Big brands and small business both act locally: SES panel

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NEW YORK - In a user-generated world, targeting consumers directly starts with a local approach for big brands and small business alike, according to panelists yesterday at the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo.

In a panel called "Local Search Marketing Tactics," panelists discussed ways for marketers to connect with consumers at the local level through local search engines and online Yellow Pages.

"It's not just about local brands, - if you are a big brand, you want to say something different to me than to you because we're in different locations," said Patty Hursh president of SmartSearch Marketing. "Local search is the way to go."

Both big brands and small businesses are finding that connecting to consumers at the local level is a way of knowing who these consumers are.

"Local has started to become a proxy for demographic targeting," said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Research.

One of the challenges that marketers face when dealing with local marketing is the issue of fragmentation.

"We're seeing a consumer revolution, where the user is driving the marketplace," said Justin Sanger, president of LocalLaunch. "Fragmentation exists at the local level because it exists at the consumer level."

To deal with this fragmentation, Mr. Sanger recommended that marketers use the right ads for the right products and services.

He said that having a Web site with user reviews and Google maps is not enough. Marketers should consider tools that complement the business, such as video to promote restaurants, but not to promote a plumber, and coupons to promote a store but not a lawyer.

The panel also touted the benefits of using major search engines at the local level. The structure of the major search engine can be a benefit to marketers, as consumers go to the same major sites and not the thousands of possible search sites out there.

"We're going to see the convergence of verticals and the local," Mr. Sanger said. "Consumers go to Yahoo and Google because they are good sites. So build your local campaign within this framework."

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