Far from its perception as an SEO afterthought, local search has the potential to foster customer trust and loyalty – or, conversely, to interrupt the buying journey at any stage. If you want to generate high-quality leads, get more customers through your doors, and drive sales, then you should vigilantly monitor directory listings and reviews for your business. Here’s why.
When digital marketers think about SEO, we usually have organic search in mind. From optimizing a website with relevant keywords to developing high-quality content targeting shoppers at every stage of the buying journey, we employ a variety of tactics to improve the organic search rankings of our brands. And with good reason: organic search plays a critical role in getting a brand noticed, driving customers toward making a purchase. The problem? With organic search getting so much attention, we sometimes forget about local search, even though it’s just as indispensable to a brand’s online presence. Think about the last time you planned to visit a store and needed to know its location or hours of operation. That information is delivered as part of local search results. A business could experience disastrous consequences if this information were unavailable or incorrect. To put it another way: imagine connecting with potential customers throughout their buying journey, only to lose them just before they make a purchase.
How To Give Local Search The Attention It Deserves
We should start by seeing local search for what it is — a distinct discipline independent from SEO as a whole. More than just an exercise to make sure local search isn’t overlooked, this approach reflects the fundamentally different ways organic and local search function. Even though organic and local search work hand-in-hand, local search appears on a different part of the search results page and uses a unique algorithm to pull information from a specific set of sources. That’s why lumping local search into your overall SEO strategy will prove ineffective. However, separating local search and developing campaigns around it can open up new possibilities to reach customers and entice them to move through the purchase funnel. Local search plays a role in every stage of the buying journey – from initial awareness to research to final purchase decision – which makes it a powerful marketing tool when properly managed. But what many business owners don’t realize is that they are accountable for ensuring the accuracy of their own local search data. Here’s why businesses must address two particular areas of local search that are critical for reaching customers: directory listings and online reviews.
Any time a potential customer searches your business, the location, hours of operation, and other key details will appear in the local search section of the page. Regardless of whether a customer has just heard of your business or is close to making a purchase, this information will likely have an impact on their decision-making process. By claiming and verifying your directory listings, which typically involves requesting and filling out a physical postcard to verify your location, you ensure that you can update your listings with the information you want customers to see. You also have the option to add enhanced content elements, such as photos and text descriptions, which can significantly improve user engagement with your listing. Although claiming and updating listings across more than 50 different directories might seem like a tedious process, you’ll quickly see the benefits of presenting a clear, unified brand image to customers on any search engine.
Vast numbers of online shoppers – whether its moms researching baby products or customers considering buying a tablet – rely on online reviews to make purchase decisions. Customer reviews about your business will appear along with local search results any time a user enters your brand’s name into a search engine. These reviews will likely serve as a cornerstone of your customers’ purchase decision, so make sure you monitor and promptly respond to every review you receive. Why every one? Because responding to negative reviews can go a long way toward alleviating questions and doubt about your business that may have been raised by the reviewer. And responding to positive reviews is a simple way to inspire loyalty by telling customers how much you appreciate their business; plus, it lays the groundwork for more positive reviews in the future.