A whopping 83 percent of people in the U.S. are now using the internet to search for local businesses, according to The Kelsey Group. That’s an amazing statistic, and one that every business – big or small, web-based or brick and mortar – needs to take note of.

In today’s world, lots of people won’t even try businesses unless they have websites or positive feedback on review sites. People want to see that you’re legit, and the internet has become the new way to get personal recommendations from your friends. With social media sites encouraging people to like businesses, sometimes this “recommendation from a friend” is even literal.

But why when you search for record stores in Bend, Oregon, does Johnny’s Records show up while Vinnie’s Vinyl doesn’t? Because of local internet marketing.

Local internet marketing includes aspects of broader forms of internet marketing like SEO, but makes it specific to your area so that it’s easier for you to attract customers in your neighborhood. Generally speaking, there are four practices that you want to engage in to make your local business stronger:

  1. Analyze your competition
  2. Utilize online directory service
  3. Engage in targeted email campaigns
  4. Incorporate location-based keywords

Analyze your competition.

Why is this so important? Because you want to steal customers from your local competitors. It might sound dirty when you put it that way, but the ebb and flow of customers from business to business is the heart and soul of the free market.

Sure, you want to create new customers where you can, but it is also vital that you siphon people from people competing with you if you want to grow and prosper. In order to do this using local internet marketing, you need to embark on a competitive analysis by researching who is offering similar products or services in your area and what methods they’re using to market themselves.

This is an especially valuable exercise to engage in before you start a business or when you’re ready to update your site. While looking around, you can get ideas about which methods you feel would be a good fit for your business and which wouldn’t, and learn from their mistakes so that you can be sure to improve upon everything that they’re doing.

What should you look at? Here’s a list to get you started.

  • Website architecture
  • Tags
  • Written content
  • Visual design and images
  • SEO usage
  • Social media incorporation
  • Link building
  • Email list

Utilize online directory services.

This one is fairly straightforward and shouldn’t require much maintenance on your part. You want to make sure that your business is listed in all of the major directory services such as Yelp, Citysearch, and Google Places. Depending on your business, you may even find that there’s a good industry-specific directory such as UrbanSpoon for restaurants.

Fill out the form correctly and thoroughly, and if something ever changes (like your address or phone number), make sure to update it immediately. Also, it’s valuable for you to pay attention to any customer complaints on these sites. Some offer ways for you to respond.

Engage in targeted email campaigns.

If you don’t have an email list for your customers, you need to get one, because local email campaigns can work wonders. Just include a link on your website where people can sign up to receive special offers. Be sure to ask where they’re located as part of the process.

Studies have shown that simply mentioning a particular neighborhood or city increases the likelihood that recipients will open the email because it will feel more personalized. Plus, you’ll raise your search engine profile if you incorporate location-based keywords, which means that more people will see your site. What are location-based keywords? Glad you asked.

Incorporate location-based keywords.

Describing location-based keywords is pretty easy actually. All that it means is adding a location to your keyword phrase based on research using the Google AdWord Tool. For example, your Cincinnati-based shoe shine business might be using the keyword “shoe shine” for general SEO purposes, but researching the location tells you that you can help yourself by using “Cincinnati shoe shine” or “shoe shine in Cincinnati.”

Be careful to look at what your competition is doing and how entrenched they are with particular keywords. If they seem to have a pretty strong hold on a certain phrase, often it’s best to move on to one that you can control, even if it’s a lesser-used search term. These location-based keywords should be as thoroughly integrated into your site marketing as possible:

  • Page titles
  • Static and fluid content
  • Blogs and white papers
  • Video content
  • Email marketing
  • Blurbs that you post on directory sites

Tackle Local Internet Marketing from All Directions

The goal should include not only doing things better than your competitor, but becoming as multi-pronged as possible by having your website, social media pages, directory pages, and even emails working together to strengthen each other, allowing everything to build and get more eyeballs (and revenue) to your business.