The major search engines have advanced to the point where they’re able to deliver highly contextualized and personalized search results to users. Local search techniques enable both the paid and organic portions of the search engine results pages (SERPs) to display results tailored to the user’s specific location. This makes local search marketing invaluable for local businesses that wish to provide accurate and actionable information to prospective clients.
Great—But What Exactly is Local Search?
In a nutshell, local searches enable users to make geographically constrained searches on search engines against a structured database of local business listings. Typical local search queries include information about what the user is searching for (such as a business category or product category), as well as where they’re searching for it (such as street address, zip code, city/town, or state).
Examples of local search queries include “hotels in Tokyo,” “best restos in Manhattan,” and “nail salon Springfield, IL”.
According to Neustar Localeze (@Localeze), over 350 billion Internet searches were made last year—a growing percentage of them on mobile devices. Mobile is projected to overtake PCs as the primary platform for Internet-based searches, and studies show that nearly half of all Internet searches conducted on mobile devices are local in intent.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Local Search
Google’s insightful study about local search—Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior—demonstrates how vital local search has become to driving customer acquisition and retention.
According to the study, four in five consumers use search engines to find local information. These consumers are using their smartphones, computers, and tablets to look for store addresses, business hours, product availability, and directions. Mobile users who engage in local search are particularly proactive: 50% of consumers who conduct local searches on smartphones visit stores within the day (in contrast, only 34% of consumers who conduct local searches on computers and tablets visit stores within the day).
Moreover, consumers prefer—and act on—location-based ads; four in five consumers want ads customized to their city, zip code, or immediate environment. Consumers also find location information in ads helpful, and more than half (60%) have used location information in ads. Consumers who utilize computers and tablets prize store addresses and phone numbers in ads, whereas consumers who use smartphones prize directions and call buttons in ads.
Getting Started with Local Search Marketing
While local search marketing is cost-effective and delivers great results, many novices consider it to be both daunting and complex. “Local search marketing encompasses a complex ecosystem that spans paid, earned and owned media. It is always on and continually evolving, and that need for fluidity and adaptability is a barrier to entry for even the most digitally savvy marketers,” stated Jon Schepke in an article for Advertising Age (@adage).
Schepke considers local to be a great way to build closer connections with consumers across search, social, and mobile, “in the moments where and when it matters.” He went on to list valuable tips to help marketers jumpstart their local search marketing initiatives:
- Understand how to prioritize local search. Brands are advised to pursue local search marketing at a pace that is appropriate for them. The scope of their efforts should depend on the size of their local footprint and the degree to which their customers are mobile savvy. Hence, multi-location brands that have a large local footprint and a considerable mobile audience should ramp up their local search efforts quickly to meet the demands of this audience.
- Identify your approach for adopting local. To help brands successfully embrace local, Schepke recommends embracing a local marketing adoption curve. This adoption curve stipulates the steps a brand should take depending on their stage in the process: (1) the crawl (getting the basics right with local listings); (2) the walk (search engine optimization and optimizing local pages); and (3) the run (hyper-local paid search and paid social targeting DMAs).
- Asses the role of an automation tool set. Some marketers are unwilling to embrace local search marketing because previous attempts required lots of resources and manual effort. This inefficiency arises because such marketers are using non-local search tools to run local search marketing campaigns. In other words, to reduce frustration, marketers need to pick automation tools that are specifically tailored to local search marketing. “These tools offer automation capabilities that make local marketing more manageable and less complex in creating contextual brand experiences.”
Prioritizing and Managing Local Search Marketing
Successful local search marketing campaigns require customization, careful implementation, and continuous management. Depending on the nature and scope of the brand and target audience, a local search marketing campaign can encompass some or all of the following:
- Google, Bing, and Yahoo local listings optimization
- Optimization for maps on Google, Bing, and Yahoo
- Optimization for review sites (such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Zagat)
- Optimization for Yellow Page directories (such as Insider Pages and Superpages)
- Optimization for local directories (such as Citysearch and Localeze)
- Optimization for business directories (such as InfoGroup/InfoUSA and Acxiom)
- Optimization for niche- and industry-specific directories (such as Health Grades)
Marketers should further optimize their listings by ensuring that they are claimed/verified, accurate, and up-to-date.
Local Helps Marketers Transition into Contextual Marketing
As indicated in Forrester Research’s report—Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing—(@forrester) local search marketing produces various benefits. Among these are increased brand awareness, improved quality of leads, and more leads.
Another major takeaway from the Forrester report concerns local search marketing’s ability to initiate marketers steeped in traditional marketing approaches to contextual marketing. “Local can provide a straightforward inauguration into thinking more about brand interactions than campaigns and more about customer moments than about media schedules,” stated the report.
Lastly, marketers are advised to scale operations successfully by adopting an appropriate local marketing automation tool set. Tools that specialize in feed accuracy, content optimization at scale, as well as web and social media templates, can relieve otherwise manual effort while maximizing brand visibility.