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Local small business owners around the country are becoming more familiar with the importance of online marketing.

With the popularity of smartphones, more and more people are turning to local search engines on internet yellow page websites to find local products and service businesses. The Kelsey Group reports that 74 percent of Internet users perform local searches.

So how does a small business get started and get found for local searches? This 6-step road map will help any small business owner get on the right track. In this post we’ll specifically focus on laying the groundwork for you campaign.

Step 1: Keyword Research And Tracking

The first step is to understand what terms people are using to find local businesses in your area and in your industry. We often find 4 categories of potential keywords (in order of popularity, with examples):

  1. City + Service (‘Provo dentist, dentist in Provo UT’)
  2. Zip + Service (‘dentist 84605’)
  3. Local Terminology + Service (‘Utah Valley dentist’)
  4. Local Landmarks + Service (‘dentist near BYU’)

Use free tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool to get started in your research. We also recommend building out your site with great content to attract long-tail searches which you may not find in your keyword research.

It’s important to also set up tracking so you can monitor the progress of your campaign. It’s important to justify any marketing expense and time you put into online marketing. Here are a few ways to track a local online marketing campaign:

  1. Google Analytics (FREE) – Google Analytics will tell you how many people are on your website, where they came from, what keywords they used and much, much more.
  2. Google Places Dashboard (FREE) – When you claim your business through Google Places (soon to be Google+ Local), Google provides a free dashboard showing you the performance of your listing.
  3. Offline Tracking (FREE) – We’ve all seen or been asked “How did you hear about us?” In many cases, we recommend asking your clients this question. Sometimes this is the only way to track a conversion. Take a walk-in business for example. If I search for “Lehi barber”, find a business’s address and walk into the store to get a haircut, that conversion cannot fully be traced back using any of the previous forms mentioned.
  4. Call Tracking ($Cost) – We include this form of tracking to specifically recommend you DO NOT use it. Call tracking services provide you a new phone number where the service can track your call volume, length, answer ration and many other stats. As an online marketer, I love the idea of being able to track these things. However, with the way Google analyzes online businesses, call tracking numbers can actually be a detriment to your campaign. We’ll go into further detail about this later in the series.

Once you’ve identified the most popular keywords for your industry and market and have setup a process to track your performance and progress, you will be ready to move on to step 2 of our local search blueprint. Stay tuned!

Guest Author

Bryan Phelps is the Director of SEO, Small Business for SEO.com. He oversees strategy and fulfillment for the SEO.com small business search engine optimization clients. To learn more about Bryan or SEO.com, please visit their site.