Online advertising has been critical for local businesses for years. But 2021 has made online advertising the only option for some local businesses.
Google Search will almost always be the best online local advertising channel. But there are also more and more options for enterprising business owners – including putting a unique spin on existing options.
Here’s the top 10 online local advertising channels for small businesses based on my clients’ spend and conversations with industry colleagues.
Nextdoor is the neighborhood social network that spent the last 10 years building a network of verified, local residents. Now they are offering a range of local ad products for all businesses.
Pros: Nextdoor has verified local residents with little competition, low costs, high engagement and the ability to focus on specific neighborhoods.
Cons: Nextdoor Ads are fairly new to the local ad market, so there aren’t a lot of best practices.
Facebook + Instagram, but Local
Facebook is 2nd only to Google when it comes to advertising. If you want to be known, you have to be on Facebook. But a lot of businesses don’t take advantage of Facebook’s geographic targeting options.
Take time to setup very small geographic areas in Facebook Ads and combine them with your best customer characteristics. You’ll get lower costs and higher conversions.
Pros: Facebook will charge you less money for more clicks with ads that are tightly targeted & highly relevant.
Cons: It takes extra time to set up and manage hyper-local campaigns.
How To Run a Campaign: Head to your Facebook Ads manager and be sure to include Location Targeting in your campaign.
Google Display, but Local
Google Display Network (aka banner ads by Google) have a bad reputation for wasting money. But that’s only true for poorly targeted ads. Based on my client’s performance, using geographic targeting is one of the best ways to ensure quality spend. You can get your business in prime inventory like major news and media sites simply by controlling your location.
Pros: Google Display offers near-infinite, high quality ad inventory for extremely low costs. Targeting local users controls your spend and brings in customers.
Cons: Google Ads is confusing and still daunting to use.
How To Run a Campaign: Set up a Google Display campaign, but navigate to Location Targeting to control the users who see your ad.
Google Local Search
Google Search has always been the primary channel for local businesses. However, in 2020, Google opened up Google Maps and more of the local search results for advertising.
Pros: Google is where most local customers look for local business. Additionally, new customers on Google can lead to more reviews, which lead to more organic customers.
Cons: In general, Google ads are more expensive than any other option.
How To Run a Campaign: Make sure that your Google My Business is set up and Location Extensions are enabled in Google Ads. Follow the steps here .
Pinterest has been a powerhouse advertising channel for ecommerce for a while, but new location targeting allows local businesses to benefit.
Pros: Pinterest users are highly engaged and their ad rates are cheap.
Cons: Best practices for local business are still being established, so you’ll have to test different strategies.
How To Run a Campaign: Login to your Pinterest Business account and follow these steps to enable location targeting .
Reddit has long been known as the “tastemaker” social network. Like Pinterest, they have expanded their location targeting so that local businesses can reach interested & niche communities near their location.
Pros: Reddit has very cheap ad inventory, detailed ad inventory, and the ability to reach large numbers of interested customers.
Cons: Reddit has its own subculture and advertising norms that can make advertising daunting.
How To Run a Campaign: Head over to Reddit Ads to get a self-service campaign setup, but be sure to follow instructions for location targeting .
YouTube is part of Google’s Ad network, but I break it out because it can seem especially daunting for local advertisers. Videos are hard to make, but they are hard for everyone. If you can create a video for YouTube, you can cheaply run commercials for everyone in your area with Google’s location targeting.
Pros: YouTube has cheap reach and enormous inventory. You even get a “free 5 seconds” to build awareness. Additionally, you’ll have very little local competition.
Cons: Videos are hard to make and it’s hard to run a “test” campaign on YouTube without committing.
How To Run a Campaign: Film a solid ad, upload it to your YouTube channel, then head to Google Ads to set up your video campaign with location settings turned on.
Yelp has fallen from local advertising dominance, but it still has a presence. And the lack of new advertisers means that there is more opportunity for those willing to put up with Yelp’s hard ball salespeople.
Pros: You can cheaply create a sense of “being everywhere” for prospective customers in addition to driving highly qualified traffic.
Cons: Yelp is generally really annoying to work with, and won’t drive the same levels of traffic as other channels.
How To Run a Campaign: Head to your Yelp Business account and navigate to their Ads interface.
Quora is a high-quality Question and Answer social network that ranks very well on Google. They have new location targeting that provides an amazing opportunity for local businesses with high-consideration products / services.
Pros: Quora has excellent targeting options with a highly-engaged, highly-qualified audience and low competition.
Cons: Quora will not drive high levels of traffic and requires some familiarity with the platform.
How To Run a Campaign: Head to Quora for Business and navigate through the self-service options.
Spy on Other Local Businesses
Sometimes trial & error is not worth the hassle. The last channel that I recommend to my clients is to figure out what other local businesses are doing…and copy them. I use SEMrush to spy on ad campaigns and fix local listings.
Pros: You can just skip to what’s working.
Cons: The approach requires a subscription to SEMrush and a bit of time.
How To Run a Campaign: Sign up for SEMrush and head to the Advertising tab. Enter in local businesses that you know are doing well. Copy what they are doing. Head to the Local Listings tab and fix any issues.
Advertising a local business online can be daunting. But you don’t have to excel at everything. You just need to pick a couple channels that resonate with your time, resources, and budget and go for it.
Be sure to explore my guide to local business marketing strategy.