Localized marketing—specifically local search and local social can help regionally-focused brands engage with consumers. Although many have begun to take advantage of this extremely low-hanging fruit opportunity, there’s still a lack of adoption in some sectors. Today’s post spotlights some of the key findings from a new report on this topic from the Local Search Association.
Chances are, a hungry customer in Nashville isn’t incredibly interested in looking at a national franchise’s main web page. They’re much more likely to search for something like “Sandwiches downtown Nashville” and click on a few of the top local results. However, far too many businesses are leaving their local pages on Facebook, Google, and Yelp unclaimed.
A recent benchmark report by the Local Search Association (LSA) looked at 163 franchise brands and evaluated each brand’s local search strategies on a 100-point scale. The scoring was determined by examining a random selection of 100 locations on top properties including Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. The result is a clear understanding of what success looks like in local search marketing for the franchise marketing category, both overall and in specific industries. And while there are quite a few businesses that are getting local search right, those that have overlooked the power of local search are missing out on critical local traffic, which could be hurting sales. Here are some of the benchmark’s top findings.
Localized marketing insight #1 – Search is critical for local businesses
No matter what kind of goods and services they are looking for, one of the first things most consumers do when they want more information about a business is to conduct a local search. In fact, 91% of consumers use search to find business information locally, according to a 2018 study by the LSA.
And businesses that invest in optimizing local search are seeing boosts in sales as a result. According to the LSA benchmark report, industry leaders in local search optimization had an average sales growth 8.9%, more than two times the average (3.9%) of all brands surveyed. And the top brands saw an even greater boost, averaging a sales growth of 12.8%, which is more than three times that of their competitors.
Read this complimentary report on generational marketing
Localized marketing insight #2 – Customers are engaging in social
One of the most important areas for optimizing local search is social media. According to a 2018 study by SOCi, customers are much more likely to visit local pages versus national pages. Three out of four brand engagements are now happening on platforms including local Facebook pages and Google My Business. Local Facebook pages are also driving more engagement and brand-related impressions. The study found that 72% of user engagement and 66% of brand-related impressions happen via Facebook location pages.
That’s why it’s so important for top brands to claim location pages on Facebook and also respond to comments on those local pages. The LSA benchmark report found that McAlister’s Deli, a leader in local search optimization, claimed 96% of its available Facebook location pages, as opposed to just 76.9% claimed by other food and beverage industry leaders. The deli also claimed 100% of local Google My Business pages, while competitors claimed 89.4% of their pages. This means that when customers are searching locally for delis, McAlister’s is far more likely to earn engagement, impressions, and ultimately customers, than competitors who haven’t claimed their pages.
Localized marketing insight #3 – Customer support is essential for social
And when customers have questions and complaints, they’re far more likely to turn to social media to resolve issues than ever before. JD Power’s Franchise Industry Marketing Survey recently found that the majority of local consumers, nearly 70%, use social media to help resolve customer care issues.
That’s why businesses should not just claim their local business pages, but monitor them carefully to resolve customer issues. Leaving complaints or questions unanswered on social media could leave local searchers with the impression that businesses aren’t up to the task of providing excellent customer service. On Facebook, Courtyard by Marriott is an industry leader in localized social marketing. The hotel chain takes the opportunity to respond to 69% of its local Facebook page reviews, as opposed to competitors, who respond just 34% of the time. Customers searching for hotels can most likely spot the difference in customer service, which means they’re probably more likely to trust Marriott over hotels that ignore guest feedback.
Localized marketing insight #4 – More reviews mean better SEO
Based on the benchmark report findings, the LSA recommends that business franchises claim 100% of local pages and fully build those pages out using accurate content and images. Not only are customers searching for local business pages, but search engine algorithms give preference to businesses offering the most accurate information.
And when customers leave reviews, make sure to answer. Brands should respond to critical or negative reviews the same day, if not the same hour, to help resolve issues. And don’t let positive reviews go unnoticed! Make sure to thank guests who loved their experience in an authentic, personal way.
All in all, the benchmark found that businesses failing to claim their local business pages could be leaving customers out in the cold. For more information, download the full LSA report.