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Free Marketing for Local Retailers

Even offline businesses receive tremendous benefit from creating and building an online presence.  It is estimated 70% of internet users research purchases online before they head out to the store.

For local retailers, building an online presence can be the single opportunity to capture attention, sell a product, and build a customer relationship.  One simple and straight forward approach to creating an online presence is to simply register your business with the local search engines.

What is a local search engine?  It's a tool many internet users access, often without knowing it, when they're looking for a local place to shop.

Say for example you want to find a pizza joint in your city.  You'd probably type Pizza Miami into your search engine of choice, assuming you're from Miami!  The results will be a list of pizza restaurants in Miami with a telephone number, address, and often a map to the restaurant.  Businesses don't need a website to take advantage of this online resource.

If you already have a yellow pages ad, chances are you may be listed with the search engines already - they pull their information from the same databases.  To see if you're listed visit:

http://www.local.google.com

http://www.local.yahoo.com

http://www.local.msn.com

Enter your city and industry and see if your business is listed.  If not, visit each search engine, for example with Google you'd go to the Google Local Business Center, and register your business - or get a yellow pages ad. It's that easy.

Build an online presence by getting reviews to increase search engine rankings so your business is listed on the first page or two of local results.  Results are generally ranked by highest number and best reviews first.  The more good reviews you can garner for your business, the higher the search engine ranking - which results in more views and more visits to your store or business.

Another way to build an online presence is to participate in social media.  Create a page on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any number of the social sites available.

Find sites relevant to your business.  If, for example you have a very young demographic then MySpace may be a great place to build a page.  However, if you're more of a business to business establishment then LinkedIn may better fit your needs.

Lastly, build an online presence by putting up a simple one page website.  When people become aware of a business, even a small brick and mortar store, they like to visit a website to see what the business is all about.  Store hours, About Us, Location, and even a quick contact form are all that is needed to get started.  Many website hosts offer easy to use and customize templates making getting started online easy.

As you can see, it's not difficult to build an online presence these days with the relevant tools available to you. All you need to do is to learn something as basic as putting up a fanpage or a blog, and you're good to go.

For over three decades, Retailers Forum magazine, the leader in wholesale merchandise sources, has serviced small and mid-size independent retailers. We believe the future of our hometowns relies on these independent stores and are supporters of buy local!