Monday, June 25, 2012

Social Local Mobile and Google+ Local Search

Rocktime's Google Places map
It’s no secret that here in Rocktime’s Search Marketing Team; Flashlight, when it comes to Search, we do love Local and it’s not just us; Google loves local too! With the Google Venice update this year, which updated search results to give greater weighting to local search results, it's a great time for large organisations and even smaller businesses aimed at purely local audiences, to take another look at their local search marketing strategy.

Hand in hand with local search is mobile usage; it’s estimated that as much as 50% of mobile queries have local intent, therefore, ranking positions on both Google Places and Google's main search results are something that any business with a localised target market will want to consider.
Since 30 May, Google Places pages are being integrated with Google+ Business Pages and morphed into the new Google+ Local pages. This is all part of Google’s progress in becoming a leading social network for businesses, a way for customers to leave reviews, enhance the user experience and engage with brands and for businesses to improve their chances of being found in the blended and mixed media results.

So when you think of local and mobile it is natural to consider creating relationships with people and building trust and this is where social comes in to the equation, through the convergence of the social web, local-business with mobile; sometimes referred to as SoLoMo

Google Plus Business Pages combined with Google+ Local and being found easily on a mobile is a foremost method of getting better ranking on Google.
It is recommended to still give the same importance to local campaign strategies as would be given to a national or Global digital campaign. Investing time in the all important stages of keyword research, keyphrase positioning and competitor analysis, to determine the most competitive keywords to use in a local targeted campaign, pays off. A complimentary campaign to develop quality organic in bound links, press coverage, reviews and buzz is also worth considering. Content that people want to share is still the best way to get and keep visitors interested; it can now be advantageous to write about local knowledge, about a community neighbourhood and social customer services.

Local can be global and personal, including hyperlocal which is the search for businesses in a neighbourhood: Where shall we have lunch, which hotel shall we stay in, where is the best plumber, who can fix my car, where is a local garden centre, best value transport company in the area etc.

People are used to having their images stored on an external server and now more businesses are using cloud computing which allows them to access content when not specifically in an office, from a fixed location, or from a desktop. Mobile and tablets are adding to that virtualised approach where there is less often the need for a dedicated physical server.

The mobile phone is more like a computer connecting users to the internet and always at hand. Some businesses wisely let their employees use Twitter and Facebook and more often this is performed on a mobile. 40% of social media users access social media content using their mobile phone. Digital maps and geo tagging of images has been greatly improved with map APIs from Yahoo!, Google, Nokia, Bing, Picasa, Panoramio etc and businesses are encouraged to claim and optimise a business listing in a local directory, or niche directory, with geo tagged images, linked to a map and often user reviews.

The surge in location deals and location based social networks that are optimised for multiple touch data devices like tablets and smartphones can capitalise on traffic, brand engagement and product conversations. Businesses are recognising the 'benefits versus cost and effort' involved in maintaining a mobile presence.

There are a few simple tips to follow for local optimisation like:
  • Using the local terms in HTML tags and page content. 
  • Plan to include local focused content on the website as well as in the social and local pages. 
  • Add simple geo tagging to images, micro-formatting and microdata tag improvements that identify the different parts of the address page, map markers and geo located content. 
  • Links to the website that use the local search term in the text link, still remains an important factor to get good local rankings. 
  • Businesses get listed at the top because they fit the geographical area of the search query; usually within 5 miles proximity radius to the area you are trying to target. 
  • Other ranking factors in the local and blended search results are proper categorisation and matching keywords that show local results relevant to your business, have good relevant content and good relevant organic backlinks. 
We would encourage businesses to think of each web page, or directory listing, as a landing page, with relevant content, a simple layout and call to action and a well researched keyword strategy. By doing this on the website and in local directories it makes it easier for businesses to prepare themselves for mobile website content, that can be socially shared, found in the local search results and define their brand values.

Mobile is becoming the primary way for visitors to search and purchase online in the UK, with 95% of smartphone users having searched for local information, Google is responding to the changing way visitors search by making local mobile search more relevant and appealing to advertisers with the 'Google + Local', integrating the business listings across the channels of search, mobile, Google+ and Maps.
Visitors see this as all one channel rather than individual channels, with 70% of UK mobile users being happy to compare prices on their phone. Product reviews form a really important part of the decision making process and 65% of users have checked out product reviews. Last month, PayPal introduced their mobile payments to the high street, so the whole buying process can be completed on a mobile device.
According to Google, 50% of mobile searches lead to a purchase, which is a great incentive for businesses and brands to make it easier for their customers to be better connected through social, local and mobile channels.

Businesses can follow a few established social media steps to harness the best of local and mobile:
  1. Conduct a Social Media landscape review to determine whether the business should create business pages in Facebook, Google + or other leading social networks and where their competitors are being found. 
  2. Social Planning for all members of the business to encourage the correct tone of voice 
  3. Writing strategy for the channels 
  4. Setting up channels 
  5. Social Share Audit 
  6. Incorporate social share icons on relevant content 
  7. Plan blogger engagement; find networks of interactions, Twitter list management 
  8. Add social media badges to the website 
  9. Community page 
  10. Set up a social hub page 
  11. Create compelling content that people will want to share. Provide fresh, updated, local content. 
  12. Develop email marketing campaigns with social share 
  13. Think of customer services with real time responses and embrace the philosophy that customers are not transactions 
  14. Investigate social commerce and social buying trends in social search 
  15. Become a social business and project your social business personality 
  16. Track social media monitoring and social crm 
  17. Review the social analytics and traffic trends.
Google offers numerous free products to businesses and is always endeavouring to refine ways for businesses to be found in the search results, so it is certainly worth utilising these useful products for tracking site traffic in Google Analytics and diagnosing the site’s performance in Webmaster Tools for instance. We recommend conducting a full SEO site audit to be run at the same time as planning a local mobile social strategy. That way, a business can determine if the website is performing well in terms of SEO, structure, technology and business delivery to raise their online visibility.

Some benefits of the convergence of social networking, mobile shopping and local search for consumers:
helps consumers save time
location based deals
mobile payments
valuable information
user friendly maps

Some benefits of the convergence of social networking, mobile shopping and local search for consumers:
availability of consumer data which can be gathered by businesses
create brand advocates and peer influencers for products and services
tailored geo targeted advertising is more cost effective

Therefore, careful localised optimisation is the key for 'local business marketing' through search and  is certainly becoming increasingly important at levelling the playing field between national and local businesses.

If you're interested in finding how Rocktime can help you with your website and local targeted search marketing strategy, then why not check out the work Flashlight does and get in contact with our Sales team.

Author: Fiona Anderson


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