Digital marketing can help you to streamline and synergize your strategies, provide you with valuable data to identify what works, and make life easier for you in the long run—that is, once everything is set up. But what is “everything?” What does getting “set up” even look like?
For local businesses who often don’t have a dedicated marketing specialist, this can be especially overwhelming. You need to invest in the right marketing channels to save time and money. But don’t you also need time and money to learn which channels are right for you?
Yes, you do need time. But no, you don’t necessarily need money. In fact, we’ve curated seven free marketing resources geared specifically for local businesses. Even better, we’ve chosen a variety of mediums to suit different learning styles and time constraints. Here’s what we’ve got:
- Online learning hub (by LOCALiQ)
- Modular video course (by Digital Garage)
- Online lecture series (by Udemy)
- Annual survey report (by BrightLocal)
- Podcast (by Marketing Solutions for Local Businesses)
- Educational tool (by WordStream)
- YouTube channel (by Hubspot)
From SEO and PPC to lifestyle tips and career growth, each resource offers a little something different so you can obtain knowledge and confidence to grow your business and your skillset.
Let’s dive in.
1. Online learning hub: LOCALiQ’s Marketing Lab
- Focused on strategies, planning, budgeting, and data.
- Good for those who are looking to put structure around their marketing.
- 3 comprehensive labs (and counting), 19 courses.
- Go to Local Marketing Lab.
Simplification and empowerment is the name of the game for LOCALiQ, and they’ve got their Marketing Lab to reinforce that. This free educational hub is great for business owners and marketers looking to arm themselves with effective local marketing strategies, experiment with new ideas, or even to be able to make informed decisions when outsourcing. And having worked with over 300,000 local businesses across the country, you can rest assured they know their stuff.
What we like most about Local Marketing Lab is that not only does it cover the most effective local marketing strategies, but it also guides you through setting up a plan to put them into action. This is key for getting your marketing strategies to work together as a cohesive system that drives consistent, measurable growth. We also love the abundance of visuals, data, and key takeaways throughout the content.
Currently, there are three labs: Local Marketing 101, Local SEO, and Local PPC. By the time you finish with them, you’ll have learned about:
- Over 13 different local marketing strategies, setting short- and long-term marketing goals, tracking your success, and setting a budget.
- Running locally targeted paid ads—which includes keywords, match types, budgeting, landing pages, and ad copy.
- Successful local SEO—not only the actions to take but also what metrics will be helpful for refining your strategy.
With a clear understanding of local marketing strategies as well as a way to track and measure success, you’ll be empowered to strengthen your presence in your community, try out new strategies with confidence, and ultimately drive more leads and sales.
2. Video course: Google’s Digital Garage
- Focused on low-cost search marketing
- 3 hours, 4 modules
- Good for local businesses with a tight budget
- Go to course
Google’s Digital Garage provides a wide range of free courses to help you grow your business, advance in your career, or just brush up on your digital skills.
While Digital Garage has a “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” course that comes with a certification, it’s a whopping 40 hours of your time. That’s why we’ve selected a smaller, simpler course that focuses primarily on one of the most important aspects of marketing your business today: search.
The “Make Sure Customers Find You Online” course, as the name suggests, is all about understanding how search engines work and improving the discoverability of your business through them. While it covers some paid and low-cost ways to advertise your business on search engines locally, its main focus is on free search engine optimization (SEO)—making it a great course for local businesses on a budget.
What you’ll learn with this course:
- How search engines work, the difference between organic and paid search, and how to use Google Search Console.
- Fundamentals of an SEO strategy, including on-page and off-page tactics.
- Using paid ads, local ads, and mobile marketing to reach your goals.
The Google algorithm is always evolving with updates and changes, but the core fundamentals of using search to make your business more visible are pretty timeless—with a focus on expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T). Use this course to put your business’s best foot forward on the SERP and use the power of search to achieve your marketing and sales goals.
3. Udemy lecture series: Online Marketing for Your Local Business Made Simple
- Focused on communicating about and authenticating your business.
- Good for local,community-centric businesses with some budget.
- 26 lectures, 4.5 hours.
- Go to course.
There are a few reasons why this Udemy course has made the list. First, because it is a bit more tactical, walking you through the setup process for your website, social media profiles, email, and paid ad platforms. Second, because it covers targeting, messaging, and positioning, which is crucial for local businesses.
Third, because it has a lesson on offline marketing. For local businesses in particular, non-digital promotion methods are still very important, since they help you to strengthen ties with your community and attract loyal customers.
Enroll in Online Marketing for Local Businesses Made Simple so you can learn about:
- Communicating about your business with your core story, elevator pitch, and unique selling proposition.
- Getting your first email, PPC, and social media campaigns up and running.
- Building a presence with and strengthening ties to your community.
Simply setting up web pages, ads, emails, profiles, and listings in isolation is not enough today. You have to craft them with authentic, targeted messaging so that you attract ideal customers to your business.
4. Research report: BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey
- Focused on customer reviews and reputation building.
