5 Local Search Opportunities For Brands

Suc­cess will come from using new tech­nolo­gies to max­i­mize the oppor­tu­ni­ties on local search.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

The lead up to the so-called “Mobi­leged­don” pro­vid­ed a strong reminder to brands about the impor­tance pri­or­i­tiz­ing mobile-friend­ly site design in order to avoid suf­fer­ing a hit to their mobile rank­ings. How­ev­er, mobile-friend­li­ness goes beyond rank­ings. Ulti­mate­ly, brands and retail­ers will need to mar­ry mobile search intent with cus­tomer-cen­tric tech­nol­o­gy to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble mobile expe­ri­ence if they are to win at the moments when con­sumers are search­ing on mobile.

For those who fol­low the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing head­lines, it seems that every year is her­ald­ed as the “year of mobile.”

With the roll­out of Google’s update to the mobile search algo­rithm on April 21, which rewards “mobile-friend­ly” sites, 2015 could jus­ti­fi­ably be that year.

As of now, mobile SEO can’t be treat­ed as a trend­ing media buz­zphrase. Instead, it forms a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of a brand’s over­all search vis­i­bil­i­ty.

The media have been quick to ana­lyze how the change will affect the search land­scape. Brands with web­sites that don’t pro­vide a mobile-friend­ly expe­ri­ence, and there are many, may suf­fer a hit to their mobile rank­ings.

How­ev­er, there’s also an under­ly­ing sto­ry here about the evo­lu­tion of con­sumer’s search intent on mobile devices. Local search.

How Influential Is Local Search On Mobile?

As ear­ly as 2011, Google research revealed that 20 per­cent of all search­es had local intent.

On mobile specif­i­cal­ly, accord­ing to Google, 56 per­cent of “on the go” search­es and 51 per­cent of in-store search­es from a mobile device have local intent.

The most recent data from the search giant has revealed that search­es using the “near me” mod­i­fi­er have increased 34X since 2011. At the end of last year, in the peri­od Q4 2014, a mas­sive 80 per­cent of these search­es were made via mobile devices.


Google Data, March 28–29, 2015

Anoth­er piece of research from Google revealed that “50 per­cent of con­sumers who con­duct a local search on their smart­phone vis­it a store with­in a day, and 18 per­cent of those search­es lead to a pur­chase with­in a day.”

The mobile-friend­li­ness update is a tes­ta­ment to the ris­ing influ­ence of mobile on user search behav­ior. Mobile is a cru­cial part of con­sumer pur­chase jour­neys.

In the next few weeks, brands may be more focused on the tech­ni­cal ele­ment of the mobile deliv­ery and under­stand­ably so. How­ev­er, the greater les­son here will be for brands to gain a thor­ough under­stand­ing of the way their con­sumers are look­ing for answers via mobile search, and pro­vid­ing for those needs accord­ing­ly.

When you think about it, mobile search does pro­vide a stun­ning pic­ture of user intent. Espe­cial­ly when on the go, peo­ple pull out their smart­phones when and where they are seek­ing out an answer to an imme­di­ate need. Per­haps they are look­ing for a good place to eat in the local area, or where the near­est ser­vice sta­tion is.

For brands, achiev­ing cus­tomer-cen­tric­i­ty will be in ful­fill­ing these moments with rel­e­vant con­tent, on web­sites that pro­vide an excel­lent mobile-friend­ly expe­ri­ence.

5 Local and Mobile Search Opportunities

The smartest con­sumer-fac­ing brands rec­og­nize the fun­da­men­tal impor­tance of SEO, for meet­ing con­sumers at moments of need as they nav­i­gate their pur­chase jour­neys. Some man­age that jour­ney bril­liant­ly, pro­vid­ing a clear and per­sua­sive path to pur­chase.

UK retail­er Argos is one such exam­ple. Hav­ing an expan­sive under­stand­ing of cus­tomer pur­chase jour­neys is an immense­ly pow­er­ful con­cept, and one which enables brands to work out where the poten­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties lie to bet­ter reach con­sumers.

In the com­ing months, it may be that mobile devices become the bat­tle­ground for brands look­ing to be “num­ber one” at those moments. Cer­tain­ly the oppor­tu­ni­ties are there:

1. Hyperlocal Advertising (Apple Watch)

The much antic­i­pat­ed Apple Watch, which began mak­ing its way onto con­sumer wrists April 24, means a new oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to bring so-called hyper­local adver­tis­ing to con­sumer wrists.

Tak­ing cues from GPS loca­tion data, glance recog­ni­tion, and seam­less full-screen tran­si­tions, Apple Watch seeks to pro­vide rel­e­vant and use­ful infor­ma­tion to con­sumers, the strongest sig­nals for intent could well stem from mobile search.

