Local search is one of the most underutilized and least understood digital marketing strategies, even though it's one of the most cost effective.
Sixteen billion search queries a month are conducted on the Internet in the U.S. One out of five of those searches is local in nature.
More importantly, most consumer purchases are made locally, and consumers who perform geo-specific searches are ready to buy a product or service.
By not fully leveraging local search marketing, most companies are leaving a huge amount of potential business on the table. Looking to improve your local search results? Then these five tips are for you.
Claim Your Listings
Every business needs to claim their local listings through the business centers of local search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This allows you to make sure the information displayed to the public is accurate and as compelling as possible.
Data integrity is a big challenge for large companies with many locations and frequent openings and closings. Don't lose potential sales (and risk a negative experience) by giving consumers a disconnected phone number. Depending on your vertical, you may also want to consider claiming your listings on other websites, such as Yelp and Citysearch.
Optimize Your Profile
Many businesses only check to make sure their name, address, and phone number are correct. But fully optimizing your profile will make a world of difference in your search visibility. That means creating customized fields and informative business descriptions.
You can create up to five categories in Google Places -- pick ones that are relevant and provide maximum search volume. Make descriptions keyword rich, and provide maps and details of your physical location. Integrate brand-approved photos and videos. Always keep the information up to date.
In addition to the major search engines, your business should have a presence on the thousands of other second- and third-tier search engines and online directories. If you aren't distributing your content across all of these, you're missing opportunities to reach potential customers.
Work with a distribution partner that can provide broad reach and is classified as a trusted feed provider. This process will help you achieve data integrity across multiple platforms.
Integrate online tracking, along with other relevant data components, such as use of coupons that could provide offline tracking capabilities. Obtain baselines of existing click traffic, sources of traffic, and average business generated by location for comparison with post-project results. Leverage website analytics for additional traffic and reporting and consider working with an experienced third-party to create a customized online dashboard to track all of your local search marketing initiatives.
Encourage Customer Reviews
If your business has lots of reviews online, and they're mostly positive, more people will contact you. A Nielsen study from July 2009 reported that 70 percent of people trust online consumer opinions. Plus, reviews help your search engine rankings.
Having reviews online validates your business to search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It shows that you're actively serving clients and demonstrating the ability to inspire customers to talk about you. This user-generated content impacts the engines' decisions to rank you over your competition.
Soon, just about every brand will employ these local search strategies, just as they have adopted pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). But for now, the marketers who fully embrace local search are enjoying a competitive edge.
Join us for SES San Francisco August 16-20, 2010 during ClickZ's Connected Marketing Week. The festival is packed with sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, ad networks and exchanges, e-mail marketing, the real time web, local search, mobile, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an expo floor with 100+ companies, networking events, parties and more!