The better your website is, the easier it will be for people to find you. Of course, for most builders’ merchants, you’ll likely to only be targeting audiences within a specific geographical area.
If your branch is in Halifax, there’s little point in attracting customers from Hastings, Hamburg or Honolulu.
The good news is that, with a few simple, cost-effective tweaks, you can localise your online presence to boost your website traffic in the areas that matter most.
Better still, the online giants whose help you need to reach people – such as Google and Facebook – are equally interested in matching their users to relevant companies. That means there are plenty of tools available to drill down to the local level.
Your first port of call should be to set up a free business listing on Google. The ‘My Business’ function asks you to enter only a few basic details – your address, your type of business, your website – and will set up a Google+ page.
Crucially, this also tags you to Google Maps. Generally, for anybody searching for a type of business in a specific area, the Google search result will show a local map first, highlighting any relevant firms that have registered for My Business.
Each listing will then provide directions to the branch and a link to the website, connecting you to local customers.
Setting up a company page on Facebook is also a good way to show where you’re based. If you’re already on Facebook in a personal capacity, it only takes just a few clicks to create a business page. If you’re more interested in being a trade counter for small builders, you’re probably best to choose the ‘Local Business or Place’ option, which includes a sub-category for ‘Home Improvement.’ If your customers tend towards bigger projects, perhaps you’d opt for ‘Company, Organization or Institution’ and select the ‘Engineering/Construction’ sub-category.
Either way, Facebook has really thought about its offering to businesses. Once you’ve set up a page, it can become a comprehensive hub for attracting local custom. It allows you to list everything from opening hours to details of parking at the branch. It’s also perfect for short-term, targeted offers to those who follow your page.
In the days before the Internet, you’d be mad not to be listed in directories such as the Yellow Pages. It’s no different today, except it’s online.
Yell.com (the online version of those famous books) is still a leader, but there are plenty of other directory websites out there. A good free option for builders’ merchants would be The Construction Index, while my pick of the premium, paid-for directories is Which? Trusted Traders.
Your own website
Ultimately, the best place to really make a difference to your local presence is your own website. Make sure that you mention in your written content where you’re based and which areas you cover. Keeping a blog is a great way of maintaining local engagement, by regularly letting your customers know what you are up to.
Behind the scenes, too, there are plenty of things you can do. How many images are there on your website? Did you know that you can ‘tag’ each of these so that Google knows what the image is showing? Image results rank highly in searches, so by adding a location to your tags, you can get noticed much easier.
Over the next few months, I’ll be providing tips on how to get the most out of areas such as social media, blogging, PR and SEO, in order to create a deeper level of engagement with existing and prospective customers.
Simon Kinnear is director of communications at Balls2 Marketing.