It seems like everyone's chasing the grail of how to use the Web to reach a local audience. Luckily, tools for reaching people in your town while they're surfing the 'Net have improved, and more are coming.
For starters, if you haven't yet gotten your business onto that little map that comes up at the top of Google search results, head over to Google Places and add your information. A free, fast way to vault yourself onto the first page of results on a search for your business type.
Another strategy: Up your online selling profile to get found by more local shoppers. Earlier this month, Overstock.com jumped into the local game with its Main Street Revolution initiative. Now, small retailers can run their own stores within Overstock to sell their closeouts.
Participating in a heavily trafficked site such as Overstock is another way to improve your natural-search results when local folks are looking for your type of goods. Customers with an ethic of buying local may abound in your town, but sometimes they want to shop online, too, so Main Street could be a way to reach out.
One more Internet-based local strategy: advertise on local news sites. In case you haven't noticed, online news is getting more local by the minute. Besides your local paper's online edition, there's the new local online news spot in town, AOL's Patch. They're only in five states so far, but growing fast. Research where folks in your town turn for news to find good local online ad markets for your business.
Want to learn more about local marketing online? Market-research firm Ad-ology hands out free tips on their LocalMarketResearch site, which carries their twice-monthly online videocast, the Local Marketing Minute.