Columnist Gregg Stewart has a few suggestions for Santa this year, to help local marketers get more out of Google+, Google Maps and Places.
Now I know it's not even Thanksgiving and you're really busy trying to fix Healthcare.org, to give the U.S. population an early Christmas gift. However, I would like you to consider this national advertisers' short list of wishes for Local Search in the coming year.
It's about time Google unified platforms and invested some resources to fix the current offering. It is clear that Google does not invest the necessary resources because these areas are considered non-revenue generating. However, SMB and brand advertisers targeting local markets do not see it that way. They view Google as well... Google. They do not differentiate between paid products like Adwords and Adwords Express and their locally claimed local listing. They simply just want them all to work, generating sales and service leads for their business. Here is the "Ask":
Non-retail, service-based businesses that are often on the outskirts of a given market area want better listing prominence than today's over-reliance on proximity in the local listing algorithm. You see, these businesses come to the consumer at their place of business or home, so treating all businesses like retailed establishments is somewhat flawed. It's an old problem, but a simple solution would be to simply charge for the appearance of a given local listing based on service territory geo-coverage, perhaps at the zip code level like you do for Adwords PPC.
Tying in Google Shopping to local listings would be a real improvement to the existing user experience. Currently, there is an "in-stock nearby" link in Google Shopping for selected products. However, when one conducts the same search in Google web search, there is no prompting that the product is available in market. Considering that only 7 percent of retail sales happen online, a solution for the remaining 93 percent of buyers that purchase offline seems like a good problem to solve.
Consumers often purchase from brands to whom they are loyal; however, trying to find a local outlet for a branded product can be a big challenge. Here are the search results for "Eukanuba Danbury CT" (high-end dog food):
While the organic results were no help in my search for this brand locally, I did find an Adwords ad that answered my question:
So off I go to Tractor Supply, curious as to whether Tonelli's Restaurant really serves Eukanuba Dog Food? Here is another case where local advertisers would be willing to pay to get listings representation of the brands they carry.
So Santa, as you can see, Google could use your and the elves' help to improve both user and advertiser functionality for the local purchaser. Bing got it right, by the way:
Now don't get me wrong; Google has come a long way over the past few years by understanding that local search is an important component of the overall search ecosystem. Additionally, they are not the only one with work to do. Other local search resources like Internet Yellow Pages, map sites and the other search engines each need to concentrate more on local, especially since most mobile searching has a local intent.
I would love to hear from more national advertisers and continue to build the list of additional functionality that would benefit both users and advertisers. Please share your thoughts below!
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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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12:00pm ET/9:00am PT