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    The 5 W's of Identifying A Target Audience for Your Online Marketing

    Last updated 1 year ago

    The shift of consumer buying behavior to the online space means it is more important than ever before to define your target audiences. The good news is, this shift makes it easier than ever to learn about your potential customers. In addition to basic information like their location and demographics, you can get a better understanding of the types of sites they visit to learn about local businesses, what content they are interested in seeing, and more. Defining the target audience for your marketing can help you tailor content like social media posts, paid advertisements, photos and videos, as well as help you determine which marketing methods may be most beneficial to your business.

    Ultimately, targeting the right consumers can help you get the most out of your advertising dollars. So how can you identify your target audience today? Start by answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. 


    Who are your current customers?

    Get to know your existing customer base. Since they have purchased from you before, you can use them to gather insight that will help you identify your core target audiences. You can reach out to them via email, social media, or in-store share a survey gathering basic information such as demographics, interests, and needs. You can also use this opportunity to learn what customers value about your business or what products or services they are most interested in.

    Who do you want to buy your products and services?

    Identify aspirational audiences to target as well, to help expand your customer base. But keep in mind that it’s important to be realistic when considering who will actually buy from you. For example, if you’re a high-end boutique whose customer base currently consists of mostly fashion-conscious teens and college students, you may want to expand to a new target audience such as young professional women, but targeting budget-conscious moms might not be a good fit for your products and services. 

    Who are you marketing to now?

    If you are currently targeting specific audiences as part of your online marketing, make sure you track the results to see what targeting efforts are performing the best. For instance, start by tracking phone calls and listening to them for insight into how well your marketing is working. If your efforts are successful, continue to target these groups. But if they aren’t, consider your answers to all of these questions and adjust your message and strategy. Also, monitoring your results can reveal audiences you might not be exclusively targeting, but should. For example, if your search advertising is driving more conversions via mobile than desktop, you should boost your mobile presence by creating an optimized mobile website or landing page to create a smart mobile experience for on-the-go consumers.


    What are your customers’ backgrounds?

    This is the one of the most important questions to answer when defining your target audience. Identifying things like gender, age, education level, geographic location, hobbies and interests, income level, family status, and more can help you determine what types of online advertising, or mix of online and offline, you should use to reach the right customers for your business.

    What do they buy?

    Do your current customers buy more of certain products and services? Identifying your best-sellers can not only help you make smarter inventory decisions but also shape your messaging to reach more consumers who may purchase these items as well. Plus, by monitoring your social media and review sites, you can always be on top of what customers are saying about you – and if it’s good, keep up the great work; if not, use it as an opportunity to change. 


    When do consumers buy your products?

    Do customers buy your products or services more during a specific time of the year or on a more regular basis? Knowing the frequency or seasonality can help you craft messages that reach consumers at the right time in their buying journey. For example, a local plumber is typically sought on an as-needed basis, so optimizing content and search ads for “emergency plumbing services” may help you target consumers who are actively making a quick purchasing decision. On the other hand, a consumer shopping for a new car is more likely to research vehicles, dealers, reviews, and offers on a variety of sites over a longer period of time, so it’s important to take the length of your typical buying cycle into consideration.

    When do consumers interact with your brand now?

    Targeting the right audience isn’t only important for making new sales but also for building your brand online. For instance, by monitoring when your fans interact with your social media posts, you can better plan a schedule of when to post content to get the most visibility and engagement. For instance, if you get more traction on Friday afternoons than Monday mornings, take advantage of that time to share engaging content or special offers and promotions for your fans and followers when they are more likely to see and share them. 


    Where do your customers live?

    Defining where your customers are from can significantly help you focus your targeting efforts. Geographic targeting in search and display advertising can help you generate qualified leads by displaying your message to the audience in your service area. For example, if you’re a dentist in Everett, WA, chances are you won’t get business from patients living in Renton. So to target the right consumers, you should use good keywords, like location-specific phrases, in your content in order to improve your chance of showing up when they search for businesses like yours via search engines and local directories.

    Where did they discover you online?

    One simple way to identify your target audience is to find out where your current customers first discovered your business. Whether from search engines, local directories, online review sites, social media, or word of mouth, knowing where they found you can help you plan where to focus your targeting efforts. 


    Why do they buy?

    Most purchases can be classified into two buckets: needs and wants. Knowing your products and services and why customers purchase them can provide additional insight into your target audience and the journey they may take to find a local business. For instance, the consumer looking for that emergency plumber will have a vastly different expectation and journey than someone looking for a spa, so by understanding the “why”, you can determine their likely path to purchase.

    Why do they buy from your competitors?

    Customers have multiple choices when buying today, and the possible reasons consumers may buy from your competitors are numerous. They could provide excellent customer service, engage more with their fans and followers online, have a better online reputation, offer better discounts, or optimize their content online so that consumers find them when they search. So, understanding why they might buy from your competitors over you can help you shift your approach to reach them, engage them, and convert them into new customers. 

