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Local Ads: the importance of advertising for your local business

The advent of the Internet has brought with it many challenges for local businesses, not least of which is the seemingly ever-increasing market share of online stores. In addition to the growth in online shopping habits of consumers, brick-and-mortar shops must these days compete with stores that, being wholly online, have significantly lower overheads. Unfortunately, many local business owners, despite being all too aware of these negative impacts, take a dim view of the Internet generally and miss the many benefits they could be taking advantage of.

This is particularly the case for older businesses, which often operate with outdated marketing strategies. It is increasingly clear that conventional mass-marketing strategies are less effective than local business advertising that leverages search engines and social media. Even if a traditional marketing campaign continues to generate new customers and revenue, it doesn’t mean the business is maximising its profits by marketing itself in the most efficient and effective way.

Much of this has to do with the rise of smartphones and the way people now search for and discover products and services. We’ll go more in-depth into the statistics later — for now, suffice it to say that modern consumers find where they want to spend their money by searching the internet.

Combine this with the number of users on social media platforms — Facebook, for example, has 2.23 billion active monthly users as of the second quarter of 2018 — and what is known about the amount of time people spend using these, and you have some seriously powerful tools for gaining exponentially more exposure for your business.

This article will uncover the mysteries of local advertising and explain how businesses can take advantage of some of the options available.

What is local business advertising?

Essentially, local business advertising incorporates the design and implementation of advertisements, which target local audience, with the purpose of informing and familiarising that audience with a local product or service.

Local ads focus on the needs and circumstances of consumers within the service area of the business, and leverage consumer behaviour online and on social media to maximise a business’ exposure. A good local advertising strategy bridges the gap between consumers and businesses: it provides a solution to consumers looking for a product they can access conveniently, and revenue for businesses by reaching and situating consumers within its sphere of influence.

As suggested above, local advertising can be employed across numerous platforms to reach a broader audience and may include a combination of ad types.

Local ads may be:

  1. A simple listing on Google Search or Maps, which makes potential local customers aware of your product/service, or in the case of Maps lets customers know that you are nearby; or
  2. More substantial content, incorporating text, photos or videos (or a combination of these) particularly where such ads are employed on social media platforms. Content-based local ads can be designed to have a local community feel to them to aim to reinforce the business’ presence and involvement in the community. For example, a local business could advertise its support for the local football team. These may also include references to local stereotypes, or even the features of the place itself. For instance, a small business in a beachside town might create an ad that embraces a surfing motif and conveys a love for the ocean. In short, these kinds of local ads capitalise on the location of the business and its figurative place within the local community to develop trust and appeal.

The words used in local ads should reflect the local character, and must include keywords which are regularly used there when searching online. The name of the location, or words that describe characteristics unique to the area are employed across ads/content so that the business listing is caught by regularly used search phrases.

Why are local ads meaningful in promoting your business?

Local ads are vital for small businesses which remain tightly connected to specific places. If you rely on people in your area visiting your coffee shop, bookstore, restaurant, or property management office, you will benefit from a local advertising strategy.

The reason for this is connected with the way people use the web. Increasingly, people seek services and products by spontaneously consulting search engines via their smartphones (often when they are not at home). One study found that 89% of consumers use search engines when looking for information on products or businesses.

Another study by Google found that 88% of smartphone users conduct local searches.

When they want to make a purchase, they will use familiar platforms like Google, Facebook and Instagram (or LinkedIn in some situations). Accordingly, businesses which understand how to reach these people put themselves in a very strong position to be a first port of call for consumers.

As researchers at BIA/Kelsey report, spending on local ads in the US rose from $143 billion in 2017, to over $150 billion in 2018, with a similar trend occurring in Europe.

In other words, a local advertising strategy is vital for many businesses and almost any sector can benefit from adopting one.

How can you create local ads?

Creating local ads is often simpler than you might think and there are multiple search engine and social media platforms that allow you to harness their power and reach. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on what you need to know to create local ads using:

  • Facebook;
  • Google ads;
  • Instagram;
  • LinkedIn.

Before we delve into the specifics of the process for creating ads on these platforms, first think carefully about these points. Local ads need to be visible and relevant. Visibility is of particular importance when using Google, and here Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can assist.

Sites like Google and Facebook rank all ads by assigning them a quality score. The higher the quality score an ad has, the more promotion it will receive from the platform, increasing its visibility. An ad that doesn't deliver a strong "customer experience" will be given a lower quality score and, may slip down the visibility hierarchy accordingly.

Ads need to be optimised for mobile phones. This is extremely important and applies equally to landing pages. Remember, most local searches involve smartphones, not laptops, so any sites customers arrive at need to be easy to navigate and read on a standard phone screen. Having an ad or landing page that is only easy to navigate on a computer screen diminishes the customer experience and risks alienating potential customers.

Used properly, all of these tools can deliver return-on-investment for local businesses. They all have their individual features, however, and it's also possible to waste money on ineffective local advertising schemes. So, let's discover what each platform can deliver.

Facebook and local advertising: what you need to know

Facebook's vast user base means that it almost certainly has hundreds of potential customers for your business, so you really need to have a way of reaching them. The best tools for this are Facebook's Reach Ads, which can be a gold mine if used correctly. (These were previously called “Local Awareness Ads” but this recently changed). These ads are designed to appear on users' feeds when those users are geographically close to a business. They can be very simple – just an image of your logo – or can be tailored to include other elements like call-to-action buttons to make an instant call to your business, bring up detailed directions, or other options for interaction.

To create a Facebook reach ad, head to the website linked above, and click the “Create an Ad” button in the top right corner:

Research Ads

This will bring you to the Facebook Ads Manager page.

