Importance of Maximizing Local Search
As I touched on above, local search can bring in some serious ROI. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Clicks and Calls Survey polled small businesses, search consultants, search agencies, and web designers to find out just exactly what works and what doesn’t. As you can see from Figure 1 below, a substantial percentage of respondents said local search was the number one channel for generating traffic to their site—aka, for getting leads and making sales.
That’s what the marketers said, but does consumer behavior back up that strategy? The short answer is yes. According to a 2014 Google study, consumer behavior indicates local searches happen often and lead to action. While that Google study is a few years old, the data here is still relevant. Fifty percent of local searches on a smartphone lead to in-store visits within one day, and 34 percent lead to in-store visits for those local searches originating on computers or tablets. That’s a mighty punch that local search packs. See Figure 2 below for a little more about what the Google study discovered regarding customer behavior before visiting versus in-store.
Figure 2: Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior, May 2014, Google
Just who are the consumers we’re talking about, though, and exactly how prevalent is local search? It turns out that four out of every five of your customers likely types local inquiries into search engines—88 percent from a smartphone and 84 percent from a computer or tablet. That’s a statistic that might make you sit up and get serious about local search if you’ve not yet done so for your business. Take a look at Figure 3 below to get a visual on just what those prospects are looking for when they initiate those searches.
That data above? It tells you everything you need to know about what kind of user experience searchers expect from your website, and what kind of content they expect to find there. Business hours, address, directions, and what you’ve got in stock. Those are easy things to provide them with, yet many businesses don’t make this information easily accessible on their websites. Time to change that.
Figure 3: Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior, May 2014, Google
Local Search in a Mobile World
Many websites are already optimized for mobile—from layout to content to call to action buttons—and it’s not just because more people are searching on smartphones and tablets. That’s a big part of it, of course, but even the search engines themselves recognize the value of mobile-friendly sites to today’s consumer culture. Last April, Google updated its algorithms so that websites that work better with mobile devices appear higher on search results. Google is expected to boost the mobile-friendly algorithm update on May 1st, “increasing the effect of the mobile-friendly ranking signal.” What does that mean to you? If you have a mobile-friendly site, chances are good it will appear higher organically, and course, the higher the SERP of your page, the better your company visibility.
Local Search and Advertising
Research indicates that consumers conducting local searches are more apt to act upon advertisements that apply to them (hint: It may be time to talk retargeting). Almost two-thirds of customers polled said they would prefer to view location-based ads when searching on a smartphone or computer, whether focused on zip codes or immediate surroundings. Either way, the point is consumers want to know the basics of how to contact your company and whether or not it is near them. To help satisfy that need, consider listing your business address and adding a click-to-call button to make it easier for mobile customers to reach out to your business.
The Power of Local Search and Driving Phone Calls
Customer calls matter a great deal, because a prospect on the phone is generally a customer ready to buy. And when it comes to phone calls, local search delivers them. According to BrightLocal’s survey, local search delivers the highest percentage of calls when compared to other methods of digital marketing. And, as you can see from Figure 4, the 477 SEO-focused respondents reported that local search outperformed the other methods—from display advertising to social media channels—by a significant margin.
It’s hard to overstate the value of local search. Consumers are using it, and they’re often ready to take action when they do—one last tidbit: Google’s study found 19 percent of consumers made unplanned visits to stores resulting in purchases because of location-based ads. Are you ready to capitalize on this perfect storm? Perhaps you’ve struggled a bit with just how to optimize for local search, or perhaps you’ve decided to focus your digital marketing energies elsewhere. If so, what has been your experience? If you’ve embraced local search for your business, have you seen results? What are your local search plans for the coming year? (I hope you’re adding that click-to-call button if you haven’t yet.) I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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