By Bill Connard / VP, Local Search, Rio SEO

Street Fight Summit

Last month, Rio SEO joined the local search industry’s brightest minds at Street Fight Summit West in San Francisco. This is where the world’s most successful and influential companies shared their local SEO tools and forward-looking advice.

The event was packed with solid recommendations and expert advice on customer engagement marketing. However, I had a few favorite and actionable takeaways that I’d like to share.

Ted Zagat, local product marketing manager at Facebook, spoke about the six “Mega Trends” his company is giving top priority this year. As a result, now more than ever before, Zagat believes small to mid-sized businesses should look to Facebook’s largest advertisers for inspiration and proven best practices to help build their own online strategies.

There is much for SMBs to learn about relying on mobile for personalized targeting, consumer messaging, and location-based marketing. Taking their lead from successful larger companies can allow smaller businesses to cut the learning curve and achieve a greater ROI much faster.

Follow us over the next few weeks as we dig deeper in to each of the six mega trends Facebook has pegged as priorities for the near future:

1) Personalized marketing
2) Mobile user experience for all channels
3) Follow local best practices of big businesses
4) Reputation monitoring and management
5) Lightweight communication / SMS text marketing
6) Location based marketing

“Location-based marketing is here,” Zagat said. “If we handle it correctly, we have a great opportunity to help local businesses reach customers better than ever before.”

To that end, here are my top local SEO takeaways from Street Fight Summit West:

1. Get personal: Personalized ads convert best.

Consumers far prefer personalized, relevant ads over the random ads of the past. When you personalize your advertising to the needs of that individual, the consumer becomes the co-creator of his/her advertised content. Consumers have become ad-adverse; they don’t like to be sold to. They prefer to make their own choices as far as what they deem worthy of their attention.

8.4.14 blog_187532432With that said, most consumers are already aware that publishers personalize ads for them and they have expressed a desire for some kind of content personalization. More than twice as many consumers (68 percent) say personalized ads are most relevant to them versus those who value generic ads.

The most successful ad content combines implicit feedback derived from consumer behavior (what I read, what I clicked, what I shared) and explicit feedback (surveys, direct action, comments). Successful content answers a question and fulfills a need.

Local businesses can’t rely simply on being the closest business to the person making the query. Clearly, if you want to be appreciated by customers and convert more prospects, you also need to show that relevance and answer that need of theirs.

2. Personal relevance matters in mobile.

Many brands are tapping into the retargeting trend. On Facebook, retargeting is where consumers see ads in their Facebook news feed that draw from the intelligence provided through a person’s web browsing history. Users are “cookied,” simply meaning Facebook can tell which other sites they’ve visited around the web. As a result, this insight gives advertisers the ability to personalize messaging based on this deeper understanding of consumer activities and interests online.

You can do retargeting through different ad networks, but Facebook has this unique ability to connect the dots between desktop cookies and preferences set on their .com site, to deliver relevant ads to mobile devices through their mobile app.

Fifty-four percent of consumers describe these more personalized ads as engaging, while 52 percent find them educational and 49 percent say they save them time.

If you can make your ads more relevant, timely and helpful to your local and mobile consumers, that’s a win.

3. Go mobile: All advertising campaigns should be mobile-focused.

Most local advertisers are finding that mobile web and app traffic has surpassed desktop. By 2015, mobile marketing in the U.S. will generate $400 billion in sales, compared to just $139 billion in 2012.

Mobile users are shopping, reading emails, checking in on social networks, and searching for information on their devices. Understanding how consumers interact with their devices locally enables businesses to more strategically reach these users – on the sites and platforms they already use.

By 2016, local ads are expected to account for 58 percent of all national mobile ad spend. It’s no wonder that according to Google some 82 percent of mobile shoppers use search to influence their purchasing decision.

We are in a mobile-dominated world and we need to think mobile first with all of our marketing activities. Facebook knows this. As Zagat said at the Street Fight Summit, “Everything at Facebook is mobile first, with mobile engineers integrated in every product team so we can think consistently across every platform.”

If you’re thinking local, you absolutely have to think mobile to capture your target market while they’re on the go, searching for answers and making decisions on the fly.

4. Adopt what works for large local businesses.

Big businesses have big advantages in the local arena. They have more marketing budget. They can afford to take risks and perform more testing. Smart SMBs take their lead. After all, they’ve already done the legwork to see what works!

Major advertisers have done very well with Facebook by posting rich image posts. These provide a median of eight times return on ad spend. The ROI is definitely there.

Small local advertisers should “try to do exactly the same thing,” Zagat said. “They need to move from physical engagement to reach,” noting that the counterintuitive wisdom is that clicks don’t matter; actions and conversions do.

Small businesses should keep an eye on the ad formats, platforms and strategies favored by larger businesses. This is where you can cut the learning curve and get in on more effective tactics without risky experimentation on your own.

5. Ecommerce is now just commerce.

Remember when ecommerce was a new, shiny (and, for marketers, somewhat scary) thing?

Ecommerce is now just commerce. Zagat says it’s all one experience. Consumers can browse digitally and then buy in-store, or browse in-store and buy online. They can view a commercial search the product on a tablet and find a location on their smart phone.

Seventy-eight percent of consumers said they bought in-store after browsing digitally and 72 percent have bought online after browsing in-store.

In conclusion, the future of commerce lies at the intersection of these digital and physical marketplaces.

Big Business Local Best Practices You Can Use

So here are a few actionable tips and tactics to try out, based on the great takeaways from Street Fight Summit:

  • Optimize your local pages for target keywords.
  • Have Google Place/Google+ Local pages for each local business location.
  • Ensure that citations, NAP listings, and on-page address references are consistent.
  • Use place schema to markup your address and local business information.
  • Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google and third-party websites.
  • Use your customer email database to generate reviews from loyal customers.
  • Build Google+ into your local search strategy to optimize for personalized search.