ADOTAS – On Black Friday, 2011, after researching online, consumers flooded midnight store openings, mobile devices in hand, while 50 million shopped online in their pajamas. The frenzy continued the following Cyber Monday — the biggest day ever for online retailing — with shoppers racking up an expected $1.2 billion in purchases.
In a few short years, shopping online has moved into the mainstream. Consumers now look to the internet to research and buy all types of products and services — from electronics to pet food to financial services. Yet even with this tremendous growth, online sales account for less than 5 percent of total retail sales (according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce).
At the same time, search queries are becoming increasingly more location-specific as people become more sophisticated search engine users, with 73 percent of online activity related to local content (according to Google). In response, marketers are investing greater resources in geotargeting and local search and developing expertise that leverages many new opportunities for greater local visibility.
But while local search is on the rise, national search remains incredibly competitive. Targeting a nationwide audience can drive significant conversions and website traffic. For many brands, the question is: Should your company invest its marketing dollars in a national search campaign, or is it more beneficial to go local?
While close to 95 percent of retail sales occur offline, and most local and mobile conversions as well, it’s clear that online marketing has a huge influence on these buying decisions. In fact, 82 percent of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase (according to comScore). The answer to the question, then, is that companies cannot afford to do either local or national. Doing so would mean risking missing the type of buyer who sits in the parking lot, researches your product on their phone, then walks into your store and purchases. These customers expect your brand to be everywhere at all times, and to engage them, you must be.
As the volume of local searches continues to grow, national-level search advertisers must develop strategic plans for incorporating local search into their campaigns. Integrating local and national search is critical to influence both online and offline buyers.
Here are four reasons to implement local and national search campaigns.
Reason #1: More ways to reach consumers.
While national search campaigns generate broad awareness via wide coverage, devoting the time and resources to local search opportunities has a complementary impact on revenue and market share, generating lower cost leads with higher conversion rates. As long as a company can offer searchers a product or service that can be delivered to the location, it can successfully compete at the local level.
Highly targeted campaigns that produce local search results and geotargeted national search ads create more opportunities to be in front of your customer at the right place at the right time with the optimal message. Large and small companies alike can benefit from increasing their local search presence and being as consumer path-targeted as possible.
Reason #2: More relevant and cost-effective.
Local search delivers highly relevant search results to the consumer. Relevancy means users can find the products and services they seek in a specific location and businesses gain consumers who are ready to buy. For a local company looking for local customers or a national company steering customers to local storefronts, local search provides targeted messages to the consumer searching for a product or service in a particular area. Local search lets businesses with a local presence connect with these customers. And for businesses with limited marketing dollars, it is often more cost-effective to advertise using local search, because ROI is higher when a business is able to target its advertising dollars with a specific category and location.
Reason #3: Reach consumers at all stages of the buying cycle.
Consumers at the top of the funnel use general search terms to gather information and research products, services and brands. Consumers who are closer to purchase investigate pricing and compare products. They also use local search terms to locate nearby outlets that carry the products and services they have just researched. In this scenario, neither local nor national search has an advantage over the other. The value of each depends on where the consumer is in terms of their buying cycle and how marketers can best promote their product or service.
National search allows companies who want to do branding to focus their campaign, tactics and message on the national level. At the same time, companies with a brick-and-mortar presence can use local search to promote or drive traffic to their various locations. For national advertisers and e-tailers without a local physical presence, geotargeting allows them to send locally targeted messages to consumers.
Reason #4: Improve SERP rankings.
Some national or international companies reject local search, fearing that local search optimization will diminish their brands. Optimizing for local search certainly doesn’t preclude competing at a national or international level. It’s possible, and recommended, to optimize certain pages for local and national search in order to attract both audiences.
A firm with an international clientele that also has a local fan base can generate activity that increases its authority online. Optimizing for local terms, sponsoring regional events, including the company’s address(es) on the footer of every page, deploying subpages and subdomains that are targeted to geographic regions, and creating a robust business profile on Google does not keep a company from dominating national search results. Winning local search can build a domain’s authority and lead to improved rankings in non-geographic search terms.
Customers come from all walks of life. They purchase in-store and online at all hours of the day, they browse, they click, and they spend more money on products and services every year. Don’t be one of the businesses that are losing revenue by neglecting to maximize their brand’s visibility in their buyers’ areas with local and national search.