I currently have 2 potential clients, both of which are small business owners looking to target people in the local area. As far as design and programming of their web sites go, I know what I'm doing. But when it comes to SEO, promotion, marketing etc, I'm far from an expert. I think to do a really great job for both of these clients I am going to have to come up with some ideas on attracting local customers to their business.
In what way can the web site and SEO help with that? What are some good articles to read to get me started and headed in the right direction?
Targetting people in the local area for small businesses tend to require a little more effort. You might want to look into tools that can help you target your local audience. Find a location-specific group within the large social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare. This article gives you some tips on local Facebook marketing for example: http://moreinmedia.com/3-targeted-tips-local-facebook-marketing/
However, don't be limited to just the usual social media sites! Think about where your local audience might hang out. Try to join and participate in local magazines, blogs, forums, etc and build a relationship with the locals on these sites. Depending on what niche the small business owners are in, you can also explore community sites in those niches (e.g. Tripadvisor for travel).
Participate in local forums
Enlist your website in local directories
Do some local add posting of products
Try to rank your website in local Google domain.
Nowadays, not having a website for a local business is the equivalent of not being in the Yellow Pages 20 years ago. Making a website appear for localized search results is relatively easy (except for London) and any decent SEO should be able to accomplish good rankings providing the website has nothing drastically wrong with it.
Your best bet Raj is to get in touch with a reputable freelance SEO, outline the business and what local areas you're targeting and they'll give you a quote.
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