How to Win in Chinatown with Local Digital Marketing

Patrick Kwan from New York City, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chinatown: So Much Crammed in Such a Small Spot

Officially, Chinatown is less that 500 acres. But, it has hundreds of small businesses crammed into one small space. The reality is Chinatown is more for the tourists as more of the Asian population has migrated to the Queens Chinatown in Flushing. Much of the authentic Chinese culture moving with it.

That doesn't mean Chinatown is not a vibrant, colorful neighborhood. It simply means that its customer base has changed significantly. Instead of catering to Asian Americans and other New Yorkers, it now focuses on tourism. COVID 19 had a devastating effect on Tourism and Chinatown, just like Times Square, has suffered.

Digital Marketing Works Best When Localized

For building a digital marketing strategy for your local business, it may differ greatly from what you’ve been used to in the past. Local digital marketing works best when it helps local customers find what, when, and how to get what they need quickly.

“Near Me, Now”

Google trends is an invaluable tool when looking at changes in real-time and over time. This graph is an example of how consumer behavior has changed. As you can see, the interest in location, ‘near me’ has jumped 4 fold in google searches over the past 5 years.

Near me Google Trends Chart

However, “near me” alone is not enough. 

  <script type="text/javascript" src="https://ssl.gstatic.com/trends_nrtr/2431_RC04/embed_loader.js"></script>  <script type="text/javascript">    trends.embed.renderExploreWidget("TIMESERIES", {"comparisonItem":[{"keyword":"near me now","geo":"US","time":"today 5-y"}],"category":0,"property":""}, {"exploreQuery":"date=today%205-y&geo=US&q=near%20me%20now","guestPath":"https://trends.google.com:443/trends/embed/"});  </script>

There has been a 3-fold increase in the desire to find solutions that are not only ‘near me’ but also, ‘near me, now’. Your target audience is looking for solutions that are readily available. Potential customers do not want to wait. 

This trend makes it not only important to have your name, address, phone number, and products/services listed, but also your hours of operation. If you just solved for ‘near me’, with the common advice of consistent name, address, and phone, you would have missed those that were looking to see if you were open now. 

Maybe a consumer would dig deeper to find your hours, but more likely, he or she would just go to the next listing. 

Easy to Reach You

Having multiple contact methods is another way to make it simple for the local searcher to reach you. Having a listing with multiple options makes it easy for the consumer to choose how they wish to interact. Email and phone are reliable standbys, but newer methods like chatbots and texting are also a way to extend your service differentiation before the sale.

If Target Customers Are Searching on Mobile, They are Ready to Buy.

This is a somewhat dated study from Google (2017), but the data are still relevant even if the numbers may have changed. 

In their study, they found that 7 out of 10 mobile searchers purchased something in store after researching it on their phone. For example, if you are a restaurant owner, these data suggest that 70% of your customers probably read your menu, reviews, etc. before they even stepped foot in your place.

This same study showed that over 90% of those who searched for a solution on their phone followed through with a purchase. This is a powerful signal of purchase intent. Therefore, you want your small business to show up when that decision is being made. 

Pictures Really Do Say a Thousand Words :

According to Search Engine Journal, there is a positive correlation between images and views on Google My Business Pages. They state that “Having more images in a Google My Business listing correlates positively with receiving more views.”

Why You Should Leverage Local Digital Marketing

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that the benefits of local digital marketing are worth your attention.  

  1. “Near Me, Now”: Consumers are looking for solutions in their local market that can solve their needs immediately.
  2. Those searchers are ready to buy. All you need to do is to show them how.
  3. Images increase the likelihood of making that ultimate step.

Why Local Digital Marketing Will Be Important in Chinatown?

For Chinatown, local digital marketing may need to wait until tourism rebounds, likely later in 2021. With a new administration with a much more open attitude, New York City's tourism business will come back. Once people have been vaccinated, we fully expect Chinatown's crowded street will be bustling again.

Leveraging Local Digital Marketing  

When using digital marketing, it is always good to start with the low cost items first. This way you can start to build your business organically before you have to spend a significant amount of money.

Win in Local SEO

SEO can sometimes feel like rolling a boulder up a hill. It is a very time consuming and effort-intensive activity. However, there are a few methods, when applied consistently and well, can yield results.

Search Bot Care About

What Search Bots Care About

Bots are programs that crawl the web and evaluate content. It’s important to know that they care about three things.

  1. What the content is about
  2. How credible is the source
  3. For which keyword should it be indexed 

While the steps are simple, the algorithm is complex and constantly changing. Rather than trying to outsmart the bot, it is better to give them what they want.

For more details on search theory and how to feed bots, you can read my guest post on Business2Community. 

When building a Local SEO strategy, the first step is to develop a keyword strategy. This is a more complicated process, but I will briefly cover the main steps.

Think Like Your Customer

It is important to consider how your customer might search for you. If you have Google Analytics or Google Search Console enabled, you can see which queries are driving people already.

If not, start by building a list of logical questions your customers might ask, then go to Google Keyword Planner and see how they rank. We use a paid tool, but your results should look similar to this.

