This week we explore advertiser strategies for winning the local search battle. Let's start with what is not local search.
If your agency or internal marketing personnel state: "yeah don't worry, we have local covered; we broad matched all your keywords, so we pick up anyone searching with geographic/local terms," it's time to get worried. That's sort of like saying "we have every local market covered because we advertise on the Super Bowl ... all local consumers watch the Super Bowl."
Well, if you have an unlimited budget and truly believe that your target market is every consumer in every geography, read no further. This article won't help you.
Local search marketing allows for a tactical targeting strategy that helps advertisers increase the relevance of their users' Web experience, and unlocks lower cost conversions than national targeting allows. For example:
In addition to match types, you'll want to understand how to leverage the local targeting capabilities available on some of the engines. Targeting tactics, such as explicit keyword selection (keyword + geography name) and implicit keyword terms combined with IP targeting, are important to your program.
One important cautionary note: don't rely solely on IP targeting to cover your local search targeting. IP targeting isn't uniformly accurate and has limited application. Expanding geographically explicit keywords alongside the IP targeting is a more comprehensive approach.
Local search goes way beyond simple keyword-centric strategies; it's all about content and helping consumers make informed decisions. A single market business should focus on a story about "why to buy" from them. Regional or national advertisers that market locally need to stress their local points of difference and why they're the best selection in a given market.
Building a Presence and Relationship within Each Specific Community
Which resonates better: "Service available in your area," or "Serving Greenwich since 1972"?
SEMs know the benefits of embedding the "searched term" in the keyword specific creative message as a way of reinforcing to the consumer that they're a relevant choice, thereby increasing ad click-throughs. Local takes this tactic to a whole new level -- consumers want to know you're part of the community.
Local Content Pages
If you employ local content pages for each of your office/branch/locations, don't simply create cookie cutter pages with duplicated material along with a local name, address, and telephone. This approach will rank poorly in search engines, create a poor user experience, and could trip a search engine's duplicate content filter.
Instead, personalize the local content pages. Say how long you've conducted business in the marketplace; identify your branch manager by name; share what types of local market guarantees you can make (e.g., service calls within 24 hours); explain special offerings; post the hours of the location, etc.
This is hard work, but the results are worth the labor. I've seen creative marketers who involve their field organizations in the collection of this local customized information. Not only did their local field organization better understand what is listed about their location on the Web, but they were better prepared to handle the incoming leads. Better lead handling and local field office goodwill, what could be nicer?
So now that we have good local-specific content, how do we process the leads? Research shows that a high percentage of local search traffic converts offline, so provide both online form handling and a local telephone number to enable consumers to respond in the manner which they prefer. One further best practice: use a local number versus an 800 number if possible.
Finally, I know I sound like a broken record, but as consumers interact with online advertising to shape local purchase decisions, it's vital to track all forms of ad response, both online and offline. Without these measures, marketers can't clearly understand your local search performance and substantiate the amount of effort that is required to customize your user experience by locality.
Local search is hard work, but as keyword and advertisement costs continue to rise, marketers need to increase the conversion of their efforts. Marketers that employ a highly customized localized approach to keyword match types and content will enjoy lower cost-per-sale and a better user experience.
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