    Answering all these questions is critical to identify your target consumers. Today, the average consumer uses over 10 sources of information to make a purchase decision, up from just five sources in 2010. This makes it more important than ever to know your target audience so you can build a marketing plan that reaches your target audience where and when they are most likely to discover and engage with your business online. To learn more about today’s consumer buying journey and to see industry related case studies, download our ebook, “How Consumers Buy Today: Harnessing the Buying Journey to Get More Customers.” 

    What other tactics do you use to identify your target audience? Do these answers give you a better picture of who you should target? Let us know in a comment! 

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    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.




    Anatomy of a Search Engine Results Page [Infographic]

    Last updated 1 year ago

    In October 2012 alone, U.S. Internet users conducted 17.6 billion direct search engine queries. And, almost a quarter of the search queries on Google have a local intent. Now that so many consumers use search engines to look for local businesses, getting your business listed on the search engine results page (SERP) is critical to getting more customers to your business. To ensure potential customers can find you online, it’s necessary to optimize pages like your website, business blog, local directory listings, social media pages, content sites, and more to appear in search. 

    So, what do consumers see when they search online? To find out, check out our "Anatomy of a SERP" infographic, which illustrates the different parts of a search engine results page where you can show up to potential customers. Then, read on for some useful tips you can use to optimize your content so that your pages appear higher in the results so more consumers find your business when they search online. 

    To learn more about how you can help consumers discover you on the search engine results page, check out these helpful topics:

    Do you have any questions about the search engine results page? If so, let us know in a comment. 

    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter

    ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon Launches Column on

    Last updated 1 year ago

    We are thrilled to announce the launch of Local Yokel, a new local commerce column on Forbes created by ReachLocal Chief Executive Officer Zorik Gordon. With the unveiling of this column online, readers can discover firsthand ReachLocal’s thought leadership in areas such as small business marketing, local commerce, and entrepreneurship.

    This column focuses on local commerce and how it fits into the online marketing landscape. The first article, “The Future of Local Online is Commerce” debuted today on and discusses how local service providers like plumbers and dentists can move to a truly online model – including the purchase transaction process itself.

    With this latest endeavor, ReachLocal continues to charge forward, proving its leadership in the online space and how to make local marketing and advertising work for small to medium sized businesses across the globe. 

    Read “The Future of Local Online is Commerce” to learn more about online commerce for local business. And, for more from our leaders at ReachLocal, check out President Nathan Hanks’ keynote at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing 2012.

    5 Steps to Getting Your Business Found on Apple Maps

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Today, 48% of smartphone subscribers own an iPhone. And, since mobile searches are quickly reaching those of PC searches, it’s increasingly important that you show up in local mobile search. This includes Apple Maps, which is now the standard map service for iOS devices. But how do you ensure your business not only shows up when consumers search there, but that they are seeing updated and relevant information about your business? We’ve outlined five easy steps to optimizing your local business listings so that consumers can find your business on Apple Maps.

    There are five major sources across the Web that help generate Apple Maps business listings. In order to optimize your listing for Apple Maps, you will need to claim and optimize your business listings on the following directories: Yelp, Localeze, TomTom (Tele Atlas), InfoUSA, and Acxiom.

    Each of these business listings is free to claim, but will require some basic verification and optimization. But, making sure your business is present and verified on each of these directories will ensure that you show up in Apple Maps search results. Without verifying and optimizing these listings, only users that are specifically searching for your business name on Apple Maps will be able to find your listing.

    The true art in each of these profiles comes from the keyword optimization you can achieve with a bit of copywriting moxie. To help you out with this process, here are some general optimization tips that you can apply not only at the Apple Maps directories, but also across your Web presence to enhance visibility.

    1. Update Your Profiles Completely

    When filling out your profiles on local directories, provide as much information as possible, or as much information that is allowed by that particular directory. Simple things, like the type of payment methods you accept, may seem unimportant at first, but could still affect whether or not you show up in a particular search query.

    For example, users may type in phrases into the Apple Maps search feature that are related to your accepted payment methods, such as “Furniture Store that Accepts Visa.” This kind of information can help your overall ranking within Apple Maps and your business may be featured above those that do not include payment information on their profiles.

    2. Keep Business Details Consistent 

    In addition to filling out your profiles completely, make sure all the basic business details listed on your profile is the same across all five directories. This basic information includes your business name, address, phone number, and website address.

    By keeping this information identical, the links that drive people to your website will act like votes for the search engines, and boost your organic search listings results. This means that your business will likely see a boost on search engines by coordinating your Web presence and ensuring uniformity across your directory listings.

    3. Choose Your Category Tags and Keywords Carefully

    When choosing your business categories, select or add relevant category tags that consumers search for most. Several of these directories have specific categories that you can choose from, but a majority of them also allow for free-form category listings, meaning your word choice is very important.

