For about a decade, small businesses and local communities have been aggressively and successfully challenging the impersonal nature of big corporations. The emerging support for small businesses and professionals who serve local communities has coincided with rising concerns and suspicions about a number of multinational corporations. Are Google, Amazon, and Facebook protecting our privacy? Do automobile manufacturers care about our safety, or do pharmaceutical companies really care about our health?

Consumers harbor no such suspicions about the small and mid-sized businesses – often family-owned businesses – that have served their communities for years and decades. The same can be said for many of the doctors and attorneys who focus on a local or regional practice. When consumers search today, they are generally rejecting big corporations and going to the local business, doctor, or lawyer they know and trust.

Since 2010, “Small Business Saturday” – the Saturday after Thanksgiving – has been a powerful and successful expression of the trend. Google’s continually-evolving “local search” is connecting more consumers to more local businesses and professionals than ever before, and with smartphone use still growing, those consumers are – for all practical purposes – everywhere.

HOW CAN YOU CONNECT – ONLINE – WITH LOCAL CONSUMERS?

If you own a small business, or if you are – for example – a dentist, a lawyer, or a financial adviser, you want to be connecting with the local consumers who are looking for you online. If your business is local – and most businesses are – you need to identify yourself and your business or professional practice directly with your city, community, or region. The benefits can be substantial, but how do you “identify yourself” online as local?

A professional internet marketing company can help. Here’s an example: Let’s say you live in Chicago, and your spouse serves you with divorce papers, so you must find legal help fast. Almost everyone in this circumstance will go to Google and type in either “Chicago divorce attorney” or “Chicago divorce lawyer,” or alternatively “divorce lawyers (or divorce attorneys) in Chicago.”

Obviously, a resident of Chicago will not care about divorce lawyers in Rockford. You need legal services – and most of your other products and services – from someone who is local, someone you can know and trust.

In March 2017, the Local Search Association (“a not-for-profit industry association of media companies, agencies and technology providers who help businesses market to local consumers”) and Burke Incorporated jointly conducted research regarding local search and internet users across the United States. Of the respondents, four out of five said that using a search engine was their top choice when looking for local businesses or professional services.

WHERE ARE CONSUMERS LOOKING FOR YOU?

In fact, four out of five respondents to the survey said that they had used a search engine within the previous seven days; 37 percent said search engines are reliable, and 32 percent believe search engines are “accurate.” Obviously, it is imperative for local businesses and professionals to take advantage of local search and to achieve the highest possible Google ranking – because that’s where the consumers are looking for you.

There is no reason to think that these trends will not continue to grow. More and more consumers will very likely be depending on “search engines” – meaning Google – in the years ahead. And while you’ve probably been reading that retailers are facing a “crisis” because Amazon seems to be taking over the retail world, the fact remains that half of all consumers who conduct a local search via a smartphone visit a retailer within 24 hours, and more than a third of those who conduct a search on a desktop or a tablet do the same thing.

EXACTLY HOW CAN YOU ATTRACT NEW LOCAL CLIENTS OR CUSTOMERS?

Local businesses and professionals must optimize their websites with a strong focus on local SEO. Google now gives a high priority to a company’s or professional’s user reviews, proximity to the consumer, and what Google calls “relevance,” so that only the most popular and closest professionals or businesses have any chance to be among the three “organically-generated” search results that now appear with a map at the top of some Google searches. How can you improve your own local online marketing?

Optimizing for local search is the surest way to attract new clients to your website. Be certain that your business name, address, and phone number are on each page of your site. Printed text that is part of an image doesn’t count; search engines can only read or “crawl” text, not images. Put your geographic location in your text and title tags. A title tag should be something like “Chicago real estate agent” or “Orlando personal injury attorney,” and that text should appear somewhere on every page.

Everything that is online regarding your business or professional practice must be accurate and comprehensive. Make certain – and then make certain again – that your business name, address, hours, telephone number, and website URL are accurate on all of your pages and accounts.

Write blog posts about local topics to interest local readers. If you are an attorney, write about a controversial local case or a confusing local ordinance. A real estate broker will want to blog about the great local quality of life and the splendid local schools, parks, shopping, and attractions.

As much as possible, be active in your community. Connect with business groups, non-profits, other businesses, and especially with your clients and customers. Look for appropriate opportunities to take part in charity events, educational events, and other community gatherings and projects.

Probably the best way to increase your local online visibility and to attract new local customers or clients is by working with an experienced, professional internet marketing company that can optimize your website – or design a new, optimized website for you “from scratch” – and also create the local content you need. That content may include blog posts, podcasts, videos, and more.

There is virtually no limit to the marketing possibilities that the internet can offer. Consider letting some experienced internet marketing professionals help you to take advantage of those possibilities with a variety of effective and innovative online marketing tools. Take the time – today – and schedule a consultation to discuss your local “presence” and your online marketing options.