Looking for 18 simple local and social search strategies that are relatively simple to implement and should help you improve marketing performance? All the ideas below are based around the consumer pathway, a seven-step process which sits at the root of marketing theory.
So without further ado let’s blast through some ideas!
This is the first stage of the pathway, and obviously a great way to boost brand awareness is through local SEO:
- For large organizations with thousands of locations you face a challenge: how to ensure consistent business details are placed in as many local directories as possible? There is an extremely complicated web of providers of local data with many supplying data to others. The SEO professional’s job is to get to the top of this tree and submit consistent data to one supplier via a feed. A good partner for this is allLocal.
- Remember that since the Venice update even generic terms with no location indicated in the query bring up localized result. While you need physical location to play in Google+ Local and the map pack you don't need a physical address to rank as a local result against broad terms in standard results. Build local-specific landing pages for your firm – if you don’t have an office in one region talk about work you have done for people in that area. It’s important to remember the balance between creating thousands of landing pages with terrible automated/generic content and a few targeted landing pages on your key locations with real, decent content. Automation may work for a while, but history suggests it won’t work long term.
- Google Mapmaker is a level of detail beyond Google+ Local. If you have an address that’s part of a shopping center or in a shared business, get familiar with MapMaker – it has the functionality to allow you to understand why your listing in Local results may not be as expected; including the ability to track the history of edits to a location.
- Semantic markup of data is great as it means you can have a better looking result – we all know this – but if you’re worried about implementation Google have started to develop data highlighters to make things easier – one currently exists for events – in Webmaster Tools. This highlighter takes the pain out of semantic markup and if we all use them Google will probably make more! Hurray! Event markup is brilliant for local search as you can show off clearly to interested people you are participating in that thing they are interested in.
- Invest in some high quality photography of your business locations. So many great effects of having above-average visuals; from a search POV one of the main ones is improved CTR: in many directories / local search engines CTR is a ranking factor.
The aim here is to build preference for your brand over others in your niche among people who haven’t bought from you yet.
- Engage with local celebrities and hyper local websites – in London a once overlooked area (Peckham) has become a major center for street food, and its popularity can be largely traced to local food bloggers like Helen Graves championing the area. These people have extremely loyal local audiences and if you can build relationships with them to add value to their readers you will build preference for your business.
- In a world where we talk about the importance of content, wouldn’t it be amazing if there was somewhere that just gave content a score and had it all indexed by topic for you to look at? Well it exists, and it’s called Reddit! Reddit is a fantastic place to find a relevant audience for your brand that are highly attuned to great content. By becoming a participant in a relevant subreddit you can be a part of a specialist group of people all interested in your niche – for example a community specifically dedicated to roasting coffee (reddit.com/r/roasting) is currently over 1000 strong. Reddit is fantastic if you take part as a genuine member of a community. Spam it and your brand will get burnt. Added SEO bonus: Links which gain traction in Reddit become dofollow.
At this stage of the pathway, consumers are ready to buy; it’s vital here to provide a better user experience than competitors to maximize the chance of conversion.
- A couple of Foursquare ideas for getting people nearby to consider your store: increase footfall on slow days with a discount for people that check in on Foursquare during quiet times of the week. You can also use Foursquare as an incentive to first-time visitors (e.g., give something away for free with a customer’s first check-in).
- Consider geofencing. SMS is a powerful tool for cutting through to customers, and is even more powerful when focused on people that are extremely close (e.g., 500 feet) from your business. Use geofencing technology to give people already in your immediate vicinity a reason to come and browse your store. As geofencing networks get larger and partner with major carriers this could be come a great solution for small businesses / sole traders in crowded places like malls and markets.
11. This is the point in the pathway where users part with their cash, and is therefore vital. This section focuses on local landing pages for brands in the travels sector and how I think they should be approached. This is more of a philosophy on how to use social and local than an idea, but here goes:
Local landing pages for hotel chains, car rental firms etc. are of critical importance because they perform two crucial functions:
- They’re the pages that have to rank for localized terms.
- They are the first step in the conversion funnel.
It is vital to make a great user experience on these pages something the entire organization is focused on. With huge clients local staff and consumers are the key to this. They should be the source of page content.
As an SEO professional, your job is not to write the local landing pages, but to facilitate the flow of knowledge from staff and fans to the website. As a result, SEO success will stem from making your local specific pages:
- Useful or informative – in the travel sector there are three main ways of doing this:
- Tips for how to save money on local activities.
