Certainly one of the big appeals about a business web site is the theoretical opportunity to reach customers anywhere in the world. Web 2.0 makes it easier than ever. But what’s easily forgotten is how to make your site useful to local customers as well.
h3. #1: I’m here. Are you there?
People (that’s you and me) are in front of our computers several hours each day. I go to a search engine to look for information, not the phone book. I am often frustrated by web sites (especially in the retail sector) that don’t have the basic information a local customer wants:
* Phone number
* Address with nearby cross streets (or a link to a Google map!)
* Hours of operation
* Current sales or in-store specials that might get me stop in
* Details about merchandise and services available, so I’ll know if you are likely to carry what I want.
This can all be provided virtually free of charge on a web page, while costing thousands of dollars a year in the phone book. Or should I say books, as there are so many competing publications. As a side note, if you are a “local only” company who has been putting off getting a web site, now is the time to re-think that decision.
h3. #2: Local Search. Close and Convenient on Your Computer
One the hot internet business buzzwords this year is “local search.” Google now allows you to search locally, and also will display “local” links on many of its searches.
Go to Google and search for “dry cleaners albuquerque”.
At the top of the page, you will see a master link for dry cleaners. If you click on that, it will take you to a listing of the dry cleaners, adjacent to a map that shows you where each one of them is located! Sometimes I can even find hours of operation, if Google has been able to “scrape” it from other web sources.
That’s not all though. If you click on one of them, a little graphic displays on the map showing the address and phone number to that location. Plus, you can send the info to your phone, or get driving directions. Of course you can print the map as well and take it with you in the car as you go out on your errands run.
h3. #3: Local Search Ads. Follow the Money.
As local search gets so refined and useful, local search ads are following right along. Borrell Associates reports that local ad spending is apt to double in 2006, reaching $1 billion. Get details here.
This is coming at the expense of traditional ad media (think radio and TV). As more and more people look online for local products and services (see point number 1) then more and more companies will be advertising locally online. BTW, did you know you can buy adwords that are displayed only in certain zip codes? (BTW = By the way)
So the next time you are updating your company web site, be sure it’s just as informative and friendly to your local customers as it is to those billions out there in cyberspace!
If you have customers who call in from other areas and don’t seem to understand time zones, you can create a custom link on your site that will display the current time in any specific location. Here’s a link to the current time in Honolulu. This is great for home-office professionals who get those East Coast power brokers calling you before you’ve had time to let the dog out.
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Internet Literacy for Business
Bare Feet Studios