- Good for local businesses looking to outshine their competitors.
- 18-minute read.
- Go to report.
Did you know that online reviews are among the top ranking factors for local SEO? This is not surprising when you think about how you search for a product or service close to you. You turn to your go-to site like Google, Yelp, or Facebook. You choose the highest ranking results first, and then you compare them to determine which one to go with. Aside from price and proximity, you compare the quantity and quality of reviews other customers have left about the business.
Having a strong and steady stream of reviews coming in about your business sends signals to Google and other search engines that your business is active and trustworthy. And a mix of positive and negative reviews isn’t bad either—it shows that your business has nothing to hide.
But building your reputation isn’t just about providing great service that generates reviews. You need to ask for them, respond to them, learn from them, and understand them as they relate to consumer trends.
And that’s why we’ve included BrightLocal’s annual Local Consumer Review Survey on our list. Not only is it packed with charts and data from a study across several review sites like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and more, but it also includes key takeaways from the numbers and provides tangible ways to apply them to your reputation management strategy. In this year’s report, you’ll learn:
- Customer review trends from the previous year (2020).
- The impact of COVID-19 on local businesses and consumer behavior.
- What review readers care about.
- How to ask for, respond to, and write customer reviews.
With the data and insights from this report, you can make sure you’re obtaining maximum visibility on local search this year and that you get chosen above your close competitors.
5. Podcast: Marketing Solutions for Local Businesses
- Focused on local, service-based businesses.
- Great for entrepreneurs interested in emerging topics and lifestyle tips.
- 20-30 minute episodes.
- Go to podcast.
This is a podcast hosted by Frank Demming, CEO of the company with the same name. While there are lots of small business marketing podcasts out there, you’re more apt to find them directed at small, digitally-focused agencies and tech startups. This podcast focuses particularly on traditional local businesses—law firms, dentists, chiropractors, spas, HVAC companies, home improvement companies, and more.
In Marketing Solutions for Local Businesses, Demming runs FAQs and has guest speakers on topics like social media, paid ads, SEO, mobile marketing, business owner lifestyle, website, and copywriting, to name a few. He also covers some pretty unique topics (nostalgia marketing, for example).
I don’t know about you, but when I discover a new podcast and it has 300+ episodes, I get overwhelmed with where to start. This podcast started in February of 2020, so it has a finite number of episodes to listen to, and you can also be sure that you’re getting advice relevant to today’s business landscape and social climate.
6. Educational tool: WordStream’s Google My Business Grader
With the pandemic causing many people to stay close to home and support local businesses, becoming visible on local search is even more important than ever. And there is one key, free, and often underutilized aspect of local SEO: Google My Business.
Your Google listing is often referred to as your second homepage. Why? Because a consumer can discover, learn about, and engage with your business directly on the SERP, without even going to your website. But it’s not just a matter of adding your name, address, website, and phone number. There are a number of sections in your profile that need to be filled out and optimized in order to show up higher in local search results. And it also gets confusing because your Google listing is actually a separate entity from your Google My Business account, although the two are connected.
That’s why our free Google My Business Grader is on this list of local marketing resources. In under a minute, this free tool provides an overall score as well as a detailed assessment in four key areas that impact the rank of your Google listing. The report points out not only what’s missing in each of the four key areas, but also why those components are important and exactly what you need to do to improve your score.
With the Google My Business Grader, you can turn your Google business listing into a free advertising tool that attracts your most likely customers.
7. YouTube channel: HubSpot’s “How-To” series
- Focused on both strategies and tactics across a range of tools.
- Good for the one-man (or woman) show with little to no time.
- 58 (and counting) short, standalone videos.
- Go to channel.
While HubSpot offers a wide range of free online training courses, we understand that if you’re a local business owner, you might not have three or four hours to spend. You may not know exactly which strategy you want to learn about. You may also not yet have the resources to focus on any one strategy at this time. That’s why we’ve included their “How to” YouTube channel as a bit of a change-up.
This channel features short, digestible clips on various topics and tools relevant to business owners and marketers. You can learn about anything from social media and blogging to leadership and Powerpoint. New clips are added regularly, so you can be sure the content is up to date for the latest trends and tools. And because the videos are short and not tied to any one course or theme, you can sprinkle them in throughout your day.
You don’t know what you don’t know, so how can you know what to search for? Let the information come to you by subscribing to this channel and discovering new ideas and topics you may want to further explore.
Use these marketing resources to grow your local business
Whether you learn by reading, watching, listening, reviewing data, or running audits, there are plenty of free tools out there to help you grow your business, stay on top of trends, and expand your skill set. Let’s finish off with a recap of the free resources we covered in this post:
- LOCALiQ’s Marketing Lab
- Google’s Digital Garage
- Udemy’s Online Marketing for Your Local Business Made Simple
- BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Report
- Marketing Solutions for Local Businesses podcast
- WordStream’s Google My Business Grader tool
- HubSpot’s “How-Tos” YouTube channel