As Google puts more focus on providing hyper-relevant results, local search listings are taking up more and more real estate on search engine results pages. This is wonderful for small business owners, because by optimizing your webpages properly, your brand can jump to the top of the rankings when people within your area are looking for your types of products or services.
Local search optimization became a major priority for businesses when Google introduced, Google+ Local, but Google’s not the only network integrating search, socialization, and location. Undoubtedly, there’s a lot in store for local search, but let’s take a look at the current trends and what it means for the future.
1. More devices = more searching
Lately, those in the online marketing world have placed a lot of emphasis on the need for businesses to connect with the “mobile audience,” and while that is vital, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your other platforms.
Although mobile use is surging, there are still plenty of people in transition between old and new technologies, and some mediums, such as desktops, may never completely disappear. That’s why it’s so important to have a multiplatform web presence, such as a responsive website, which reaches people no matter what device they’re using or where they’re at.
The good news is that all these gadgets floating around equate to more local search queries taking place, as consumers almost always have a search tool at their disposal. In other words, once a person gets a tablet or smartphone they don’t quit using their PCs or other devices, but simply start getting online more.
So, as greater numbers of people adopt multiple devices, the rate of local searches is only going to increase, and businesses with a strong desktop and mobile web presence will reap the rewards of more exposure.
2. Local searchers are increasingly using mobile devices (and they’re searching for everything)
As mentioned, mobile use in general is only going up and, as we’ve said before, it is soon expected to surpass desktop use. The huge rise in mobility is evidence that on-the-go consumers aren’t just searching for things like restaurants and retail stores, but they’re looking for all kinds of businesses and products, including entertainment, professional services, healthcare, and groceries. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking your niche doesn’t need a mobile website.
What’s even better, local search connects consumers with brands in their area (you!), which makes it easier for them to find what they want and for you to make a conversion.
As more people catch on to the convenience of mobile, local search, business websites with a quality user-experience will see even more customers coming their way.
3. Consumers want more information
One of the things people appreciate most about a business webpage is it offers so much more information than what’s found in a standard telephone directory (or, at least it should). Yes, people are looking for basic company details (phone number, address, operating hours, etc.), but they’re especially interested in product details, getting prices, finding deals, learning about the company, reading reviews, and more.
That considered, if you can provide more comprehensive content than your competitors, you have a good chance of winning over local customers. Of course, you don’t want to overload them with details, but give just enough to answer their questions, pique curiosity, and motivate them to take online action or visit your physical location.
Some important elements to include are:
- Pictures – Including pictures of you, your business, and products helps instill trust.
- Maps – By adding a map and directions on your site, visitors can use GPS on their phones to easily find your business.
- Click to Call – People are more likely to call you if you make it easy, and it doesn’t get any easier than just tapping one button.
- Prices – If possible, try to include prices on your page. When faced with choosing a business that lists prices and one that doesn’t, many folks will opt for the more forthcoming brand.
- Discount- Providing a discount or coupon to motivate online visitors is an effective way to encourage sales.
- Ratings/Reviews – No matter how great you say your business is, people want to hear it from others.
4. “Local” might be bigger than you think
When looking for basic services (restaurants, movies, groceries, etc.) most shoppers prefer to stay close to home, which is great for small business owners since your toughest competition is generally limited to those in your immediate area. However, don’t get a false sense of security, because consumers are willing to travel farther distances if the incentive is good enough. Some of the things that motivate people to travel farther than usual are:
- Broader selections
- Better prices (sales)
- Quality brands/specific brands
- Better service
- And more
Of course, you can also work a large “local” area to your advantage. For instance, if you provide the perks listed above then your business can become a place people are willing to travel outside their traditional local boundaries to visit. So, remember not to define your audience too narrowly, and look for ways to appeal to those on the periphery of your area.
5. Early adopters represent what’s to come
Although people everywhere are using local search tools more often, studies show the most avid users are 21 to 35-year-old college graduates who have full time jobs and higher than average incomes. Currently, early adopters are using local search in every stage of product/service acquisition, including:
- Research – They’re using social networks, review sites, brand webpages, and clicking on mobile ads to learn more about products.
- Tracking deals – Many avid users track sales, daily deals, coupons, etc. on brand websites and social pages.
- Social mapping – Early adopters are more prone to use social mapping apps to “check-in” at retailers to get deals.
- In-store – They rely on QR codes, store apps, and search engines to make more informed decisions.
- Mobile coupons – Instead of lugging around paper coupons, early adopters are storing e-coupons in their phones and accessing them everywhere they go.
- Shopping in stores and online – Avid local users are comfortable shopping online and in stores. Often, they’ll investigate a product inside the store and later buy it from their mobile device.
Naturally, you’ll want to devote a good deal of your local marketing efforts towards the avid local user demographic, but keep in mind, these folks are early adopters and only a glimpse of what’s to come.
As the merits of local search reach the less technically inclined, you’ll begin to see devoted users across all demographics, and they’ll be relying on their gadgets in much the same way as the early adopters are now. Thus, by meeting the needs of today’s local searchers, you’re also future-proofing your brand (to an extent) as current trends will likely continue.