Uncovering the white spaces of opportunity for local search

local-marketing_295688708-ss-1920The time has come for businesses to frame their search marketing in the context of a broader media landscape that includes all the ways people discover brands.

One of the implications of this is a new focus on location. Because “near me” mobile moments are experiencing a dramatic rise, brands must use the context of location across all their search marketing efforts — paid, earned and owned.

This reality hit home for me earlier this year when Forrester Research published its Wave for search marketing agencies, which is an evaluation of agencies such as 360i, Acronym and Ethology that provide search marketing services (Payment required for access to the full report).

I always read the Wave closely, along with other third-party research, such as the Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers Internet Trends Report by Mary Meeker, to identify what I call white spaces of opportunity for companies to grow their businesses through search, especially local search. And the 2016 Wave identified a number of those white spaces that remain relevant months later as the industry moves into 2017.

Wave author Collin Colburn made a number of observations about the state of search that have shaped my thinking throughout 2016. For instance:

  • Marketers are strapped for resources to manage search effectively. More than a quarter of firms surveyed by Forrester have no staff devoted to organic or paid search. Marketers need to leverage tools and technology to compete.
  • Businesses need to get more efficiency out of their current paid search campaigns without spending more money. Nearly nine out of 10 marketers surveyed say they rely on their paid search marketing agency for optimizing the performance of paid search campaigns.
  • In the age of the mobile consumer, the search marketing landscape continues to evolve — and become increasingly complex. As Colburn noted, “[T]he nature of search marketing has shifted from reaching customers through a singular channel (traditional search engines) to enabling discovery across all platforms, media, and outlets where consumers find [them].”

The changing nature of search and discovery marketing, in combination with the findings in Forrester’s report, uncovered some white space that brands should capitalize on:

  • Look at the bigger picture. Rely on search to create visibility across paid, owned and earned channels. Currently, most are focusing on technical services for organic search and efficiency plays for paid search.
  • Reframe your metrics. A digital marketing program that combines paid, earned and owned media will not only attract customers but also deliver a breakthrough benefit in the form of a blended cost per lead (CPL). So instead of taking an isolated view of metrics such as CPL for paid media, marketers should report on a blended CPL across all paid, owned and earned media — and insist that their agency partners do so. One of our clients had been working with a paid media agency partner to achieve an $80 CPL for PPC advertising. But by implementing a comprehensive organic and local search strategy, this client achieved a blended CPL of $31.67 and increased their volume of qualified leads. Obviously, the blended CPL of $31.67 is much better than the $80 CPL for PPC advertising alone.
  • Fuel contextual content. Businesses have a tremendous opportunity to power their content strategies with tools and technologies. Less than 40 percent of brands told Forrester that they use their search marketing agencies to create content. And yet, compelling content, combined with accurate data and elegant user experiences, is key to converting searchers into customers.

Ultimately, I believe that being more holistic about search at the local level means thinking of search in context of location marketing that combines experience, content, and data — and measuring results in a blended way — to be there when and where people are looking for you.

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