January 31, 2012

New Research from GMS Local Shows Knowledge Gap

It’s no news that the local online space is fragmented and can be difficult to navigate, especially for those large, national brands that have an extensive local footprint.  Determining best strategies, tactics and practices across the local ecosystem can be a challenge for any national marketer.

GMS Local has launched new research today exploring not only the state of local advertising, but the perception that national brands with more than 500 brick and mortar locations have of the space.  The research reveals, perhaps not surprisingly, that many brands have a skewed perception of the understanding of the local space and what they are doing within it.  According to the study, there is an education gap in the local arena that needs to be filled in order for advertisers to become truly effective in the local marketplace.

The research also offers a three step action plan for any national advertiser with a local presence, including:

  • An online local listings business audit
  • A local storefront diagnosis
  • Education, innovation and experimentation

The full research can be found on the Insights page of GMSLocal.com.  The research can be shared and also imbedded on your site.  Contact GMS Local for more information.


January 19, 2012

Managing Multiple Local Business Listings

Consumers have moved into the digital realm, and a large percentage of them are searching with local intent via both desktops and mobile devices.  But what are they looking for?  Studies show that regardless of devices, local searchers are looking for such basic information for storefronts as:

  • operating hours
  • telephone numbers
  • products and services offered
  • purchase and pick-up information

Consumers want to know where to go, how to get there and what they will find when they arrive.  Lastly, before they commit to a location they want to know what other people are saying so they are confident in their selection and aren’t wasting their time.

Retailers with large, local footprints are at a distinct disadvantage over their local SMB counterparts due to the quantity of listings to manage while maintaining brand consistency.  However, search engines and directories level the playing field, with the business following local search best practices ranking highest.

Do you want your locations to rank at or near the top? Of course! So, here’s what to do:

  • Claim and verify – Check and “claim” your listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing, making sure listings are exact matches across all three engines.
  • Details, details, details! – Enhance your listings with such specific, detailed information as:
    • hours of operation
    • copy with SEO-optimized keywords
    • links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
    • payment methods
    • latitude/longitude data
    • photos and videos
    • offers and discounts
  • Supplement your diet – The local space consists of hundreds of sites your information can appear on such as CitySearch, Yelp, YP.com and others.  Offering  consistent, enhanced information on these sites will help improve your ranking on the major engines and directories.
  • Ready, aim, engage! – Use social tools such as Facebook and Twitter to engage your consumers on a local level.  Local business pages vastly outnumber brand pages on Facebook, showing that consumers will engage socially with local businesses if they are there.
  • Listen up – Employ a good location-based social listening tool that will allow you to monitor and respond to the conversation surrounding each of your locations.

The end goal for any local program is make the local store’s phones ring or drive traffic through the doors.  Following these guidelines is a big step to allow large retailers to navigate the complex and fractured local ecosystem, maintain their brand identity and achieve the goal of driving customers into their locations.


January 12, 2012

Eye Tracking Study Reveals Importance of Local Listings Management

For quite some time, we have known only what has been shared by the search engines regarding local search volume, which is that Google claims 30 percent of searches have local intent and for Bing, 53 percent of their searches are local in nature.  That changed recently when SEOMoz published the results of an eye-tracking study they did in partnership with Mirametrix.  This study focused on local search results and offers one of the first pieces of definitive data on consumer engagement with local search results across several variations of search engine results pages.

To make the study results as valid as possible, the study team:

  • Made all results localized to Chicago, IL with variations in the search query terms.
  • Used actual eye-tracking data, not “click maps” or heat maps generated from mouse movements.
  • Created the patterns (shown in the example below) by aggregating subject data, which represents the consumer’s direction visual interaction with the SERPs.

The most compelling data from this study regards the local business listings.  Of the five search types shown in the study, each one results in a SERP with local business listings that revealed that those local business listings garnered the most consumer focus, regardless of where the business listings were placed on the page—the top or the middle.

Even more telling was a search using a brand name – Pizza Hut.  On the results page, there is one paid search ad belonging to Pizza Hut and the top generic listing is for Pizza Hut’s brand page containing a full pack of site links. This gives the top one-third of the page to their PPC and organic listings.  However, the bulk of the attention was paid to the business listings, placed almost half way down the page, not the brand listing.

Google’s move away from plain listings to combined results including business listings has had a definite impact on search users.  By controlling, enhancing and optimizing business listings a brand can assure that their locations will be at or near the top of the pack on search engine results pages containing business listings, such as the one pictured here.

This study emphasizes that for a large percentage of searches, local business results are being served and it is on those listings consumers are focusing their attention.  To avoid being overlooked, it is more important than ever for brands to have a program in place for the proper control, enhancement and management of their local business listings.

January 5, 2012

Looking Around the Social Media Blind Spot

by Steve Sherfy, Local Search Manager

Social media has gone from start-up to saturation in an incredibly short amount of time.  Facebook has become a household name, in just six months, Google+ has accumulated more than 62 million users worldwide and there are hundreds of additional local directories, review sites and check-in services adding millions of members and mentions to the local/social mix.  Sites like FourSquare, Yelp and Facebook have enhanced the local/social mix by allowing local users to notify friends of their location and leave comments about their experiences at these places.  The local/social universe is constantly expanding with location-specific data, increasing the propensity for brands to miss essential pieces of the conversation, thus creating a social blind-spot with each location.

It’s important for multi-location brands to realize that each location has between six and 15 distinct social sites collecting and sharing information about that location.  This information is read and acted upon by local consumers; ignoring or “under-monitoring” this information can be detrimental to a location’s profitability.

Social monitoring is key; however, a study released by VenueLabs indicates most social monitoring platforms may be missing as much as 82 percent of online content about a brand, leaving brands with a huge blind spot regarding their local sentiment.  This blind spot is created due to the very nature of many social listing tools; therefore, making “social listening” more important today than ever before.

The largest and most popular social listening services today operate in a similar fashion by:

  • Creating a set of specific keywords, typically around brand or product terms.
  • Monitoring a specific set of popular sites, sifting through the social commentary for a mention of a keyword in the specific set.
  • Capturing the conversation in which the keyword is used.

Imagine this: a consumer checks in at a local fast food franchise location.  During this check-in they remark that the service is poor, or the food is terrible and go on further to say no one should visit this location.  In this post, they make no mention of brand name or product name.  A post such as this would not be picked up by a keyword monitoring service.  The VenueLabs study showcases many examples of such content missed by keyword monitoring across several major brands.

While there is a need for a keyword driven, top-down approach to social media monitoring, data shows an equal, if not greater, need for a location-based social monitoring approach.  If a brand is missing potentially 80 percent or greater of the social comments available, they are at a severe disadvantage and are likely missing opportunities to engage their customers on a local, personal level.

Multi-national brands, ultimately, should be asking the following and then developing a plan to address each:

  • What is being said at the digital storefronts of all my locations?
  • Are the tools I’m using providing me 100 percent insight into the content of my digital “comment box?”
  • Can I effectively monitor, track, trend and report on the digital comments across thousands of locations?
  • How can my social, brand strategy be maintained across all digital initiatives in a fragmented online space across all locations?

Brands that research, identify and implement the proper answers to these questions will be well ahead of the curve for harnessing the power of the local-social commentary and, in turn, eliminating any blind-spots that might be sabotaging their local/social efforts.

Categories: social media