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When it comes to retail small business advertising and marketing, it’s almost like a virtual desert. You can do a search for something like, “carlsbad dry cleaners” and come up with exactly one actual local business website. Sure there are a few Yelp listings or Citysearch results to weed through, and several directories that require further clicking, but as far as an actual business location having a presence on the first page for the associated keyword search?

One. Out of how many oh-so-coveted spots on the top search engine results pages?

If those listing were parking spaces, would those business owners be able to find their car?

The search was done with Google, but none of the Google Places listings was an actual confirmed listing for a dry cleaning business in Carlsbad. That’s pretty much a desert. Sure, how many searches are there every day for dry cleaners in Carlsbad, probably not too many – relatively speaking. But is that any reason for a local business to not control and profit from having a highly visible online presence?

A Yahoo search for the same keywords did not result in much better. Again, we’re talking about better in terms of business owner input these listings appear to lack. None of the top five listings appeared to be confirmed and controlled by the actual business.

This blind approach just doesn’t work in the digital age; there are way too many avenues of local exposure out there to not be identifiable and accountable when it comes to online visibility for your retail business. The best part is with a little research and lots of time, you can get started right away without breaking the bank. You’d be surprised how much online visibility you can gain for your local retail business for free. As technology improves, what was once a complex task, is now commonplace – ask a travel agent or digital video editor.

The days of zero dollars in the ad budget, and relying on your customer word of mouth to give your business neighborhood prominence are not completely over, it’s just going to require some change in thinking and some adjustment in execution. For the average retail business owner in Carlsbad, digital marketing and social media are not at the top of the to-do list. Will we be saying the same thing 5 years from now, or will every local business have some type of beneficial online presence?

Will the virtual desert materialize into a local online retail oasis?

When you’re looking for a local service or product, where do you begin your search?

Most of us go right to the Internet, some right on our mobile phones. According to web info company, Alexa, the majority of us search Google when we go online to search. Some ask friends and family, and others go the old fashioned route of checking the phone book. Do you think the new Facebook Questions functionality will take off when we consider local shopping?

Whatever the answer is, the important point to remember is people are looking for your products or services every single day, in your immediate area. Doesn’t it make sense to have your business represented within the most popular modes of information gathering?

We think so.

Here we will present a super simple formula toward gaining online visibility for your Carlsbad retail business. Five easy steps you can take toward securing online visibility for your local retail business.

1.       Develop a Website

If you haven’t taken the plunge already, develop a website for your retail business. That thing called the world wide webternet is not just a passing fad, actual commerce happens there. Get involved; build a website to showcase your products and services. $500 can get you started on the right foot, and $5000 can prepare your business to deal with whatever changes in virtual landscape we experience – or is it vice versa? These days it need not be expensive (maybe free if you’re tech savvy and DIY inclined), or expansive. Our feeble attention spans couldn’t handle it anyway, just give us the goods and let us buy them – online. That’s good enough. When in doubt, keep it simple.

2.       Start a Blog

No, you don’t have to produce the next great American blog. The stay at home Moms out there have you beat anyway. Just get involved in your industry, and let the surrounding community know how much you’re involved. A blog is a great way to keep fresh and relevant content flowing to your website. Some may say blogs are a thing of the past (short attention spans again), but use your blog to keep us up to date on your products, services, industry news, community efforts, and even customer experiences.  Keep it simple take two.

3.       Build a Facebook Page for your Business

Easy-peasy, go to Facebook and give your local business some social street cred. You’re nowhere these days unless your dry cleaning business is on Facebook. Own a Laundromat? Facebook is a perfect place for you to connect with your patrons and offer them some free soap as a thank you for their continued loyalty. Not in the dry cleaning or laundry biz…then start reading between the lines!

4.       Explore Other Online Options

Alliteration aside; Angieslist, Foursquare, MerchantCircle, HotFrog, Superpages, Citysearch, Facebook Places, Foursquare, Groupon…the list goes on, and it will keep fluctuating and changing. Get started with the research now if you haven’t already, click around on some of these sites and see how your business could benefit from a listing. Some are free, some appear to be, and some are not. There are probably another few hundred sites out there to list your business; these are only the most popular.


5.       Get Local on the Search Tip

The first two screenshots on this blog post were representative of Google Places and Yahoo Local, respectively. In the interest of utmost fairness…Bing has their own too; yep you guessed it – Bing Local. For a definition on local search from Wikipedia, click here. Basically when we say local search, we mean online representation for your retail business in these highly visible localized search engine environments. And we’ll concentrate on those three – Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local. Go search for your business right now on each of those search engines, then just follow directions to confirm or verify your business listing. By doing so you are at least taking the first step in securing your online business presence with respect to these localized search engine results pages. Be careful, take your time, and do some sniffing around to make sure you don’t have any duplicate listings or any other associated virtual malady.

The aforementioned plan is a simple five step sample plan to gaining online visibility for your local retail business. Does it end there?

Nope…in fact, after proofreading this fifty times we’ve come to realize that perhaps an entire series should be dedicated to tactics as much as strategy when implementing a plan to begin building local online identity for your Carlsbad retail business.

We have a lot of work to do.