Comprehensive Local Search Strategies Increase Online Visibility and Offline Conversions

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.

This heat map from Mediative’s recent study shows how attention on the local listings box is greater than attention to the top two organic listings when the local listings box is above the organic listings. It’s a different story when the local listings box is below the top organic listings.

This heat map from Mediative’s recent study shows how attention on the local listings box is greater than attention to the top two organic listings when the local listings box is above the organic listings. It’s a different story when the local listings box is below the top organic listings.

- 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.

 

Hyperlocal Mobile (HyLoMO) allows advertisers to target users in the right location and at the right time (where their intent to buy was at its greatest)

Hyperlocal Mobile (HyLoMO) allows advertisers to target users in the right location and at the right time (where their intent to buy was at its greatest)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Mediative:

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.

 

Local SEO Converges with Mobile Search

female driver hand holding a phone with interface navigatorConsumers searching for information about local businesses increasingly turn to their smartphones for answers. According to Google’s Mobile Search Moment Study, 77 percent of mobile searches take place at home or work, where a PC or other device is available to the searcher and now over 1 out of every 3 searches is done on a mobile device.

Local search has become an almost-daily ritual for consumers, two-thirds of whom use local search three to four times a week. Four in ten of those consumers use local search every day.

When it comes to mobile devices, local search is provided by multiple search engines, data aggregators, social networks, and review sites, including:

– Voice search with Siri, Google Now, and Windows Cortana.
– Map applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and MapQuest.
– Various search engines used by mobile browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, IE, Firefox, Dolphin, and Opera.
– Aggregator and search-powered location-based apps like FourSquare, Yelp, Google Now, YouTube,  and eBay.
– Email search powered by such native email apps as Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

Consumers crave accurate, relevant local business information; almost three-quarters of U.S. consumers use location-based services on their smartphones. Further, these on-the-go local consumers are highly motivated and display great intent. Recent research from Google shows that nine in ten consumers take action after performing a local search, and 70 percent of them call local businesses directly from their smartphone search results.

In addition, new research from comScore and Neustar Localeze shows that the top reason for a local search is to help a consumer find a specific business. However, the second most common reason is to find a product or service in a specific geographic area. According to comScore, “Nearly half of all service, restaurant, and travel searchers were looking for a business they have never made a purchase from before.”

They’re not just kicking the tires either. Google and Nielsen also report that 55 percent of mobile search conversions happen within the hour.

The accuracy, comprehensiveness, and perceived trustworthiness of local business information are of great concern for mobile consumers. Seeing a business show up in multiple places online increases its perceived credibility.

Mobile search optimization is not the mere act of search and syndication; rather, it is all important multi-location, multi-aggregator management of your local business data to the device user’s intent. Local business content management calls for a complete solution, enabling multi-location businesses to provide mobile searchers the type of cohesive, accurate experience that instills trust and encourages action.

Marketers who power their local search optimization with automation solutions from Rio SEO and other software providers will find it easier to define and manage Web content disseminated through search engines and on local websites in areas where they do business.

How to Optimize for Local Search

Most experts agree that local search should continue to be an area of focus for search marketing professionals in 2014. Google continues to pay attention to improving local search results, and expanded use of the Local Carousel is just one example of Google’s recent enhancements. How should your business — assuming it has a physical location and regardless of size — optimize for local?

Here are some tips:

–  Claim Your Google Places Listing: Google Places are business listings that allow your business to be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. By claiming your Google Places listing, you’ll be able to ensure your address, telephone number, hours of operation, and contact information are correct, and you’ll be able to connect with customers by sharing photos, updates, news, and special offers. In addition, claiming your business allows you to respond to reviews that are placed within the site. Visit Google Places for Business to claim your listing.

Build a Dedicated Local Page: When building a page for local, remember that people searching locally are likely to have a more immediate need for your services. Thus, it’s important to add elements that will easily enable visitors to find your physical location. Store locators, mapping technology, telephone numbers, and product/service reviews are essential to your dedicated local page.

–  Identify Local Search Terms: Your market is generally coming from a geographic area that can be as narrow as a few-block radius or as wide as several counties. The geographic qualifiers depend on the size of your  community and the competition for your service. Think about how far your geographic reach is and add those search phrases to your dedicated local page. For example, people likely travel a short distance for a grocery store but may travel a significantly larger distance for fine arts and  accessories. Then, infuse the page with geographically relevant search terms including surrounding towns that searchers may include in their search to learn more about your business.

Get Listed in Local Directories: Once you have a dedicated local page, getting listed in many relevant local directories is an important local search factor. It is vital to make sure your citation information (name, address, phone number, description) matches the information in your Google Places listing. Google will discredit your business if there are inconsistencies between the Google Places listing and those listed in other directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YP, and Patch.

You can quickly and easily manage your online business listings with a single click at Moz Local. Moz Local pushes your listings to all of the major local data aggregators, where search engines can access your information, ensuring it is correct, consistent, and visible across the web.

Be careful when using paid submission services. Some services will remove your listing(s) once you stop paying for the service. It’s worth noting that another advantage to manually submitting your business listing is that you’ll maintain control over your listing’s passwords.

Optimize Your Website for Mobile: With mobile penetration expected to reach upwards of 75% this year, more consumers are likely to be searching for your business from their mobile device. “If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their mobile devices,” says Ben Oren, Director of SEO at WhiteWeb Technologies.

Businesses should consider site design from a mobile-first perspective. Content, navigation, and interactions must be carefully developed for mobile. For example, content order is important because of its tendency to restack on smaller screens, and logical navigation is important because people are tapping buttons or links with their thumbs.

One option for mobile that many businesses are considering is responsive website design. With responsive design, your site adapts to the screen size of the device on which it’s displayed, which means that you won’t need a separate mobile version for your website. According to Google, responsive website design is considered an industry best practice and is their recommended configuration.

From an SEO perspective, site owners can develop a mobile SEO strategy that includes location-based terms more likely to be used from a mobile device. Likewise, you won’t have to duplicate your link building, site authority, and social share efforts, as you’ll be able to dedicate your efforts to linking to a single site.

Engage With Your Customers: Google Places, Google+, Yelp,  Foursquare, and others are relevant because of the independent review provided by consumers. Engage your customers via social media or other methods, and encourage them to leave reviews on local directory sites. Positive reviews add credibility to your brand, increase your domain  authority, and provide Google with clues that your business should appear high on search results.

Optimizing for local search is no longer an optional activity. It’s an essential part of your overall optimization strategy and should not be overlooked.