From the February 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

There's no point investing in a national marketing campaign if your goal is to reach local prospects. Fortunately, there are online advertising programs that include a geographic-targeting feature, allowing business owners to spend a lot less money communicating with the right audience.

  • Community websites: Your first stop should be your own backyard. Is your company a member of the chamber of commerce or the local branch of an organization such as the American Bar Association or the American Marketing Association? Your membership may include a free link from their websites to yours, and some consumers use these organizations to find friendly neighborhood professionals.

Next, check out your local newspaper's website. Surf around to find a local business directory, and look for content areas where you can buy a link or banner ad or sponsor a how-to article. Remember to ask the newspaper's advertising department about special offline/online ad package deals.

  • Internet Yellow Pages (IYP): You're probably familiar with the Yellow Pages book that's delivered to your door. If you buy a print ad, you could get a free listing on its website. Not a print advertiser? Not to worry--you can buy a basic listing for as little as $25 per month on Yahoo!, or pay on a per-click basis through Verizon's SuperPages.com or InfoSpace's Switchboard. Typically, IYPs include a business listing under one or more cities, full contact information, an office location map and a link to your site. IYP users can find your business by searching by keyword, city or zip code, or by browsing category topics.
  • Search engine advertising: Two search engine power-players, Google and Overture, now allow their pay-for-placement advertisers to bid on keywords in specified regions. Google AdWords advertisers can select a campaign within their accounts and then click "Edit Settings" to change the locations where their ads will be displayed. You can select individual states, cities or both.

Overture has a separate program, Local Match, in which advertisers choose a geographic area for their ads to be seen (a 0.5- to 100-mile radius around your location). When Overture users type in a keyword, they're given the option of entering a city and state or ZIP code. Local Match advertisers' listings will then be displayed, which take users to a Yellow Pages-type page.

Find out if other marketing venues offer geo-targeting. Perhaps a magazine sells sponsorships in its online newsletter and can segment the mailing list by ZIP code. You won't know unless you ask.

Local advertising won't yield the flood of site traffic that a national campaign can, but you'll be able to communicate with prospects in the regions of your choosing at a very reasonable price.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agency (www.sedacommunication.com) and is author of Search Engine Advertising.