually stunning website with an impressive flow of traffic. However, it’s a bit like focusing all your property spend on decoration and signage without paying a thought to how close it is to where your customers actually shop.

Your first priority has to be location, location, location and, the good news is, claiming your local spot on Google is free. Once your business has been claimed and verified (by entering a code mailed out to you on a postcard) you will be eligible for a place in Google’s ‘three-pack,’ the Local Finder which appears above search engine results on desktop and mobile devices.

Ensuring your local signals are accurate and up to date should also be high on the ‘to do’ list. This means checking local directory listings and making sure your name, address and phone number are consistent across them all. This is a powerful signal which Google uses to check that your business is both real and located where it says it is.

Such structured information is becoming increasingly important to Google and Vu Online can help you with this and other local visibility tweaks that you might benefit from.

If you are running a Google AdWords campaign, you can enable local extensions at campaign level. This is necessary for your ad to show on Google Maps and also means that your telephone number will have ‘click to dial’ functionality on mobile devices. If you have multiple businesses set up on one Google My Business account, you can choose to promote all of them within a single AdWords campaign or set up multiple campaigns. If each business operates in a broadly similar way (as in a franchise), a single campaign may be adequate. Otherwise, multiple campaigns will allow you to select different keywords depending on the type of customer each business appeals to.

A Note on Keyword Research

Ensuring your physical location is nailed down on Google is an important first step but you still have to work on making sure you are reaching out to the right customers in the right way. Keyword research for local search engine optimisation (SEO) is no less important and making mistakes is all too easy.

To stick with the property analogy, a lot of businesses focus on keywords that their customers aren’t searching for (setting up on an empty street). Some choose irrelevant or ambiguous keywords (setting up on the wrong side of town) while others choose keywords that are generic or just too popular (setting up next door to their biggest competitors).

Spending time and budget on keyword research will help you find that sweet spot in town: somewhere your customers will know exactly where to find you and that is also well-placed for local footfall.

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