You want to grow your business. You want to do it right, and don’t want to take risky shortcuts. But it seems like there are a lot of risky choices. Sometimes it’s hard to really know what is going to pay off for the growth of your business. You don’t want to waste money. You want to know you’ll get a decent ROI for your efforts.
If your business has physical locations, have you been ignoring your local search presence? Businesses large and small ALL benefit greatly from optimizing their local search visibility. If you have an established business with a regional presence, you may be thinking you’re doing well enough local search doesn’t matter to you. Au contraire! Here is just one such story.
A national autobody repair chain client had a presence in 18 states and over 150 locations. The chain knew increasing their traffic and leads from Google Maps, Yelp, and mobile phone “near me” searches was paramount to their revenue and expansion goals. They also knew that their potential clients wanted a trusted autobody shop that was reasonably conveniently located.
Over the course of a year engagement, an average of 12 locations a month were targeted and addressed. A tactic during the campaign included optimizing GMB profiles including pictures and review generation programs. Another tactic employed was making sure each location was listed on the top business directories like Yelp and Superpages with correct information.
The end result of the local search campaign was a tracked 64% increase, year over year, in “Book an appointment” conversions. At last look, the chain expanded from over 150 locations to over 200 locations, in part due to the increase in revenue from enhanced local search traffic.
The facts are 4 out of 5 consumers do local searches before visiting a physical location. Over 76% of consumers visit a location within a day of searching for it on their smartphone.
“Near me” searches have skyrocketed in the past few years. In fact, “near me” is basically baked into Google’s local searches now. And 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within 5 miles.
The jury has returned and the verdict is in. The facts are clear. If your business has not paid attention to its local search presence, quite simply…..you are leaving money on the table.
You may be asking “What are some of the important aspects of local search?”
The most important aspects of local search all tie back into traffic, leads, and sales. Local search is meant to lift top-line revenue: the same as every other channel of marketing, public relations, or even customer service.
One of the first factors impacting if you show well in local searches is proximity. Simply put, if there is a local physical location near the person looking, and you don’t have one near or have a location at all, you’re not likely to show up for that search.
A national car repair brand was having exactly this issue. They served different areas to make their service more convenient for their customers but didn’t have any map locations folks could actually visit. They wisely took (our) advice and started investing in locations in different cities, and within a few months were seeing at least a 4x return on investment.
The second factor impacting local search in major search engines is relevance. Does your business solve what the customer is looking for? Are you open and is the item in stock? If someone is searching for an item close to what you provide, you want to show up for that search. If someone is searching for an epic deep-dish pizza, you want to show up even if you’re Dominos.
The third aspect of local search impacting your business showing in local search is “prominence.” Is your business well-known? It is trustworthy? Does it have a brand people respect? What are people online saying about it in reviews and other outlets?
Building your regional “prominence” is as much of an advertising and public relations endeavor as it is anything else. Do local news outlets mention you? Do other local area sites mention and link to your website? Do you show up with many reviews in Google Maps? If the above are yes, you can consider this strength a big win for your company.
The good news is, like going to the gym, it doesn’t matter where you start. Everyone starts somewhere. And like the proverbial guy on the beach getting sand kicked in his face, you don’t have to lie down and take it. There are specific tactics and strategies you can execute to build up your local search traffic and sales.
How Will I Know We Need Help? How Will I Know My ROI?
How will you know that you need help in local search? And how will you know a trusted company you can depend on to help? And how will you know the efforts are working?
First, knowing you need help should be fairly straightforward. “I have two locations that are lagging in foot traffic, calls to book an appointment, and in total sales.” EVERY chain with more than one location has a store needing more foot traffic. It’s a fact of business. Is your local competition busy at peak times and your staff has extra time to stand around and clean? Then you already know.
Second, finding a trusted company may come with many options, but it’s not a hard decision per se. Like any other discipline, the core principles remain the same, while specific tactics are often changing. Find a company that understands the “big fundamentals” of local search of citations, reviews, and local links. If they have a deep understanding of these and have been implementing them with success for years, the odds are they can help you too.
You may say “but they haven’t worked with my specific type of business before.” The better ones will make it their business to learn your business, so they can optimize it effectively. If they know the big pieces, the small ones will fall into place with your specific instance.
Lastly, how will you know the company you’ve selected is bringing you results? There are a few “industry standard” ways to track results in local search. The bottom line is always sales and ROI, and there are other key performance indicators that can tell a company if the proverbial tide is rising.
One way is through rank tracking and appearance in map packs. If your rankings improve over time for searches with a lot of volume to them, that normally leads to increased traffic, leads, and sales. The running joke “the best place to bury a body is page 2 of Google” is never truer.
Everybody wants to be on page 1, as that’s where the action is. And it doesn’t happen by accident. Search engine rankings are a lot like money…not that important until you don’t have any, then they get really important.
Another way to know if your search efforts are working is via increased traffic, calls, and quote requests from that particular city. Tracking the source and amount of website traffic per city is easy with services like Google Analytics. You can also tag and track when someone requests a quote on directories like Yelp. A local phone number with call tracking installed will also allow you to track not only the number of calls but also how effective the leads are.
The old marketing joke of “I’m wasting half my budget, but I don’t know which half” has slowly died in the digital age. One of the things that help put it to rest is the effectiveness of trackable and accountable local search efforts.