New Local Search Trends Help Small Businesses Capitalize on Customers Who Love to Shop Local
A 2016 survey found that 89% of people search for a local business on their mobile phone at least once a week with 58% searching at least daily.
It’s a tough world for a small business. Compared to the multi million dollar marketing divisions of large chains, SMB’s (small to medium sized businesses) are left at a huge disadvantage working with limited time and limited resources. Their one advantage is that million dollar marketing departments are more focused on the brand, than on their local presence. With the help of local agencies, small businesses are now fighting back against big box retailers. Agencies that offer local SEO services can help an SMB improve their reputation, their listings, social media, content and even respond to reviews for a minimal monthly subscription.
The only enemy for a small business is they don’t know what they don’t know. Meaning you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Throughout this article I aim to show how SMB’s can take the power back and succeed in a competitive world.
In 2016, research found that more than 1 out of every 3 consumers started their search online to find a new local business.
That means that most consumers today are simply using local search to discover and choose “what to do” and where to shop/eat/drink. It’s only about a 2-minute process and it looks a little something like this:
The consumer decides they would like to go get a drink, so they pull out their phone and open their favorite local search app. After a quick search for nearby “bars and restaurants”, they scroll through the results comparing ratings and reading 2 or 3 reviews for the top rated results. After that, they’re off!
During the 2016 Google Performance Summit, executives stated that local search has been growing 50% faster than regular queries. The growing trend towards local search gives businesses only a very small window to succeed and win over consumers business.
Small Businesses do have some advantages over larger chains:
The fact that consumers are taking the time to read and evaluate stores in their local area based on the experiences and opinions of past consumers is opening doors for small businesses. Local businesses now have the opportunity to compete with those large corporate marketing budgets by getting in front of consumers where it really matters: on the local search result pages. Here, even the biggest and most popular brands will have a hard time competing with a local competitor that has a higher quality and quantity of ratings and reviews (think of your local hair salon and their review quantity/quality against a chain like Supercuts). Small businesses are able to capitalize on their positive reviews and personal customer relationships to help drive in more new customers.
New research about local retailers found that 55% of consumers shop local, compared to large chains, simply because they love supporting local businesses. Local businesses can better adapt to customer needs, have a keen eye for quality and support local communities. So it’s no surprise they’ve maintained consumers support throughout the years. Often times, the success of local businesses is driven by word of mouth and a strong community presence. Consumers support for local business means they will be more willing to spread the word and leave reviews for the small business!
In addition to the the trends towards local search and consumer feelings towards shopping local, how can agencies use effective Local SEO strategies to help SMB’s?
Correct and accurate listings: The low hanging fruit
Having accurate and consistent store listing information accounts for almost 50% of what search engines look for when generating rankings for their search results pages. This is a very easy step that can significantly increase a local business’s probability of appearing in their customer's search results. Businesses should be sure that their store name, address, phone number, website, and store hours are accurate and consistent across all of their business listings. Also, be sure not to use call tracking phone numbers. Service providers may push this as a source of tracking or lead generation, but it will push you down in search rankings.
The most recent findings show that up to 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Once consumers query a local search they will start their decision process by comparing the reviews for the top rated businesses in their area. Reviews allow customers to weed through the multitude of options available to them and help to shortcut their research. Ratings and reviews are a form of social evidence that allows customers to make decisions faster and with more confidence than ever before. A couple of steps can be taken to improve your quantity and quality of reviews and appear more credible to customers. This includes:
- Replying to all of your customers reviews, both positive and negative- this lets other potential customers see that you care and also improves rankings!
- Use review generation tools to produce more positive reviews and capture negative reviews before they go public
Not everyone’s research stops at reading online reviews; 54% of people will visit the businesses website after reading their positive reviews. While it doesn’t need to be anything too sophisticated, 34% of consumers think a “clear & smart” website gives a local business more credibility. Consumers are looking for a clean, mobile optimized website that allows them to learn more about your business and product offerings. Did I mention that having a local landing page also helps increase your local search rankings? Be sure to link your listings on local search sites to your website for SEO purposes.
Customers want relevant, local content:
Recent studies have shown that four out of five shoppers in the US want to see search results or advertisements tailored to their local market. Different regions and different markets have their own unique characteristics. Tailoring advertisements to the unique needs of the local population will help businesses stand out to their customers. As a local business, you are more nimble and have a greater ability to adapt your content to any change in local customer needs giving you an advantage over your larger competitors.
Get consumers to involve with your brand socially:
While many people believe social media is a place to complain or voice negative experiences, 87% of respondents said they are motivated to engage with a local retailer on social media because of a positive experience with that retailer. With 57% of consumers saying they’re influenced to think more highly of businesses after seeing positive comments or praise online it is important to encourage positive customer feedback through social media. In addition to being a great place to show others how great your business is, social media is also a great tool for sharing new, relevant content, engaging with customers and learning about evolving customer needs.
The Number One Tool in Local SEO for Agencies Working with SMB’s:
When it comes to local and small businesses, customers are on their side. Everything consumers do, ranging from how they search for businesses to how they make their decision is giving local businesses the opportunity to compete with the larger competitors in their area. For agencies partnering with SMB’s, it is crucial to help your clients capitalize on those opportunities. Schedule a FREE demo with Chatmeter and see how our Local SEO and Reputation Management dashboard can help your clients compete with their larger competitors and improve their local search rankings.