In Part 1 of our Local Search article, we talked about the basics of local search. Now, let’s look at what local search can do to grow your online visibility and reputation.
As we close-in on 2011, we are rapidly approaching the point when customers won’t pick up the phone or drop by a business location without first doing a quick local search, confirming that your business is convenient and open, and scanning the reviews.
That’s the new reality — no one wants to waste time or money, or to have a disappointing experience. And the best way to help ensure a satisfying outcome is find out what previous customers experienced: Are your tacos really the best in town? Are your surgery patients happy with their outcomes? Is your contracting service trustworthy? Can I conveniently drive to your office?
This is contributing to the reason why traditional, business-driven print ads, direct mail, and cable TV are running flat or collapsing, while customer use of local search is growing at 50% per year. Customers want the insightful information that local search provides.
Here’s another underlying trend: Web-enabled smart phone sales now exceed 250 million units per year. And sales of all portable smart devices are expected to overtake personal computers by 2013. What will many of those users be doing with their snazzy new toys? That’s right . . . Local search.
The bottom line is that any small company can take advantage of these trends, leverage local search to differentiate themselves, and level the playing field with much larger or more entrenched competitors.
Any business with a physical address can benefit, but those selling high-value services may stand to benefit the most — physicians, attorneys, veterinarians, contractors, architects — simply because each customer acquired (or lost) will mean thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars to the company.
There are two essential components needed to a local search initiative: Visibility + Reputation — detailed knowledge of how and where to submit the various listings or “citations” , and a strategy to attract, monitor, and if necessary, respond to public comments.
Can a small business do this in-house? Yes, but with a fairly considerable learning curve and an increased risk of making some potentially costly errors. Most businesses will find it more effective and less troublesome to simply purchase ongoing local search optimization services.
Let’s review why local search optimization should be a essential part of your marketing mix
- Buyers are flocking to local search. It’s fast, easy, and informative. Your business will benefit from a professionally-managed program that provides strong local visibility and insight into how to manage your online reputation
- Local search traffic is free. There are no per-click or pay-connection charges
- Competitors cannot outbid you as they can in pay-per-click advertising.
- You can maximize your visibility, and even reach local search dominance with professional assistance
- Local search attracts customers even if you don’t yet have an advertising budget or a web site.
- On the big-3 search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing, local search results appear front-and-center on the page, capturing customer’s attention better than standard listings or pay-per-click ads.
Compared to all other alternatives — cable TV, radio, print, direct mail, pay-per-click — local search is a low-maintenance, low-cost, high-value strategy. One that builds a permanent asset of visibility and reputation.
A local search marketing program is an essential part of the mix for all small businesses with a local presence, providing the potential for first-page visibility in the community at low cost.
Contributor: Michael Charvet