Here you can select to use the Guided Creation tool, or for those more experienced, the Quick Creation tool. The Guided Creation tool, as the name suggests, guides you through the process for creating the ad.

First, select your marketing strategy, (for example ‘Brand Awareness’, ‘Reach’, ‘Traffic’ etc.). If you don’t yet have an ad account, you will need to set one up, so click ‘Set up Ad Account’:

Facebook Objective

Next, input the currency and time zone details. These will usually fill in automatically.

Facebook Currency Time Zone

You will then be brought to the ‘Ad Set’ page, where you can select the Audience, Placements and the Budget & Schedule of the ad.

Audience: Here you can select an audience based on the location of your business. If you like, you can be more specific by including factors such as age, gender and language, or by including or excluding people who have previously interacted with your page, and based on demographics, interests and behaviours.

Facebook Audience

Placements: Here you can choose where your ad will be shown including on which platforms and devices. It is recommended that you select the Automatic Placements option, as this allows Facebook to maximise the efficacy of your budget by showing your ad in as many places and to as many potential customers as possible. Alternatively, you can manually select the placements for your ad.

Facebook Placement

Budget & Schedule: Here you select the amount you wish to spend on the ad as well as the length of time the ad is to run for.

Facebook Budget

These locally responsive ads can deliver instant information about restaurant happy hours, maximising table occupancy. Or you can target fans in the area to attract audiences to pop-up music and art events.

With the wealth of targeting tools offered by Facebook, those kind of local ads are pretty easy to create, and when combined with a well-managed profile they can quickly generate buzz and revenue for almost any business.

Google ADS and local advertising

Google is the grand-daddy of online advertising, and the search giant is also the most popular platform for local advertising. Using the Google Ads service, small businesses can tailor standard SEO strategies via a host of filters and techniques, beaming their message to web browsers in their neighbourhood.

Ads can be turned on for specific postal codes or cities, which is handy, as the definition of "local" varies from business to business. You can also create numerous campaigns for different products or areas, which is very useful in cities with highly diverse populations, such as Birmingham or Manchester.

With Location Extensions, businesses can add contact details and directions to their search ads. They can also amplify this function by perfecting their Google Maps profile, as many web users head straight for the mapping app when finding local services.

Finally, Google Shopping is an excellent way to connect with web users who like to use the internet as a massive department store. Google allows you to target your Inventory Ads at local shoppers, hopefully encouraging them to pay a visit to your brick and mortar store (or at least place an online order).

To create a local ad on Google, you need to sign into your account and follow the steps:

Google Ads

Instagram and local advertising

Instagram is often an afterthought for businesses seeking local customers, but that's a big mistake. While the platform is best known for fashion photos, celebrities and travel snaps, it can also be a great way to connect with people near you.

The beauty of Instagram local ads is, well, their beauty. Because they foreground images, Instagram ads make it possible to show off attractive products, from photographic prints to garden designs and, of course, photogenic culinary creations. If your business can benefit from making a good visual impression, Instagram is a great way to go.

Carousel ads are excellent when you want to display a range of products and work especially well for fashion-related businesses. You can also add high-quality videos – ideal for showing off the atmosphere in eateries and bars.

Finally, Instagram Stories is a unique storytelling tool that local businesses can use to great effect. If you have the media skills (and we can help here), Stories can tell people all about who you are, and what makes your business special.

To create an ad on Instagram, head to their business website here.

Instagram Homepage

You’ll need to have an Instagram business account, if you don’t already. If not, follow the steps to either set up a new business account, or you can convert your current account to a business profile in ‘Settings’. If you already have a Facebook business page, you can sign in to Instagram through with your Facebook credentials.

Click on the ‘Create ad’ button in the top right corner:

Instagram Ad

Click on the ‘Create ad’ button in the top right corner.

As Instagram is owned by Facebook, you will be brought to the Facebook Ads Manager page where you can follow the same steps noted above in the Facebook section.

LinkedIn and local advertising

While Facebook is generally great for attracting casual customers and specific audiences, LinkedIn has a different purpose. It is essentially, a massive directory of staff expertise and companies that is technically designed for recruitment. Given its size however, LinkedIn is now also regularly used to distribute local ads.

The power of LinkedIn lies in its user base. Comprising around 560 million professionals, it concentrates relatively wealthy web users and allows businesses to reach specific occupations and skill sets. So, it can be very effective for sectors like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), network management, or architecture.

In fact, there may be no better platform for B2B local advertising. Local ads can be sent to multiple inboxes instantly. You can import LinkedIn members who have visited your website, as well as your contacts on LinkedIn itself. It all adds up to a highly targeted local advertising tool.

As with the other platforms already discussed, to create local business advertising with LinkedIn you need an Ad Account. To set this up, you need to log in to LinkedIn’s campaign manager page here.

Likedin Homepage

Then click on the ‘Create Campaign’ button in the top right corner:

Likedin Ads

You will then need to select an ad product from the list:

Likedin Campaign

If you don’t have one already, you’ll need to create a Company or Showcase page. Follow the link to do so.

Get your local ads right to boost your business

All of these platforms have a role to play in creating an effective local advertising campaign. If you want to learn more about the various options for local business advertising, it's well worth visiting the official sites of:

Doing so will help you get a feel for what each platform brings to the table.

However, the challenge is coming up with a marketing strategy which really connects with local people. That means telling your story and placing yourself at the heart of the community. Above all, it means mastering local ads which allow people to find you when they need your services.

Contact us to explore how we can help you create a tailored local ads campaign for your business, and we'll find a way to turn your location into revenue.