Local search marketing tips: Diversify your media mix

Consumers start much of their online shopping with search engines. What is sometimes lost in the discussion is that 80% of customers then go offline and transact locally.

For both national brands with local outlets and small indepen­dent business owners to get the most out of their online advertis­ing campaigns through local search, here are three valuable rules:

Use multiple local media sources According to a ComScore study (TMP Directional Marketing) consumers use a mix of online and offline sources when looking for local business infor­mation, based on consumer need. Online sources are used for the research phase, while offline sources are used for a specific business to purchase from.

Consumer use of online sites differs based on the information they are seeking. Those with a service-related need are 20% more likely to search a local search site, such as Yellowpages.com or Citysearch.com, vs. a general engine like Google. For a prod­uct search, the opposite is true. Consumers tend to use a general search engine rather than local search.

Data demonstrate that strong marketing cannot consist of a sole media source. There must be a well-balanced advertising mix — local, non-local, online and print.

Tailor your ad messages to consumer needs Evaluate the cri­teria consumers use when they make buying decisions when you determine your target advertising message and/or keywords.

By observing online consumer behavior, the ComScore study found that for service-related needs, the business location is the primary selection factor in determining what business the con­sumer contacts; followed by brand awareness. In compari­son, when making a product purchase, the primary selec­tion factor is brand, followed closely by business location.

Online search leads to offline action Again, nearly eight out of 10 local search consumers follow a search with an in-store visit or phone call, emphasizing the need for marketers to track offline activities. Businesses tracking online metrics only are limiting their marketing campaigns. To capture offline activity, consider using call tracking lines, where a unique phone number is placed on a Web site or search engine-sponsored ad.

It is clear that online sources are used most often during the research phase of the shopping process, while offline sources are used most often in search of a specific business. To reach custom­ers and achieve visibility for their offline stores through online search, businesses must both invest in search and implement a diverse media mix.

Monica Ho is VP of marketing at TMP Directional Marketing. Reach her at [email protected].

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