By Rachel Ullstrom / Account Director, Rio SEO
With the customer journey increasingly originating online, your first “local” impression may be taking place online. “Thinking local” is in—as a matter of fact, with Google assuming local intent for more than 46% of searches, you can’t miss it. What’s more, searches for products and services “near me” are up 500% over the last 2 years. We cannot miss the importance of the connection piece of the local puzzle. Being local for many consumers is about more than a map pin and an area code.
While it is absolutely critical to consider your digital presence, there is a compelling case for understanding local as not just a sense of place, but also as a context and a culture. People invest in physically local spaces in very meaningful and personal ways – voting, taxes, homes, volunteering, schools, sports teams, and building communities. Trust comes easier in a local space- local news is still consumed 18% more than national broadcast news, while national news organizations have lost trust, surveys showed local papers gained trust from democrat, republican and independent voters in 2017. When you think about location as a commonality and a foundation for trust, you have a shared basis to start building relationships and loyalty from.
Building Trust Among Consumers Hungry for Interaction at the Local Level
For a lot of brands, entering local spaces as the outsider is a necessity. It can be challenging to build local trust and gain market share as a newcomer. Seattle, as the fastest growing US city in this decade with 19% growth, has a lot of local natives who are resistant to change, a lot of newcomers hungry for a ‘locals perspective’ and an ‘insider’ culture; national brands do not tend to do well, while local breweries, restaurants, coffee shops and bookstores are flourishing in Seattle – in fact, in 2015, homegrown Starbucks launched ‘stealth’ coffee shops to enable them to appear and understand how to compete ‘like a local’. Today, brands like whereby.us and AT&T have gained entry into the local culture through thoughtful and well-researched hyperlocal approaches and experiences.Seattle digital publication The Evergrey (a nod to the constantly overcast skies) whose slogan is
“Live Like You Live Here” is attempting to connect people with their city through a daily newsletter. The Evergrey itself belongs to Whereby.us, a company that invests in hyperlocal publications in growth markets like Seattle, Orlando, Miami, and Portland is capitalizing on this hunger for local culture and carving out a digital niche for themselves. As their director Monica Guzman said at Seattle Interactive, “connecting with places adds value to our life, makes us feel like we belong.” The Evergrey’s performance definitely speaks to a rapidly broadening population seeking connection to local culture, news, services and events – with a very small staff they have managed to grow their Seattle readership to 10,000 daily subscribers with a 41% open rate on word of mouth alone. As Guzman says, ‘local interaction, “adds real, tangible connection to people’s lives- It’s never been more appealing than it is now.”’
Is Your Brand Meeting People Where They Are?
AT&T recently partnered with Seattle favorite coffee shop and bookshop, Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood – opening Ada’s Discovery Café in October – part coffee shop and part The Lounge by AT&T (store and co-working space). When asked why they chose to partner with a local business and put in a shop on Capitol Hill, AT&T said, “We are meeting people where they are.” And so they are – and with a low key shopping experience and a high-tech integration they are also showcasing the best of their, super-fast wireless service, offering self-service, staff support and locker pickup options- all while offering craft coffee from 2018 US barista Champion Cole McBride. With a retail experience so artfully woven into the local tech, nerd and coffee culture they are joining the community in a wholly unique way – completely differentiating themselves from their local competition.
From a digital perspective, aside from a robust listings management strategy, enriching your location pages with hyperlocal content; such as store events, community details, and neighborhood features- not only helps google to understand your local footprint, but also helps shoppers to understand that you know your own local impact.
In fact, in Rio SEO’s own experience, adding hyperlocal content to Store locators achieved an average local rank of position 1 and increased organic traffic by 200% and clicks by 80%.
We also know that Google surfaces rich content such as events on the knowledge panel. Investing in hyperlocal content can drive top of funnel discovery and with results like these, is well worth the time and effort.
Being part of the fabric of communities has a high cost of admission – it requires time, resources and a willingness to understand the communities you are entering. But its an investment that pays off – Local Businesses that have cult followings like Ada’s Technical Books and Café (391 google reviews with 4.8 stars) and communities like The Evergrey’s readership are places where locals are demanding value and services already, and, Guzman says, “local is the ultimate platform for really really personally rooted connections.” If you can build connections with and become part of those existing communities. If you have chosen your community well, you have the kind of community tends to engage online as well – making your investment exponentially impactful and bringing more customers to this carefully crafted experience. After all, as Guzman says, “face to face, tangible context to build trust and loyalty” is really what being local is all about. “come in, we’re local” may not be on your door, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be considered “a local”.
Want to learn more? Read Optimizing Your Listings & Reviews for Smarter GMB Strategy and watch the full webinar recording at the end.