Consumers who are searching locally are ready to buy. It’s not rocket science, just common sense! And being discovered through local search makes strong business sense too. The search landscape has evolved, and businesses must evolve their digital strategy too if they don’t want to risk getting left behind.
There are two main types of local search visibility that a business can achieve – intent visibility is being found when someone searches for a very specific product or service in a specific location. The intent is to purchase within that geo-locality. Extended visibility is being seen when a searcher is looking for a related product or service. For example, someone searching for flights to a particular city might also need a hotel, or car rental.
Quick wins can be earned with intent visibility. Many national businesses concentrate on corporate campaigns, and national advertising – it may have worked hard to rank #1 for a national search (e.g. “insurance providers”) but if a local strategy is not in place, it will not rank as well for a local search (e.g. “insurance providers Chicago”), and these are the lower funnel searches, where intent to buy is higher. Local aligns naturally to audience intent.
So, what can a business with regional locations do to increase online intent visibility – not just from a search perspective, but also from a social perspective?
– Website Optimization for Search Engines – First, understand what people are searching for to arrive at your site. At the very minimum, optimize your site for your product or service, plus a regional modifier. This can be best achieved by creating a website page for each and every location that the business serves. The pages should be rich with regional/location keywords, and linked to the appropriate local social pages (Facebook, Google+). Include locally relevant keywords in meta data, headers, body copy and urls. Keep page content unique, and specific to the local market you are targeting.
– Mark-up Content with Schema if possible – This can result in higher click-through rate (although it will not have any direct impact on rankings). Using schema to describe location information can be one area where you can use rich mark-up to communicate to the engines local information about your business.
– Local Directory Listings – The impact of local directory listings on the local ecosystem is huge, and the accuracy of directory listings is vital for local SEO. When the name, address and phone number (NAP) on your website matches the same details on verified citation pages, Google sees it as more trustworthy and ranks it accordingly. Get listed on various local directories, review sites, hometown blogs, community websites etc. as this will not only help you build incoming links to your website, but having a strong presence on these types of sites is a huge benefit to local SEO efforts. Businesses with higher ratings from review sites are more likely to appear higher on Google for unbranded, regional search terms (and Google’s July 2014 Pigeon update reflects this approach – directories are being favoured over local businesses, which could be due to the authority that a directory has built up overtime compared to the local business listing).
– Google+ Optimization – Google+ Local has a significant impact on local search visibility, and Google+ Local pages are directly tied to the appearance and position in a local search query. Ensure your physical address is up-to-date and accurate and make sure you are listed under the appropriate categories. Use relevant keywords and location information in the descriptions to increase your chances of appearing in search results. Google+ Local offers numerous advantages to local businesses, primarily inclusion in Google Maps and the local listings box of the search engine results page. However, relying on visibility in the local listings on the search engine results page alone is not enough – Mediative’s new eye-tracking study, ‘The Evolution of Google Search Engine Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour’ looked at the interaction users had with various elements of the Google search engine results place, including local results, and we discovered that the ability of local listings to attract attention and win clicks is dependent on the placement of the local listings box on the SERP, and on the nature of the search query.In the event that the local listings box is positioned further down the SERP, a strong on-site SEO strategy will help move your website listing further up the page.
- Drive Local Engagement on Facebook – Businesses with multiple locations must have a dedicated Facebook page for each location in addition to a brand-level page. This gives each location the ability to deliver unique content that targets its neighborhood’s demographic. Fans are more likely to engage with content that is relevant to them. The key with social media is using people’s networks and peers to influence them into choosing your business over a competitor – pulling people out of the open market of natural search where they could potentially choose any brand that is listed on the search engine, and engaging instead through a social channel.
– Local Search on Mobile – Mobile search users have a higher purchase intent than their desktop counterparts because their search indicates a sense of urgency, therefore mobile optimization must be a priority for local businesses. Responsive website designs will automatically adapt to the visitors screen size, eliminating the need for a separate mobile-friendly website. Take into consideration what a consumer needs when they search for your product or service on a mobile device – as they are on-the-go they likely need information such as location. Retail consumers might want product information, whereas food and beverage consumers would be looking for a menu, or ratings and reviews. Note: While 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases, according to comScore’s latest Local Search Study many searchers believe that they can find more complete information about local businesses on a desktop rather than a smartphone or tablet. Therefore, it’s equally as important to optimize your local online presence for desktop and mobile experiences.
– Incorporate paid media into your strategy – Once your website has been optimized to maximize the chances of being found online, you can think about paid media, paying close attention to relevancy and searcher intent, in order to be seen. Google paid ads, hyperlocal mobile display ads, retargeting etc. can all work to drive more people to your local business pages.
Note: Google has made an effort to simplify local marketing for SMBs with the introduction of Google My Business, making it easier for businesses to update their business information across Google platforms including Google Search, Google Maps and Google+
Case Study: Let’s take the example of a fictional car rental company – we will call it ‘ACME Car Rental’. Local online visibility is absolutely critical because, while quotes and booking can be completed online, the service is fulfilled at a physical location. What did ACME Car Rental do to ensure they were highly visible online for regional searches?
- First, ACME Car Rental created a specific website page for every one of their 53 national locations. These pages were rich in local keywords and even linked to a few partner sites (such as a local hotel and restaurant – services often required alongside car rental), which in turn, linked back to ACME’s location pages. Also included were links to ACME’s Facebook page for the same location, and to its Google+ Local page.
- A Facebook page was also built for every rental location (the actual location, not just the city), and ACME proactively targeted consumers through social media with local deals, check-in contests, and even offered real-time customer service support, listening and responding to customers.
- ACME also invested in some Google Paid Ads – creating a specific campaign for each market served and leveraging geo-targeting options and ad messaging to specifically promote the location.
- Going a step further, ACME decided to use hyperlocal advertising to strategically target potential customers in competing car rental locations in the same region with discount coupons to their smartphones, increasing visits and new customers to ACME’s location.
Taking local strategy seriously, ACME was able to significantly increase online quotes, phone calls to locations, bookings, and ultimately revenue, at each location.
Local marketing for local businesses is nothing new – in fact, local businesses have been marketing in some form or another for centuries. The problem is, businesses were not necessarily communicating with consumers when they were open to being marketed to – that is, when they were ready to buy. Search engines have become cluttered with messages from a slew of advertisers who are trying to attract anyone and everyone! From organic search, mobile search, and social media has emerged local search –purchase-ready consumers discovering what is around them. A digitally savvy business will capitalize on this to increase local visibility, driving more online traffic, and in store visitors.
Mediative is a digital marketing company that provides performance services and access to media platforms designed to help businesses enhance their digital presence and influence consumers’ path to purchase.
Location and research-based data fuels our knowledge, which we leverage across our range of services, online properties, and location-based marketing platforms.
With precise and unmatched insights into how shoppers buy and how users behave, we take a holistic, consultative approach to drive the results you need.