New York's second largest city gets a bit lost sometimes. I lived in Central and Western New York before moving to Manhattan. It's hard for the upstate cities to compete with all the noise my beloved NYC makes. However, these cities can teach us a lot about resiliency, tenacity, and grit.
I grew up in Pittsburgh during the deindustrialization of the US in 1970-80s. I have a special admiration for these industrial hubs that had to battle through some tough times and reinvent themselves. Buffalo survived, and its economy has made significant gain in the 2010s. It is testament to the hardworking people who stayed in the region to help it rebuild.
Western New York poses some unique marketing challenges. With the digital migration COVID has forced us to make, as region rebuilds, should businesses focus solely locally or expand beyond the region in light of their digital investment?
Digital marketing won't work with a great website. Your website is more than just a pretty page, it's an invitation for a new customer to get to know your business. In areas like Buffalo where you can't always rely on foot traffic to raise awareness of business, a great website in conjunction with strong digital marketing can more than make up for it.
Being online is a necessity for any business large or small. Otherwise, you will lose out on a large and growing market segment. Local digital marketing is the key to standing out, especially for local businesses, who don’t have the budget to compete with national brands.
If you want to increase your business chances of being successful, it is worth the investment in time to learn how local digital marketing can help.
“Near me”, these are the most important terms in local search and digital presence. Those two simple words can mean so much in terms of traffic. In fact, interest in those two paltry words has quadrupled in the past 5 years of google searches.
Besides those two brief words, I would like to add the element of time. Potential customers that are looking to fill a need immediately or within 24 hours.
According to Google, near me now has almost doubled in the past two years. They also report a nearly tenfold increase in the growth of mobile searches for ‘near me today/tonight’. Finally, Google cited a two-fold increase in ‘near me open now’.
These factors go into why local digital marketing is critical for small businesses. You have increasing demand for local results that can satisfy the local customer’s needs in a very narrow window of time. If your online presence is weak, that demand is likely going to your competition.
According to a study by GE Capital, 81% of shoppers research their product online before purchasing. This is up two points, from 79%, versus last year. You will want to make sure that you can be found when customers are looking for solutions. If your business is not visible, then you missed the sale.
According to a study by Google,
“People rely on their phones to help make the best decisions at the moment of purchase. In fact, 70% of smartphone owners who bought something in a store first turned to their devices for information relevant to that purchase. And when people search on mobile, it leads to action: 92% of those who searched on their phone made a related purchase.”
Therefore, having a strong local presence is key to attracting a target audience willing to buy.
The case for local digital marketing is solid.
According to Best Designs, original graphics are the most successful.
“Original graphics make up 40% of all successful visual content that accomplishes marketing goals, but 43% of marketers struggle with the consistent production of captivating visuals.”
Since we are communicating one message, the artwork that supports it must work very hard to support the message. This is where local market know-how can really help. Original photos and images of your business in Buffalo interacting with your neighborhood can add value.
It also helps with when your calls to action focus on local events in and around Buffalo or at your business location.
Every email, no matter how trivial, should have a call to action. This is where all the hard work above pays off. If we omit one, we just wasted resources that could have been spent more cost effectively.
We cover email list building in great detail in our post on small business email marketing. Again, we will just hit the highlights here as it pertains to Buffalo. Every neighborhood has summer fairs. While these were severely impacted by COVID, in our post COVID world they should roar back with a vengeance. It would be smart to see if you could piggy-back off one or more of them.
Incentives, deals, free trials, and samples are all great options when developing your calls to action. See if you can partner with your neighbors to create a shared promotion. This way one shopper in Buffalo has two or more places to visit while out in the neighborhood.
Many businesses make the investment to deliver goods and services digitally to comply with COVID restrictions. They now face the question of what to do with that part of the business as things return to "normal" as more and more people are vaccinated. For those who decide they want to invest in digital delivery, digital marketing is critical.
There are several ways to use targeted local digital marketing to win in [location]. We cannot cover them all here, but we can review some of the most common.
A superior mobile experience is based on the fundamental elements of good graphic design principles. By following good graphic design principles can make your site easy to read, navigate, and understand.
The first element is the grid layout. The most common grid patterns used in web design are Manuscript, Column and Hierarchical.
Before the days of responsive sites, hierarchical web design was in vogue. However, owing to the need to create seamless experiences between different devices, the trend has shifted to the column design.
The column design is a layout divided into a fixed number of columns. The columns set the scale for the page. The row sizes set the grid dimensions. Using a grid pattern helps maintain legibility and proportionality much simpler.
The next major element is color. There has been a lot of study on colors and their effects on moods. Much of the data has been inconclusive and highly sensitive to surroundings and context.
Luckily, we do not have to cover all these details in order to build a great design. Adobe has a very useful tool that can help you find the right mix of colors that work well together.
Font type is more an aesthetic choice. However, font size should be greater than 12 points to ensure legibility.
Lastly, we have images. Original graphics tend to be much more successful than stock images. Sites with original graphics tend to perform better than those without.
Nearly 80% of all users said the most important function of a website is to make it “Easy to Find What I Want”. This was almost 8x as important as the next items.
Since mobile searchers are 90% likely to purchase something relevant to their search. You need to be found in mobile and local search.
The best way to do that is to set up or claim your GMB page. Nearly 8 out of every 10 searches in the US are done on Google. Therefore, it makes logical sense to use their default platform. As this example shows, a mobile search of “restaurants near me” yielded this search engine results page (SERP).
You quickly notice the block with the map. This is called the Google Local 3 pack.
Google automatically returns the top 3 ranked businesses, which are restaurants in this example. If you click on one of these businesses, you will automatically be shown its GMB page.
GMB is a free resource that is easily accessible to any business owner. The process is relatively easy, and if you would like more information, you can read the GMB FAQ page for a more step by step guide.
Finally, we come to local listings. One time in the not so distant past, these listings used to be free. However, now, there are listing aggregators that charge a fee. You can still get pretty far using the free listings, however it is a very time consuming and labor intensive process.
The reason we care about local listings is that consistency in NAP (name, address, phone) is a key legitimacy signal for Google. If you want one of those coveted local 3 pack spots, you will want to send as many of these signals as possible.
Other places to look are your local digital news sources, reviews, chambers of commerce listings, local awards, e.g. Top 10 Restaurants in _____. All of these listings add credibility and further enhance your legitimacy ranking.
I hope that we convinced you why local digital marketing is important no matter the size of your business. In order to be successful in using digital marketing to help your business, we hope that you keep these three things in mind:
If you're thinking about finding help in Buffalo for your small business, here are some things to keep in mind.
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:
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 Buffalo 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 Niagara Falls”.
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.
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 locations are in or near Buffalo. 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. Please see the Buffalo Niagara Partnership or BBB of Buffalo for listings that might pertain to you. Any local listing helps.
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 Buffalo can be a crucial way to get your company noticed online.
If you are interested in what more we do, check out Small Business Marketing in Buffalo.