One of the frustrations I experience in my business as a writer is convincing clients that they need to have a local focus before they embark upon a global one. One and all, they insist that because the Internet is a global community, their website needs to show a global focus.
Hogwash, I say. To myself. To my clients, I say, "Yes, the Internet is global. But, remember your prospects are first and foremost local presence. Attracting their business can help you build your global focus."
I get a nod, and then they ask, "How does that work?"
"When you realize local companies often have offices in other states, cities, or countries, approaching them via their local presence gives you a leg up," I say.
It's true. I'm not making that up. In addition, studies are showing that people spend time online searching for "local" products and services because they want to buy locally. Let's consider this example: a woman (remember, women are online more than their male counterparts, and, she's often shopping FOR him, anyway), goes online searching for shoes. For those who do not understand search yet, let me point out that savvy web surfers-- folks who are comfortable on the web-- use multiple search terms. They've learned that a search for shoes in any search engine will return millions of hits, and those on the first two pages may not give them what they want.
Therefore, our shopper, we'll call her Jane, know she wants shoes, but not just any shoes. She wants: running shoes, or holiday shoes, or casual shoes, or dress shoes. Maybe red dress shoes, or men's dockers, or children's school shoes. Once she gets a return on her specific search, she will try to find the store closest to her in order to go and buy the shoes offline.
If you do not have your site coded to show your location, she is not going to find your store and you have just given your competition a sale. This applies to services also. While it's true that people will do business over the net, in the real world (not the one on MTV), people still prefer face-to-face contact. They get that by doing local searches.
You don't have to take my word for it. Just yesterday the New York Times ran an article on this topic. Titled "Google Rolls Out Local Search System," the article goes into detail on how Google, which boasts an index of 4.3 billion (yes, BILLION) Web pages, is "introducing a system designed to make it easier for people to find things closer to their homes."
I'm not at all surprised about this. Helping searchers find local information is just common sense. This does not mean you should forget your global marketing--indeed, even a local search can end up being a global sale if you consider the diversity of the American population. Aunt Sue or Uncle Marco could have relatives in other countries; relatives they might want to share your product or service with. The key is making sure your site shows up in a local search first. Then, let word-of-mouse spread your message globally.
Remember, community, which is what the Internet is all about, and which women dominate all over the world, begins in one's own neighborhood. Chapter 7: "Meeting at the Well," from my book, Dickless Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online, notes that "neighborhood email lists increase in-person socializing (barbecues, holiday parties) as well as fostering political action and involvement within the immediate community" (from a study conducted by the American Sociological Association).