Watching the search landscape evolve these days, I can't help but think of the real estate agents' mantra: "It's all about location, location, location!"
The emergence of location-based services, such as Facebook Places, Twitter Places, and Foursquare, is clearly a game-changer on the web. Social networking sites are more locally focused. Online media are now the primary source of local business information and a huge competition is underway to determine who becomes the dominant force in local search.
In Search Marketing, "It's All About Local-Mobile-Social!"
Even more compelling is the fact that this rivalry is taking place in the midst of several other equally powerful trends -- rapidly growing smartphone usage and an explosion of social media and viral strategies. Increasingly, these trends are tied together and feed off one another.
Consider these statistics:
- The fastest growing categories of online advertising are the local segment and everything related to social media, according to Borrell Associates.
- Total online ad spending will rise 14 percent in 2011, but local online advertising will be up 18 percent.
- Mobile web adoption is expanding eight times faster than the desktop Web did two decades ago. By 2013, mobile devices are expected to be used more often than PCs to access the Web, according to Morgan Stanley.
- More than 100 million people a month use Google Maps from mobile phones to find directions and information.
- More than 100 million people "actively" use Facebook from their mobile devices every month.
What Does All This Searching and Sharing Mean For Marketers?
More consumers are using social networking sites and their mobile devices to find nearby local businesses and things to do (e.g., restaurants, movies and shops).
Consumers are choosing where to go and what to do based upon online recommendations and reviews from their friends and connections, the people whom they trust the most. This is true whether they're close to home or they're traveling.
If you've done a search on a mobile device, most of the results are powered by Google Places or Yahoo Maps. Many people don't realize that a local search marketing strategy indirectly translates into a mobile marketing strategy.
You should "start with the basics" (e.g., Google Places) and then tackle some of the new opportunities (proximity marketing, mobile couponing, QR codes).
Tools and Tracking
Here are some tools and technologies that can provide value:
Marketers need to optimize, distribute and track content across all platforms: online directories, local search engines, social platforms, and mobile devices (WAP, Android, and iPhone apps).
Once you're sure that consumers can easily find your physical location, look for online conversations and reviews to see how your business is faring. Resist the urge to be defensive if you find anything negative -- view it as an opportunity to improve your offerings and engage with consumers.
These are some of the strategies and tools required to be successful as local, mobile and social continue to converge.