After all, a search is how businesses get found. Local search comes in several forms and is wholly dependent upon the person looking for a business. The better the search engine optimization is geared to local search, the higher the likelihood of being chosen. Today’s local search can vary from social media, reviews, local listings and the like. All of these comprise a company’s online visibility, and they all should be considered critical to brand presence online and offline.
Companies with multiple locations are often at a disadvantage when it comes to online local search, compared to single locations of a particular niche. The more sites a particular brand has, the more difficult it may be to stand out from the myriad of competitors.
Responsive Design Fails Local Search
We all know how valuable an interactive, responsive website can be. The move to mobile optimized sites has provided a boon to many businesses. However, responsive design doesn’t tackle the main issue, and that is local search. If you happen to be using the “Locations” tab on a desktop website, you’ll get a list of every place the company owns. State or Region might segregate them, but for the most part, that’s it. That is unless the site was constructed with a store locator function, whereby the nearest location will present. Landing pages can be added, with redirects based on geo-location, but fewer companies than you would imagine having made the investment in altering their already expensive website.
It’s About Search & Discovery
Every business that wishes to remain viable must be able to be found. That’s always been the goal, regardless of old, traditional marketing and advertising to advanced, digital marketing. As a business owner, you have some decisions to make. How easy do you want it to be for your customers (and prospective ones) to find you? Do you completely scrap your current outdated website and online presence? What changes have to be made to come up in the search for the particular location the search originates? What are you willing to invest to make a seamless search response across all devices?
People searching for your type of business are going to utilize a multitude of search options. They’ll rely on word of mouth via social media (and real, face to face), review sites like Yelp and YP, TripAdvisor or OpenTable, or they might come across an ad either online or off. They might find your company on a coupon in the Blue Envelopes or a pay per click ad that has been following them around the net. It’s your job to get found, and it takes quite a bit of consistent marketing messages to reach them. However they search or seek, it is the discovery that matters.
Mobile Location Pages
A location page is one of those unexpected extras enterprise digital agencies make available when bundled services are chosen. Part of the online presence building process, a location page is an individual mobile microsite. Like a mobile website only less robust, a location page should consist of the BIG THREE – Address and Directions, Hours of Operation, Special Information (these might be coupons, menus, contests, special offers, etc.). Obviously, there can be much more added to the page, but the Big 3 are the minimum.
Let’s take the easiest example; restaurants. If each location had its mobile landing page (mobile site), SEO would be greatly enhanced. These micro sites aren’t expensive and are often bundled with other local marketing services from digital enterprise agencies.
When viewing the company website on a mobile device, if the site is built correctly, the nearest location should appear. By built correctly I mean it has a redirect script built in to send the viewer to the mobile site located closest to the search origination. This is where “responsive design” of websites fails the business. The desktop site viewed on a mobile device may be readable, but homing in on a particular nearby location doesn’t happen. It doesn’t aid in local search one bit. The consumer must open a tab or drop down box to find the location of which they seek. Mobile search is supposed to be quick and pain-free.
However, if you happen to be looking for say, a particular type of restaurant, like a steak house, keying in “Steak Houses” in the search bar will yield a wide array of local eateries that serve steak, not necessarily one that appeals to the viewer. Then the reading and evaluating begin. Here’s a question. Does it make sense to have mediocre reviews on Yelp, and still advertise on Yelp? I mean, being at the top of the page with an ad that says you’re terrific, only to scroll down the page to your listing and see 2 or 3-star reviews. Does that make sense? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the restaurant or business hope the search ends once they see the ad. Maybe the viewer won’t scroll down, but merely decide to dine there without reading anything further. Maybe, maybe not.
To gain a strong online presence, where your brand is visible and well-recognized, you’ll need to make sure your local listings are distributed sufficiently, are correct and consistent across the Internet, and that what is being said about your brand is monitored. Errors in company citations happen routinely, and unless someone is maintaining a watchful eye, incorrect information may appear from nowhere, causing conflicting information for the web crawlers to access. The typical business has about 60 listing sites they should be on, which performed manually would take weeks to accomplish. With more than 300 local listing sites today, the project is not easy. Some services offer to list, some offer listing, and monitoring, but they come with a price. Because there is no single regulator for information on the Internet, it can come from anywhere. There are four primary aggregators; Infogroup, Neustar/Localeze, Factual, and Acxiom. These companies push the information out to the web every month, and often will pick up a false piece of information and there the conflicts begin. Maintaining accurate listings is important in the overall SEO scheme.
Knowing what is being said about your brand is one of the toughest things to accomplish on the Internet unless automation is used. Without an automatic means by which to scour the net, it is impossible to catch every mention, discussion, comment or criticism. By way of an integrated approach to reputation management, something that is said online may linger forever, unless mitigated. While it may not be likely that a negative comment or review will be removed, some steps can be taken to minimize the damage a negative review might inflict. Automation of reputation intelligence identifies not only reviews but also social media mentions, forum comments, news outlet mentions or anything that appears online connected to your business. It might be a video, picture or anything that is tied to your company that can be mitigated. On the positive side, 5 star reviews, positive PR or commentary can automatically be shared on social media that can enhance your brand awareness and reputation. Reputation management is not just mitigation of the negative, but also a marketing tool to be exploited.
People care about the simple things when they think about a particular brand location. National companies with multiple locations may spend thousands or tens of thousands of advertising dollars to attract new customers, but if the bathroom is dirty or the meal is prepared wrong, that’s where the brand is judged. People vote with their feet; they will either visit a business or walk to a competitor. That’s the value of across the Internet brand analytics. Several, dozens or hundreds of locations carrying the same name can now be viewed in a multitude of ways, from an area or regional to national, and everywhere in between. No longer are we ham-strung by data; it is now a great tool.
With this solution, individual location’s social media activity can be viewed, as well as a conglomerate of regions or territories, depending on how the data is sliced. Reviews, social media, or other online mentions are now able to be monitored and responded to in near-real time.