    A few great ways to look for business categories are to first use the predefined listing options from directories like Yelp. Also, look to your competitors to see how they have categorized their listings. Finally, check Google for suggestions using Your Google Analytics "Queries Report". This report shows you specific searches that brought users to your site. Using these popular search terms in your category listings can help to ensure these same types of users can find you in Apple Maps.

    In addition, tap into your experience as a consumer. The end result of selecting your business categories is to ensure that you put on your consumer hat and think through what you, as a consumer, would search for to find a business like yours. Ensuring that you make your categories as keyword-friendly as possible will enable you to capture these mobile searches in Apple Maps more effectively.

    Remember: just because searchers are using a mobile device, it does not mean their searches will be less specific than they would be on a PC. In fact, consumers who use methods like voice search to conduct a search use phrases that are only slightly shorter than those they use when searching from a computer.

    4. Select and Add Relevant Photos

    Each of these directories allows you to upload at least one image, so you want to provide some sort of visual representation of your business (a logo at the very least) so that the top portion of the Apple Maps listing is not reflecting the dropped pin when a user views the detailed listings. The more photos you provide, the more credible and appealing your listing will look to potential customers.

    5. Build and Manage Your Online Reputation

    Once you have built and optimized your business listings, you want to ensure that you have built some sort of online review structure into the mix, especially on Yelp. Apple ranks the search listings within the Apple Maps application based on Yelp reviews, making your online reputation an important part of getting found on Apple Maps.

    However, many great reviews on Yelp get filtered. As a result, follow the Yelp Review Guidelines to help keep your reviews visible on your Yelp page. Yelp’s guidelines focus around three key points:

    • Personal Experience - When you ask a happy customer for a review, make sure they do not just list general statements about how happy they are with your service. Instead, ask them to list the person(s) they dealt with, what types of services / products they purchased, and what kind of outcome they saw from their unique experience at your business.
    • Accuracy - With this particular focus, Yelp just wants to ensure that your reviews are not only thorough and unique, but that the story being published is indeed true.
    • Review Updates - Encourage consumers to update their reviews and make sure they reflect any new experiences with your business. And, you should also respond to the reviews you receive in the proper way. 

    Aside from following these guidelines, ask your customers to fill out complete profiles (or use Facebook to create their account) that include profile photos, locations, and other indications that they are in fact real people to keep these reviews from being filtered.

    By following these five steps, you’ll be on your way to a solid mobile search presence within Apple Maps.

    Have you claimed and optimized your listings on these directories so that your business shows up on Apple Maps? 

    About the Authors

    Eric Myers is a Dallas-Based Campaign Consultant that works with small business clients and manages campaign performance for a dedicated sales team. Eric is a lover of all things technological, entertaining, and random.

    Ashley Stalnaker is a Web Presence Professional and guest blogger for ReachLocal who specializes in SEO, as well as social media and content marketing.

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    The Consumer Buying Journey & How It Applies To Your Marketing

    Last updated 1 year ago

    It’s no secret that the Internet has significantly changed the way we buy. But as a marketer or small business owner, how can you make sense of all the possible ways a consumer can discover you? And, how do you use that information to create a marketing plan that leads them to your business instead of a competitor’s? Download our consumer buying journey ebook to get the answers to these questions, and read on for a few insights from our research.

    The Way We Buy Has Changed Drastically in the Last 10 Years.

    We used to rely on print ads or word of mouth to learn about new products and services. But with the power of the Internet at our fingertips, the way we discover local businesses today is very different from what it was just a decade ago. In fact, the way we research products and services, get personalized recommendations, and review our experiences has shifted almost completely online. Consumers are now in charge of the entire buying process. We form impressions of your business without ever interacting directly with you. And we aren’t shy about sharing these impressions online, both before and after we become a customer.

    We Seek More Information Sources Than Ever Before.

    What types of information do we as consumers use to make buying decisions? Advertising is only one part of what we see about businesses. In fact, the average consumer uses over 10 sources of information before making a purchase, ranging from search engines and local directories, to social media and content sites, to review sites and business blogs. And since everything we see about a business can influence our purchase decisions, businesses must create a consistent, powerful, and lasting impression that convinces us to buy.

    You Need a Total Web Presence to Win Customers Online.

    Businesses can no longer win customers with a simple ad in a newspaper or a radio spot, because consumers are increasingly turning to the Web and mobile as their primary sources of information.  Now, you have to invest in a variety of online advertising methods, market your business continuously on social media and content sites, and manage your online reputation in order for a consumer to even consider your business.  Companies like ReachLocal can help you do just that, so you can better influence your target consumers to choose you over a competitor.

    For a full picture of how the consumer buying journey has evolved and a framework that you can apply to your own business marketing, download the ebook today.

    Download the Ebook How Consumers Buy Today: Harnessing the Buying Journey to Get More Customers.

    About the Author

    Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.

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