Regardless of size or area of expertise, every business nowadays is looking for an edge that will catapult them to the next level. Like the mythical Fountain of Youth, this silver bullet doesn’t really exist. Still, it’s a tantalizing dream that continues to capture the imaginations of burgeoning entrepreneurs and established companies alike. However, one tactic worth exploring is local web advertising, one of the fastest growing areas of e-commerce in any industry. For SMBs, multinational corporations and run-of-the-mill Internet marketers, it’s the most important piece of the local business puzzle.

The Raw Stats

In 2013, spending on local advertising efforts is slated to surpass $26.8 billion, with at least $4.2 billion of that being spent on online promotion. Interestingly enough, an estimated 42.5% of that will go to direct mail. Apparently, old habits die hard. While outmoded local marketing strategies will persist for some years to come, the trend is pretty clear. Massive sums of money are moving away from traditional marketing methods and towards alternative advertising channels on the web. Based on predictions from Borrell Associates, 26% of all local advertising dollars will be spent online by 2015 if not sooner.

The Raw Implications

Based on those numbers, it’s easy to see where the futures of online marketing and ad spending are headed for just about every player in the game. As the mobile build-out rolls on unabated, more and more consumers receive personalized or at least hyper-local ads on their smartphones. In an increasingly fragmented consumer culture, the days of Super Bowl ads swaying vast swaths of the public are nearing an end. Total online ad spending is projected to top $24 billion in under 3 years. Targeting consumers where they work, where they live and most importantly where they shop in real time will be a necessity going forward.

The New Zeitgeist

When it comes to local web ads, the sheer diversity of options to choose from is what really jumps out at you. For one thing, video marketing is picking up steam even on the mobile front as cellular broadband capabilities improve across the board. Beyond video, direct local marketing via the likes of Google+, Facebook Nearby and Groupon is the favored avenue of attack. Demographic specificity and ROI are the main factors to take into account when going after those crucial potential local consumers. A three-pronged approach that covers all of the relevant bases is the best way to proceed.

How Businesses Leverage the Trend

Mastering local web advertising can be a tricky proposition. Many have found that SoLoMo is the best way to go about doing so. Short for “social, local and mobile”, SoLoMo is a buzzword that actually has serious implications for the web advertising market as a whole. The gist of it is this: those searching for service providers nearby on their mobile devices are far more likely to become paying customers than those who perform searches on their PCs at home. They may not buy right then and there, but the eventual conversion rates are off the charts.

Nailing local, mobile web advertising is really just a matter of finding the right tools for the job and minding the small details. Obviously, utilizing the popular local search sites such as Yelp, Foursquare and LivingSocial is a must. Beyond those platforms, local ad dollars themselves and the manner in which they’re spent need to be carefully accounted for. Data visualization and deep web analytics make it far easier for businesses to identify ad spending strengths and weaknesses as they go. Understanding the local market, the local consumer in question and the sales path they take on their way to those sales makes all the difference.

Long-Term Projections

For the longest time, the evolution of online web marketing, search and sales was more or less horizontal. That approach has become stagnant in recent years. In the future, local web search and local web advertising will become increasingly vertical and fine-tuned to suit the needs of consumers. While free, organic methods will continue to be vital in attracting consumers in one’s own backyard, converting them will require a greater input of ad dollars. Achieving the best ROI per ad dollar spent will be an increasingly tough nut to crack. Mastering this skill will mean the difference between success or failure for many businesses.

Through a Glass, Opaquely

Any time you try to predict the future, there’s a 60% chance you’ll end up looking like a fool. Still, it’s fun to guess where the trends will eventually lead. More than likely, local web advertising will become harder to monopolize. No matter how much money the corporate titans throw at the local market, they won’t be able to make up for weak service or product. Companies that manage to capitalize on new media and find ways to directly reach local buyers will thrive. As always, the ultimate winner will always be the consumer.