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Make search count by making it local

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Monica Ho is VP-marketing with search agency TMP Directional Marketing, which offers integrated off-, online and mobile search solutions to its customers. “Hands-on Search” recently asked Ho about trends in local search.

Hands-on Search: Does local search have more meaning for marketers during the current economic downturn?

Ho: As marketers are required to examine every dollar spent under a microscope due to the economy, it is a worthwhile exercise to take another look at local search advertising and its strong ROI. Search, and particularly local search, is one of the only mediums now that costs less than most advertising programs and yet yields advertisers more qualified and quantifiable results.

In fact, by more precisely targeting your desired audience—by focusing not only on what consumers are searching for but also where they are—advertisers can save up to 20% on clicks compared with search campaigns with no local components. Not to mention the fact that this type of targeting allows you to eliminate wasted clicks in reaching consumers in areas that maybe are not ideal for your business, based on the lack of local locations or resellers to service the area.

Hands-on Search: But doesn’t limiting search by geography result in a smaller potential audience?

Ho: While local search opportunities tend to produce a lower volume of searches, they can generate higher conversion rates because the buyer is further along in the purchasing process. When an online search for a business, service or a product is conducted with a geo-modifier, the buyer is already in a purchasing mode. This is an opportunity to ensure your brand and business are considered and, hopefully, selected.

A surprising phenomenon is that while big brands tie campaigns to special offers and buy television or radio advertising to promote these incentives, for one reason or another, online search—a key component to helping consumers find your offer—is often overlooked. Search needs to be easy for consumers or they will most likely look for another business or give up all together. And your top competitors might have a strategy in place to gain your customers’ attention by buying keywords similar to your existing advertising campaign.

Hands-on Search: Do you have suggestions for making a search campaign more local?

Ho: Marketers can utilize IP targeting, which allows them to capture local consumers searching for their company but who did not use a geo-modifier. It’s also possible to purchase specific keyword and geo-modifier combinations. And make sure you include common neighborhood lingo in your keyword combinations and not just those areas that appear on the map. Try to ensure you capture all the different ways local buyers might be searching.

Another way to boost local search results is to make sure content promotes a company’s local presence. Use specific local area information in the copy, or provide a local phone number. Additionally, advertisers should consider sites that are sometimes overlooked, like Internet Yellow Pages and specialty local search engines. These sites deliver high-quality, ready-to-buy consumers.

Hands-on Search: Search is just one tool in the marketer’s toolkit. How can effective local search be integrated with offline and other online efforts?

Ho: Consider whether there are any special offers or incentives you will need to mention in the ad in order to promote a consistent advertising message. And track success by using call or post-click tracking to measure a local campaign’s results. Call tracking enables marketers to track inbound calls resulting from online and traditional advertising.

And don’t forget to calculate the campaign’s ROI by separating lead counts by response channels—for example, those from clicks, calls and elsewhere—and apply conversion rates based on the respective channels.

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