Technology is driving the evolution of consumer expectations at a dizzying pace. Searchers want the best answers, and they want them NOW, wherever they happen to be and whatever device they happen to be on. Consumer tolerance for lackluster brand experiences is at an all-time low; in fact, Google recently informed us that 53% of visits are abandoned entirely if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
In 2018, how will you advance your brand’s local marketing strategy to better meet those expectations? Where should you focus in order to reap the greatest results the fastest, while cutting the learning curve of entirely new tactics and technologies?
In this post, you’ll learn which 5 local marketing strategies you need to lock down for 2018, with actionable takeaways to help you implement each. Let’s get started!
Step 1. Master Your Local Events & Promotions
Your customer’s experience with your brand begins long before they arrive at your door. Constantly connected consumers are on the hunt for decision-making information and they want it readily available. This means in the palm of their hand, while they’re on the go and looking to make decisions.
Mastering your local events and promotions marketing gives your potential customers conversion-compelling information and offers to consider. It also entices them to visit your locations.
A smart local events and promotions strategy helps to increase your local visibility, feeding fresh content to search engines and demonstrating your relevance on high-intent local queries.
Start a Local Initiative
Imagine, for example, that 20 neighboring businesses promoted your annual toy drive, resulting in 20+ potential links and 20+ citations of your business data on local websites. The impact on your Local 3-Pack and Map rankings is great.
Google Posts are one tool you can use for local events promotion. Local search expert Joy Hawkins recently ran an experiment on the impact of Google Posts on local rankings and found that they’re effective in moving the needle.
You can access Posts within your Google My Business account. You’re allowed one photo and up to 300 words, so use the space wisely!
Google Post Example
Give Your Regional Staff Control
Give your store managers and franchise owners control over their promotions and events at the local level with Rio SEO’s Local Managers Events & Promotions Publisher, which allows for local content authoring and events and promotions management in near real-time.
Use Accelerated Mobile Pages
If you’re having a physical store event, use an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) to promote it. AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is an open-source project backed by Google. These Pages are designed specifically for lightning-fast load times and performance on mobile as basically, AMP offers a bare bones version of your site’s mobile pages. This increases your chances at being featured in the mobile carousel.
Just getting started with AMP? Follow this step-by-step AMP Project tutorial to make your first page. For all of your Local Pages, use structured data to display more compelling rich snippets in search.
- Leverage structured data to help search engines better understand the content of each of your pages, and its relevance to local queries.
- Create Google Posts, which appear for 10 days on your local listings, to highlight promotions, events and featured items or services.
- Use AMP pages, designed specifically for lightning-fast load times and superior performance on mobile, to promote your in-store events and get more valuable real estate on mobile.
- Use Facebook Events to extend the reach of your promotions and events into the social sphere, driving traffic back to your Local Pages or event AMP page.
Step 2. Make the Most of Google’s SERP Features
Expanded knowledge graphs, local packs, rich snippets and answer boxes are all a part of Google’s expanding SERPs landscape.
Google is essentially becoming your new home page; it aims to provide immediate answers to questions, directions to locations, and more. Basically, Google would rather pull and display information from your site than have the user click through to the site at all.
If you want to increase your visibility on those SERPs where Google is providing enough information for your prospects to make a decision, you need to put the power of SERP features to work for your brand.
For example, Google is now including Knowledge Graph info in Local Panels (hat tip to Sergey Alakov who first spotted this, and to Barry Schwartz for sharing)
So how you can make your data more accessible and attractive to Google? Leverage structured data to help search engines better understand the content of each of your pages, and its relevance to local queries!
Best of all, leveraging your structured data increases the likelihood you could appear in Answer Box, a highly visible feature Rand Fishkin calls “ranking zero,” as it eclipses organic results by appearing at the very top of results.
Use Google Posts for FAQs, as well. You can use a mix of promotional and informational content in Posts to keep a steady stream of useful information flowing through this feature.
- Monitor questions posed about your location via Q&A (on both mobile & desktop) in your GMB dashboard, and develop FAQ content for your Google Posts. You can also work this Q&A-type content into your site pages.
- Add high-resolution, geo-tagged photos to your Google Listings for greater coverage across Image Search and local listings.
- Focus on how you’re going to get more of your site’s content to appear on the SERPs themselves, in alignment with Google’s strategy of answering questions without sending customers to websites.
Step 3. Get Vocal About Voice Search Optimization
Searches using voice-enabled devices such as have been booming for the last few years and in 2016, an estimated 20% of all searches were done using voice. According to an eMarketer forecast, approximately 60.5 million of U.S. consumers will use voice-enabled assistant monthly or more, and by the year 2020, over half of all searches will be done using a voice-enabled device.
