Are Brands Fully Optimized for Proximity Search?

Yesterday we wrote about the growing prevalence of unbranded search as a reflection of how consumers’ behavior on the path to purchase is changing, and how brands need to adapt.

The context for this conversation arose from last week’s webinar with MomentFeed CEO Nick Hedges called “Proximity Search Optimization is the New Norm,” which outlined how multi-location brands need to optimize for being found locally via longer-tail, unbranded searches that can actually favor authentic, independent local businesses.

“There is significant peril for brands that have had amazing brand stewardship, have amazing marketing, and just neglect proximity search,” Hedges said. “It is just such a missed opportunity and a classic way to have your branded actions significantly diluted.”

After establishing that search behavior is changing (driven in large part by mobile device ubiquity) and that unbranded search is the new norm, the webinar dove into what brands should do about these changes, according to MomentFeed.

“Proximity search is something that every CMO and marketer has to get right and has to optimize for,” Nick said on the webinar. “Brand and experience is the differentiator on top of this for ongoing loyalty and repeat business.”

The chart below from the webinar illustrates the factors that go into Google’s proximity search rankings. Hedges says brands are not always optimizing for the leading ranking factors in the chart.

Two factors that stood out, and merited deeper discussion on the webinar, were reviews at 15% and local social at 8%.

In particular, the contrast between local social and brand social is striking. Local social is difficult for brands to execute in ways that are effective. It’s one area where local independent businesses have an advantage over brands since they can focus on producing engaging and authentic content about one or a few locations.

“Without a platform, it is local social is difficult for big, multi-location brands to do,” Nick said. “There is an inherent advantage for a local store or restaurant because they tend to very activity on social and they are very invested as the proprietor of that business.”

Nick suggests brands take an SEO-like approach to local social, while being mindful not to come across as artificial.

“The strategy we recommend is uncovering the values and experiences of your brand that consumers most value, and what they are looking to find,” Nick said. “And then use that as a keyword strategy to drive the content you have on local social. It is definitely a science and an art to this…Social has to come across as very authentic.”

Nick also contends that reviews are not getting enough attention from brands in a proximity context. In his experience, brands tend to think of reviews as a “nicety” but fail to appreciate their economic value.

“Most marketers think reviews are important for their brand, but they don’t think about it in the context of proximity search,” Nick said. “If you have lots of reviews and are actively engaged as a brand with your reviewers, it will have a significant impact on how you rank.”

You can catch the entire webinar here

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