Local Search Voted Most Powerful Channel For Local Businesses

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In August, we at BrightLocal ran our annual survey looking at which digital marketing channels generate the most traffic, phone calls, quality leads and ROI for local businesses. We dub this the “Local Clicks & Calls” survey.

The objective of the survey is to better understand which digital channels take up the most time/effort, which deliver the greatest leads, and which provide the best ROI. With incomplete data available in Google Analytics — and many conversions happening offline — this survey mines the knowledge and insights of SEOs/business owners about the channels that they witness driving their customer acquisition.

In this year’s survey, we had 477 respondents who had worked to optimize more than 8,200 locations in the last 12 months. The respondents were made up of search agencies (38 percent), small business owners (28 percent), search consultants (26 percent) and Web designers (8 percent).

We hope that these findings will provide useful insights to help search consultants and local business owners make better informed decisions about where to allocate their marketing time, energy and budget.

Organic Search & Local Search Deliver Highest Quality Leads

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Key Findings:

  • Organic and Local search deliver the highest quality leads.
  • Google AdWords sees a small increase in lead quality vs 2014.
  • Twitter, Facebook and Display Ads return the lowest quality leads.

Analysis:

When asked to consider just the quality of leads that each online channel can generate, Organic and Local Search come out on top; this is the same result as in the 2014 survey.

Both channels have the advantage of attracting consumers at the point where they are searching for a product or service. These “high intent” consumers are already engaged in the purchase process and so are more likely to convert to a sale.

Similarly, Direct Traffic brings in high-quality leads. Direct Traffic is typically composed of returning customers or consumers who are already familiar with the business/brand. This implies an appreciation or degree of trust in the business which significantly improves conversion to sale.

Google AdWords is rated higher year-on-year, and for local businesses, it offers great targeting and a high degree of control with more predictable returns.

It appears that Social channels are failing to deliver high-quality leads. We learned that SEOs, consultants and business owners spend a decent amount of time on social optimization, but they’re not seeing much site traffic, calls or leads generated.

Instead, Social channels (such as Twitter and Facebook) are valuable engagement and communication tools — ideal for fostering closer relationships and building brand affinity.

Local Search & Organic Search Deliver Better ROI Than Other Marketing Channels

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Key Findings:

  • Local and Organic Search provide the best ROI for local businesses.
  • Twitter and Display advertising offer the worst ROI vs. other channels.

Analysis:

We saw from Qu1 (above) that Local and Organic search deliver the highest quality leads, and now we can see that they also deliver the best ROI to local businesses.

With ROI, we aren’t simply talking about a return on financial investment, but also a return on physical time and effort. Achieving prominent and long-lasting visibility in both Local and Organic search takes time and money, but it’s clear why business owners are investing: the results are worth it. In the survey, we also asked which channel people spend the most time working on, and Local Search came out on top.

However, the survey audience was primarily made up of “local” marketers and businesses, so this isn’t surprising.

Social channels again performed badly but, as discussed above, they are more effective as relationship building/fostering channels, rather than pure lead generators.

Local Search Delivers More Clicks Than Other Digital Channels

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Key Findings:

  • Local and Organic search deliver 40 percent of site traffic to local businesses.
  • Direct Traffic only accounts for 10 percent of site traffic to local businesses.
  • Twitter generates less traffic than other digital marketing channels.

Analysis:

If we look specifically at website traffic and the channels that are most effective at driving it, then once again, we see that it is both Local and Organic search that come out on top.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, 23 percent of traffic to our respondents’ websites is generated from local search — 6 percent more than organic. This gap has widened by 4 percent vs. the 2014 survey.

Local search gives SMBs a chance to compete against larger organisations and websites in SERPs. However, the actual page real estate given to local results is far less than organic results — Google now displays just three local results per page for the majority of business types.

We can see that across the board, Local Search is the winning channel, with Organic search a close second. In fact, in the final question of the survey, we ask respondents to nominate which channel they would keep if they could only keep one, and…you guessed it…Local Search came out on top, with 34 percent of the votes. (You can see more detail on the findings here on the BrightLocal site.)

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