Despite Documented Performance Lift Brands Still Confounded By Local Search

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Remarkably, there are still marketers out there that don’t “get” local search or why marketing campaigns should be localized. There are numerous studies and reports that indicate localized display and local search campaigns (on the PC and mobile) outperform “national” or pure brand campaigns – sometimes dramatically.

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Source: Local Search Association ad performance insights database (2014)

Despite the available weight of evidence, some multi-location brands and marketers still profess confusion or, more commonly, struggle to operationalize “local search” marketing. This is reflected in a new report (reg. required) sponsored by SIM Partners and written by Forrester Consulting.

The report discusses some local search best practices; however the core of the short document consists of survey results from marketers who have and have not implemented local search. These results are shown in the charts below.

Forrester Local Search

Source: SIM Partners, Forrester (December 2014)

The problem here is that the survey sample sizes are so small (13 and 9 respondents) that we can’t statistically extrapolate these results. However I know from looking at other, past surveys that the barriers to localization stated here are fairly representative of the general challenges.

A 2013 study, conducted by the CMO Council and sponsored by Balihoo, found similar operational challenges for national marketers considering localizing campaigns. Complexity, coordination and confusion over tactics are major challenges.

Balihoo CMO challenges re localization

Source: Balihoo, CMO Council (February 2013) 

Just as in the Forrester survey, the Balihoo findings reflected competitive advantages for those marketers that had successfully implemented a local strategy.

Balihoo CMO benefits of localization

Source: Balihoo, CMO Council (February 2013) 

Perhaps the most interesting finding in the Forrester survey is the basic confusion over what “local search” means. Here’s an excerpt from the report on that point:

We found no accord across our interviewees about what “local search” means or which goals a local search strategy helps marketers achieve. Furthermore, some interviewees confused paid search and SEO, or worse, assumed that “local search” meant advertising in area newspapers. For example, while we discussed the SEO aspects of local search, one brand strategy director had a different definition: “When we say ‘local search,’ we’re not talking about coming up in search results. We’re talking about making sure we’re listed correctly in local directories.” 

The rise of mobile search and smartphone usage makes it especially important to be able to localize campaigns. According to past statements from Google, roughly 20 percent of desktop search carries a local intent but that number rises to 40 or 50 percent in mobile.

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