Helping Local Customers Find You Online

How does a business whose target market is local, rather than national or global, capitalize on the power of the Internet to find customers? After all, one of the biggest benefits of the so-called ‘World Wide Web’ is its global reach, which allows potential buyers from across the globe to find your business, no matter how small.

But does that prevent those who can’t do business worldwide from marketing online? An Orlando-area dentist, for instance, has little need for marketing his or her services in Chicago, much less Paris.

Technological advances made by search engines like Google and Yahoo over the past several years have made it possible for businesses to geo-target online marketing campaigns. Now a business can market to specific geographic regions, cities, or even a radius around a zip code, ensuring that their investment in online marketing is used effectively.

How Geo-Targeting Works

Every computer connected to the Internet is assigned an IP address (like your physical address—only in the ether), which contains useful information that allows communication between devices. The IP address also includes an approximate physical location. Search engines can thus use the IP address to identify where an online search originated and customize the results accordingly.

Remember, the search engines’ main goal is to provide the most relevant results each time you search for something online. They know that sometimes you’re looking for a local business and try to deliver what you’re looking for. By earning your trust, they expand the base of loyal users.

If that sounds a little altruistic, don’t forget this: The more searches done on a particular search engine, the more online advertisers they can attract. More online advertisers means more revenue for the search company.

Who Benefits from Targeted Pay-per-Click Search Marketing?

Let’s say I’m a dentist looking for new patients. I’ve heard that online search marketing can be very effective, but I want to be sure my investment in a campaign is spent wisely. (In other words, I don’t want to pay for people in Chicago to click on my link. No matter how much they might need my services, it’s unlikely that they’d fly to Orlando to get them.) Using the search engines’ geo-targeting capabilities, I can ensure that only people within a specified radius around my office see my link when they search using my keywords.

On the other side of the coin (or drill, as the case may be), a person with a toothache might do an online search for ‘dentist.’ Because the search engine knows the individual’s approximate geographic location from their IP address, some of the search results they deliver will be from local dentists.

As a dentist, the benefit to me is being able to utilize cost-effective online marketing tools targeted only to prospective patients who I can reasonably anticipate might become a patient (at least based on proximity).

The benefit to the searcher is better, more relevant results. (And—hopefully–an end to that nagging toothache.)

The benefit to the search engine? More revenue because the dentist is able to bring in new patients at a cost that’s very affordable, and is thus likely to continue advertising online.

Who’s Doing Local Search Marketing?

Local and regional businesses are expected to increase their online spending dramatically over the next few years. In fact, OMMA Magazine (the Magazine of Online Media, Marketing & Advertising) projects local online advertising to be up 32% this year alone, to over $5.6 billion.

This huge increase is being driven partly by the technological advances of the search engines. Shifts in consumers’ online behavior also are an important factor. For instance, the Kelsey group estimates that 43% of search engine users are seeking a local merchant to buy something offline. And local/regional businesses are finding that geo-targeted online search marketing often provides the lowest cost per lead/customer compared to other forms of advertising and marketing.

If your business needs to target prospective customers in central Florida, online search marketing may be the answer.

by Rob Croll
President, Marlannah Group Internet Marketing


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