Facebook lures local SEO-focused businesses with promoted posts

Local search marketing has become an increasingly important focus for many of the largest online companies. Even the internet's newest marketing darlings, Yelp and Foursquare have tried to move in on Google's local search dominance. Not to be left behind, Facebook has also made a push to attract more local business - and it's paid off.

According to TechCrunch, 12.8 million small businesses operate a free Facebook page, with more than 8 million of them using it on a monthly basis. Through part of its plan to monetize local businesses using their free products, Facebook introduced its new promoted posts ads. The firm soon saw the benefits of the move when it got 300,000 of those small businesses to sign up and buy in on promoted posts. Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said during an earnings call that 75,000 of the buyers had never purchased any kind of Facebook ad before

Sandberg said of the 12.8 million small business users, 3.5 million post to their friends and fans weekly, but the majority of small businesses rarely have a set online and local search marketing budget to help shape their marketing decisions. Facebook responded by creating an easy-to-use and relatively cheap promoted post offering.

A promoted post is an ad format in which, once a local business has shared a post or other content on its page with fans, it can pay so that the post is displayed to a larger portion of the friended audience and their subsequent friends.

"I've long believed (engaging local businesses) is the holy grail of the Internet, local businesses can generate a ton of revenue," read the transcript of Sandberg's call, recorded by the Wall Street Journal. "It's hard to get local businesses online. We've had local businesses use our free products. What you saw this quarter with the launch of promoted posts is a really big step function in converting people using our free page products into paid customers. We've always had this thesis that people will use our free products, and as we roll out products that are easy and simple for local businesses, we'll see better adoption."