- Tips for how to have an “authentic” experience other tourists won’t realize exists.
- Reassurance that things people are worried about are no big deal (e.g., if your hotel is near an airport and used by tourists wanting early morning flights provide exhaustive information on the airport shuttle bus service).
- “Alive” – people will respond positively if they know that a real person with a name and face cares about their eventual offline experience at the location which the page represents. They will be indifferent to generic meaningless information from a faceless brand that is only on the site to increase relevance for a place name.
A good local SEO strategy should detail how to extract local knowledge from staff at individual locations and get it on the website, and how this process could be scaled. Services like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey are amazing for this.
Sounds daunting, but look at it like this: your initial job is to isolate local managers within a major organization who are open to digital and make them your case study. Get them to provide you with a personalized bit of welcome text, their photo and the photos of some of their staff, their knowledge of where’s good to eat nearby to the hotel and which buses get you cheaply to the main tourist sites. This information will help create a local landing page for the hotel that converts better and is more likely to build its own links and social shares.
Ultimately, other local managers in a large organization will only listen to results. If one hotel is converting at 4 perent and all the rest average 2 percent they are going to copy what the 4 percent guy did. Your second job is to internally market the crap out of your initial results.
A brand's social audience should also be leveraged to get local information for your pages. You’ll need to incentivize them to create content for you but the information they provide will be far more useful than having someone who has never been to a location writing generic text based on a Wikipedia article for that place. This seems to be how most big brands introduce their location pages currently (how depressing).
Focusing an entire organization on the importance of quality local landing pages is daunting, but has big potential impact:
- Local staff empowered.
- Potential customers get a better experience.
- Existing social followers feel more involved with the brand.
- Everyone has a better booking experience which leads to more referencing & recommendations of pages: great for local SEO strategy.
Ultimately the big payoff is conversion rate improvement: this is the best kind of business gain as it drives profitability, meaning more money for wider advertising, (e.g., search).
At this stage in the pathway the goal is to turn a one-time customer into a repeat purchaser.
- SMS not used enough for thanking people for their business. It should be used by businesses that know they have just interacted with a customer to offer them a reason to come back again (e.g., hotel chains should text an hour after checkout offering a repeat use discount or courier firms could offer 5 percent off for new customers if they use them again inside 30 days).
- Use Foursquare as an incentive for repeat visiting (e.g., the Mayor gets free stuff, or free stuff is offered if you check-in with more than three people).
- A proven tactic to inspire repeat use is to make people feel they have got a bonus. This is called artificial enhancement. People are more likely to complete tasks when they’re closer to the finish line. Take coffee shop loyalty cards: if you start with 1/8 stamps on your card, then you’re 12.5 percent of the way to a free coffee. But when you start with a loyalty card that has 3/10 stamps, you’re 30 percent complete. Even though the patrons need the same 7 coffees to get a free one, in one instance they’re 70 percent away from the finish line… whereas in the other case they’re 87.5 percent away. This methodology has produced an 82 percent increase in usage of one loyalty card scheme. Quick note: artificial enhancement works best when there is a reason for enhancement (e.g., you get 3 stamps for the price of 1 because you’re a new customer; otherwise customers will question what’s going on).
Here we use social and local tactics to get customers to connect in a lasting way rather than just buying from us.
- For stores selling high price items have staff ask “would you like a receipt emailed to you?” – boom you have a new connection. A good example could be cycling equipment. Many bike insurers require receipts for both bikes and bike locks in case of a claim; something I didn’t know when I got my bike. Many customers would be happier to have these receipts stored in their email inbox than putting paper copies in a shoebox.
- Use a tool like Fliptop to match your pre-existing email database to your customer’s social media profiles. In this way you can begin to follow and learn from, connect with, and talk to your pre-existing customers. This strategy is great for businesses with a small following in popular social networks; it allows them to take the path of least resistance to building a social following.
This is the wild world of reviews, an increasingly important part of search results and often checked by users before they make it through to your website. The goal should always be to turn as many passive fans into advocates as possible.
- Respond to good and bad reviews – but how do you find reviews? Google and Topsy alerts are a good place to start, here’s some tips for queries that should filter out a lot of unhelpful alerts.
- Place a QR code on the back of your till, your receipts, with delivery details or on loyalty cards. The QR code should links to a place where the user can leave a review. Incentivise this for best results.
There you have it – 18 ideas for using social and local tactics to boost search and overall marketing. Would love to hear your ideas in the comments!