Over the past couple of years, local search marketing has become a necessity for every business, big or small. Making sure your business is present on Google, Bing and Yelp is critical, yet big brands have struggled to make their marketing dollars produce the maximum benefit.

Traditionally, brands have looked to paid advertising to ensure that their corporate message is visible when a consumer (and there are millions of them) is presented with the never-ending search results. Brands spend an astronomical amount of money on this, but is it smart to focus on paid search to the exclusion of organic?

By paying for a top position on the search results page, big brands can correlate a return based on their spending, whether by online conversions or redemption within a store. Paying for top placement seems to make sense, and yet we know that 90% of clicks still go to organic results. What happens when budgets run out? That top position goes away.

Simply put, if you were relying on paid placement alone, you’re missing out on those 90% of organic clicks. And if you aren’t even appearing in the paid results, well… kiss 100% of your opportunity to appear in front of motivated searchers goodbye. It’s easy to pay for a spot in the top, but lasting revenue is only realized when your brand remains present and in front of consumers regardless of ad spend.

Let’s take a step back and focus on the long-term strategy.

Succeeding at the Local Level: How Big Brands Can Compete in Small Markets


 

Multi-location businesses have a leg up on competition not only because they’re present in volume against small businesses, but they have the domain authority search engines are looking to promote. I’m not saying that SMBs don’t stand a chance, but larger corporations have the same need to be present for targeted service offerings in local markets that every SMB has, but often lack the scalability to compete at the local level.

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Taking a quick look at how the search ecosystem works, it’s evident that taking a stand against the small or big players is all based on the strategy behind it. For enterprise brands, it’s key that you aren’t necessarily competing with a local provider, but making sure that your brand is a part of the mix.

Kick-starting a local campaign at the enterprise level requires that you adhere to some basic principles:

  1. Managing local business information.

How do you control and manage your location information?

  1. Spreadsheets?
  2. Internal systems?
  3. A mix of 3rd party providers?
  4. Other methods?

Managing local business information is the root of many substantial business problems. Large corporations are hindered by the constant struggle to get the most accurate data out to the search networks, consistently across networks and in a timely way.

Integrating internal systems and processes into a single content management system like Rio SEO makes it simple for brands to add, edit, or manage local information at scale. Marketers are able to take control and focus on driving more revenue, versus managing all of that data across a multitude of systems.

  1. Optimizing local listings for consumer searches.

How do you optimize each location for maximum visibility in light of ever-changing search algorithms?

  1. Blanketed content?
  2. Claiming your basic listing?
  3. Picking standard categories?

Making sure your locations are found is one thing, but making sure they are optimized for consumer-based searches is another.

Large brands get stuck in the rut of a blanketed approach to business descriptions, which doesn’t take into consideration the various ways consumers search on desktop or mobile, in different local markets. The key is ensuring that each local business listing has local identifiers that correlate to the market they are a part of, so that search engines can pick up on and serve those results for local searches.

  1. Build your local footprint across the entire ecosystem.

What about social media and how does my brand get noticed outside of search engines?

  1. Localized Facebook pages?
  2. Do Foursquare, Twitter, etc. count and make a difference?
  3. How do we create a social footprint?

Organic and local search results are, without a doubt, the biggest drivers for in-store traffic and online presence. Social media, on the other hand, has become the next necessary step for local businesses to be top of mind for consumers.

Large brands and small businesses alike can build a strong footprint on networks like Facebook, which has begun transitioning its focus on connecting brands with people at the local level. Facebook’s commitment to local search has been increasing; in fact, they are uniquely positioned to take over the entire user experience as a one-top shop for everything social and local.  Making sure that your businesses are listed will make a huge difference in the long term.

Larger brands can accomplish this by creating a local Facebook page for each location and tying that back into the corporate page using Facebook’s parent-child relationships.

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  1. Integrate and measure what matters.

How can you go beyond organic and social placement with integrated services?

  1. Integrating user reviews and feedback?
  2. Measuring online to offline conversions?
  3. Scalable analytics for the entire brand, local or not?

The last of these key local search principles is integrating with and measuring what matters. You need to make sure your efforts are rewarded, by signing up new customers or driving new business to your locations. To capture this data, you must be able to report on what is gained or lost.

A good way to start is by asking, “What are we looking to achieve?  What metrics mean the most to us? What is the ROI benefit for running the campaign?”

Determine how to add more consumer-centric content to your online presence. By adding reviews like Bazaarvoice or others, for example, you can send signals to search engines to increase rankings and drive user adoption.

Taking each of the above considerations into account enables you to create a more effective strategy to move your large, multi-location business forward, and truly compete with the small businesses already established in each local market.

You don’t need to know the right answer or have the perfect solution for each of the above right out of the gate. Simply getting the ball rolling is the biggest step and a huge financial decision. Begin the conversation with a provider that specializes in the enterprise space and can drive a better ROI at an increased rate is the best bet.

If you are looking scale your local search objectives, take a look at Rio SEO and learn more about how it powers some of the largest global brands to achieve remarkable results in local, mobile, and social.