Consumers are searching for local business and services across the Internet nearly every day. In fact, an immr/YP study on “How Consumers Are Using Local Search” found that four in 10 individuals use local search once a day, while two-thirds use local search at least three to four times per week.
The adoption of mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets, is a big contributor to the increase in local searches, but has also contributed to the change in local search behavior. As a result, a market that was fairly dominated by search engines and directories is now becoming fragmented into a multitude of specialized sites and apps.
What are the reasons behind this shift?
The use of mobile applications has trained consumers to launch specific apps that directly meet their needs, whether that is looking up the weather in their hometown, catching up on regional news, or making a dinner reservation in the neighborhood.
This fragmentation means that it is more important than ever for marketers to build local listing management into their marketing strategy. Local and search may be an ideal match, but it takes savvy to take full advantage of their coupling.
Toward that end, here are three things marketers should be doing to meet the local search shift head-on:
- Optimize your website. Having both a desktop- and mobile-optimized website with a store locator or individual store pages with accurate addresses, phone numbers, and business hours is the first step toward being discoverable by local searchers. This sort of information should be tagged appropriately with microformats. Then it will be easily searchable by companies that are scanning the Internet to collect this data.
- Work with companies that provide publishers with business listings. There are many sources that feed publishers’ business listing databases. Data aggregators and location management services are companies that build direct relationships with publishers to provide them with accurate, cleansed business listing data. These companies can help you reach the coverage necessary to be found across the different sites and applications consumers are using and can help you monitor for accuracy.
- Engage with consumers on social media. With so many users accessing social media sites via their mobile devices, it is no surprise that they are adopting consumer-driven sites to conduct local searches as well as apps such as Yelp, Foursquare, and now Facebook, with the introduction of Graph Search. Search engines are also pulling reviews into their business listing search results to help consumers make decisions between the relevant businesses. Encouraging consumers to write reviews, check in, and engage with your business via social networks can improve your local search presence.
While the local search ecosystem continues to grow, industry stakeholders are coming together to identify where challenges may exist and find areas for simplification. However, if there is anything we have learned from mobile, it is not to wait for this to happen. Don’t sit on your hands. Consumers are actively taking matters into their own hands – or thumbs, as it were. Businesses need local search strategies now. To assist, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Local Committee just released a Local Search white paper to offer guidance. But just reading it won’t be enough to move the local needle. Action is required.
It is time to find out where consumers are searching for your business, especially on mobile, where they are more likely to complete a purchase. Continually monitor your listings for coverage and accuracy to make sure the information consumers are looking for (business hours, directions, etc.) is provided and accurate. And overall, make it a priority to ensure your business is discoverable in local search, or you will miss out.
Mobile and local are like peanut butter and chocolate – a brilliant combination. I highly recommend having a taste!
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