Has the web gone 'local"?...

You may be surprised at what this experiment reveals..."



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Has the web gone local?

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         January 10, 2003                         Today's circulation: 160,998

"Has the Web Gone Local?"

I live in the snow belt of Rhode Island, USA. No, it's not Siberia but so far this year we've received our share of heavy snow. Which leads me to today's marketing tip...

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When the last snow storm arrived I decided I would have a snow removal service handle my long driveway instead of plowing it with my small tractor. So I looked in my telephone directory under "snow removal" and "snow plowing". Unfortunately, there were none listed who serviced my particular town.

So off to my computer I went, in hopes there would be just ONE company wise enough to be gathering local customers via the web. After an hour of surfing all my favorite search engines, and local business directories, I gave up. Not a one. Zero. Zilch.

So, what's the story here? Hasn't the web reached the level where local businesses can benefit? After all, some 80% of homes in my area have Internet access.

This got me thinking...

I decided to try a little experiment in hopes of proving that it IS time for local businesses to start promoting via the web.

A client of mine has a local day spa that just opened a few months ago. As with most new businesses, she has very few customers so far. And since it is a "local" business with a physical location to visit, I thought it would be perfect for this experiment. If I could use the web to bring new customers to her day spa, then it would prove that web marketing CAN work for businesses with a localized service or store.

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Brainstorming time...

First I considered how potential customers might try to find spa services in her area. I assumed they would search on "day spa Rhode Island", "Rhode Island spas" and the like. I verified the presence of these web searches and found other related keywords here.

Once I had a list of verifiable searches being performed online, I filled her website with these keywords and phrases. Then I submitted her site to all the major search engines.

(Note to my members: For a list of recommended submission sites, go to: http://www.make-a-living-online.com/private/semark.htm ) (Non-members go here.)

Next, while I was waiting for her site to get indexed I opened an overture.com account. This would allow her to could bid on some of those targeted keywords that were being search on.

Upon doing so I quickly learned that her site could be positioned within the top three results of many of those keyword phrases, and it could be done very cheaply. This was not really a surprise since only local day spas would be interested in such narrowly focused keyword phrases as "Rhode Island Day Spas". (Localized businesses ANYWHERE in the world may find this to be the case with their keywords as well!)

Now we're cookin'...

Securing a few keyword phrases in the top 3 of Overture.com came with another added bonus. Since the high-traffic Yahoo! directory was partnering with Overture, it was showing Overture's top 3 search terms at the very top of their site. This meant my client's site zoomed right to the top of Yahoo! immediately. Needless to say, this resulted in an instant traffic boost.

To make a long story short, this "local business" really started to click. Not only were local customers finding her website easily and frequently, she quickly learned that people all over the country were searching for holiday gifts for relatives in Rhode Island. So next we popped up some gift certificates at the site and bingo, $3000 worth were sold over the holidays at my client's Rhode Island Day Spa website, :-)

Let's sum this up...

Have I proven to you that the web can be used for marketing local businesses?

Now I know many of you are thinking, "Hey my business is not local, it is web based only. How does this help me?"

Well for starters, if you have a web marketing related business, you'll certainly have clients with localized businesses. You just learned a great new way to get them some superb traffic. And believe me, they will be willing to pay you for it.

Are you a web designer? Now you can offer your localized businesses an optional traffic package and generate additional income. The possibilities are endless if you use your imagination.

And remember, I've just touched on the surface of marketing a local business via the web. In addition to the strategy above, businesses can use email to stay in touch with customers, send special sale announcements and more. Again, the possibilities are limited only by a business owners imagination.

I hope you've learned some valuable marketing lessons today. Now you can do me a favor...

If any of your clients plow snow, tell them to drop me a line. ;-)

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