Local Search Marketing Truths and Trends You Need to Know
May 5, 2016 | Contributed by: Holly Bowyer
Today’s consumers are “search-a-holics,” but their search behaviors aren’t one-size-fits-all. According to a research study conducted by IDC, thirty-six percent of local searchers start their journey on a search engine while more than fifty percent begin elsewhere online (customer reviews, online directories, etc.). But regardless of where they start, it goes without saying that people are searching (and a lot!). Marketers have definitely taken notice – with about half of advertising dollars now getting funneled into search marketing efforts, with an eye turned toward local search.
So, having this knowledge about the current dynamics of the search industry in our back pocket, we thought we’d dig a little deeper to truly understand how local search fits into this equation. To do so, we seized the opportunity to interview BIA/Kelsey’s Senior Director of Industry Strategy and Insights (and de facto search marketing influencer), Abid Chaudry. The end result was a fascinating discussion about local search marketing truths and trends influencing today’s rapidly evolving search environment.
Truth: Local Search is Mainstream
Marketers have moved from a consolidated SEM (search engine marketing) approach to more of a strategic one, targeting particular industries or locations. Today, local search can be considered mainstream for businesses of all sizes, from large corporate enterprises to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). To compete with the deep pockets of major corporations, smaller companies have shifted their search advertising strategies more to “click and lead” transactions (i.e. those that prompt immediate action directly from the search results page). Some have integrated ‘buy’ buttons into query results while others have activated Facebook, Amazon, and Pinterest apps to allow consumers to make purchases in just a few clicks.
Truth: Mobile Changes Everything
This is an understatement. Consumers now use mobile devices to conduct a vast majority of their searches. This is especially true of millennials. And as more search activity shifts to mobile, more search marketing dollars follow. BIA/Kelsey data found that half of mobile searches have a very specifically defined local intent compared to only 20 percent of desktop inquiries – as good a reason as any for businesses to make mobile top of mind in the context of their local search marketing efforts.
Truth: Social Media is Both a Competitor and a Partner
Social media used to fall near the bottom of the online activity totem pole, but that is certainly not the case today. parse.ly recently reported that Facebook overtook Google in terms of overall referral traffic in June 2015. This news sent ripples through the digital world, as this was a clear indicator of the increased crisscrossing and deep integration of social into the search attribution process.
Trend: The Local Commerce Universe is About More Than Just Local
The consumer’s purchasing path is no longer a unilateral one. In fact, it “zigzags” across devices, platforms, and even between the online and offline worlds. Local search is definitely part of the new consumer journey, but other players – like media, advertising, SaaS, marketing, and technology companies – play their part as well in helping consumers along their path to purchase. BIA/Kelsey (thanks to Chaudry’s analysis) calls this somewhat crowded space the “Local Commerce Universe.” Each component within the Local Commerce Universe is important to helping that journey play out in way that benefits both the consumer and the advertiser. So, where does local fit into that ecosystem? Chaudry likes to think that the “ last mile of all marketing and advertising is local, no matter what.”
Trend: Manual Searches Becoming Obsolete
Millennial consumers who rely heavily on mobile and exhibit consistent online social behavior (vis-à-vis their daily online actions) produce a significant amount of useful data. Combine all that data into a predictive algorithm, and devices could intuitively and intelligently auto-fill or suggest queries based on location, search or browsing history, social relationships, social actions (likes, comments), and more – without ever having to be input manually.
Trend: Consumer Search and Apps Collide
One of the most important trends on the horizon is the intersection between app usage and search. More app ‘deep linking’ is becoming a reality thanks to advancements in the iOS and Android operating platforms. Eventually, as in-app search functionality matures and becomes more deeply integrated with today’s leading search platforms, consumers may be able to skip the web browser altogether. Not only is this indicative of mobile behaviors today, but a telling sign that consumers are starting to expect fewer steps in the process of making important decisions or transactions.
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