Now that 2017 is upon us, we’re beginning to witness a lot of changes in the local search community. We as adaptive SEO’s and local business marketers are embracing creative yet data-driven approaches to our online marketing efforts.
In doing so, we reflect on insights garnered from the previous year. Some of these insights center on mobile search, user engagement, and online reputation, all of which widen the scope of a local search marketer. Below we recap on some of the more overlooked yet highly important local search insights from 2016.
1. Site Load Speed Keeps on Slaying It for SEO
Site load speed has become a highly valued commodity for SEO. Users want their content immediately and are quick to bail when faced with slow loading sites. Beyond usability, Google wants ensure users are satisfied and remain on the web instead of diverting to a competing app platforms. As such, Google has increased the weight of site load speed as a mobile search ranking factor.
Many are blind to the sluggish nature of their sites, especially as heavy loading graphics and video are being used to satisfy the appetites of content-savvy consumers. Nonetheless, each second lost in load speed not only hinders SEO and search rankings, but also has detrimental effects on other metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate and page views.
Local businesses and search marketers alike need to monitor how updating websites (i.e. adding new content and improving user experience) may slow a site’s load speed. Embracing a proactive approach would test and optimize for faster load speeds now. It could be a quick and effective win for SEO.
2. Shorter Attention Spans Will Shape the Way We Serve Content
Compared to 2015, Google reported an 18% decline in the amount of time spent per website this year. This data likely spans across all digital media channels, as this metric is diluted across the ever-growing number of outlets. Further, Google also found that 91% of users seek information while in the middle of a task, and 82% use mobile search while in a store.
As a result of this compelling data from Google, content must be served in a clean and concise manner, conveying relevant and vital information to help educate users more efficiently to make decisions. Inability to do so will result in lost business, as (according to Google mobile search data) 33% of mobile users switch to competitors that provide helpful information.
3. Reviews Dictate a Brand’s Online Reputation
Reviews are a key element of a consumer’s purchasing decision for many types of products and services. The data supporting the significance of reviews must not be overlooked. One study shows 91% of consumers rely on reviews to inform their decisions to make a purchase.
Still, countless small businesses owners neglect the importance of generating positive reviews (and many are often bitter about negative reviews.) While the application of a review generation strategy is understandably confusing, the data above indicates that ignoring customer reviews is a losing battle that can slowly cripple a brand’s online reputation.
The fact of the matter is, reviews are now broadly integrated across all forms of media. Local businesses must embrace reviews head-on, and there’s motivating data to support this action. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 70% of consumers will leave a review when asked. Thus, there are massive opportunities to explore getting positive reviews, not just on Google, but also on Yelp, Bing, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor, and other directory listings.
4. Traditional Media Still Remains Relevant
Although all of the attention of late has been directed toward digital media because of its growth, traditional forms of media remain surprisingly relevant. Many local businesses still keep their print media marketing in full force, mostly because it’s the way they’ve always gone about reaching their established customer base. And there’s no doubting that returning customers are among the most valuable.
Reports show that it costs 5 to 10 times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. Traditional marketing, when done right, still yields a meaningful volume of business from both new and old customers.
With the proliferation of new digital media channels, customer reach continues to be heavily diluted in all but a handful of dominant channels. For this reason, reaching an existing customer base with traditional media strategies remains important and cost-effective.
5. Non-local Consumers Are Still Valuable to Local Search
In most cases, local search marketing logically focuses on the local audience. However, a substantial chunk of revenue for local businesses actually comes from non-local customers (i.e. visitors, tourists, etc.)
According to a case study conducted by Local Search Association’s VP Wesley Young in his hometown of Frisco, Texas (population 140,000), 33% of business to local storefronts comes from out-of-town visitors.
While this data will surely fluctuate based on the given location, it does underscore an important insight: “failing to account for this significant share of revenue could make the difference between thriving and flailing. And treating them the same as locals in your search marketing strategy is a mistake,” says Young.
In my hometown of Traverse City (which is highly seasonal and tourist-driven during the summer,) I suspect these numbers to be even more significant.
In essence, non-local consumers are more likely to use “broad discovery” search, as Young puts it. In other words, these non-local consumers will use different keyword queries from the ones local customers use (i.e. “Near Me” modifiers and other long-tail queries.)
Do you have any key insights for local search marketing moving forward? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Image credit: AlbertoRnd