How To Get Found In A Search-Driven World

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Local search is the flavor of the day. But what is it? What is the buzz all  about?

Manish Patel has a great article on this very topic – and it’s something that I’ll be blogging a lot about in the coming weeks.

At its core, local search is simply understanding today’s consumer, their  behavior and their needs, and providing a product or service where and when they  want it. It’s exciting because local search works equally well for small- to  medium-size businesses trying to get found, as well as big regional and national  brands.

First, understand that in a search driven world there are two types of user  searches: 1) consumers who are looking for your brand and 2) consumers who are  looking for your type of services. For consumers, it’s all about being in  control and having choices.

Click this link to read the entire article at the source – and be sure to subscribe here to get more content along these lines in the future.

Brand Seekers

If users are looking for your brand, they will most likely look for you on your  corporate website. But the trend is moving towards consumers entering in your  brand name and a local qualifier (city or zip code) directly into a major search  engine to find the nearest location: for example, “Red Lobster locations in NJ”  or “Coupons for Red Lobster in Illinois.” The worst-case scenario is if it  doesn’t show up at all. The second worst case is that it shows up, but takes  them to your corporate website home page, meaning they have to do the search all  over again. That’s not very user friendly.

Service Seekers

If consumers are looking for your type of services (a restaurant, office supply,  grocery store, sporting goods) then they will most likely start their search on  a major search engine. The trend is going towards consumers entering in your  generic services and a local qualifier directly into a major search engine to  find products and services: for example, “Crab legs Lewisville TX,” or “Seafood  Luzerne PA.” Worst case is that you don’t show up at all but your competitors  do.

Traditional marketing methods include print yellow pages, TV, radio, billboards,  direct mail, email marketing and referrals. But to ensure success in today’s  highly competitive market, advertisers must embrace not only the major search  engines, but increasingly an array of other relevant and effective new media  platforms such as local directories, corporate websites, mobile devices and even  portable navigation devices. Casting a wide net will ensure customers find you  anytime or anywhere they are ready to buy.

Major Search Engines

There are three distinct areas on a search engine results page (SERP.) It’s very  important to show up in at least one of them if not all three, called the Search  Trifecta.

By now most of you have heard of Search Engine Marketing or SEM. It refers to  the paid search or sponsored listings that show up on the top and right side of  most search results. Most of the ads are Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or  Pay-Per-Acquisition (PPA.) The top search engines that businesses set up  campaigns with are Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask. You can try to manage it in-house  but there are third party companies that can manage it for you.

Local search is a widely-used term, but when referring to search engine results  it’s the section that’s associated with a map when a local qualifier is used.

Organic listings, (SEO, also referred to as free listings) show up after the  paid and local results. If someone searches your brand, then you will most  likely appear. But if they use a local qualifier then you might not. There are  many companies jumping into the SEO/SEM bandwagon who want to help. Make sure to  do your homework before hiring anyone who wants to convince you that it’s too  complicated to explain what they will be doing for you. Local landing pages or micro-sites are key in helping out businesses with multiple locations.

For businesses with multiple locations it’s important to have local landing  pages to drive this online search traffic. If a consumer searches for a local  location, they won’t want to be directed to your corporate website home page.  They will want location specifics. These landing pages can be used for paid  search, local submission and organic search. Reporting should be set up in order  to track where your traffic is coming from (what search engine and what area of  the page) and call tracking to evaluate ROI.

It’s important to get listed in local directories that include Citysearch,  Yellowpages, and Superpages as well as Google Local, Yahoo! Local and MSN Live  since they attract significant amounts of traffic.

Corporate Websites

In this day and age every business has a corporate website. But you may not know  of all the different ways to increase your foot traffic or online sales.

For retailers, it’s important that users can quickly and easily find your  locations and the specific details of each. Interactive maps and driving  directions (preferably without the user needing to leave your site) is a  must-have these days. With Web 2.0 capabilities it’s the user experience that  counts. Content such as store hours, menus or flyers, credit cards accepted,  brands carried and reviews can help consumers with their search and items such  as coupons or local events can add a call to action. You can also engage  visitors with registration for e-newsletters or club discounts. Send to  Phone/Email is a good way to track location traffic as well as provide driving  directions. Remember that locator functionality is the top decision-making tool  consumers use when visiting a retailer’s website. A customer who uses a locator  is most likely going to walk into your local business.

For manufacturers, embracing the new shopping trends of “Buy Online” and “Buy  Local” will give you a business edge. Compared with customers who shop only at  stores, multichannel shoppers buy 12 percent more often, and spend 32 percent  more every year. That’s good news, if you ride the trend. Product locators, for  example, will help you tap into multiple sales channels, increasing  opportunities for additional sales and expanding your brand recognition. For buy  online, you need the ability to show multiple online retailers (etailers)  complete with inventory and pricing, as well as the ability to take the consumer  directly from your product page to an etailer product page so that the user  doesn’t have to do the search all over again. For buy local, you need the same  features mentioned above for retailers.
Regardless if you are a retailer or manufacturer, your corporate website needs  to be SEO-friendly in order for the search engines to crawl and find the data in  order to have the links show up in the organic listings.

Mobile Devices

There are now over 255 million mobile devices in the US with more than 69  million people using mobile browsing and 125 million people using text  messaging. Users are going to be searching for your products and services, so it’s  imperative that you enter into this arena soon. Around 80 percent of phones are  WAP enabled (versus smart phones with full internet access), so they will need  reduced text for their smaller screens for finding a location. SMS text can be  sent to a phone from a PC (1-way SMS) or text (for example a zip code) can be  sent to a common short code CSC (mysbux) to get locations text-messaged back.  Interactive Voice Response can also be used to reduce overhead costs. For  example, call an 800 number, enter in your zip code to hear an automated  response of the locations near you.

What are Consumers Searching For?

From Retailers

  • Where is the closest location?
  • Can I find locations along the way?
  • What hours are they open?
  • What credit cards are accepted?
  • Do they offer any discounts or coupons?
  • Do they have wi-fi?
  • Do they have RV parking?
  • Can I send the driving directions to my mobile device?

From Manufacturers

  • What products are offered?
  • Can I buy it online?
  • How does the price compare between retailers?
  • Is it in stock?
  • Can I buy it locally?
  • Where is the closest retail location?
  • How do I get there?

Remember, today’s consumer likes to research online, demands choices and  wants to control the buying process. It doesn’t matter if you’re Seiko, Darden  or John’s Catering, every business must understand who they are and the needs  they fill. Mastering local search is not rocket science but it’s an  ever-increasing skill set required for marketers in today’s search driven world.
About the Author: Manish Patel is founder and CEO of Where 2 Get It, Inc.

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