What is the ideal role for local search?

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As mobile communications increase, marketers may still hesitate to make local search a large part of their strategy. Our experts discuss the pros and cons of investing in local search.

CONTENDER
Allister Blanco
Director of search and analytics, LBi
Formerly held posi­tions at 360i and NIIT USA

Local search can really pay off for advertisers with a bricks-and-mortar presence. Optimizing your physical locations and controlling the messaging can provide excellent opportunity for both foot traffic and Web traffic. It also provides a way to own more space in the search engine results pages, thus increasing your chances of getting that valuable click.

If a user searches for “roller blades,” and a vendor has optimized correctly, it will appear on the first page with its main site, in the paid listings and, more importantly, in the local listings with all retailers represented for that IP or ZIP code target. Ideally, a user researching a product will acquire product info from the main site, but can be influenced to buy locally with local listings that carry that specific product. The goal is to shorten the path to sale.

Businesses with multiple locations can optimize their local listings with a URL that drives to a main site. You still want to provide a local map and phone num­ber for users who want to bypass your site and head right into a store to buy.

Your only real shot at getting traffic bumps are if the users are still seeking info about your product — in which case, they should have three ways to reach you: local ads, organic listings and paid ads. Local search is for Web savvy marketers looking to provide a service to their potential buyers by cre­ating the shortest path to sale possible in the online space.


CONTENDER
Leslie Carruthers
President, The Search Guru
Clients include Brookstone and Dun & Bradstreet

We expect the traffic from local search to increase as the less tech-savvy boomers age. Generation Xers and millennials already rely heavily on the Web and mobile Web for information, and they use local search to find what they want.

Local search traffic is not yet as robust as it will become. However, it is still an excellent avenue for companies to pursue, because it provides high-con­verting traffic, and it's fairly easy for a company to dominate in local search presence because so many companies have not yet realized its potential.

Part of the hesitation is the role local search has in online reputation manage­ment. Virtually all local search sites are coupled with user-generated reviews. Customers can add positive, negative or even incorrect information about a company in an Internet-based direc­tory, as can disgruntled ex-employees and even competitors. Some companies avoid this issue altogether and do not even become involved in local search. Afar better strategy is to learn how to manage online reputations while still taking advantage of the positive aspects of local search.

There are hundreds of local search Web sites and many business owners are uncertain where they should list their business information. Certainly, they should list their companies in Google's and Yahoo's local search, and see which local search Web sites appear after a search for key terms.


DMNews' DECISION

Blanco points out that success in local search can be yours if you opti­mize properly. However, Carruthers suggests it may be a few more years before local search buying goes mainstream — a good reason for early adopters to invest now and lead the curve. Consumers who do use it now convert at a high rate, so there is little downside to trying the channel.

Have your say E-mail your view to cara.wood@dmnews.com

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