The world wide web might open global gates to businesses of all sizes, but for many brands, putting a smaller geographic emphasis on local marketing is a good idea. An HVAC service company with locations throughout Texas isn’t looking to build an audience in North Dakota or Canada, and even businesses that could provide goods and services outside of their region may be more competitive locally.
But with so many people turning to computers and mobile devices to find products and services, even local brands have to have an online marketing plan that is on point. Check out these 11 facts and stats on local marketing that can help you achieve that.
1. Local service ads play a growing role.
For the past few years, Google has ramped up its Local Service Ads (the program used to be called Google Home Services). Even in 2018, LSAs are only active in certain industries and local markets, including major cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and Miami, but the company is always expanding that coverage.
Local service ads appear at the very top of the Google search results when they’re triggered by a corresponding search. The page order goes: LSAs, other paid ads, Google’s own organic listings, including maps, and then everything else. LSAs are still most prominent in the service sector, which means companies that provide HVAC, electrical, plumbing and locksmith services might want to look into this ad option.
2. Google is becoming a competitor for online traffic.
Google doesn’t always send local internet traffic your way, even when your company shows up in a list or map. For years, the search engine has expanded its on-page knowledge, and mobile and desktop users can often get the information they need without clicking the website link, which might be buried one or two levels deep on the search engine page.
For example, I searched for a locksmith in Roanoke, VA, and the only thing above the fold on the results page was the map and local listings. At a quick glance, I could see company names, locations and phone numbers, which means I wouldn’t have to click through to the actual web page in many cases.
That’s not necessarily terrible news for local companies with physical goods or services to offer. Google may steal some page traffic, but it’s still sending people to local companies. You just have to know how to play the local marketing game online, which involves much more than SEO and content on your own pages.
3. Blog posts and landing pages are important too.
That doesn’t mean on-page SEO and content marketing is unnecessary. You can’t rely on Google to do the entire job for you, and many people will click through to the site. Creating local landing pages and city pages helps you:
- Rank better in organic search results
- Convert consumers who do arrive on your page
- Prove yourself to be local and trustworthy
- Position your brand as a thought leader or expert
Remember that blog posts usually don’t perform overnight. In fact, according to Hubspot, 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding. That means the organic search traffic to that page increases over time. In this case, patience is a good thing, because compounding blog posts typically drive 38 percent of all traffic.
4. RankBrain is a must-understand measurement for local SEO evaluation.
It’s never enough simply to drive people to your page. You need content they can interact with, as poor engagement and high bounce rates negatively impact your performance in the search engines. Google relies heavily on RankBrain scores, for example, and those go down if your Google listings aren’t in line with what your page is actually about (or if your page is difficult to use or simply not good quality).
5. Conversion must be part of the process.
Local SEO marketing used to be solely about peppering the right keywords into decent-enough content. You probably didn’t want a lot of spelling errors and things had to make sense, but you really didn’t have to say much. But with competition online increasing daily and consumers getting more savvy, you actually have to spend time considering conversions.
In 2012, eConsultancy noted that only $1 was spent on conversions for every $92 spent on acquisition. Don’t follow that model with your local marketing. First, because you don’t want to be six or more years behind the trends, and second, because it doesn’t matter how much traffic you get on your website (or in your store) if no one ever takes action or buys something.
6. SMBs have definite local marketing strengths.
If you’re a small or midsize business, one reason to engage in local marketing online is because you probably have strengths that will make you good at it. Local SEO content isn’t just about keywords; it’s a great place to inform customers about value propositions they want to see. Some things to include in local content marketing when relevant are:
- Information about hand-crafted processes
- The fact that products are truly made in the USA
- Eco-friendly or green-living components
- Luxury or specialty products and features
- References and history that cements your local status
With audiences of all ages looking to return to local roots and organic experiences, SMBs with the right local marketing game can crush it, even when facing larger competition.
7. You probably need to combine paid and organic marketing.
Ad spend is up on Adwords and across all search platforms from 2017, according to WordStream. That means more companies are going to land in prime search engine real estate (aka above the organic search results). If you want to be one of them, you have to pay to play. Consider balancing your paid and organic local marketing tactics for the best blend of exposure, relevance and authenticity.
8. Less isn’t always more.
If you’re still targeting the 350 to 400 word range on all your pages, you’re probably losing out. According to Backlinko, the average first result in Google in 2016 had 1,890 words on the page, and things haven’t changed that much since. Pages with 1,000 or more words do tend to perform better â as long as those words provide real, relevant information or entertainment value.
How can you create long-form pages when you’re targeting keywords like “dentist in Phoenix” or “plumber in Miami?” One answer is creative content that covers topics of interest for locals or those in need of specific services. It might sound difficult, but an experienced team of website content writers can get the job done and help you boost your traffic and conversions.
9. More is more with keywords, too.
Whether you decide to add long-form content to your pages or not, you do need to perform consistent, strong keyword research. It’s not enough to target a few simple phrases related to your service, such as “plumber” or even “plumbing services.” Wordstream notes that half of all search queries in 2016 were four words or longer. With more people using voice search today, average keyword length might even be longer now. Make sure your content addresses long tail local keywords and is in line with how people really search and talk.
10. Keeping up with technology is critical.
Rapid adoption of new technologies, particularly among mobile device users, means local marketing strategies must constantly adapt. You probably already know your content should be optimized for access on mobile devices, for example, but it also needs to be relevant to voice search.
HubSpot statistics note that in 2015, 37 percent of people reported using Siri at least once a month. The same survey noted that 23 percent used Cortana and 19 percent used Alexa at least once a month, and the market has only become more saturated by AI and smart devices in intervening years.
The likelihood that a local user searches for your goods or services via a voice-enabled devices is pretty high. That’s especially true with smartphone users, who search for things while on the go. Your site content and structure — and ancillary online marketing — must keep voice search in mind.
11. Content strategies have to work for your vertical and brand.
Finally, no matter what you read above or in any article on local marketing, you can’t make consistently successful decisions without doing your own homework. What works well in one vertical doesn’t always apply to every industry, and what works for another business won’t always work for yours. For example, Search Engine Land notes that the best performing posts in the financial sector have much fewer images than benchmarks suggest are appropriate. Images aren’t what sell those services. In contrast, travel sites do need images for high conversion rates, which means the top performing travel sites have slower page load times than benchmark wisdom says should be successful.
Ultimately, there’s no one secret to success in online marketing. But as a local company, it helps to know what tools are available and how to compete with other brands.
And it’s important to just do you, so you can differentiate yourself from the crowd.