2. iBeacon

iBea­con tech­nol­o­gy is anoth­er fea­ture of mobile devices set to rev­o­lu­tion­ize in-store shop­ping expe­ri­ences. It pro­vides brands with the abil­i­ty to track and inte­grate retail shop­ping expe­ri­ences via NFC and has already been her­ald­ed as the “sav­ior” of brick-and-mor­tar stores.

The depart­ment store retail­er Macy’s have already invest­ed heav­i­ly in the plat­form, rolling out the tech­nol­o­gy across 4,000 U.S. stores.

3. Quadruple Play Services

Quadru­ple play telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions are fast becom­ing a real­i­ty in many ter­ri­to­ries. Sky Ads­mart, for exam­ple, pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve per­son­al­ized tele­vi­sion adver­tise­ments based on geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion.

If fur­ther devel­op­ments enable brands to retar­get these ads based on desk­top or mobile search, in much the same man­ner as dis­play adver­tis­ing is man­aged online, brands could find them­selves in a sce­nario in which they are able to uti­lize the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics offered by video adver­tis­ing, such as emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling, to meet con­sumers at the moments they are seek­ing them.

4. Inventory Management Systems

The app space is intrin­si­cal­ly linked to users mobile usage, and a num­ber of retail­ers are devel­op­ing sophis­ti­cat­ed apps that enable has­sle free buy­ing expe­ri­ences for users. Nord­strom, for exam­ple, devel­oped an app that inte­grates with both Nordstrom.com, and the retailer’s inven­to­ry man­age­ment sys­tem, which enables users to check stock lev­els for the items they are inter­est­ed in and, should they want to, get them deliv­ered to their clos­est store.

5. Local Inventory Ads

When it comes to mobile search, Google’s local inven­to­ry ads are per­haps the best exam­ple of how brands can lever­age the grow­ing influ­ence of “near me” con­sumer intent. When com­bined with a sophis­ti­cat­ed IMS, it means being able to pro­vide vis­i­bil­i­ty for users on the go, giv­ing users the abil­i­ty to find out where a prod­uct is in stock local­ly, and poten­tial­ly pick­ing it up that very day.

local inventory ads

Mobile Journeys & Connected Technologies

In all the above exam­ples, suc­cess will lie in using new tech­nolo­gies to max­i­mize the oppor­tu­ni­ties on local search. Local search is so pow­er­ful because it ulti­mate­ly goes beyond mobile.

In the next few weeks, mar­keters may jus­ti­fi­ably be watch­ing the mobile search results with eagle eyes. How­ev­er, as impor­tant as mobile rank­ings are, true mobile “vis­i­bil­i­ty” takes places across an entire user jour­ney, at the many moments and queries in which con­sumers are search­ing.

Just as is the case for desk­top search, over­com­ing Mobi­leged­don will require an omni-chan­nel com­mit­ment to mobile SEO that puts cus­tomer-cen­tric­i­ty at the heart of a brand’s dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing oper­a­tions.

Local search is extreme­ly valu­able on mobile because it pro­vides a strong sig­nal of con­sumer intent.

Most search being done on mobile devices is local­ly rel­e­vant by nature as con­sumers want some­thing near them, whether that is to look up a phone num­ber, weath­er, prod­ucts, or even direc­tions,” said Adam Meshekow, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent, Prod­uct Strat­e­gy & Nation­al Sales, SITO Mobile. “The intent of the upper fun­nel is already there and serv­ing that intent moves them fur­ther down the fun­nel in the cus­tomer jour­ney.”

Ulti­mate­ly, it isn’t just mobile rank­ings that pro­vide vis­i­bil­i­ty. Tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions on the mobile plat­form will pro­vide addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase a brand’s mobile pres­ence.

It is extreme­ly impor­tant for brands to uti­lize local search tech­niques to pro­vide aware­ness for con­sumers to enter into the fun­nel at a hyper local lev­el,” Meshekow said. “For exam­ple, when a con­sumer is in a big box retail­er, there are over 100,000 prod­ucts that they could buy. Mak­ing con­sumers aware of those prod­ucts, via hyper­local geofenc­ing for exam­ple, could enter them into the fun­nel for a new prod­uct. While in a hyper­local envi­ron­ment, it’s an addi­tion­al adver­tise­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

For brands, ensur­ing that their sites are rec­og­nized as “mobile-friend­ly” will be the first pri­or­i­ty. How­ev­er, once that chal­lenge is over­come, rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of local intent in mobile search queries, and mar­ry­ing the pro­vi­sion for those needs with avail­able tech­nol­o­gy, will be impor­tant for brands that wish to look one step ahead.

What do you think is the biggest local search oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands?

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Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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