Successfully Leverage Local Digital Marketing in Harlem

Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Harlem: Maintaining Heritage with Gentrification

Harlem's history is long, starting in the Revolutionary war and continuing until today. However, the heritage most associated with Harlem is the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920-30s, which encompassed an explosion of artistic, musical, and thought orchestrated by the African American community.

Harlem, like the rest of New York City suffered from the post-war suburban movement. But, like many of the other neighborhoods in NYC, albeit, slightly later, saw a revival in the past 20 years.

Gentrification poses a challenge to Harlem. Can it hold on its history and cultural significance and benefit from an increase in the standard of living? Like many gentrifying neighborhoods, it's a tough marketing challenge. Do you stay true to who you are or change?

How to Use Local Digital Marketing to Stand Out

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”, the Most Powerful Words in Local Search

“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.

"Near me" Google Trends Chart
Source Google Trends

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.

Target Customers are Doing Their Homework

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.

Mobile Search is Strong Signal of Purchase Intent

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. 

Case for Local Digital Marketing

The case for local digital marketing is solid. 

  1. Consumers are looking for businesses in their local market to solve their needs, but also, if they are open when they need them.
  2. Consumers research purchases on-line. If you are not there, you cannot be in the consideration set.
  3. When they search locally on mobile, they are ready to buy.

Why Digital Marketing is Important in Harlem?

Harlem business, like most areas facing gentrification, have a choice to make. Do they stick with their old models or cater to the newcomers? Can they do both? The question is partially about the brand. Can the brand be authentic to both, or do you have to choose?

  1. Local digital marketing in Harlem is about targeting. Who are the right people to reach?
  2. Once you identify the target, it is important to raise awareness among them that your business exists. 
  3. Local digital marketing lets your target the right customers when they are nearby. It's so much easier to get what you need when its around the block.

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.

See more about Small Business Marketing in Harlem. 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.