Next, you will want to add the term ‘near me’ or ‘in _____ ‘ to the highest ranking terms, and see how they do. 

As a general rule of thumb, you want to select those words where the volume is highest and keyword difficulty is lowest. 

For most local businesses, it will be difficult to rank well for keywords with monthly search volumes about 1,000. Therefore, we recommend focusing on those between 100-1,000 when you are starting out.

Here is more information If you wish to delve keyword planning in greater detail.

Map Your Keywords to Key Pages

Many businesses make the mistake of not investing the time and effort in linking a given keyword to a given page. The primary reason to do this is to send a clear signal to the bot on where you would like this page to be indexed. 

The second reason is to avoid having two of your own pages competing against each other for the same keyword. This is called keyword cannibalization, which tends to dilute your effectiveness.

Write for People not for Bots

It’s important to remember that both you and Google share the same goal, a satisfied searcher. If a visitor to your site doesn’t find the content useful, they will leave. That’s not a good experience for you or for Google.

Use Google My Business (GMB)

GMB is a free platform that all businesses can access. You will also want to capture your free listing on Bing Places and Apple Maps.

The reason that I call out GMB is that nearly 8 out of every ten searches in the US are on Google. Therefore, the majority of your search traffic is likely to come from Google. 

As you can see from this example of a search of “restaurants near me”, there are a set of three businesses that are given special prominence.

This is typically called the Google 3 pack. These businesses were the topic 3 restaurants ranking locally at the time of my search. These will vary on time of day, my personal search history, etc. If you click on one of these businesses, you will be taken to their GMB page. 

The key takeaway from this discussion  is that if you do your local SEO well, claim or create your SMB page, you can go far with the only cost being your time. 

GMB is a free resource that is easily accessible to any business owner. The process is simple. If you would like more information, you can read the GMB FAQ page for a more step by step guide.

Local Listings

Each area has its own set of local pages, typically local news sites, that can help you with your local SEO.

One of the key signals for Google is a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP). A consistent NAP is a clear signal to Google that your business is legitimate. The more signals that you have, the better you will perform in local search.

Local listings used to be nearly always free. However, in the past several years, this has shifted. I call this the great monetization. While you can still gain a number of listings for free, it is becoming increasingly difficult. For some of the best listings, you may have to bite the bullet and pay their listing fee.

In Summary

You can successfully leverage digital marketing in [location], quite successfully at a reasonable cost if you remember these three things.

  1. Invest the time in doing Local SEO right. If you don’t have the funds to pay for search, then focus your energy on trying to build up your local SEO rankings.
  2. Ensure that you are visible on local listings like GMB and others that are relevant to your neighborhood.
  3. You need to be found when mobile searchers are looking for solutions in your area. Remember, 90% of mobile searchers are ready to buy.

If you need help with local digital marketing for your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Things to Remember…

If you're thinking about finding help in Chinatown for your small business, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Find a firm that knows your area. If your small business is marketing in Chinatown, you'll want help from someone who understands how Chinatown works. The best marketing firms understand what makes Chinatown stand out  and can communicate with the community.
  2. Find a company you can trust. If you can't trust a business to have your best interests, you're already going to be left in the lurch. Make sure you have a guarantee that your business will be treated fairly by all parties.
  3. Get the size of help you need. A larger firm can provide has more resources and can do more things. A smaller firm, on the other hand, can feel like a neighbor in Chinatown, with the added benefit of one-on-one help from the best the company can offer.

How to Adapt Our Small Business SEO Tips for Chinatown

Aside from all the general tips above, here are some specific actions you can take based on the three key elements of local search algorithms:

Proximity 

All of this assumes that you have completed your keyword research and developed your keyword list. If you have not, this section will be more effective once you do. Please see our previous post on digital marketing in Chinatown and then come back.

Go through your keywords list and select those which are good descriptors of your business. If it were me, I would use something like “digital marketing agency”, “seo services”, for example. Then make a list of the neighborhoods you service, for example “seo services Jay Street”.

Now comes the harder part, that is frankly a bit tedious. For each combination, see if you can create a somewhat unique post that’s 500-1000 words for that keyword. For us, it is a post like this. I try to write a post that helps my potential clients learn something or do something they didn’t know they could. 

Prominence 

Now, this is the good part. If you do write quality posts for these keywords, you will be raising your prominence. Google knows that all these areas are near Chinatown. So, for each good post you write, you help raise your prominence on a given topic in a given location.

Prominence is also helped by the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, such as being a part of local business groups, e.g. the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce or Chinatown NYC. Any local listing helps.

Relevance

This is why I like the blog technique because it hits all three key areas. If your keyword is a descriptor of what you do and the neighborhood is one you serve, it is highly likely that you will score points on relevance.

Finding the right SEO for your small business in a neighborhood like Chinatown can be a crucial way to get your company noticed online.

These same tools would apply if you want to target local SEO in NYC or more narrowly local SEO in Manhattan.

See more about Small Business Marketing in Chinatown. If you are more interest in the borough, you can see our Small Business Marketing in Manhattan. If you want the full city, you can see our Small Business Marketing in NYC.