iMedia Connection

Why consumers can't find you online

Joseph Bruemmer

Research shows that local search listings are now more important than any other type of listing because they provide the information searchers want quickly (URL, address, phone, coupons, operating hours, reviews, etc.). Local search listings were also found to be trustworthy because they immediately provide the relevant information consumers need to make a purchase decision.

Why consumers can't find you online

 
Done in partnership by Localeze and 15miles, the 2012 Local Search Usage Study, conducted by comScore, found that 61 percent of respondents searching for local business information believe local search results are the most relevant, as shown in the chart below. Additionally, 58 percent found local search results to be the most trustworthy when compared to natural search results, paid search results, and paid results. 

Gone are the days of "surfing the web." Today's consumers want to find information quickly, and they search with a purpose. They want to find information in the shortest time possible since many of them search on the go. By 2014, more users will access the web from mobile devices than from desktops and laptops -- a shift that continues to accelerate.

Relevant local search results

With national advertisers dominating paid search, consumers searching the web for a local business near home will often get the closest national chain, which may or may not be the closest option. This leaves consumers dubious about web search because merchants close by are not found at the top.

This is why consumers go to local search, which has business listings and provides the best way for consumers to connect with businesses close to where they live and work. The popularity of location-based apps and social networks make it even more important for search results to produce business listings based on a searcher's location. Needless to say, these listings must be accurate in providing phone numbers, directions, and so forth.

Name, address, and phone number (NAP)

The Local Search Usage Study found that location and contact details are the first thing searchers want and search for when conducting a local search. Yet 60 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) fail to list a phone number on their homepage, according to a recent SMB DigitalScape study that analyzed sites from 14 countries, including over 700,000 sites in the U.S. The next things users want from a listing are: hours of operation, maps, website URL, distance to business, and driving directions.

Most local searchers are looking for quick information -- an address or a phone number to contact, especially on mobile devices. Searchers are increasingly looking for more descriptive content, especially if searching for higher-priced items like electronics, appliances, and business categories like car dealerships.

National brands and local search listings

Brick and mortar national brands are beginning to realize the importance of online local search business listings because they provide consumers with NAP information, supporting their national advertising campaigns. As a result of the way local listings impact how businesses and brands are found on mobile and social websites, national brands are beginning to make local search listings a necessary part of their online marketing strategy.

Category-based searches

Businesses must pay attention to the way their local listings are categorized in web and mobile search. The growth of local-mobile search is driving more category-based searches. According to the Local Search Usage Study, more local business searches are conducted without a specific business in mind.

For example, on-the-go consumers may need businesses in their immediate vicinity while not in their own neighborhood, so they search by category rather than business name. A person on vacation in a city away from home will likely be looking for a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel rather than by company name.

Rapid mobile device adoption

With the increasing adoption of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, as well as the increased use of mobile-local apps, consumers have become very comfortable using local search to their advantage. Whereas 20 percent of web searches are local, 40 percent of mobile searches are local (Google). And, according to Bing, 53 percent of searches have local intent. The combination of higher intent and greater interest in locally relevant information make the need for complete and accurate local search listings a must.

While organic web results still have relevance and trust, they're losing ground to local search because consumers know how and where they can get answers quickly. Not only that, local listings are the search results most unaffected by advertising bias and monetization.

Location-based services come of age

A study from consumer behavior research firm TNS, which surveyed 48,000 consumers in 58 countries, found that 19 percent of consumers currently use GPS-cued services and 62 percent plan to use them.

While it was largely thought that consumers would object if asked by mobile site owners for permission to use their locations to assist with directions or special offers, the overwhelming majority of consumers said they wouldn't object. According to the survey, 12.5 percent share their location in exchange for deals or discounts. Another 33 percent use or would like to use mobile coupons sent to them via apps as they approach a place of business.

Increasing your web and mobile presence

The internet and mobile web play an important role in the way your customers find you. Claim your listings and ensure they are complete and accurate in Google Maps, Bing Business Portal, and Yahoo Local. You also need a presence on local sites like CitySearch, SuperPages, Yellow Pages, Localeze, Yelp, Foursquare, and many more (see Top Local Business Listings for 2012).

Joseph Bruemmer is a managing partner in PB Communications LLC.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"A search engine browser window with a magnifying glass" image via Shutterstock.