When it comes to generating new customers, local search is massive. And there is a one-word answer to the question why. Mobile. Mobile devices are designed to be with you wherever you go and that means information is always available. Need to find a place to pick up flowers on route to Mother’s Day brunch? Ask Google on your smartphone.
The fact is, according to a study by Google on local search, 50% of searches for a local business on a mobile device convert into in-store traffic. The study also shows that 34% of searches on desktop or tablets convert into in-store traffic. These are huge numbers that should not be ignored. Four out of five consumers will conduct a local search ahead of time looking for hours of operation, location, product availability, directions, or a phone number. If your business isn’t in those search results, your competition might be getting the call. If you really want to dive into the details, check out the study by Google — it is recommended reading mandatory reading.
So how can you leverage local search to take advantage of this sweet amount of traffic?
Before you can leverage local search you need to make sure you have a few key things in place. Below are the Coles notes — if you’ve already nailed this stuff, feel free to skip past (but I bet you missed something).
- If you don’t already have one, get a Google+ page for your business and make sure ALL of your contact information is correct.
- Get your business added to Google My Business and verify your details.
- Make sure (make sure, make sure, make sure) your website is mobile friendly. I don’t mean that it loads on a mobile phone, I mean that it works and displays properly on a mobile phone. If this means it’s time for a rebuild, then so be it.
- Add your address to the footer of your website and make sure it has the appropriate structured data schema on it. You should learn more about the local business data schema. It’s techy, but important.
- Get a Google/Yahoo/Bing webmasters account and submit your website to their indexes (make sure you have a sitemap).
These are just five of the many important things you are going to want implemented on your website for it to rank well in searches. I’ve highlighted these because they are especially important in local search. Foremost, you also need to make sure that your website is built properly. Infrastructure is key. Some of these things you may not feel comfortable tackling on your own and that is completely cool. There are professionals who can handle all of this for you. It is valuable and worth it to tap their expertise.
It’s go time, flip the sign around, you’re open for business!
Now that your optimization is on its way to being stellar, you can start to build a plan around leveraging local search to generate new business. It’s all in how you market your company, based on the way consumers browse and use local search. Here are some considerations to play with to build a solid army of new customers:
Images are key — Create a digital storefront for your physical location to give potential customers a heads up of what to look for when coming to your business.
Tailor your messaging — If you are being searched locally, then someone near you needs something immediately. Craft your messaging to cater to that need. Build local specific landing pages and anticipate this inbound traffic.
Win them over with good info — If you show up properly in a mobile search with all your contact information and direction links handy, you get an instant vote of trust. Someone was looking for you and found exactly what they were looking for. That’s a plus one in their books.
Take your calls in pro mode — Set yourself up with a custom phone number for local search listings so that you differentiate the callers. If you know they’ve found you from a search result before you even pick up the phone, imagine how you can shape that conversation.
Watch your analytics — You can’t fix what you can’t measure. Don’t scramble around in the dark looking for something to shed light on your search marketing. You need to know how visitors found you and what device types they used.
Encourage reviews — Ask customers to give you reviews on your Google+ page. They show up in your search listing and provide a layer of endorsement on the fly.
Local search is expected
Things have changed. It used to be cool when the occasional search result had a click to call link embedded or a directions tab enabled. Not anymore. Now it’s mandatory and your potential customers are scrolling right past you if it’s not there.
Image copyright: Vadim Georgiev