Three Ways to Get More Out of Local

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 06 Feb, 2012

While a recent study conducted by GMS Local/GroupM affirmed the growing enthusiasm that online marketers have for the local marketplace, it also found that most national brands are missing the mark with their localization strategies.

The study explored how engaged national brands are in their local marketing efforts, and three key elements emerged:

-    70  percent of marketers surveyed said they spend greater than the national average (60 percent) of their advertising budgets on local vs. national initiatives.

-    70 percent of marketers surveyed answered that they spend greater than the national average (25 percent) of their local advertising budget on digital media.

-    83 percent of marketers surveyed expect their local online spending increases to be more than the projected national growth (25 percent) over the next three years.

Today's marketing executives exude a high level of confidence in the future of local digital advertising, but the enthusiasm displayed above does not exactly align with the majority of responses involving specific local online initiatives by national advertisers in 2011.

Here are some examples from the study:

-    One out of every three surveyed has yet to invest in the basic local digital effort of online business directory listings.

-    60 percent of respondents have claimed, optimized and actively managed their local business listings on more than one site.

-    55 percent have initiated geo-modified paid search campaigns

-    45 percent have advertised on online review sites

For 90 percent of the study's respondents, their lack of engagement in the local digital space can be summed by a shortage of funding (58 percent) or awareness (32 percent). For brands to close this gap between perception and execution when it comes to local online marketing, the report says, they need to utilize the three steps below:

Online local listing business audit
A recent eye-tracking study on local search engine result pages conducted by SEOmoz and Mirametrix indicated that the local business listings received the most visual activity for searchers, outpacing both organic and paid results. Ensuring that local business listings are accurate, ubiquitous and claimed across the local online ecosystem, and optimized for relevant search keywords and rich content is a critical first step toward maximizing local online presence, the study concluded. It is also one of the most economical solutions for national brands with hundreds or thousands of locations across the country.

Local storefront diagnosis
Most national brands now utilize social media monitoring tools to track consumer sentiment. What most brands are NOT doing is applying tools that listen at a local store level. Traditional social media and brand monitoring rely on keyword-based listening. When this keyword-driven approach is applied to location-based services such as Foursquare check-ins or Yelp reviews, only a small fraction are captured. This content is called the local blind spot. A study of five leading national brands with brick-and-mortar locations indicates an average blind spot of 70 percent.

Education, innovation and experimentation
The local online space is a dynamic, fragmented and evolving area. This research brought those idiosyncrasies to light, given the knowledge and awareness gaps that were quantified by or from the respondents. It is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated about how to tackle what the space has to offer. The key for national brands is to explore new opportunities (i.e., paid search ads on Google Map listings, Google+ Places, display, deals, etc.) to connect with local consumers and document key learning points for future programs.