Neg Norton is President of the Local Search Association, leading the best local search marketers who deliver cutting-edge solutions spanning digital, print, mobile and social media that help local businesses succeed. He brings more than 20 years of experience in helping connect local businesses with ready-to-buy customers.  He has led the industry during a major transformation from print directory publishing to provider of local search services for small businesses and their customers.  The following is an excerpt of a Q&A with Norton, which originally ran in the Kenshoo Guide to Local Search.

What is the Local Search Association (LSA)?
Norton: The Local Search Association is the largest trade organization of companies focused on print, digital, mobile and social media solutions that help local businesses connect with ready-to-buy consumers. Our members include directory publishers, search engine marketers, online listings and review sites, digital advertising agencies and mobile search providers.

How does LSA help its members achieve their goals with local search?
We want to provide metrics that matter to our members and their business. LSA receives data from our members as well as third-party sources including Burke and comScore. This data is aggregated and shared to help members plan competitively. LSA also has a number of services that help our members streamline sales between member companies and advertisers, process advertising sales orders, understand the marketplace and generate extra revenue. We host an annual conference and webinars and a deliver broad range of communications that keep members abreast of the latest technology and trends.

How effective is local search?
Succeeding in local search is important given the size of the market and the opportunity for advertising providers. Approximately 95% of retail sales take place locally and 80% of disposable income is spent locally. The local media market will expand to a $140 billion annual opportunity by 2015, according to a forecast by BIA/Kelsey.

Today, local businesses have a variety of tools that they can turn to in order to share and promote their information – from Google to Facebook to Yelp to Yellow Pages. Many of the tools out there are effective, but the effectiveness for each varies by business type, geographic region and target customer. So, campaigns need to be appropriately tailored to the local business.

What has been the big news in local search recently?
One of the most exciting aspects of local today is the growing ability of local marketers to improve targeting capabilities. Developments in location technology are especially promising. With these strong capabilities, there are new opportunities to reach customers when they are most ready-to-buy. The long-term aim will be to see how this technology can work for local businesses, not just national retailers.

Local search has also adopted the broader trend of native advertising. Marketers have recognized that they need to generate content that fits seamlessly into a consumer’s interests and daily habits. We’ve seen the biggest social media players – Foursquare, Facebook and Instagram – introduce in-feed advertising in the form of promoted posts. Native advertising within these environments offers tremendous targeting opportunities with an uninterrupted user experience.

Join us for Part 2 as Norton discusses challenges for local marketers, shares highlights on recent research, and looks ahead to the future of local search.