Despite the boom in voice search, recent studies have shown that an amazing 62% of local marketers have no plans for voice search optimization in 2018. Will you be part of the smart 38% and optimize for voice search?
Voice search queries are often applied using a conversational tone of voice. For example, a user might ask Siri, “How long do I have to return an ipod at Walmart?” vs. a desktop user searching for “Walmart electronics return policy.” These longer tail queries are more precise, as a voice user expects a result that gives them an immediate answer.
Long form custom content is already highly recommended for local SEO in general, but also increases visibility for long tail voice search keyword queries. Detailed long form content provides users with quality information about your product, service and business.
It is recommended to create a highly detailed FAQ page for your local business. Include commonly asked questions and detailed answers i.e. what is your return policy? Where is your store located next to? This detailed content will increase the probability of showing up in organic search results for voice search queries and even possibly obtain a highly visible answer box.
As noted earlier, having detailed structured data also helps the search engines better understand your website properties. As with a general local SEO strategy, having thorough structured data is also imperative for voice search optimization.
- Apply long form custom hyperlocal content to your landing pages. Make sure to include details about products, services, location and brand details.
- Create a long form, high detailed FAQ page. This can help achieve visibility for both long tail voice queries and improve the chances of obtaining an answer box.
- Again, leverage structured data to help search engines better understand the content of each of your pages, and its relevance to local and voice queries.
- While you’re crafting your strategy for voice, remember that verbal queries often include longer tail keyword queries. For example, instead of searching for “Walmart return policy” as a user would on desktop, they might use Siri to ask, “How long do I have to return an ipod to Walmart?”. These queries are more precise, because a voice user expects a result that gives them an immediate answer.
Step 4. Craft a Winning Review Strategy
In 2018, boost your local search rankings, increase your brand’s credibility and gain valuable business insights through comprehensive review management.
Consumers seek out reviews as social proof to validate their purchasing decisions, but there are numerous other marketing and business benefits, as well.
Reviews are a heavily weighted local pack ranking factor, worth 13.3% of organic ranking, according to a 2017 Search Ranking Report. In addition to the visibility benefits, being responsive and building relationships with your customers through review management is good business–but it’s not easy.
There are over 26,380 number of reviews posted every minute on Yelp alone. The sheer volume of feedback consumers are sharing across the local search ecosystem makes review management a monumental task.
Monitor and Maximize Your Reviews
That’s why a savvy approach is needed, especially for multi-location brands. Daily monitoring across major review sites like Facebook, Yelp and Google, all from a centralized dashboard, is key. What’s more, you need to be able to activate all of that review data and put it to work for you.
That’s why our Local Pages have Bazaarvoice integration to curate local reviews and ratings on your pages, letting your existing customers do the selling for you. See how one national retailer used this strategy to increase their sessions by 41%, new user sessions by 45%, and session duration by 18% YoY, in this free case study.
Many businesses are now offering a “check-in while you wait” flyer or business card, which plants the seed to review a business after the transaction. For example, Yelp might provide a gentle reminder to leave a review after your visit.
Close the loop and use your best reviews in Google Posts, as a conversion element embedded within your promotional and informational content.
- Boost local search ranking, gain valuable business insight, and increase brand credibility with review management.
- Mine reviews for valuable business data on what drives conversions.
- Use reviews and consumer star rankings for insight on product or service shortcomings, as well as suggestions for new features and offerings.
- Highlight your top reviews in Google Posts.
Step 5. Don’t forget the basics
Time flies and it is easy to forget about fundamental local SEO best practices. In 2018, continue to keep a close eye on your business information since data is at the core of local search engine optimization. This includes the following recurring tasks:
- Verifying the accuracy of your data in Factual, Acxiom, Localeze and InfoGroup
- Keeping your search engine profiles up-to-date and fully utilizing available fields (Google, Bing, Yahoo!)
- Repeat #2 for navigation engines (Apple Maps, Nokia HERE, MapQuest)
- Repeat #2 for local-social destinations (Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp)
- Monitoring Google Alerts for your name in quotes + your street address in quotes
- Identifying and adding your business information to websites related to your area
- Repeat #6 for websites related to your industry (lawyers.com, Avvo.com, etc)
It’s easy to get caught up in innovative strategies for the new year and neglect tasks that are fundamental to local SEO. Keep these on the calendar and on your radar so you accidentally get flanked by a competitor who has better control of their business data.
Activate Your Local Search Audit and See Where You Stand
Will 2018 be the year your brand dominates across all of your local markets?
Start the year off right with a local search audit to uncover your most lucrative opportunities and set the course for success in the year ahead.
Co-Authored By Steve Wiideman, President of Wiideman Consulting Group and Chad Klingensmith, Sr. SEO Strategist at Rio SEO