Digital Visibility Is Key to Local Search Success

Much of the focus in the local search marketplace is on analyzing some combination of the visibility, rank, and position that a business receives at the major search engines (SEs) and Internet yellow pages (IYP) sites.

There are many strategies and tactics both a local business owner and a CMO of a large retailer with thousands of locations can use to ensure success. This column has looked at many of those tactics and strategies for the more traditional online space.

One thing that’s woefully overlooked, however, is the notion of digital visibility. It’s not thought of on the scale it should be, and it’s certainly not top of mind, never mind understood.

Define Visibility for Today’s Search Marketer

What is digital visibility? It can’t be absolutely defined, because it changes every day as new technologies and local search products come to market. After all, a new device, service, or consumer access point is launched every day.

Four or five years ago, all of us online marketers focused our resources on the IYPs and SEs, then added SMS (define) or mobile search because it was the low-hanging fruit. Since then, we’ve kept having to change our focus.

Generally speaking, however, digital visibility is the extent to which your brand is accessible to interactive searchers. Digital visibility isn’t just a ranking, it’s the quality that generates high rankings.

Yes, it’s search optimization, but it’s also smart keyword use and good distribution across a wide variety of digital environments that extend well beyond the Web.

Look Beyond Traditional Search Optimization

To be successful in local search today, you must look beyond the traditional digital access points and optimize content for new search media.

For example, today about 20 million cars are enabled with in-car navigation devices, and another 65.1 million are expected to be installed by 2012, according to iSuppli Corp. These devices are used primarily for driving directions and finding core retail locations such as the local coffee shop, service station, or golf course. And 20 million doesn’t even take into consideration all the rental cars enabled with similar devices or the portable Garmin or TomTom products.

These portable devices are essentially local search boxes that you can take with you everywhere. They’re a great example of a technology that many marketers know or think very little about as a consumer touch point.

As marketers, we look to media channels to connect with consumers and overlook the opportunity technology can deliver.

Get in Front of Local Marketing Trends

Also know what’s on the cutting edge. For example, at a consumer electronics show this year, there was a refrigerator manufacturer previewing the future in home refrigeration. According to this manufacturer, tomorrow’s refrigerator will be able to tell you when you need milk or your favorite beer, then be able to tell you the nearest grocer and when it’s open.

If I were with Albertsons, the U.S.’s largest grocery retailer, I’d want to make sure all my stores were in that manufacturer’s database.

Don’t Forget Traditional Business Databases

You must also optimize your presence within traditional databases. We often overlook or take for granted some of the most basic access points.

One example of this is telephony search. There are tens of millions of 411 queries conducted every year, and consumers typically pay more than a dollar to dial traditional 411 services. At that price point, a consumer is quite engaged.

This is such an engaging medium that there are several free 411 products. One is 1-800-FREE411, an advertiser-supported product. The firm has said it facilitates over 20 million free-to-consumer queries on a monthly basis. That’s a lot of queries — and a market that should not be overlooked.

Find New Local Search Channels

It would be impossible for a local business or marketer to reach out to every media channel and technology that delivers local business information, though there are agencies in the marketplace that can help deliver wide swaths of both.

Yet local business owners, agencies, and marketers can and should map out the media channels and enabling technologies that will deliver the largest return for resources put against these types of initiatives.

Competition for consumers is fierce, and the difference between first and second can be razor thin in many categories. But by building your digital visibility — in emerging channels as well as the old standbys — you stand to give yourself a first-mover advantage.

Nominate your choice of technologies, companies, and campaigns that made a positive difference in the online marketing industry in the last decade. Nominations end August 3 at 5:00 pm (EDT).

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