In advance of his training course next week for the IIA, Des Martin of Local Search Marketing has written this blog post to impress upon us how important local search is for all businesses. If you think your business could benefit from learning more register now for Targeting Local Customers Online. This is a morning course taking place on March 30th and is keenly priced at €200 for non-members and €100 for members.
According to the Kelsey Group, ‘74 percent of internet users perform local searches’.
What is a local search? When you enter a location specific keyword you are performing a ‘local search’. For example searching for ‘dublin pizza’ above. Many of you will have noticed that these local searches now trigger a map in search engine results from Google (Map highlighted in red above. Click on the image for a larger version.).
Note: Search queries with ‘local intent’ also appear. i.e. restaurant, pizza, butcher – by themselves can trigger the map results to appear.
This map and results are generally placed at the top of the search results. More recently Google have begun to blend the local map listings with what were traditionally the organic results (free listings). This can be seen in searches like ‘accountant dublin’ below. The local ranking factors are playing a big part in these blended results (we have highlighted the map and local listing in red).
Google return local and mobile search results based on a different set of criteria to the traditional search results (SERPs). Effectively they use a different algorithm. Small and Local businesses can now compete for prime positions at the top of the search results without spending the large sums of money that were previously required. The key is to focus your efforts in the right areas by building up your company profile across the web. Local Search has been growing in importance for the last few years. It’s time to sit up and take notice.
Why have local searches become so important?
There are several reasons. One of the main reasons is the rise of the smart phone. There are now an estimated 1 million iPhone and Android devices in the Irish market. These people are no longer confined to their PC to perform internet searches. These people actively search for products and services daily while on the move. What’s more these people may be very close to your physical location.
When someone searches for a ‘cork restaurant’ on their smart phone, there is a very good chance that this person is close to the centre of Cork and is likely to have lunch/ dinner in the next hour or two. If your restaurant is in position on the search results, you have a decent chance of converting that searcher to a customer; if not you are ignoring a major segment of the Irish market.
What’s more, mobile searches last considerably less than their PC equivalent. So that person will make up their mind in a short space of time and may find many existing websites awkward to navigate on a mobile phone.
This is where the local listing (Google Places) comes into its own. See mobile screen shot:
Example of a local search conducted on an iphone above.
The mobile searcher is presented with Google Places page information. With the Place page you get information relevant for decision making, this being: map location, directions, click to call phone number. All of this is available in Google without ever having to enter the business website. This is hugely beneficial for mobile searchers. With one further click they can see reviews, street view images of the location and often additional images supplied by the business owner as demonstrated in the screenshots below:
Any Irish business in the retail/ hospitality trade needs to feature prominently for local searches that relate to their products and services. If you don’t feature, you are losing customers.
People searching for local business online are further along in the purchase cycle, the cost of converting each consumer is lower and the return on investment is higher. Targeting these searchers produces real results for local and multi-store retailers.
This is where Local Search becomes an essential part of your online strategy
- Google Places listings are the tip of the Local Search Iceberg. They demonstrate what you can achieve by targeting local search results with Google Places. One million smart phone searchers in Ireland alone.
- Local Optimisation. Local Search can also be applied to onpage optimisation for websites, including designing website alternatives for mobile searchers. Google presents different results for mobile searchers. They rank these results partially based on how well the page will render on the type of phone that submitted the query. For more detail on mobile SEO, here is a great article by Cindy Krum < . This means having a mobile version of your website increasingly important.
- Local pay per click. Targeting local keywords reduces the level of competition and the bid price paid for local keywords in PPC programs like Adwords. Local keywords are more targeted and result in a higher click through rate which will in turn help with your Adwords quality score.
- Local Social Media. Lots going on in this space at present. Facebook recently launched their check in service Facebook Places in Ireland. Facebook Deals is due to follow hot on the heels of Places. This will allow business owners to target local consumers with ‘deal’ based offerings. This promises to be a great promotional tool for local business.
In addition business owners can reward and attract local consumers using existing social media like ‘FourSquare’ and local focused blogging.
- Group Buying websites like citydeal.ie (Groupon) have exploded in the past few months. Increasingly local consumers are finding out about ‘local deals’ through these websites. Local Business owners need to adopt a group buying strategy to maximize their return when running group deal promotions. Pay attention to building a relationship with the consumer and gain repeat business rather than be left one time consumer and ultimately a loss.
Begin your local search campaign today:
A local search campaign uses an integrated strategy involving
- Google places listings,
- pay per click advertising,
- search engine optimisation
- and social media
to convert local leads into new customers. An additional area that is fast becoming important for local business is Group Buying websites. These can be a great promotional tool, but you need to factor in the total cost and how to maximize the return on investment.
