3 Tips to Help Multi-Location Brands Optimize Their Local Search Presence

After a couple of years of touting a rise in “near-me” queries, Google recently announced that these explicitly local searches have fallen out of favor. The search company was quick to point out that this didn’t mean local searches were decreasing, just that “over the last two years, comparable searches without ‘near me’ have grown by 150 percent.”

Google’s VP of Marketing for the Americas, Lisa Gevelber, summed it up like this: “We’re now seeing a shift toward dropping location qualifiers (like zip codes, neighborhoods and ‘near me’ phrasing) in local searches, because people know that the results will automatically be relevant to their location — thanks to their phone.”

The implication: As digital platforms continue to customize experiences based on individual users, searchers now just assume – and pretty much expect – Google will know when they’re searching for something nearby and automatically return local results.

This trend has major repercussions for local businesses and multi-location brands. Basically, the brands that optimize their local search presence best are the brands that are going to show up at the top of Google’s results. The brands that don’t? Well, they’ll be banished to Page 2 (a euphemism for irrelevance).

A common knock against the personalization of digital experiences is that audiences will be creeped out if they feel like advertisers know too much about them. But those concerns seem to be dwindling as consumers grow more comfortable with personalized ads. According to Google:

  • 63 percent of people expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences.
  • 59 percent of people expect brands to personalize experiences based on their reported favorite items.

And, based on a couple more findings from the predominant search engine, consumers seem to be responding favorably to more relevant online ads.

  • 91 percent of smartphone owners purchased or plan to purchase something after seeing a relevant ad.
  • 90 percent of businesses that invest in personalized experiences say it increases business profitability.

These trends are a clear sign for multi-location businesses that the days of relying on corporate search marketing efforts to trickle down to the local level are over. These brands need to implement a bottom-up approach where individual market needs dictate campaign strategy.

Here are three ways multi-location brands can start thinking locally to improve their performance in local search results.

No. 1:  Localize your paid search ads

If your brand has relied on national paid search campaigns, it’s time for a change. I’m not saying ditch the national campaign, but try launching complementary campaigns at the local level that leverage local tactics like:

  • Location extensions: These ad extensions provide searchers information to help them find your locations (e.g., business address, phone number, map markers, etc.).
  • Local inventory ads: These ads show searchers the available inventory at nearby locations in near real-time.
  • Local bid adjustments: These allow you to increase your bids when nearby consumers search for one of your keywords.

No. 2: Launch local landing pages

Providing users with dedicated landing pages for each location is a must for multi-location brands. Local landing pages improve searchers’ experience by sending them directly to the most relevant page, rather than a generic landing page that requires them to conduct another search on your site.

The improved user experience has a positive impact across search results:

  • Improves the positioning of search ads and saves you money by boosting quality scores.
  • Helps you rank higher in Local Map Pack results by optimizing your local listings.
  • Increases your locations’ positioning in organic search results by offering Google a locally-optimized landing page for local searchers.

No. 3: Localize your display campaigns

While not technically search marketing, display campaigns do impact your brand’s presence in local search results. A study from Harvard Business School found that “display ads significantly increase search conversion.” The study suggests that display ads work to raise awareness of a product or service. As the consumers who’ve been exposed to a brand’s display ads get closer to making a purchase, they are more likely to conduct related searches. For multi-location brands, targeting your display campaigns at the local level will drive more qualified consumers into the buying funnel.

These tips are not comprehensive by any means. There’s plenty more brands can do to optimize their local search presence. Local consumers now expect brands to deliver messages that are relevant, personalized and, most importantly, localized. Multi-location brands need to embrace this expectation and provide searchers a seamless path to contact their business.

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