If the success of your business depends in whole or in part on local customers – people either have to visit your place of business or you or your staff have to visit them at theirs’ – then you need to make sure that your business has a solid footprint on the Internet because that’s where the vast majority of people go to find local businesses like yours to buy from.
A quick glance at some the numbers from many different sources bears out the importance of the Internet to the success of local business:
- 70% of US households use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services, according to a study by the Kelsey Group
- 63% of people who use search engines research online but buy offline, according to a Google-sponsored, comScore.com study
- 20% of all Google searches have a local intent (that number climbs to about 33% for Google searches via the mobile web)
A quick search in Google’s Keyword Selection Tool – which, among other things, reports on global and local monthly search volumes for the search terms people use – for ten randomly selected “geo-targeted” search terms in May 2010 returned the following results:
- 60,000 searches for “Vancouver jobs”
- 40,500 searches for “Vancouver real estate”
- 22,200 searches for “Vancouver restaurant”
- 5,400 searches for “Vancouver dentist”
- 4,500 searches for “Vancouver lawyer”
- 4,400 searches for “Vancouver movers”
- 3,600 searches for “Vancouver storage”
- 3,600 searches for “Vancouver sushi”
- 3,600 searches for “Vancouver tours”
- 2,900 searches for “Vancouver vacations”
Remember: those are just ten search terms that contain the city name “Vancouver.” There are literally thousands. And if you look at just a few of the possible variations on one of the above-listed search terms – e.g., “Vancouver dentist” – you’ll see that there are far more than “just” 5,400 searches going on every month:
- 9,900 searches for “dentist Vancouver”
- 2,900 searches for “Vancouver dental”
- 2,900 searches for “dentists Vancouver”
- 1,600 searches for “dentist in Vancouver”
- 660 searches for “dentists in Vancouver”
That’s a total of 23,360 monthly searches for six search terms (the five from the list above, plus the one from the previous list).
You’ll find similar results for many, many other search terms.
Big Rewards for “Early” Adopters
Ironically, in spite of all of the online activity aimed at finding local businesses, the vast majority of local businesses get failing grades when it comes to the Internet and its role in their business’ marketing strategy:
- Many do not have a website and, therefore, cannot even be found by the thousands of people who are searching for businesses like theirs’
- Many businesses that do have websites have put little or no effort into promoting them and they are, as a result, as good as invisible to the search engines and, in turn, to the people who use search engines
- Many businesses haven’t claimed the free local business listings that already exist for their businesses in Google,Yahoo, Bing and other major search engines; in fact, many of them are not even aware that such free local business listings exist
- Many businesses that have claimed their free local business listings have put little or no effort into “pimping out” their listing and, as a result, languish in the search engine cellars
Of course, because so many local businesses do little or nothing in the way of marketing their businesses effectively on the Internet, there is a huge opportunity for any local businesses that dive into Internet marketing, before other businesses inevitably wake up to what they’re missing out on.
So even though the game is in play, and has been for some time, it’s still early enough that you can reap some huge rewards for your business by making the Internet a key part of your business’ broader overall marketing strategy.