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Building the Optimal Local Online Media Plan

  |  April 29, 2013   |  Comments

How to build a media plan that is finely honed, generates a desirable cost-per-action, and has low waste.

Just like building an efficient national online media plan, leveraging data about how consumers source information for your specific category can be the difference between a media plan that is somewhat effective, and one that is finely honed, generates a desirable cost-per-action, and has low waste.

All Local Media Is Not Created Equal

All too often I see major brands and local merchants approaching local and mobile online with a shotgun or generalist approach. They use a top-down method focusing on the search engines, oftentimes as their sole media type for covering the local market. And while search engines are important for many local categories, one thing to remember about consumers when using local and mobile media is they use different media types based on the category they are searching. For example, consumers seeking a "Jewelry Store" online via mobile utilize online directories or Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) twice as often as portal search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing (source: 2013 15miles/Localeze Local Search Usage Study conducted by comScore). So in this case a local merchant or national brand that dedicated all of their local/mobile media budget to search engines would miss a substantial share of their target audience.

Let's face it. Every local media representative who calls or visits your business wants you to believe that she has the best option for your firm. As a savvy marketer you want to base your initial plan on all available data first to narrow your choices, and then direct measurement of trial campaigns for a defined time period to access your specific results.

Most media sales reps will tell you how often their media property (website or app) is used overall. Get specific with them; you need to know how often their site is used for your specific business category and geography. If you are purchasing search engine advertising, you can source the amount of traffic to specific keywords that make up your category and geographies via their self-service websites.

If you are a national brand marketing locally, request that your agency source the category-specific information that is available to the industry. Additional category-specific information is also available here or by contacting me via the contact the author link below.

Mode of Usage

So once you have zeroed in on the local/mobile media sources that are most used for your specific category, it is important to understand the usage mode the consumer is in to apply the best messaging strategy. I like to think about consumers' modes of usage when using local/mobile as "find, search, shop."

"Finders" are laser beam-focused consumers who are at the final steps in the engagement path. They know "what" they want to buy, and in many cases "who" they want to buy from and are merely seeking "where" to buy information. With this group, having well-optimized and accurate business listing information and brand-based keywords on all utilized media sources (search engines, IYP, and local search sites/apps) will deliver this audience. In many cases, these are existing and repeat users or consumers who are acting off a personal referral.

"Searchers" are not quite as predisposed as "finders," as they tend to be aware of some of the available options, but are using local/mobile media for comparing or seeking alternatives of either products or merchants from which to purchase. Since there is an ability to entice or switch these consumers' minds, a different media and message strategy is necessary to leverage this audience. Ratings and reviews become an important element as you seek to differentiate your firm and offerings from the local alternatives. Advertisements on category keywords, optimized websites, and business listings tuned to terms that consumers use to compare merchants in your category become vitally important with "searchers." These consumers generally exist along the mid-point of the consumer engagement path and represent the second most desired audience behind the "finders."

"Shoppers," as the name implies, are shopping the category seeking information about "what" to buy. In many cases shop categories are infrequently used categories (e.g., movers, automobiles, appliances) where a larger amount of research is required by the consumer to form purchase options or consideration lists and then comparative information to drive decision-making. For this group, content marketing and well-developed and complete websites are a starting point to help educate consumers on both the category and the specific points of difference that they can provide the shopper. From a media point of view, marketers attracting "shoppers" need to have their directional sources covered (search engines, local/mobile directories), as well as investments in awareness and preference-building media types including contextual and behavioral display advertisements that target the consumer by profile or context relationships.

Wondering which mode of usage your category falls into? The below chart can help provide some answers:


The categories on the far left of the chart tend to be "finders," the middle, "searchers," and the far right, "shoppers."

So, when beginning to build your optimal local media plan, understand both where and how consumers are seeking information about your specific category and target your media and messages to their unique mode of usage. And as always, measure and refine…if it can be measured, it can be optimized.


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Gregg Stewart

Gregg Stewart is founder and president of 3rd Act Marketing, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy, specializing in digital solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 3rd Act supports businesses and agencies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. With more than 20 years experience, Stewart applies his successful tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital and mobile solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his ClickZ columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive. In 2013, Stewart was recognized with the ClickZ Hall of Fame award.

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