About the Author:
Des Martin is the director of Local Search Marketing who specialise in local search strategy. Their client list includes sole traders, SMEs, franchises and multi location retailers. Des will be presenting a series of training courses run by the IIA in the coming months.
We are extremely excited up in our little portion of the Digital Hub today, as we have just announced details of our Diploma in Digital Marketing. This course runs for 13 weeks and the trainers are some of the finest names in the industry today.
The Diploma in Digital Marketing is designed to enable you to develop a focused digital marketing strategy that can help your organisation become more efficient and more profitable. It is a part-time evening Diploma run on Tuesday evenings commencing on 21 September for 13 weeks. Developed in conjunction with Irish Times Training and Prosperity Recruitment.
In designing this Diploma, we have identified the core skills required for effective digital marketing, identified the best trainers – who are all industry practitioners – and draw on our considerable experience in course delivery.
Course modules include digital marketing strategy, SEO, Online Advertising, Mobile Web, Social Media, Online PR and many more. Trainers include Colm Grealy, Adforce.ie; Krishna De, BizGrowthNews; Conor Pope, Irish Times; Shenda Loughnane, ICAN and Gareth Dunlop Ion Online Marketing.
For a full breakdown of each of the modules and for more information on the trainers and the course costs, please to to iia.ie/diploma.
Last month App School was mentioned here on the IIA blog and since then it has had its first run. There was a really great cross-section of students from all over the industry, which included professional developers, a CEO, a third level student and a staff member from an Institute of Technology. Most had never programmed on any Apple system before, and a few did not even own one, but by the end of the week everyone had made a lot of progress. A few days in a couple of students managed to get a 2D physics simulation going, with a button rolling around the screen and bouncing off the edges! On the last day we had a couple of Twitter clients working (and that’s including profile picture support!)
Some of the students were developing their own personal or business applications during the course, and now there are four apps (that I know about at least) on their way to the App Store from App School students. Some of these apps will display information to users that they would normally access through a website, but what can an iPhone app do that a website can’t? Well, there are few obvious ways that the user experience can be enhanced for your customers with iPhone-specific features.
Looking at the very tip top of the iceberg:
- The iPhone can store data to be made available offline. This has worked out very well for Patrick Collison‘s Encyclopedia app, which gives users access to Wikipedia when they do not have internet connectivity.
- Apps can use the iPhone’s GPS location to find information local to your customer. This is core to many travel apps, restaurant review apps, hotel reservation apps, and social networking apps.
- The user can take photos and upload them to you. Yelp‘s app allows users take photos of restaurants and upload these for other users to see. Just about any Flickr app will let you do this too.
- With a bit of effort, the multi-touch screen and the 3D graphics support can be leveraged to allow customers interact with your business in a way not possible on a desktop computer.
While on the topic of interaction, people enjoy using their iPhones and this can really help if you rely on user-submitted data for you service (“Web 2.0”, if you like to call it that). Above, I mentioned getting the phone’s GPS location, and getting access to the phone’s camera. You can go beyond GPS co-ordinates, photos, bits of user-entered text, email address/phone numbers selected from the address book though, and upload data-types specific to your service. Ocarina is one of my favourite apps and allows users play music by blowing into the microphone while pressing “holes” on the screen. This lets the iPhone work as an ocarina, a wind instrument. Music played by the user is uploaded to some server, along with the user’s location. Users than then explore a 3D earth and hear songs played by users from all around the world.
If you allow customers upload this information to you, what could you do with it? Can you think of how that could add value to your service?
There are so many exciting possibilities with this platform. If you don’t have access to an iPhone or iPod touch to try out some apps for yourself, there are plenty of video demonstrations online. There is definitely something there for everyone… after all, the App Store really does have an app for everything!
Oh I wish I had paid more attention in the classes where they were doing the really hard core programming stuff back when I was in college. I often wish this but I wished it even more when SQT Training recently joined the IIA and I had a chat with the charming Lily Collison on the phone and she told me about App School.
I asked Lily to tell me more about App School.
There is a business opportunity for those who can develop iPhone applications. We here at SQT Training in conjunction with Patrick Collison and Mulley Communications will present a new 5 day training course in the development of applications for the iPhone. The course termed App School teaches people how to create iPhone applications for release on Apple’s App Store.
There is interest from all manner of people and Patrick will be giving a talk at the Irish Computer Society on Tuesday 14th July.
If you think you have what it takes to make a killer iPhone App, can you please bottle it and give some to me? Details of the course can be found at www.appschool.ie. Sign up and when you’re rich maybe you can set up a funding programme for wannabe coders like me…?
Handknit iPhone from daddytypes.com. Click image to find out how to make your own!