The world is changing around us very quickly. As technology breeds innovation, consumer behavior changes, and technology innovation again fills the gap. The impact on local search of this disruption is incredible and you must adapt quickly – either as a local-local marketer or a national-local marketer – to be successful.
The following is an excerpt from our latest installment in our guide series – The Skai Guide to Local Search. As 2014 gets underway, we present this 2-part series on the 10 key trends in consumer behavior, technological innovation, and advertising evolution that are shaping the landscape of local search marketing.
1. More Local Searches Via Web-Enabled Content
Online local search activity, already a key component to how consumers discover local businesses, is continually growing. The proliferation of devices and the advanced features and functionality from websites and apps are lowering the barrier of entry for consumers to find you.
Tip: Whatever level you’re currently engaged in local search marketing will need to expand in the next few years to keep up with consumer demand. They’ll be searching for your category more often, and in more places, so you need to make sure you’re there when they’ll be looking for you. Start getting prepared now for this next era in local search.
2. Content as the Next Frontier for Local Search Marketing
Content is becoming a bigger input into the algorithms used by publishers to rank listings, map results, reviews, etc. So it’s more important now than ever before to develop a holistic content marketing plan that will help affect those rankings in your favor. Content also creates a bigger signal of things that can be found when local consumers are searching. They may not even be searching for a local business but they can serendipitously find your content, making it a new source of local discovery.
Tip: Unique, proprietary content can also help differentiate you from your competitors. Check out the blog for this local Chicago coffee roaster, Bow Truss. Bow Truss builds a close knit community by letting customers get to know their baristas, hosting local events, coordinating contests and more. Don’t think of content as something just for promotions or website filler – it can absolutely drive new customer awareness.
3. Social Media at the Center of All Advertising Programs
There are so many networks now beyond just Facebook within which your customers are actively engaging to discover local goods and services. Social media usage is growing, and your own fans and followers represent a strong potential source of referral business.
More and more local search resources are integrating social cues and signals – such as the ratings from a consumer’s own network of friends and family. These signals can help drive consumer interest during local searches and also become important inputs to ranking algorithms of search and listings results.
According to Dan Levy, Director of small business at Facebook, there are 645 million page views of local pages on Facebook in the average week in the U.S. and 70% of consumers in North America are connected to at least one local business.
Tip: Develop a strong and deep social program. You can’t shoestring this anymore. The social channel is just too important for your business to neglect. Whereas your organic [free] presence is a great way to stay in touch with your current customers, use social advertising as a way to get in front of consumers who don’t already know who you are and why they should be doing business with you.
4. The Era of Real-Time Marketing
Real-time marketing is evolving digital marketing and, although it hasn’t deeply affected local search yet, it will in time. This shift is all about speeding up the time between data insights and action. For example, if a consumer is searching for a local service and reaches your website, you need to be able to reach out while he or she is still actively searching – which may only be weeks, days, or even hours depending on your category. Real-time marketing can help you get in front of that same consumer while he or she is still in market, so you can close that opportunity.
Tip: Explore real-time marketing opportunities with your vendors. Google, for example, offers search remarketing to make sure that consumers who have recently searched for you can receive more of your messaging.
5. Surfing the Mobile Wave
Mobile is not just something you should be checking the box on by just providing a mobile website; it’s a giant opening for you to win big. Take this golden opportunity to storm the mobile battleground and beat your competitors to the punch. If you’re the leader in your market, invest heavily to ensure that you maintain your superior position on the mobile front too. If you’re behind the leader, mobile gives you a chance to leapfrog up to the top spot. Be the first business in your market to get to the top of the search engine results, IYP and directory listings, maps, and reviews on the mobile device, and you will set yourself up for success.
Tip: Get savvy now! The only way to do this is to truly understand the trends in mobile consumer search behavior so that you can plan and execute accordingly. Staying on top of the mobile trends is difficult because they are changing so quickly, but it’s also hard for your competitors too. Build in a time during the week for you and your team to stay current on the latest mobile research.
Stay tuned for part 2 in this series. Remember, if you want to learn more about local search, download your copy of The Skai Guide to Local Search. Be sure to also check out the presentation and recording of the accompanying webinar, Winning in Local Search: Top Trends for 2014.